The government is trying every trick in the book to postpone the local government (LG) elections. It would have the public believe that it will not bring in new laws to put them off, but it certainly knows more than one way to shoe a horse. The Election Commission (EC) is said to be divided on whether to conduct the LG elections amidst the present crisis. The government has said it does not interfere in the affairs of the EC, but it will have its work cut out to make the public believe that it has nothing to do with the divided opinion within the EC. Even the COPE (Committee on Public Enterprises) has complained that the Executive is meddling with its work.
Some members of the so-called independent commissions are not independent, at all. The Executive has them under its thumb. Ranjan Ramanayake’s leaked telephone recordings have revealed that the ‘Sherlock Holmes’ of the Sri Lanka Police unashamedly offered to stoop so low as to wash pots and pans at politicians’ houses. Chairman of the Police Commission Chandra Fernando had to wipe the egg off his face a few weeks ago, having greeted SLPP National Organiser and former Minister Basil Rajapaksa during a political event at the BIA upon the latter’s return from the US. Constitutional provisions alone cannot make officials or institutions independent.
President Ranil Wickremesinghe is reported to have met the EC members and asked them to reach a consensus and make their final decision on the LG polls known soon. Is it that they would not have done so but for the presidential directive? The JVP has rightly pointed out that the President should not summon the members of the EC after the announcement of dates for submitting nominations because he is a party leader and such action amounts to undue influence on the EC.
There is no way the EC can make a U-turn now without plunging the country into turmoil. It has crossed the Rubicon by calling for nominations. If it ever tries to put off the LG polls, it will provoke the Opposition and the public into staging street protests.
The raison d’etre of any election commission is to hold elections and not to postpone them on one pretext or the other. We have had elections during the country’s wars on northern and southern terrorism, and the worst-ever global pandemic. Therefore, the EC must not sully its reputation by helping the government delay the LG polls further for political reasons. Funds have already been allocated to the EC from Budget 2023, according to the Opposition, and nothing can justify the government’s efforts to delay elections for fear of losing them.
The people are incensed beyond measure. Those who have bankrupted the country and caused so much suffering to the public are still in power, and living the high life. Some of them are even threatening to get tough with the anti-government protesters.
People are furious with the government, which they are all out to punish electorally or otherwise. The least the government can do to prevent another wave of mass uprisings is to let the public vent their anger in a democratic manner through the ballot. If they are denied an opportunity to do so at the LG polls, their pent-up anger is likely to drive them to pour into the streets again. The police, the military and the pro-government goon squads are no match for People Power, which is as unstoppable as the landfall of a tsunami.
Unless the government plucks up the courage to suffer a slap across its face at the hands of the public in the form of an electoral defeat, it will witness a situation far worse than the uprisings that led to the ouster of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.Meanwhile, the laws that enable the government in power to postpone, advance and stagger elections according to the whims and fancies of its leaders only make a mockery of the people’s franchise as well as sovereignty. It is high time they were done away with for the sake of democracy.
Courtesy The Island
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