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Sri Lanka

(This simplified version of the second chapter of Political Principles and their Practice in Sri Lanka, published by Cambridge University Press, New Delhi, in 2005, may be interesting in view of current concerns about the size of the Cabinet)

In countries like Sri Lanka which were under British rule, there is a sense that the powers of government are unlimited. This also applies to the functions of government, that is the things that a government should do. Under the colonial system, absolute power belonged to a foreign country, and the representatives of that country who governed were not accountable to the people of the country that was governed. The idea that the people are superior to the government, and that the functions of government should be limited to those people want, was not part of the colonial system.

Such a view of government, that it is superior to the people, has been reinforced in modern times by the manner in which communist governments developed. These emerged in the twentieth century as the main opponents of capitalist systems. These words really refer to economic ideas rather than political ones. However, since communism emerged first in countries where there had been absolute monarchies previously, it also developed as a political system that gave absolute power to the government. Karl Marx, who had initially developed communism as a social and economic theory, had believed that the state would wither away. But communist governments, having emerged first in almost feudal agricultural societies, reinforced the old model, also dominant in colonized countries, that the powers and functions of government were total. Read the rest of this entry »

Rajiva Wijesinha

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