What is Democracy?

The current problem faced by Sri Lankan Government is that the Western world which has invested heavily in the system of Democracy is ‘telling’ Sri Lanka to show signs of Democracy – show something that it does not have. As per the Australian in me, the affluent West continues to see itself as the master of the poorer East – especially those who are people poor as well. Unless members of the Sri Lankan Government consciously assess themselves on the basis of merit – this situation would continue.

l Gaja Lakshmi Paramasivam

(November 05, Melbourne, Sri Lanka Guardian) Dr. Ruwantissa Abeyratne, in his article ‘Is Sri Lanka a Democracy?’ quotes my conclusion that ‘It may be right or wrong for Sri Lanka at this point in time but Sri Lanka does not qualify to call itself a democratic country’ .
In this regard, Dr. Abeyratne states ‘I do not wish to contest this statement for two reasons, the first being that as an expatriate who has lived continuously out of the country for 22 years, I am not competent to judge Sri Lanka as I am not directly privy to what has gone on there or what goes on there. The second reason is that the author of the above statement, who shows in her writings a certain sense of endearment to the country, obviously has her own reasons to arrive at her conclusion.’
I have lived as an Australian for more than 22 years. Yet, I still feel competent to conclude about Sri Lanka. This is because I completed my Sri Lankan experience by including it in my Australian experiences. Now I am independent of both Australia as well as Sri Lanka and yet am a part of Australia as well as Sri Lanka. To me that is the Global experience that UN is required to facilitate. If I can thus become global – so can Australians as well as Sri Lankans. Had I submitted to the habitual thinking of White Australians and Blacks including Sri Lankans occupying the positions developed by White Australians for their own purposes, I would not have remained independent in that multicultural society. It was my Sri Lankan Chartered Accountancy that helped me remain independent in that environment.
Sri Lankan Chartered Accountancy, technically is made up largely of British Accountancy Principles & Values. It was the Ceylonese minds that customized it for practice in Ceylon. Hence my qualifications were already Global when I arrived in Australia. Each time I customized it to suit Australians of all colors – largely white – I was making my qualifications even more global. Global knowledge becomes wisdom sooner than Sri Lankan knowledge or Australian knowledge. This to me is the deepest value of migration which is strongly supported by the system of Democracy.
This globalization (as opposed to dual citizenship) is possible when we transcend above benefits and costs in the custody of others who seem different to us. To me this is Independence from the particular by becoming part of the Common. Dr. Abeyratne’s own statement about me ‘who shows in her writings a certain sense of endearment to the country, obviously has her own reasons to arrive at her conclusion’ confirms his higher thinking and consciousness in such issues and therefore identification with genuine feelings of others. I call that endearment ‘Love’. When liking for the particular becomes liking for the Common – we are at the entrance of Love. My liking for my Sri Lankan qualifications became liking for Australian titles – when I was satisfied with the respect shown at the positions I held – which in the early days were far lower in status than the positions I held in Sri Lanka (last of which was as senior executive at Airlanka). I did not convert my qualifications to Australian Chartered Accounting – because to me that would have been disloyal to Sri Lanka – to the Sri Lankan Chartered Accountant in me who worked so hard get that knowledge and wisdom which was more than enough to support the Australian workforce. Within Public Service, I reached the position of Consultant and because I was seen right-to-the-end as a Sri Lankan Accountant – I established that our Chartered Accounting standards were Equal to Australian Chartered Accounting standards. In other words, we are more global than those who like only Australian qualifications. My feelings on this were confirmed during the legal hearing of my complaints :
Mr. Bartley (Judicial member of the panel of judges) to me: Interrupting you there, what does all you have spoken to us about in the last 10 minutes relate to, because it’s said that the complaints in respect of which you have come here have not been made out. All you’ve done – and it’s been said you’re mostly complaining about your work conditions and working there and that’s all you’ve been speaking about at the moment and the Anti-Discrimination Act doesn’t cover any of the things you’ve been speaking about. (My complaint was of unlawful racial discrimination at my workplace – the University of NSW)

Mrs. Paramasivam: No, I’m addressing what Ms Oakley (UNSW’s hired barrister) said. Whatever she said I’m responding to that and telling you….
Mr. Bartley: But what are you responding to though?
Mrs. Paramasivam: But you did not ask that question of Ms Oakley. Why was she referring to those if they were not relevant to the Act?

