On 9th November 2016 the United States voted, the Australian stock market and Canadian immigration website crashed. A more comprehensive article on the latest clusterfudge of 2016 will follow. This article will not explore effects of the Trump’s victory on the global community, rather I will draw two scary parallels between the recent US elections and two national elections in Sri Lanka.
1956 General Election
The 1956 election has been landmarked for a number of reasons. This was the first election where the newly formed Sri Lanka Freedom Party led by S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike claimed power over the island. As an individual, I hold Bandaranaike and the SLFP responsible for sparking up the Sinhala – Tamil racial tensions which lead to a 30-year-long civil war that the country is still recuperating from.
Yet how does this election from 50 years ago have anything to do with the US election of yesterday? The approach taken by the campaigns were identical. Bandaranaike won the election in Sri Lanka by using the fear and false nationalistic pride of the majority Sinhala population. Bandaranaike said that he would make Sinhala the only official language of Sri Lanka, essentially removing Tamil citizens from Sri Lanka’s Administrative Service (SLAS). This worked! The Sinhala majority voted Bandaranaike in and along with that swept in an era of hatred.
Donald Trump too ran on a similar fear. Two key features of his campaign were
- Fear the Mexicans who will rape and kill you. Solution: Build a border wall. :”)
- Fear the Muslims. Solution: “Temporarily” ban Muslim immigration.
Sri Lanka in 1956 had a population of about 10 Million, of which about 12% were Tamils. The change of official language without doubt alienated the entire Tamil community of Sri Lanka. This was the beginning of a chain of events which resulted in a severe brain drain from the Sri Lanka. The Tamil community was a very smart bunch of people. Yet today we have lost so many brilliant minds from our country, and the damage is irreparable.
Scale that up to a population of 300 Million with Muslims alone forming nearly 3 Million citizens and Mexicans & other Latinos forming nearly 55 Million. Of the roughly 60 Million individuals in the communities Donald Trump spat on, a significant portion would be severely alienated.
From: Fighting Words: Language Policy and Ethnic Relations in Asia by Michael Edward Brown
Moral: People can be very easily manipulated with false pride in race, religion and nation.
2005 Presidential Election – Sri Lanka
The 2016 US Presidential election saw 3 pro blue states: Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan switch to red. The reason being a lack of voter turnout. These three states have a significant portion of African American citizens, yet they did not turn up to exercise their democratic right. This lack of voter turnout within the African American portion of the states gave Donald Trump the edge he needed to bag that extra 46 electoral seats. These three states were possibly the three which determined the Presidential election this year.
In 2005 a glaringly similar incident occurred in the presidential election of Sri Lanka. Certain Northern territories of Sri Lanka were controlled by the tiger separatist terrorist group and they made a very simple demand, alongside an effective threat. Don’t vote for the election. Or we will shoot you. Those who were brave enough to turn up at the polling stations were mutilated and killed on their way back. The Northern territories having a majority of Tamil citizens who are pro UNP (hence Pro Ranil Wickramasinghe – Presidential Candidate) did not vote. This gave his rival Mahinda Rajapaksa the edge he needed to win the election.
I am not saying a terrorist group prevented the African American community from voting. The similarity lies in that, both situations highlighted that unless a sample that is reflective of the entire population votes, DEMOCRACY WILL FAIL.
2016 has seen a severe fail in democracy within key global players. From the United Kingdom and Brexit, to the Colombian peace referendum, and finally the United States Presidential Election. Clearly as outlined in the article, democracy has failed in smaller countries across the globe. What could the fact that such powerful nations and their democratic processes are being pulled out into the spotlight indicate? Has democracy failed mankind? Is the world ready for a new world order?