The Sunday Leader

The Egyptian Example And Lanka

By Walter Samarasinghe

Events in Egypt have shown Sri Lanka the way forward

Amazing parallels are being drawn between the situation in Egypt and our country. In Egypt the demand has been for real democracy as a result of the lack of it. In our case too we have what is referred to as a democracy but the kernel is being eaten up and we too could be left with the shell unless the rulers themselves realise that it is in their own interest to change course.
Egypt no doubt held elections but they were always rigged by the government. They had no independent elections commission; we have fortunately not got there as yet but it would surprise no one if we too go down the same road to stay in power. We have already amended the constitution, to enable the president to contest the presidency without any limitations, we should take a lesson here from Egypt.
Hosni Mubarak has been in office for over 30 years! He was a modest man at the time he was appointed vice president and the people welcomed his elevation after President Sadat was assassinated but today they hate him – why? Only because he stayed in office for much too long and became stale; today we honour our President because he saved the country from being divided but he too should understand that he too could become stale, further power corrupts as we have seen over the years.
The judiciary in Egypt was not appointed by an independent authority such as an independent judicial service commission, but by the executive, a kept institution of the President. The police in the form of  the feared internal security service is under the direct control of the executive, there was no independent police commission, no independent authority to curb corruption such as a bribery commission and last but not least the government was in control of the commanding heights of the economy. There was therefore almost total control over the political, economic and even social life of the people including control over the media.
As for fundamental human rights there was indeed no constitutional protection. It was a façade, there was no real democracy it was a dictatorship dressed up differently to give an aura of ‘respectability’ through a so-called constitution,  but neither the US nor the countries of the West who have become notorious for their double standards ever raised their voices against the injustices the people were being subjected to. The people did not matter President Hosni Mubarak was always their friend and could be manipulated and that was all that mattered.
It is the considered view of all those who have in recent days been observing the Egyptian scene that the checks and balances that are intrinsic and are vital to any democracy must be put in place via entrenched constitutional provisions to protect the interests of the people ensuring thereby peace and stability. The international community, if they are committed to ensuring world peace and stability, must consciously refrain from bolstering autocratic regimes that they favour despite such governments acting in open violation of basic democratic norms and in a manner brazenly in violation of the fundamental rights of the people.
The international community cannot take up the position that the democratic structures that must be put in place in every country are ‘internal’ issues, for this world of ours is today a global village. What has happened in Tunis and Egypt alone, the domino effect could plunge us all into disaster. The UN must ensure that universal human rights and democracy are enthroned the world over to ensure world peace and stability.
Some political analysts in Sri Lanka are of the view that there could be a convergence of anti-government forces in this country discreetly supported by the  LTTE’s diaspora and certain countries which are hostile to the government. We should also revise and implement the law on sedition and those nationals and dual nationals, whatever be their position, who slander this country and indulge in anti national activities abroad, should be severely punished. The country’s security must come first.
What should the government be doing to pre-empt any disaster. It does appear that the government should, in the first instance, agree to sharing power with the people through transparency in governance. The thinking that the we should follow the example of Singapore and concentrate power in the presidency will not be in the interest of our country. Lee Kwan Yew for all his achievements was, as Mahathir put it, a big frog in a small well.  We need a new constitution and must go back to a refined Donoughmore type constitution which will end confrontational hate politics which have torn apart this country.
We must change the political system and have an inclusive system which will not divide us. We must have the equal opportunities bill in place. We most urgently need to change the electoral law and introduce legislation based on the Dinesh Gunawardena Report and do away with the preference vote system and if at all have just one PV. We must also reintroduce ceilings on election expenditure as there was in the good old days we must also do away with the 18th Amendment and refine and implement the 17th Amendment and re-establish the independent commissions and last but not least devolve power not on a territorial basis but in a more effective and meaningful manner  by sharing power at the center.
Additionally we must have a new local government law that would ensure that all our people are empowered and have the power to decide on local issues and are well funded. We need a new constitution which would help build a Sri Lanka nation based on humanitarian values. We must also ensure that the military officers are debarred from involving themselves in politics till at least 10 years after retirement, to curb their overwhelmingly dangerous ambitions.
In this country we have experienced, over the past 60 years, the truth of that famous statement that power corrupts and that absolute power corrupts absolutely or as Dr. Nihal Jayawickrema once stated “Power is delightful and absolutely power is absolutely delightful but….”
Yes this country is ready for change so we the people hope that our beloved President who saved this country from being divided, will also be remembered in history as the President who prevented another disaster, developed the country and its infrastructure to international standards and restored democracy to Mother Lanka. He being a practicing Buddhist would understand the concept of Annicha more than other leaders (Nothing Is Forever) and the Buddhist concept of Appamado Amathapadam (Don’t Postpone Do It Now).

2 Comments for “The Egyptian Example And Lanka”

  1. Vision8

    “Share the power” with ltte maniacs screaming abroad (to cover up their embarassing extinction from Sri Lanka) are trying to form a transnational govt of their hallucinated eelam? Mr Samarasinghe, Sri Lanka can do much without your ‘esteemed’ opinions. Just keep quiet and mind your own business, please.
    …. and get a life!

  2. raj

    very good example and well written. It is up to the people whether to accept attrocities imposed on them in the name of democracy or go against it and to bring real democracy.

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