Mr. Bartley: Yes, well, go on.
Mrs. Paramasivam: Under educational requirements a degree with substantial experience
Mr. Bartley: No you’ve mentioned qualifications. What Mr. McDonald (Tribunal Member) wants to know, what qualifications—
Mrs. Paramasivam: I have
Mr. Bartley: —- no degrees or qualifications other than chartered accountancy (Sri Lankan). Is that right?
Mrs. Paramasivam: I do have other qualifications but that is the highest.
I was true to myself – my own work and life before I arrived in Australia. I was NOT ready to make my Sri Lankan qualifications look Australian by taking like the hare – the express path to material success. Like the turtle, I took the slow path. That was the sure path. Even when it seemed highly likely that I would be punished I challenged the custodians of power in the Australian system. Had I remained in Sri Lanka, my path would have been more intellectual and therefore vertical. Because I was seen as minority power even by remote Australian Intellectuals, my natural path as Australian was the lateral path of democracy which is also the path of experience of minority.
Democracy is more important to minorities than to majority. It is more important to the citizen than to the Government; to the employee more than to the employer; to the child more than to the parent.
Today is the 13th anniversary of the day I received confirmation that I had earned the blessings of God/Truth to complete my Australian work experience so I could go into Australian Public life. Had I kept looking to Democracy expecting it to deliver, I would still be ‘waiting’. My deepest pain came from Australia and hence Australia became the measure for me to know whether or not someone was democratic or not. On Thursday, 05 November 1998, holy powder (kungkumum) appeared on the picture of Sai Baba, I had with me. I was not a devotee back then. Unknown to me at that time, the Auditor General published a report in the Sydney Morning Herald, confirming in Common, my own criticisms of the University Budgetary systems. I was elated to see the materialization on the picture of Sai Baba. But it was on the following day that I connected to the significance of the timing of events beyond my control. On 06 November, I went to the University and Phil Dulhunty who identified with me beyond my position – gave me a copy of the report because he identified that the Auditor General was saying what I had already said for which I was persecuted and threatened with dismissal – until I resigned. It was at that point that I started observing from the Common Pool – the returns for my work. It is the parallel of Acts of God – to which I could connect my own work and sacrifice. When I could not identify a form particular to myself in the returns that confirmed my work – I believed that my work had gone into the Common Pool of Ownership through which I naturally influenced the system. That was confirmation that the system and I were One.
Despite the materialization, I was in deep pain – not knowing what to do. But the materialization happening without me being a devotee – on the day of the Auditor General’s report – helped me appreciate that I was being appreciated by a Higher Authority – by Someone who could see without being seen. From then on I started talking to Sai Baba and lived with Him in my mind. Gradually, I was able to realize that there was ‘no more to come’ from another in that environment – not even expressions of Goodwill. I gradually wound down to reality. The real work for which I did not take particular benefits became ownership shares. That was how I became Australian and Global ahead of any other Australian known to myself. To me those who were attached to old British systems were British to that extent and not Australians, even if they were born in Australia. Those who convert to suit current Australia are Australians.
I now realize that Sai Baba helped me complete my experience. Once we complete our experience – there are no more expectations from others including ourselves. We just use the system with full rights as a facility. That was how I assembled at the office of the Vice Chancellor of University of NSW, from whose position I had the full rights to derive value to give Common Form to my experience – so others would learn and protect themselves from disappointment and depression. Not many known to me believe like I do and therefore when they are disappointed they are not able to take it. They go into depression due to the depth of their fall which is as per the height of their expectations. Migrants who assimilate by compromising are at great risk of depression. Migrants need to seek their parallels – Accountant to Accountant; Engineer to Engineer; Doctor to Doctor; Mechanic to Mechanic; Homemaker to Homemaker and Process worker to Process worker if they are to carry forward their sense of independence developed in their countries of origin.
I was severely punished for doing this – but now every bit of it feels worthy because of the feeling of freedom I feel.
Dr. Abeyratne says ‘According to Democracy Watch, a democratic society is one in which all adults have easily accessible, meaningful, and effective ways to participate in the decision-making processes of every organization that makes decisions or takes actions that affect them. Is this true of Sri Lanka at the present time?’
