Democracy And Giving A Shit

Sri Lanka has always been democratic. Until now

A photo I took at the President’s swearing in, 2015. What a douche.

Democracy is fragile, ugly and dumb — like a newborn baby. Maybe not the best metaphor. But democracy is nice. I like babies and I like democracy.

For my whole life, and especially now with the madness in America, I have been proud of Sri Lanka’s democracy. I’ve been proud that we’ve had the universal franchise longer than most western countries, and that we have used it for every transfer of power — even through war and insurrection and foreign armies and assasinations and everything. We somehow preserved democracy through it all.

Until now.

Now that we passed the ‘finish line’ of violence, that we elected someone explicitly on a platform of good governance, now that it felt safe, we are on the verge of throwing it all away*. Through some combination of stupidity, pride and greed, a few men have decided to throw out years of law, tradition and honor because it’s not convenient. And the media, the armed forces and many people seem to be just letting it go. Which makes me very sad. Because democracy, an annoying, inconvenient but ultimately just and stabilizing democracy, was something I thought we could pass on to our children. To my children. And now I’m not so sure.

To me, democracy is not a legal debate. It is a political concept. The general principle, which everyone from a tea plucker to a tea planter should understand is that you vote for people to represent you and that the will of the people is the most important thing. It is the idea the we govern, in an indirect and corrupted way, but in the least bad way that humans have found. And right now, I do not remotely feel like I (or you) have anything to do with our government. It is something that is happening to us, with us being informed after the fact by SMS. That is not democracy. You know it and feel it too.

What we have is one man, the President, deciding that he and he alone can decide who the Prime Minister is. That that person doesn’t need to win an election, or have a majority in Parliament — and that Parliament doesn’t even need to be called at all. What we have is this being informed to us on a Friday night, we have media and government offices taken over and security forces pulled away from the legitimate government. What we have is an obvious coup, if not for the confounding fact that the President is involved. This is a level of betrayal that no system is built to withstand, so the coup looks legitimate. But it is not.

This President campaigned on reducing and eliminating the Executive Presidency, but in his most disgusting betrayal, he has abused the Presidency more than anyone before him. No other President has so baldly claimed that he is supreme to the Parliament and the people, and so what.

What Maithripala Sirisena is doing is a betrayal of the people that voted for him, of everything he said, and of the long, democratic history of Sri Lanka. He is not a good person and I’m sad because I voted for him. I thought he was a decent person, but I guess a lot of people thought he was a lot of things. Maithripala will go down in history as nothing more than a perpetual betrayer.

I for one would like to not that I am not down with this shit. I do support the UNP, but if they lose an election or control of Parliament I can accept that and support my government as a Sri Lankan. But this is not my government. This is a Prime Minister that people explicitly voted out put there by a President who was elected to explicitly not do what he has just done.

Nevermind that Maithripala betrayed both Mahinda and Ranil in turn, he has betrayed us and his own country.

So, for the record, fuck this shit. I’m proud of Sri Lankan democracy, the messy, virulent weed that it is. We’re better than this and we’re better than the complacency we as a people are showing right now.

There is a protest today (October 30, 2018) around Liberty Plaza at one. We need to demand that Parliament is convened, that MPs that sell their country out are punished and not rewarded, and that democracy continues to flourish in Sri Lanka. And I don’t mean that in an abstract sense. I mean democracy in the sense that we all know and feel. Rule of the people by the vote, not the President through SMS.

Written by

A writer living in Colombo, Sri Lanka. He/him. Videos: and podcast:

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