Tag Archives: affairs

Returning sovereignty to the people?

The general assumption of ‘the return of sovereignty to the people’ implies that Governments across the world regularly call upon sovereignty to demand that the international community “mind its own business” while they will manage their own state of affairs. They declare that the sovereign rights to be free from international intervention and to permit the countries to carry out their domestic affairs subject to their own discretion. This has also been one of the famous arguments articulated by the Sri Lankan government in the present context. We hear them blaming the USA and various European states about their intervention on Sri Lankan affairs.
What is the sovereignty that we are talking about? Relying on classical interpretations of sovereignty, it is understood as the power of the people. Hence, sovereignty ideally lies in the people and any government is entitled to sovereignty rights only as the legitimate representative or a mere trustee of the people. Therefore, the government is bound to fulfil its duties to the people that they have promised at the time of the social contract made during a democratic election.
However, through-out history and even today, we have seen how governments manipulate the emotions of the people in order to claim sovereign rights and maintain power. Creation of Pakistan, 1983 ethnic riots in Sri Lanka and Ayodhya incident in the recent past in India are some of the ideal examples where the power holders manipulated the emotions of the people for petty power agendas. In fact, the question that I am trying to race via this article is, whether the finger should ideally be pointed at the power holders or the people who claim to hold sovereignty but who has no proper sense about the powers they hold for being citizens.
In that regard, the key issue to address is whether these new nations really have ‘citizens’ for that matter? If these countries actually had people with civic consciousness, how possible would it be for the power holders to manipulate them based on petty power agendas? One may argue that the sovereign rights are lost when governments commit less than the most egregious manipulation of human emotions and needs. For me it’s not the case. It is ideally lost due to ‘stupidity’ of the people themselves, who claim to be the owners of the same sovereignty.
What is the plight of a state when the governments are waiting to manipulate the sovereignty rights and when people are not with a civic consciousness, not to understand that their rights have been manoeuvred? The present situation in Sri Lanka or India or any other South Asia state for that matter is not different to the above context. A country of that nature is like a fleet of ships that has no direction.
In this context, I strongly believe the biggest challenge for new nations through-out is lack of a civil society. West may say it’s our ethnic conflicts or corruption or mismanagement etc. But the bottom of the problem is that we have no people with civic consciousness in this part of the world. They will vote at elections based on the gifts they get from the politicians beforehand. Once elected, they are not bothered at all about what their representatives do. Even though they have a concern they will never stand against it. This shows how an ideal pale society functions. Therefore the answer lies in not demanding to return the sovereignty to the people, but for ensuring that we understand the meaning of the sovereignty that we hold as peoples.