This is not true of Sri Lanka nor of Australia. Australia is ahead of Sri Lanka in this path and hence when I am in an environment where people have made decisions and taken actions through active participation – including as opposition – I allow the Australian in me to lead the Sri Lankan in me. When I am in an environment where people have accepted the decisions and actions made by others on their behalf (this includes majority Senior migrants from Sri Lanka) I allow the Sri Lankan in me to lead the Australian. I see value in both systems. They are both paths and not the goals.
Common systems and their processes help us invest in each other through belief in the Common. It’s like religion. The form leads us along the path and as we near the goal – we merge with the form and do not see the form as being separate to us. The system suitable for any country is the system that majority in that country could follow with least cost. This is Democracy for the money rich West and Autocracy for the people rich East.
The current problem faced by Sri Lankan Government is that the Western world which has invested heavily in the system of Democracy is ‘telling’ Sri Lanka to show signs of Democracy – show something that it does not have. As per the Australian in me, the affluent West continues to see itself as the master of the poorer East – especially those who are people poor as well. Unless members of the Sri Lankan Government consciously assess themselves on the basis of merit – this situation would continue.
Velupillai Prabhakaran was Tamils’ answer to the thugs in Sinhalese leadership. President Rajapakse was the Sinhalese answer to the thugs in Tamils. Otherwise Tamils would have influenced the election of Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe and Velupillai Prabhakaran would have continued to live as part of our past. Western Nations that helped President Rajapakse against Velupillai Prabhakran were more interested in getting the answer than becoming part of the problem to develop a solution from within. Now Prabhakaran the answer is appearing through his supporters in the West who influence their Governments through votes (answers) to get even with President Rajapakse.
Sri Lanka’s contribution to Democracy v Another country’s is the merit based status. On this basis Britain did/does have higher status with CHOGM. Until Sri Lanka feels CHOGM the way I feel Australian, Sri Lanka needs to take its merit based place in CHOGM for it to have the experience rather than to show and impress. If these Government Representatives do not assess themselves – they are likely to come with the expectations of Equal Treatment – the way Tamils come from Jaffna to Colombo.
Unless therefore they consider themselves to be at least a little above the status of the First Members – they would continue to be upset by this ‘telling’ from the First Members. Happens all the time to migrants in Australia and to Tamils in Colombo and now to Tamils in Army controlled areas.
On the other hand, if they are honest with themselves and consider First Members – such as Britain in CHOGM – to be of higher status than themselves, they would take the ‘telling’ as ‘advice’. Whether it is taken as telling or advice depends on the mind of the receiver. The mind of the receiver is as per the belief of the receiver in the forum. The same statement could be both at the same time. If it is – then there is a line of separation between the two – which is becoming stronger and stronger between Sri Lanka and Britain.
Once we feel that we are too distant from each other to feel One and treat the other Equally we need to use ourselves without relating to others. If the Cost we put into a forum/group/family is greater than Benefits we derive from it, we are close to becoming owners. I was close to becoming that owner and yet I was not – because I still had my mind open to at least Goodwill to make up the Benefit shortfall from my work. It was due to some other Power that said ‘this is the limit for a true migrant’ that I placed a ceiling on my expectations. This completed the cycle of Truth on behalf of the whole. My losses became my superannuation opportunities. Now I am helping others including Tamils complete their experiences at the maximum realistic level of the group – rather than themselves as individuals.
The closure process actually happened during Nallur Festival in 1998. I heard Pauline Hanson say on ABCs Four Corners’ Program that migrants who could not assimilate should go back to their countries on origin. I gave my resignation from the position of Management Accountant at the University of NSW – the following morning – 11 August 1998. I hurt by the remarks of Pauline Hanson the way many Tamils hurt by statements and actions of the Government of Sri Lanka. I submitted my resignation – which upset very much those who worked closely with me – including the Dean of Medicine – Professor Bruce Dowton. But my inner feelings were urging me to do this to reject at that level – what Pauline Hanson was saying to migrants in common and not to any particular migrant group or individual. Hence I received it and felt the pain. By resigning on that basis – I was giving back the difference between the two groups – mainstream Australians