The events unfolding in the United Kingdom provides a classic study of democracy at work. In 2016 the British public were asked to decide by way of a national referendum if they wished to exit from membership of the European Union or remain.
Then Prime Minister David Cameron – who was the 19th Eton educated Prime Minister of Britain – resigned immediately after the result of that referendum was announced. Mr Cameron resigned not only his position as first amongst equals but also gave up being a Member of Parliament and in effect walked away from direct involvement in politics.
Mr Cameron did so because he believed passionately that Britain should have remained within the European Union. He obviously felt so strongly about his own stand on a matter of grave import for Britain that once the vote was in favour of Brexit (October 31 2019) his own position as Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party and member of Parliament for Witney, was not tenable and resigned from all these positions. Mr Cameron clearly did not believe (on matters of political leadership), in the motto of his alma mater, Eton, ‘Esto perpetua’ which means ‘May it last forever’.
Principled decisions are made by persons who grow up and are influenced lifelong by an environment that can be considered equitable on all matters. Equity is something that is built up during one’s formal years – it is not an item to be purchased off the shelf or found hanging at the nearest Marks and Sparks store. The entire notion of equity is the creation of an ambiance of democracy in a country. Often we see disaster when democracy is thrust upon those who find it an alien concept. Like a fine wine democracy needs to be matured over the years. John F Kennedy reminded us that Democracy is not easy before declaring his famous ‘Ich bein eine Berliner’ line in a divided Berlin.
Theresa May admitted that she had failed to deliver upon the wishes of the British people – made at a National Referendum in 2016. Mrs May told the world that she had tried three times. Theresa May – the second British female Prime Minister also reminded the world that in a democracy when one gives the people a choice one has a duty to implement what the people decide.
The point – and she did not admit this – was that it was the action directly by her party’s backbench parliamentary members that forced her to announce a date on which she would resign her posts.
Mrs May went on to say that compromise was not a dirty word. Life she said, was dependent on compromise.
Sadly in Sri Lanka there has been an appalling lack of leadership. In Sri Lanka, subservience to leadership has resulted in a significant impact on the real meaning of democracy. In Britain Mrs May leaves her post in June whilst her country’s economy is robust, where successive governments have delivered a far better quaity of life in terms of housing, public service and quality of life.
In Sri Lanka our economy is in shambles with the growth rate a meagre 3.2%, the national security severely impacted with over 250 innocent people losing their lives because our political leadership had embarked on a battle of wits and with delivery of a better quality of life impacted by departures from due process and procedure when it comes to national procurement and our country has a system where political patronage has been given to corruption at the highest levels.
The message from Britain is an exemplary one. That backbenchers can change the course of our collective destiny especially when leaders show little desire of delivering upon the peoples’ wishes.
Will Sri Lanka take inspiration from the backbenchers of Westminster? Only time will tell.