22 September 2020
Genetically Modified Ballot Paper?
I burst out laughing when I read the line ‘Between the cow and the Quad’ while reading in virtual reality mode, Mr Badrakumar’s article ‘India's Dilemma in Sri Lanka’ published by Rediff. When we believe in common, it is easy to go into virtual reality mode. Then we have the experience.
When a Hindu Tamil leader wrote to me in support of PM Rajapaksa’s proposal to ban cow slaughter I felt inclined to support him because he expresses appreciation for my articles and the flow of continuous values expressed in English in a style very much to his liking. Hence there was no ‘block’ to support him which was also support for PM Rajapaksa. I gave up eating meat long ago and hence there was no personal preference as an individual. It was also protection for my values in Thunaivi in Northern Sri Lanka where I had to take disciplinary action against those who parked their vehicle inside our temple grounds; the vehicle that was used to transport cattle for slaughter.
Despite all that, I did not think either way about the ban itself. I did however wonder about its significance to PM Rajapaksa. Mr Badrakumar had deeper insight! Here is what he says:
[To my mind, having worked in Sri Lanka as a diplomat in the early and mid-1980s when India was actively promoting the Tamil militant groups, I cannot but admire the tenacity of that country's diplomacy and statecraft to constantly think up ideas to navigate diplomatic minefields and preserve the country's strategic autonomy while also carrying India along.
From such a perspective, Mahinda Rajapaksa's brilliant move last week to ban slaughtering of cows in Sri Lanka is a shrewd initiative.
Sri Lankans, 99 percent of whom are meat eaters, will instead make do with imported beef! To be sure, the tough, wily Sri Lankan leader is aware of the seamless possibilities of bovine politics in the subcontinent (external link), which has an economic dimension, a religious dimension and a political dimension.
Rajapaksa may add a diplomatic dimension to it as well.
The powers that be who rule the roost in Delhi would have received the news from across the Palk Strait with ecstatic joy and fraternal feelings of kinship.
Between the cow and the Quad, their preference is a foregone conclusion.]
Here is the explanation of Quad:
[“Quad” — the loose grouping of maritime democracies comprising the United States, Japan, Australia, and India……. The idea for a Quad grew out of demonstrated capability in response to the 2004 Boxing Day earthquake and tsunami, which took nearly 230,000 lives and caused an estimated $15 billion in damage in 14 countries. When a life-and-death emergency demanded an urgent response, freedom-loving Indo-Pacific sea powers stepped up their humanitarian assistance.] – Dr Patrick Cronin - The Diplomat
Current politicians are more concerned with local credits that would manifest as votes at the next elections. The problem that kept bothering me more was the Sri Lankan Preferential voting system that was in breach of the fundamentals of democracy. This resulted in problems surfacing in Jaffna where also my little brain developed at primary level. Mr Badrakumar who did have access to Sri Lankan leaders’ brains indicates as follows:
[Rajapaksa erred in his over-confidence that he could outwit Delhi and was unaware of the GM seeds, genetically modified in the Indian and American labs, being secretly planted right beneath his feet, until the sturdy growth uprooted him in 2015.
This time around, Rajapaksa made sure that the ground beneath his feet is made of concrete where not a blade of grass grows.]
This meant that the voting system was designed to suit foreigners! Here is the confirmation:
[The first major US-Indian project was the successful regime change in Sri Lanka in 2015.
Since then, India has been working hard to create underpinnings for a US military presence in the Maldives.
These efforts came to fruition on September 10, when Maldives and the US signed a framework for defence and security relationship with view to 'deepen engagement and cooperation in support of maintaining peace and security in the Indian Ocean...and promote a free and open Indo-Pacific.'
It is against such a backdrop that we need to assess a third development that is unfolding on the Sri Lankan turf -- President Rajapaksa's announcement 3 days after the phone call from Esper, proposing a new constitution (external link) for the country signalling changes to its electoral system and the restoration of executive presidency.
Of course, the drafting of a new constitution will be time-consuming.]
Questions have been raised repeatedly as to who the author of the proposed 20th Amendment to the Sri Lankan constitution is? We learnt that it is NOT Dr Ali Sabry – the Minister of Justice. As per my knowledge, apart from myself, there seems to be no one worrying about the ballot paper in which the link between the individual candidate and the party they belonged to was not shown.