and migrant Australians to the custodians of those benefits and guardians of my earned opportunities. It was painful alright but I knew I had to do it. To my mind, it is the parallel of rebels who submit their lives to their cause of self governance. Now I believe that I was being influenced by my faith in Nallur Murugan. Murugan renounced His wealth when His parents rewarded His elder brother Ganesh to whom their parents were the whole world. Murugan, like migrants went around the world from zero base. When the prize was given to His elder brother (those who follow their parents) Muruga renounced all His wealth from the Family and set up His own empire on Palani Hill in South India. I believe that my faith in Nallur Murugan – came to support me to go the rest of the journey of Life – without the help of any system but just my Truth and Truth alone, during that sacred period. Hence the resignation. I took rebirth as an Independent Australian and now I accept Pauline as an immature Australian needing her British ancestry to elevate herself – the same way Sinhalese politicians do in Sri Lanka.
To my mind, Ganesh represents the vertical system of Autocracy and Muruga the parallel system of Democracy. Votes in Democracy is popular status under Monocracy/Autocracy. Objective Benefits in Democracy such as cash – is Subjective benefits in Autocracy – for example status based respect. Like in coordinate geometry which we use when reading road maps – we have both systems in all countries. Those who have traveled more vertically than horizontally would be deeper and cleverer and would tend to isolate themselves. At the lower level – they would tend to separate themselves – as was the case with the Tamil Tigers. At the higher level – like Ganesh they would live through their belief in elders and would not need any world of their own.
Those who travel more horizontally than vertically would become global and inclusive. But towards this they need to travel and not stay in the place of their birth – even if it were Britain or Australia. When the west merges with migrants from the east – it equally benefit both. Western countries may find that it is easier to merge with their migrants from the east than with the governments of the countries these migrants come from.
The recent statements by the British Prime Minister in Britain, could have been successfully set aside by Sri Lankan Government – if the latter were not desirous of hosting CHOGM and other Commonwealth activities. If Sri Lankan Government had foregone the opportunity to host CHOGM, as I forewent my opportunities to work at the higher levels of Management at the University of NSW and beyond – Sri Lankan Government would have become independent of CHOGM. Then Sri Lanka would have had the opportunity to be a common observer within CHOGM of its leadership and would have had the democratic opportunity to publicize Britain’s own deviations from the core values of CHOGM, if any were observed.
It matters not which system we use. The best combination is the one that helps us realize ourselves in the shortest possible time at the widest possible level. In autocracy this is achieved through One form at the bottom and in democracy it is achieved through multi-forms at the bottom. Both end up at the same level where there is no form but just consciousness of being part of the whole. Those who have genuinely used either path would comfortably convert it to the other as per the needs of their current environment.
In relation to assessing Sri Lanka’s status in the system of Democracy, Dr. Abeyratne is entitled to refrain from concluding through directly observed subjective evidence, due to his physical absence from Sri Lanka for 22 years. Relatively, I go there about three times a year and I subjectively conclude and share to help all investors. To me this is far more valuable than the objectively measurable evidence from an autocratic environment. The dignity of objective evidence comes from the independence of the womb in which it was born. Objective evidence from non-democratic environment is good to get status from a democratic environment but it would not lead us to the solution. As they say it Tamil ‘Aathila Pohttu Kulathila Thedirthu’ – dropping in the river and searching in the pond. That what this objective evidence is to me for all those who are children of the autocratic system – including the Tamil Tigers.
Dr. Abeyratne, as an academic could have easily used the policies of Sri Lanka to know that Sri Lanka is becoming more and more autocratic – made stronger by the 18th amendment to the Constitution. Outsiders are entitled to assess through policies. If those policies said that the system/path was democratic – then any evidence of wrong doing would go towards confirmation of need to deliver judgment by those with higher powers and conclusion by the likes of me with no official powers. We use such conclusions for our life as global citizens which would include Sri Lanka but is not particular to Sri Lanka. Those who take it inside – even if it were the Government of Sri Lanka or its opposition in this – the Tamil Diaspora – are confessing to being particular to Sri Lanka. That is ‘attachment’ that keeps us local.


Author: Sri Lanka Guardian

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