19 April 2010

Article: Democracy Is Dead

Commenting on the recent parliamentary elections in the country, Sri Lanka's "The Sunday Leader" newspaper on 11 April 2010 published an unsigned editorial titled "Democracy Is Dead".

The article can be read free of charge here:


Excerpts: "It is time to go into mourning. An old and ailing relative – democracy [–], has died an inevitable death. Dead at barely 60 years old though the abuse it suffered during its short life span made it appear much older. Like the aunt who lingers on long after most of the family believe she is already dead, this week's death was a quiet one, it was long expected, some would say even overdue. There was no shock, no sudden loss. Democracy in this country wasn't overthrown by a dictator, nor shattered suddenly by the chaos of war and revolution. Instead it died a painful, slow death. Strangled by corruption, stifled by authoritarianism and finally snuffed out by the disinterest and apathy of the general public. And while it somehow lingered on despite being savaged by decades of war, riots, and attempted revolutions, this week we finally saw democracy die in the hearts and minds of voters.

"The turn out for the 2010 general election stands as the lowest in history [...]. While some will criticise the voters' apathy, in reality you can only marvel at the patience of a people who voted regularly for six decades. At the devotion of a population who after years of false promises and disappointment continued to vote until finally a lack of credible candidates, tangible issues and the impossibility of effecting real change finally destroyed their interest in democracy. Of course the truth is and always has been that regardless of the final results of this election, thugs, cronies and criminals will continue to rule this country. [...] Seeing the ugliness of the government, the impotence of the opposition and the hypocrisy of the institutions – police, courts, charged with safeguarding democracy [–] the people were inevitably disgusted. And at a crucial moment in the country's history they chose to hide their faces from this mockery of the democratic process. They looked away from the hideous posters, meaningless slogans and the futile opposition and refused to make the effort to vote.

"Figures indicate that the UPFA will receive nearly two-thirds of the votes cast. And with this majority comes nothing less than absolute power. The ability to amend the constitution, the very basis of the nation's law. The checks and balances that are the key to democracy have disappeared. [...] Democracy in Sri Lanka is beyond revival. And in its place we now have just one party or more accurately, one family. And the country's citizens have just one choice, either demonstrate their loyalty, obedience and gratitude to the ruling family or risk detention, death or worse the utter irrelevance of powerlessness. [...] This is no longer a criticism or a warning, it is simply reality. One chapter of the country's history is now closed – the flickering light of democracy has gone out. The ailing opposition [...] will never be able to restore the people's right to democracy. Instead if it is ever to return, democracy in this country will have to be reborn. Instead of being imposed by colonial masters it will have to take hold again in the hearts and minds of the people."

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