Rape of democracy

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Government leaders must be in seventh heaven, having disrupted the Local Government (LG) election postal voting, which has been postponed indefinitely. They must be partying at the President’s House and Temple Trees. They have made a huge blunder.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe has succeeded in preventing the Government Printer from delivering the postal ballot papers on time. He has ordered all state officials not to provide goods and services unless they are paid for upfront. He has cited the current economic crisis as the reason for his executive order. But nobody with an iota of intelligence will buy into his claim. Everybody knows that the government is all out to sabotage the mini polls because it fears a crushing defeat, and does not care two hoots about wasteful expenditure.

Having drawn heavy flak for her action, and perhaps fearing legal action, Government Printer Gangani Liyanage now says the printing of ballot papers can resume, and the Government Press must be provided with police protection. This is a fair request, and it defies comprehension why the police have not granted it. The IGP ought to explain why the police have not deployed enough men to guard the Government Press. It is said that there are only three policemen on duty there, and workers fear for the safety of the ballot papers.

UNP and SLPP politicians have a history of rigging elections. The incumbent regime will do everything in its power to win the mini polls. Hence the need to ensure the safety of ballot papers.

The Election Commission (EC) must get tough with the Secretary to the Finance Ministry, the Government Printer and the IGP. Mere raps on the knuckles will not do. Legal action is called for. It is being argued in some quarters that if Mahinda Deshapriya had been at the helm of the EC today, he would have handled the situation differently. One may recall how he tamed the mighty Mahinda Rajapaksa government ahead of the 2015 presidential election. In dealing with a bunch of politicians intoxicated with power and their bureaucratic lackeys, the EC must put its foot down.

Thousands of policemen are deployed to disperse anti-government protests and protect government politicians, most of whom should be behind bars for their crimes. There were more police and military personnel than civilians at the Galle Face Green in the run-up to the recent Independence Day celebrations, which only served to boost the egos of the government politicians and their spouses. Wherever the President goes, there is a heavy police presence. Even religious festivals and the so-called VIP funerals are given police protection. But the police have not cared to protect the Government Press ahead of an election. Let the EC be urged to order the IGP to deploy enough personnel to guard the place, and severely deal with noncompliance, if any. The IGP should be ashamed of being a pliable tool in the hands of those who are raping democracy!

There is no bigger threat to democracy than a government that fears elections and goes all out to sabotage them. The UNP and SLPP leaders should realise that they are making a huge blunder by postponing elections and preventing the irate people from giving vent to their pent-up anger democratically. If President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had cared to hold the LG polls last year instead of postponing them, they would have acted as a safety valve and helped release public anger and thereby prevent popular uprisings that led to his ouster. The government is playing with fire.

Courtesy The Island

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