To Overcome Economic Crisis Sri Lanka Needs ‘Less Democracy’? – OpEd


Sri Lanka’s President Ranil Wickremesinghe has suggested that local government polls in Sri Lanka should be postponed, in view of the economic crisis faced by Sri Lanka. The government has explained the difficulty in mobilising necessary funds to hold elections. The Government Printer, too, informed that it was unable to print ballot papers due to lack of funds.

Instead of appreciating the issues and cooperating with the government, some political parties and some activists in Sri Lanka are demanding that local body election should be held as per the schedule. They are threatening to organise protests and launch agitation to demand elections.

The entire world knows that Sri Lanka is facing unprecedented level of economic crisis , bordering bankruptcy The country is facing humiliating condition of having to ” beg” for loans from international financing institutions and appeal to those countries which have earlier extended loans to defer the repayment schedule, so that Sri Lanka will not end up as a loan defaulter. 

In such circumstances, Mr. Wickremesinghe was elected as the country’s President in July 2022. With long years of exposure to political and economic scenario in Sri Lanka and with reasonable level of personal credibility, the President has been trying his level best to sail Sri Lanka out of the rough water and restore it’s dignity as a vibrant nation in the global arena. The task is not easy, as the President has to start virtually from a scratch.

In such conditions, in a matured democracy, all political parties and citizens in various walks of life are expected to show understanding and support to the President, as the urgent task and challenge is to retrieve Sri Lanka from the brink of economic collapse.

Several elections have taken place in Sri Lanka in the past and delay of one more election for a few months in such adverse scenario should not be viewed in any irresponsible manner as to state that “such attempts to prevent elections mandated by law represent an unprecedented attack on democracy and the rule of law and pose a grave threat to the electoral process in the future”

The ground reality is that democracy in any country can not thrive on “empty stomach”. Therefore, giving precedence to exercise people’s franchise, at the cost of national economy which is on the brink and is facing distress conditions impacting day today life of millions of poor people, is absolutely unacceptable and against the national interest.

The commitment of some politicians and civil society members and the members of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka to the nation’s interest and their capability to appreciate and understand the grim situation, has created some doubts about them, in the view of discerning observers not only in Sri Lanka but across the world. 

It is particularly disturbing to note that some politicians have written to Colombo-based diplomats seeking their intervention in ensuring the timely conduct of local body elections. What to make of the mindset and approach of these politicians in Sri Lanka? Is it their case that international intervention is necessary to ensure local body elections? Can there be more humiliating act for the people of Sri Lanka than such approach of such politicians who want global intervention in Sri Lanka’s internal affairs?

It is seen in many democratic countries that the politicians are not the best of people among the citizens and they occasionally cause havoc due to self centredness, parochial approach and sometimes even adopt unethical methods to grab power. In such circumstances, many thinkers and political researchers across the world are veering to the view that a controlled democracy will do world of good particularly to developing countries , in place of uncontrolled and chaotic democracy.

Today, if the elections were to be held in Sri Lanka, there would be acrimonious debates, hate politics, corrupt methods to win elections and perhaps even violence due to political clashes. These are the possible developments that Sri Lanka need to avoid at any cost. 

The focus of the country has to be on economic development and economic development only. 

Sri Lanka has the most experienced person as the President and he needs time and support to restore Sri Lanka’s glory. This is the time for less democracy in Sri Lanka. If postponement of local body polls would mean less democracy, let it be so and it is in the interest of Sri Lanka.

N. S. Venkataraman

N. S. Venkataraman is a trustee with the "Nandini Voice for the Deprived," a not-for-profit organization that aims to highlight the problems of downtrodden and deprived people and support their cause. To promote probity and ethical values in private and public life and to deliberate on socio-economic issues in a dispassionate and objective manner.

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