The Sunday Leader

Eliminate Leaping Political Frogs

Democracy is the worst form of government except all other forms that have been tried from time to time”, was Winston Churchill’s quip after he gave leadership to forces of democracy in the great anti-fascist war but lost the general election, soon after. “The people of Britain have a right to kick me out,” the democrat had remarked.

That democracy is the best form of government is proven by the fact that all other forms: absolute monarchies, dictatorships – National and Chauvinist, fascist, communist, potty military and even democratic peoples’ juntas have been thrown out by the people after a short while. The Twentieth Century has many examples.

Sri Lanka is now groping to find a democratic form of governance after its comparatively young democracy was distorted by two insurrections and a terrorist war that lasted three decades. Maithripala Sirisena, unquestionably the most sincere democrat in contemporary Lankan history, is trying hard to find a framework of democratic governance. We say he is the most sincere democrat because no other political leader in recent times after a stunning victory had declared that he would no longer seek re-election and also drastically pruned the executive presidential powers that he inherited.

President Sirisena is attempting to restore democratic governance – good governance as he calls it – but is facing tremendous odds. Being a politician committed to parliamentary democracy, he has to work through the so called ‘People’s representatives’ who have been greatly responsible for the sorry state of the present political order.

These people’s representatives no longer consider themselves as servants of the people as they claimed to be when seeking to be elected but have become a super class having acquired money, power and Thatvaya (status) by the sheer virtue of being elected. Their motto is power for powers sake and wants the existing system to thrive. President Sirisena has cleared all hurdles and come to the last, the 20th Amendment for change in the electoral system for these representatives.

The parliamentary system has deteriorated so much today that it is hard to identify to which political party or which polarized group of the party a representative may belong to. So much that the respected monk Ven. Maduluwawe Sobitha has likened them to leaping frogs. The comparison is apt because some of them have changed camps so often and so fast that even committed political watchers would find it hard to say which side they are on.

Even though mass political crossovers have taken place since the sixties it was rare. After the sixties the next significant cross-over took place during the Chandrika Kumaratunga presidency. But following a Supreme Court ruling permitting MPs elected on the ticket of one political party to cross over to a rival party, there has been a cross- over epidemic. The stage has been reached where some political parties have become polarized to the extent of becoming separate political entities that the shift of their political loyalties becomes known only in the morning’s newspapers. Political stability in such circumstances becomes impossible.

This amphibious habit of leaping from tree to tree and land to water got to be halted. That cannot be done by reformation of the system of elections alone.

The cardinal sin lies with the leadership of parties who are responsible for selection of candidates as MPs. The quality of candidates chosen to contest elections has been appalling. The priorities of political leaders in choosing candidates are basically: Loyalty to the leader, then to the party, caste, power of the purse and last of all the honesty and integrity of the applicant. A possible reformative move would be to provide an opportunity for the rank and file of the party to have a say in the selection of a candidate which today is non-existent in political parties.

It is too late now to consider introduction of inner party democracy into the system before the next election. It has to be considered by the next parliament but whether the mentality of party leaders would permit their own powers to be eroded is highly doubtful.

A great deal of political reformation is called for if a basic democratic system is to be established but an immediate requirement called for is the elimination of leaping frogs who forget pledges given to their party and electorate and cross-over for ministerial perks and power to ride rough shod over their own electors.

4 Comments for “Eliminate Leaping Political Frogs”

  1. sarath

    It is premature to make any comment on MS as this is just the start. 19A is not what we and MS expected before the election. MS categorically ststed the president will be like Gopallawa style and no more. Today it has gone to history as much as the broken promises of CBK and MR. The Bill contained the expected provisions to take away the Presidenital executive powers but needed a referendum and it not something they did not expect as it is clearly stated in JR’s constitution and RW should have well known more than any other. Putting two and two together I will reserve my comments to pass it on a future date to say whether MS will be a different President from others.

  2. garawi

    Yes,the President is having an enormous task getting the 20A passed unlike the 19A which was diluted. But it seems the chances are slim that he will have his way. The MR gang fearing calls from FCID,some wanting to continue robbing the treasury and even others wanting to continue in their indulgence of malpractices , drug dealing and ethanol importation are sabotaging the president’s good intentional effort. I however think these large crowd gatherings are only a gimmick but the real voter id notwith MR. However the SLFP MPs avoiding the parliament and giving into MR gang doesn’t help the President.The 20A has to be passed before the elections for there would not be a 2/3rd majority in the next one.

  3. aquarius

    Sri Lanka’s political culture has contributed to the unfortunate state of affairs of the country today and most probably, for years to come. This is the ugly side of democracy – where – in the name of freedom, anything and everything is ok for those who don’t understand the true meaning of democracy. Responsibility is mandatory when embracing democracy and this is just the opposite in what we see in our our parliamentarians behaviors inside and outside the parliament.
    The biggest blunder by a former CJ was to legalise cross-overs for MPs. This should be totally forbidden in its present form. If MPs are still opposing to ban this culture they should be named and shamed. It should be possible to cross-over but first they should quit the seat they were elected from. and officially join the other party before there could fresh elections and let PEOPLE decide their candidate who deserves to represent them.

  4. One

    After all we see human stupidity around us everywhere, from the stupidity of modern public display of faith, modern international relations to that of modern educational systems. More senseless still is the custom of taking off one’s hat in the west.
    We find all sorts of nonsensical rules of etiquette -
    10 ton frogs catching choppers with their tongues,enjoying drinking hot croak like farmers and playing croaket.

    satakaya or no satakaya like the caribbean islands pirates would be pirates-
    the silk road to house of lords where they rev in uttering nonsense while common sense is for middle class.

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