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28th March 1999

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Front Page
Mirror Magazine

    Rights talk

    Both privately owned and state controlled media have been seen to sensitise the voter recently with programmes on franchise.

    One feature of this sensitisation effort is the debate that has entered the discourse about whether the right to vote is a "human right.'' ( Manava aithivasikamakda" )

    It is not to speak pejoratively of them, to say that today there is a new breed of activists called the human rights activists. Human rights activists are sensitising the governments and the polities of most nations that there is a category of inalienable rights that human beings are privy to, which are called human rights.

    For example, earlier, rights such as the right to freedom from torture, cruel and degrading treatment, or the right to freedom from arbitrary arrest , were classified as inalienable human rights. As time went on, the rights experts and campaigners told us that there are new rights now, such as "economic rights'' which also should be considered inalienable human rights.

    All that is well and good. Among other things , such classifications can offer a stable regime and construct instruments which will help the human rights establishment monitor progress in the defence of these rights.

    But as far as the human mind is concerned, the situation is slightly different. It strikes as a trifle absurd that human beings have to be told incessantly what their rights are and what they entail.

    Humans, at least intelligent humans, have known for example for decades in democracies such as ours that the right of franchise is an inalienable right. To tell them suddenly that their right to vote is a "human right'' and therefore cannot be stolen shows above all that this polity of ours is confused and endangered. After over fifty years of universal adult franchise, and the experience of having kicked out and installed governments, this should have been a society which knows precisely what the vote is all about.

    Wayamba seems to have set back the clock by decades, and we are it seems, metaphorically speaking, re - learning how to walk.

    This clearly does not have to be the case. We do not have to go through this charade. This electorate is intelligent; so intelligent that some of the voters are collectively considering spoiling their votes en masse, because they feel that they have got a raw deal from the contesting parties. In this atmosphere there is no need to patronise the voter; he and she knows the right to vote is sacrosanct. The only thing those minding the store can do is to try and ensure that right.

    No Talk Action Only?

    NATO or North Atlantic Treaty Organization used to be called, cleverly but tongue- in-cheek, No Action Talk Only. This was in the era when NATO was emasculated and was vary of cold war repercussions.

    Now, NATO has metamorphosed into No Talk Action Only. Judging by NATO's resolve to pummel Slobodan Milesovic's Serbian strongholds, it appears that Uncle Sam's NATO has taken the law into its own hands again. Of course it may be true that Slobo ( the Yugoslav leader ) is a crook and a war criminal. But the other side of the coin is that the UN Secretary General is complaining that the UN was not consulted before the attacks. The NATO air-strikes are setting a bad precedent .

    Or wait a minute, it is not a precedent, because this is the high - handed way in which the US, through NATO, has been getting accustomed to acting since of late in this unipolar world.

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