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IS DEMOCRACY IN SRILANKA UNDER STRESS ?

by N.S.Venkataraman

(August 15, Chennai, Sri Lanka Guardian) Any votary of democracy would find it extremely difficult to reconcile himself to the situation in Sri Lanka , where the former Chief of Army General Sarath Fonseka has to face humiliation for his entering into politics and contesting the Presidential election. The person who was acclaimed as a competent army man who defeated the militants sometime back under the overall command of the present President of Sri Lanka cannot become an anti national over night . Obviously, the people suspect that General Fonseka has been sinned against than sinning.

In such national matters that guide the long term future and destiny of the country, it is very important that people in power should conduct themselves with grace and large heartedness. It is unacceptable that one who loses the election is hounded by the victor in the election , as if contesting Presidential election is a special privilege of one and not the other.

Because of such avoidable conflict between the Presidential candidates in the recent election, the democratic process in Sri Lanka has been brought under severe stress and the claims of Sri Lanka as a vibrant democracy is being subjected to ridicule and misgivings around the world. It is necessary that all well wishers of democracy in Sri Lanka should realise that during the last few months of post election scenario in Sri Lanka , the country has lost much more than what it has gained when an election was ordered immediately after the ending of the military conflict in the island nation.

It is necessary that those in power in Sri Lanka at present should realise that for any fall in standards in the democratic process and culture, those in power would always have to accept greater responsibility and the history would view those in power in a disapproving manner if the process of democracy would suffer.

It is very diffcult to swallow the argument that the Court martial has given the verdict of conviction against General Fonseka and therefore it should be accepted without any question.

In a scenario full of suspicions and bitterness, it is possible that some section of the public opinion would refuse to agree about the fairness of the trial. The fact that President of Sri Lanka has ratified the verdict of the Court martial would not remove the suspicions , since the President of Sri Lanka was the opponent candidate in the election.

Mahatma Gandhi said that a man of truth should also be a man of care. If President of Sri Lanka had truly applied his judgement and convinced himself about the need to ratify the verdict of the Court martial, he should have still thought several times and sought public opinion since he should have been very careful to avoid any suspicion about his personal motive.

It is sad that the beautiful country of Sri Lanka with great culture and traditions and highly talented people, is being subjected to such avoidable tension , in view of the conflict of interests between some individuals.

What sort of a democracy is this in Sri Lanka, when those in power give an impression that they are more concerned about their immediate political interests than the welfare and stability of the country ?

Even now, it would not be late for the President of Sri Lanka to give pardon to his opponent Presidential candidate and restore the glory to democracy in Sri Lanka. With massive mandate from the people, the President of Sri Lanka has the popular support and should be able to take on the opposition party in the true democratic pattern of governance.

By not doing so , the President of Sri Lanka would not only be setting up a bad precedent for the future but also would create a condition that in future every victor would punish and victimise the vanquished.

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