Community Government: Community government is an elected body by the people belonging to one language, one culture or any common property no matter where they live.
Civil War: A war which is fought between different groups of people who live in the same country.
Check and Balances: A system, in which each organ of the government checks the others, which results in a balance of power among various institutions.
Coalition Government: A government formed by the union of two or more political parties.
Democracy: A system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives.
Ethnic: A social division based on shared culture.
Federal Government: A general government for the entire country is usually called federal government.
Horizontal Distribution of Power: Power is shared among different organs of government such as Legislative, Executive and Judiciary.
Indian Tamils: The Tamilians whose forefathers came from India as plantation workers during colonial rule and settled in Sri Lanka are called ‘Indian Tamils’.
Legislature: A kind of deliberative assembly with the power to pass, amend and repeal laws.
Legitimate Government: A legitimate government is one where citizens, through participation, acquire a stake in the system.
Majoritarianism: Under majoritarianism, majority community rules the country in its own way by disregarding the wishes and needs of the minority.
Power Sharing: The division of power between different stages of government, different organs or different communities in a country in order to ensure the smooth running of the government and to check that all powers are not concentrated within one hand.
Prudential: Based on prudence, or on a careful calculation of gains and losses. Prudential decisions are usually contrasted with those decisions based purely on moral considerations.
Pressure Groups: Pressure groups are those organisations that attempt to influence the policies of the government to safeguard their own interests.
Sri Lankan Tamils: Tamil natives of Sri Lanka are called ‘Sri Lankan Tamils’.
Vertical Division of Power: Distribution of power between higher and lower levels of government such as between Central and State Governments.
When the power does not rest with any one organ of the state rather it is shared among legislature, executive and judiciary it is called power sharing. The two stories from Belgium and Sri Lanka tell us about how democracies handle demands for power sharing.
In Belgium French speaking community was in minority in capital Brussels but they were relatively richer and powerful. The Dutch got the benefit of education much later. This led to tensions between the Dutch-speaking and French-speaking communities during the 1950s and 1960s. In the capital city of Brussels the situation was worse. The Dutch speaking people constituted majority in the country but minority in the capital.
Sri Lanka also has diverse population like Belgium. – Sinhala speakers -74%, Tamil speakers- 18%. Among the Tamils there are two sub-groups – Tamil Natives and Indian Tamils. Tamil Natives are called ‘Sri Lankan Tamils’ – 13%; the rest whose forefathers came from India as plantation workers are called ‘Indian Tamils’. Most of the Sinhala speaking people are Buddhists while most of the Tamils are Hindus or Muslims. Christians are about 7%. Sinhalese enjoyed majority and imposed its will on the entire country.
When Sri Lanka emerged as an independent country in 1948, the leaders of the Sinhala community tried to dominate and took some ‘majoritarian measures’ such as recognition of Sinhala as the official language, preferences given to Sinhala.
Ethnic composition of Belgium is very complex :
(i) Of the country’s total population, 59 per cent live in the Flemish region and speak the Dutch language.
(ii) Another 40 % of people live in the Wallonia region and speak French.
(iii) Remaining 1 % of the Belgians speak German.
(iv) In the capital city Brussels, 80 percent of people speak French while 20 percent are Dutch speaking.
Consequences of majoritarian policies adopted by the Sri Lankan Government
(i) Tamils felt the government was not sensitive about Tamil language and culture.
(ii) Tamils felt discriminated against in jobs and education.
(iii) Tamils felt the government was practicing religious discrimination.
(iv) Relations between Tamils and Sinhalese became strained.
Majoritarian measures adopted by the Sri Lankan Government to establish Sinhala supremacy or provisions of the Act which was passed in Sri Lanka in 1956 to establish Sinhala supremacy or were the reasons for the alienation of Sri Lankan Tamils because
(i) Government adopted majoritarian measures to establish Sinhala Supremacy. In 1956, an Act was passed to recognise Sinhala as the only official language thus disregarding Tamil.
(ii) The governments followed preferential politics that favoured Sinhala applicants for university positions and government jobs.
(iii) A new Constitution stipulated that the state shall protect and foster Buddhism.
(iv) Sri Lankan Tamils felt that none of the major political parties led by the Buddhist Sinhala leaders was sensitive to their language and culture.
(v) As a result, the relations between the Sinhala and Tamil communities strained overtime and it soon turned into a Civil War.
