Cry! The Beloved Country!
How fair is it by the voters when an MP who gets elected from one party crosses over to another party? How then can people have faith in the entire system of elections and a thriving democracy? What has happened where politicians of today so blithely will forego this principle?
This article focuses on the impact of the now common place crossing over by elected representatives of Parliament from one party to another, on the political structure of the nation and not really on the law relating to such crossovers. The theorist would say that the elected representative represents the will of the People and that the crossing over is also the will of the People. The realist would say that the elected representative after being elected represents only himself and that the concept of the representative representing the People has gradually faded into mythology.
In practical terms the voter must first vote for the political party of his choice and then vote his preferred candidate from a list of candidates nominated by that party. The voter is not entitled to vote for a candidate of another party. Or he can vote for the party and forget about the candidates. As such, the governing factor is the party and not the candidate,
In that context can it be said that when the voter casts his vote for party X and for preferred candidate Y of that party and the candidate crosses over after being elected, that is the will of the voter? Especially when the voter himself was prohibited from voting for any candidate of that other party? If the voter is confined to vote within the party that he selected then it is rather difficult to understand how the elected representative can cross over to another party on his own volition.
Be that as it may, crossing over may be the result of coercion, offers of high places and personal gain, and other activities thereby corrupting the political system. It may even be the result of the inability of the representative to survive in his own party due to disagreement and dispute.
In the case of Mohan Lal Grero – and before him Karu Jayasuriya who led a mass defection together with 17 UNP MPs who included the likes of Prof. G. L. Peiris, Milinda Moragoda and Keheliya Rambukwella perhaps the reason was an utterly inept and dishonourable Leader.
And in a twist familiar to South Asian politics Wickremesinghe’s the main defender is now government spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella. Remember how on the eve of protests against RW, the government rushed out construction crews to the UNP headquarters to make assembly impossible?
Ranil Wickremesinghe is the dictator of the opposition and the first thing between Sri Lanka and real political change. He has deployed the bureaucracy, the courts and even road paving equipment to protect his position, but he still stands in the path of history.
Can any of these affairs be said to be the will of the voter? Or does this leave the voter in anguish, tearing his hair in fury and frustration? Or is the voter quite indifferent to the shift in sides he being more involved in his own existence? Or is it that the representative after being voted in becomes indifferent to the voter and gets about consolidating his own place within the political circles? What amount of faith can a voter have in the candidate of his chosen party if the candidate after being elected jumps to the other side?
The most recent crossover of Mohan Lal Grero is a good case in point.
But there is also another aspect to the issue: the damage that is done to the political structure of the nation. This is especially so when members of the opposition start crossing over to the ruling party. The stronger the ruling party, the weaker the political system and as such, the nation. A strong political system is where the opposing political parties are evenly poised and the proposition is cautious in their activities, always being alert to the possibility of an overthrow in the event of irresponsible actions affecting the rights and privileges of the people.
But where the opposition is weak and is of no compulsive force, the proposition merely forces or coerces its will on the people with little grace, indifferent to the howls of outrage by the people, confident in the belief that the people can do nothing except howl.
Crossing over by elected representatives is one of the most dangerous trends in a democracy.
In healthy democracies, politicians step down after they lose. Ranil has lost once, twice, now over a dozen times in various elections. Despite leading the party to defeat after defeat, he still feels qualified to lead. His obliviousness makes him qualified for nothing except a dictatorship of defeat.
The voters have left him. After steady declines in the UNP base, Ranil was too cowardly to even run for President in the last election. Thus, for the first time in the party’s and the country’s history, the United National Party fielded no candidate at all. They instead picked a scapegoat – whom they called a Common Candidate – Sarath Fonseka. That should tell you where Ranil’s priorities are. Himself before party and nation. The latter can sustain any damage as long as Ranil Wickremesinghe survives.
Democracy is where the people have willed their political and ideological rights to elected representatives and when those representatives cross over to a different political ideology it amounts to a betrayal of the people who voted them in. It shatters the foundations of the democratic system. When the opposition crosses over en masse to the proposition for whatever reason, it paves the way for the ultimate destruction of the democratic ideal- the government of the people, for the people, by the people, and in turn, takes the face of a government by the government of the government for the government which in turn paves the way for the enslavement of the nation to the will of one entity and spells the end of all legitimate freedoms that were enjoyed by the people under the democratic system turning the Parliamentary process into an unholy instrument of oppression.
Force and power in the sense of politics are entirely two different concepts. Power depends on the body politic whereas force depends on the ability to act against the will of the body politic. A Parliament with an absolute majority is not a powerful one but a forceful one capable of acting against the interests of the body politic. The Parliament then tends to dissociate itself from the People who elected it and run on its own objectives and the nation is divided into the rulers and the ruled. And then, the sounds of dissent begin to whisper in the wind.
Hope, they say, springs from the hopeless- it is all they have. Nowhere in history has the human spirit been subjugated indefinitely. It is always in a state of transformation and adaptation as circumstances demand, and travels from acceptance, to confusion, to fear, to apathy, and then at some point of time moves into the converse to discontent, resentment, and fury, and then the voice of the People will rise like thunder in protest and rebellion… and then in the aftermath, the song, “Where have all the Flowers Gone” will be sung again in sorrow, regret and remorse, - Sorrow for the loss, regret and remorse for what could have been avoided. But, what was done was done.
A Parliament with an absolute majority is a Parliament in crisis because it is like Nicholas Monsarrat’s title “The Tribe that Lost its Head.” Human beings were given two eyes so that they will have a three dimensional vision. But the absolute majority Parliament tends to be like the Cyclops in Homer’s Odyssey, with one eye and a two dimensional vision which does not see the shadows wherein lurks the danger.
The theoretical concept is that it is the Parliament that is permanent and not the group of individuals comprising Parliament which group may be subject to periodic and successive changes and replaced from franchise to franchise as and when they occur. The group is replaced by the body politic if and when it sees fit, provided that it is able to do so freely. If it is not able to do so freely then the winds of dissent begin to grow spreading the word of discontent throughout the nation portraying the absolute majority Parliament as another hydra headed monster of Hades. Oh! When will they understand?