The Radicalised Middle Way: An Agenda for All True Patriots
By Mangala Samaraweera
This is an opportune time to reflect on the credibility of democracy in Sri Lanka and the future of democracy as we are preparing for another General Election on 5 August to elect the 16th Parliament since 1947.
In Sri Lanka, Elections have been held on time without any delay, except for a few rare occasions. If Elections are a measure of a country’s democratic credibility, Sri Lanka is sure to be at the top of the list of the most democratic countries in the world. However, in the Democratic Index of the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Economic Intelligence Unit in 2019, Sri Lanka is ranked 69th as a ‘flawed democracy’.
With the rapid militarisation of civilian administrative structures over the past several months since the Presidential Election in 2019, we should not be surprised if Sri Lanka is relegated to the status of a ‘hybrid state regime’ on a rapid transition to the ‘dictatorial’ category in 2020.
Democracies in many countries came to an end in the twentieth century as a result of anti-government conspiracies led by men with guns and tanks through military force and coercion.
Democracy died in Argentina, Chile, Pakistan, Thailand and Ghana. Today, democracy is likely to be ‘extinct’ not by the generals but by the elected leaders who brought them to power. In fact, many democracies are slowly being destroyed by subtle measures invisible to the naked eye, and the setback for that begins with the ballot box.
The paradox of the path through elections to dictatorship is that the assassins of democracy systematically overthrow, even subtly and legitimately, the institutions of democracy in order to kill democracy.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has started to turn the democracy and democratic institutions in Sri Lanka upside down in a rapid manner. If he gets two-third-majority from upcoming General Election it would be the funeral of Sri Lankan democracy. But, President Rajapaksa is not the only reason for that. Since 1970, dictatorial leaders have unlawfully interfered in Sri Lanka’s democratic institutions. From the moment in which Executive Presidency was introduced in 1978, elements which are essential for the existence of modern democracy have been violated mercilessly.
Now the Constitutional Council which was given a rebirth by the 19th Amendment to the Constitution is taking its last few breaths. It is inches away from being inactive. Power division between the Executive, Legislature and the Judiciary has become
The President has publically said that Independent Commissions have become a nuisance to his ruling style and now he is seeking a public blessing to abolish the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.
Racism, hate speech and religious and ethnic extremism are normalised in Sri Lanka as the Freedom of Speech has been limited. The Democracy has been pressurised and extreme racisms disguised as the nationalism has been become the national principle of the country.
Corruption which is increasing continuously, since Independence in 1948 has become a cancer which destroys the essence of our society. Opening the economy to international competition without introducing necessary reforms, equal opportunities and regulations has made a path to for the endless corruption. In short, corruption, dictatorships from time to time and attacks against civil and human rights as a result of that has weakened the political body of Sri Lanka.
Today, the country is experiencing a dictatorial State with an abnormal collaboration of the executive, clergy and military. Buddhist clergy and Sinhalese extremist groups have given the President a task to pass a Constitution, which favours the majority outside the Parliament. If President Rajapaksa gets a strong people’s mandate on 5 August, he will drag the country into a state of military dictatorship which was granted fake democratic rights. There would be an economic crisis, which is never seen before, and it would increase unemployment. In this backdrop dictatorial Rajapaksa mentality would favour the suppression as their favourite alternative to deal with problems. This could surely be destructive to a country, which names ‘the oldest democracy in Asia.’
This moment is a truly crucial for all the Sri Lankans. Everyone should make meaningful choices and their choices would define the future of Sri Lanka for several future generations.
Should we determine a new future for our country based on fear and prejudgements or should we decided our future for each and everyone of the country based on better hopes and intentions. Should we give a space to few religious and ethnic extremists to determine our future by staying silent?
This Radicalised Middle Way should be a home to free thinking and neutralism. The need of this moment is creating a new political culture which is a collective of visions and values of Lord Buddha, Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Barack Obama.
Some people think that this Middle Way is a weak vision which justifies anything. But Radical Middle Way is a vision which can even launch non-violent struggles to achieve and protect its defined values when there is a necessity. It is the stage which empowers the silent majority to object and fight against all kinds of dictatorships, racism and extremism.