The Belgian leaders recognised the existence of regional and cultural diversities:
(i) They amended their Constitution four times so as to work out an innovative arrangement that would enable everyone to live together in peace and harmony, i.e., there was sharing of power between the Dutch and the French both in the Central Government, State Government and Community Government. They followed a policy of accommodation.
(ii) This helped to avoid civil strife and division of the country on linguistic lines.
(iii) On the other hand, the Sinhalese who were in majority in Sri Lanka as compared to the Tamils followed a policy of majoritarianism and adopted a series of measures to establish Sinhala supremacy by passing an Act of 1956. These measures alienated the Tamils leading to civil strife between the two communities.
Power sharing is desirable in democracy because :
(i) Prudential reasons :
(a) It helps to reduce the possibility of conflict between social groups. Since social conflict often leads to violence and political instability.
(b) It is a good way to ensure the stability of political order.
(c) Imposing the will of the majority, community over others may look like an attractive option in the short run, but in the long run it undermines the unity of the nation.
(ii) Moral reasons :
(a) Power sharing is the very spirit of democracy. A democratic rule involves sharing power with those affected by its exercise and who have to live with its effect.
(b) People have the right to be consulted on how they are to be governed.
(c) A legitimate government is one where citizens through participation, acquire a stake in the system.
Vertical Division of Power
Vertical division of power means sharing of power among governments at different levels.
In India, there are three levels of the government:
(i) For the entire country : Central Government/Union Government.
(ii) At the provincial level : State Governments.
(iii) At the local level (i.e., rural and urban) : Local self governments like panchayats and municipal councils.
|Horizontal division of Power||Vertical division of Power|
|Horizontal division of power is an arrangement in which power is shared among different organs of the government, such as the legislature, executive and judiciary.||In vertical division of power, power can be shared among governments at different levels, like union, state and local levels of government, i.e., it involves higher and lower levels of the government.|
|In horizontal division of power, different organs of government exercise different powers. This is a concept of separation of powers.||In vertical division of power, Constitution clearly lays down the power of different levels of the government.|
|Horizontal distribution specifies the concept of checks and balances in order to check the exercise of unlimited powers of the organs.||There is no concept of checks and balances, because powers are clearly given by the Constitution from the higher level to the lower level.|
Power is shared between different organs of the government such as legislature, executive and judiciary. This system of power sharing is referred to as a system of ‘checks and balances’ because :
(i) All three organs are placed at the same level of power.
(ii) The power distribution ensures that no organ enjoys unlimited powers.
(iii) Each organ exercises a check on the others.
Power is shared among different organs of government i.e., legislature, executive and judiciary.
(i) Legislature: The legislature is concerned with passing the laws, controlling the finances of the state and delivering on the matter of public importance.
(ii) Executive: The executive machinery implements the policies of the government and executes the rules made by the legislative bodies.
(iii) Judiciary: The judiciary is concerned with the interpretation of the laws and has the power to punish those who commit crimes or break the laws. The judiciary can also check the functioning of the executives.
Difference in Power Sharing of Belgium and Sri Lanka :
(i) In Belgium, the government does not follow preferential policies in matters of jobs and education. In Sri Lanka, the government follows preferential policies in matters of government jobs and education.
(ii) In Belgium, there is a special government called ‘Community Government’ to look after the cultural, educational and language related issues. In Sri Lanka, the major political parties are not sensitive to the language and culture of the Tamils.
(iii) In Belgium, there is no discrimination between different religions. In Sri Lanka, Buddhism is the official religion.
The Main Elements of the Power Sharing model evolved in Belgium :
(i) Constitution prescribes that the number of Dutch and French speaking ministers shall be equal in the Central Government. Some special laws require the support of the majority of members from each linguistic group. Thus, no single community can make decisions unilaterally.
(ii) Many powers of the central government have been given to State Governments of the two regions of the country. The State Governments are not subordinated to the Central Government.
(iii) Brussels has a separate government in which both the communities have equal representation. The French-speaking people accepted equal representation in Brussels because the Dutch-speaking community has accepted equal representation in the Central Government.
(iv) Apart from the central and the state governments, there is a third kind of government called the Community Government.
(v) The community government is elected by people belonging to one language community—Dutch, French and German speaking. This government has the power regarding cultural, educational and language issues.