In terms of Presidential Elections the Constitution provides as follows:
[94. (1) At the election of the President every voter while casting his vote for any candidate may - (a) where there are three candidates for election, specify his second preference; and (b) where there are more than three candidates for election, specify his second and third preferences.]
As per my understanding of the fundamentals, the candidates and the parties cannot be different.
When I become an average voter I would not consider it necessary to ensure that the Preference in the lower section was different to the one I marked 1 & 2 or just only X as in the above. If candidates 7, 14 & 21 were of the same party as in Section 1 – which is UNP in the above sample – then that is an internal preference within the party. This then means that in the last Presidential elections, UNP could have fielded more than 1 candidate.
Otherwise there is no need for the bottom portion in Presidential elections where each party fields only one candidate.
In terms of Parliamentary elections, the published sample is as follows:
The Constitution provides as follows:
[99(2) Every elector at an election of Members of Parliament shall, in addition to his vote, be entitled to indicate his preferences for not more than three candidates nominated by the same recognized political party or independent group.]
This means that only the first or only choice in the upper section party’s candidates are marked as preferences in the lower section. The party that did not come first or second does not qualify for preferences and therefore the candidates do not qualify. The way it was done was for the candidate to be separated from the Party – as if they were two different votes. This is in breach of the Constitution and more importantly the Franchise itself.
The question arose due to my study of Jaffna district vote. Taken as divisions – neither TMTK led by Mr Wigneswaran nor AITC led by Mr Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam won first place in any division. Mrs Raviraj who did – did not get to go to Parliament.
If we disregard divisions – and take the Jaffna district as a whole - TNA and AITC came 1st and 2nd . Do their candidates then go to parliament as per the internal preferences? What a mess! The above ballot paper does not link the top to the bottom. Nor does is highlight the provisions of Article 99 (2) of the Constitution.
That was how Mr Angajan Ramanathan scored highest. That was also how Mr Wigneswaran entered parliament without his party being in the top in any division. If divisions are valid then Mr Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam was also not eligible.
It is also confusing as to why TNA was listed as ITAK and Mr Wigneswaran’s alliance as Alliance. The People have a right to know where their vote of belief ended up. Majority Jaffna voters relate through local electorates which are recognized as Divisions. The reporting happened on District basis – with the pathway getting corrupted on the way to consolidate.
As per Mr Badrakumar’s revelations – the voting is actually done by readymade handouts to the voters. This ofcourse cannot be found fault with as government’s rorting. But where they got caught was the lack of link between the Party and the candidate! This seems to have happened in South as well. Hence the haste with which the Constitution is to be ‘doctored’ to suit the Executive.
The block in this instance is Article 9 of the Constitution according to which Buddha Sasana is foremost law. If unwritten – it is taken as the law of Buddha as per Buddha’s conduct. Buddha renounced executive powers of ruler to become natural governor.
If the President maintains Executive power – the immunity from prosecution would not apply to those areas. Here is how the Wise Indian indicates it:
[Be that as it may, in a related development only four days later, US Defence Secretary Mark Esper telephoned Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on August 30 to discuss 'their shared commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific that ensures the sovereignty of all nations.'
The Pentagon readout said, 'Reviewing common bilateral defence priorities, they noted opportunities to enhance military professionalisation, counter-terrorism, and maritime security cooperation. Both leaders expressed their commitment to expanding bilateral defence relations and to advancing shared interests.'
Esper later tweeted that he discussed 'the international security environment' with President Rajapaksa.
Curiously, Esper also 'urged continued progress on reconciliation and human rights in Sri Lanka'.
In effect, he threatened Gotabaya Rajapaksa under whose stewardship as Sri Lankan defence secretary (while he was a US citizen), the bloodiest phase of the war against the LTTE took place.
That was indeed an extraordinary phone call -- the first in living memory from a US defence chief to a Sri Lankan president.]
That explains why more dual-citizens would be allowed into Sri Lankan parliament driven by majority.
Tamils have been distracted by armed rebellion and have very weak insight into the Universal Franchise and how it ought to work. THIS is the issue that needs to be escalated to the UN through an all-party Commission of inquiry within Sri Lanka. If we fail to do this – we do not deserve Democracy.