People’s democracy vs politicos’ democracy

By Gamini Weerakoon

(April 26, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian)
The vivacious Indian dancer Mallika Sarabhai who is contesting the 81 year old BJP Leader L.K. Advani in his home constituency of Gandhinagar says she has been motivated to do so to ‘restore faith in peoples’ politics.’ Indian democracy, she says is: ‘Democracy of the politicians, for the politicians by the politicians.’

This morning as the results of the Western Provincial Council come in, it would be in the interests of democracy to consider Mallika Sarabhai’s contention since there seems to be little or no difference in the democratic process as practised in the sub-continent and on this island.

How much people’s participation was there in the hotly contested polls held yesterday?

Is it a democracy?

Did you know or have you ever spoken to the persons you voted for yesterday? Do you think you would meet your representatives (if he/she had won) during their tenure of office? Have you considered what you want your provincial councillor to do for your electorate? If not, why on earth did you vote at all?

We believe that the answers of most voters who are not committed one way or another to a candidate or political party will be in the negative.


So why on earth are we conning ourselves to believe in that hoary old lie: Democracy of the people, by the people, for the people. When we the people are far removed from what is being decided for us?

We have been studying the Indian elections in fair detail and can see very close parallels to us. This whole game of a democratic election is played by politicians as they want, for their benefit. If it is position, power and money, all values, traditions and principles are thrown overboard and the rogues unite.

A classic instance we read about is in the largest state in India, Uttar Pradesh, where these so called lower castes, untouchable or Dalits are in the majority but there is a fair proportion of the upper class Brahmins who would not associate or literally touch the Dalits.

But in certain constituencies the Brahmins or Dalits cannot win on their own. So Mayawathi the leader of the Dalits had given nominations to Brahmins on her party ticket! It could be argued that it is all for the better in breaking through rigid caste barriers but others say this is rank opportunism and has little do with social progress and enlightenment.

Abusing voters

In Sri Lanka we have prominent UNPers who have joined the government and become ministers after being elected on the UNP ticket and still retain UNP membership because they would lose their seats in parliament if they leave their party! Thus, we have the spectacle of elected UNP members abusing the party that elected them and the party leaders while supporting their rival party.

And the renegades are the most prominent of the defenders of the Rajapakse faith. This is indeed a virulent form of democracy that has not yet spread out to other South Asian countries.

Impotent opposition

And what can the opposing political parties, particularly the UNP do? Wracked by dissension, the party is in shambles with the ruling Rajapakse administration offering ministerial portfolios with perks attached to those who come over. Never mind if the cabinet of ministers exceeds a hundred, it’s the people who will foot the bill!

These comments are being made days before the election but it is a foregone conclusion that the ruling UPFA will romp home because a ‘war’ is being fought alongside the election. The argument made for the UPFA has been: Our side must win or it will be a vote against the military victory of President Mahinda Rajapakse!

Is the war the only issue before the people? The cost of living, disappearances of people, crumbling economy have all taken a back seat. So far all provincial council elections have been won on the ‘war.’

Now with the war predicted to end soon (with this election or an immediate presidential election?) what can the people do? Will it be politicians and generals to decide what the people need or the people themselves?

What happens to the UNP which has always commanded a near 50 per cent of the vote? What of the Tamil political parties if the sole representative of the Tamils is no more? Or will it be a continuing guerrilla war again?

It is time for a People’s Democracy as against this Politicians’ Democracy.

-Sri Lanka Guardian