Belgium and Sri Lanka
It is a small country in Europe with a population of a little more than a crore, has an ethnic problem that is highly complex. It has a border with Netherlands, France & Germany.
- Of the country’s total population, 59 % lives in the Flemish region and speak the Dutch language.
- 40% of people live in the Wallonia region and speak French.
- The remaining 1 % of the Belgians speak German.
- In the capital city, Brussels 80 % speak French while 20 % are Dutch-speaking.
- The minority French-speaking community was relatively rich and powerful.
- Dutch-speaking people received benefits of economic development & education much later & this led to tension between the two groups.
- The conflict between the two communities was more severe in Brussels because the Dutch-speaking people constituted a majority in the country, but a minority in the capital.
- It is an island nation, just a few kilometers off the southern coast of Tamil Nadu.
- It has a population of about 2 crores.
- It has a diverse population. The major social groups in Sri Lanka are –
- Sinhala speaking which is 74 %.
- Tamil speakers which is 18 %. Tamil is also divided into two groups –
- Tamil natives of the country are called ‘Sri Lankan Tamils’ (13 %)
- Indian Tamil (Whose forefathers came from India as plantation workers during the colonial period) is 5 %.
- Lankan Tamils are concentrated in the north and east of the country.
- Sinhala-speaking people are Buddhists.
- Tamils are either Hindus or Muslims.
- About 7 % are Christians who are both Tamil & Sinhalas.
Majoritarianism in Sri Lanka
In Belgium & Srilanka the majority community, i.e., Dutch speakers & Sinhalas could take advantage of their numeric majority & impose their will on the entire country.
The leader of the Sinhala community dominated the government & adopted a series of majoritarian measures.
- Sri Lanka become independent in 1948.
- In 1956, an Act was passed to recognize Sinhala as the only official language, thus disregarding Tamil.
- Sinhala applicants were favored for university and government jobs.
- The constitution gives special protection to Buddhism.
- The result of these policies make the Lankan Tamils feel that –
- Leaders were insensitive to their language and culture.
- Government policies deprived them of equal political rights.
- They were discriminated against in getting jobs & other opportunities.
Demands of Srilankan Tamils
- Recognition of Tamils as an official language.
- For regional autonomy.
- Equality of opportunity in securing education & jobs.
- Demand was made for an independent Tamil Eelam (state) in the northern and eastern parts of Sri Lanka.
The distrust between the two communities turned into widespread conflict. It soon turned into a civil war.
Accommodation in Belgium
Belgium leaders recognized the differences that existed in the regional & cultural aspects. So they amended their constitution four times so as to enable everyone to live together within the same country. Some of the elements of the Belgian model are –
- Constitution prescribes that the number of Dutch and French-speaking ministers shall be equal in the central government.
- Many powers of the central government have been given to state governments of the two regions of the country. The state governments are not subordinate to the central government.
- Brussels has a separate government in which both 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.
- A 3rd kind of government called community government is elected by people belonging to one language community no matter where they live. This government deals with language-related issues.
Why Power Sharing is Desirable?
Comparison: In Belgium, leaders realized that by a mutual arrangement for sharing power unity in the country was possible.
In Sri Lanka the majority community wanted to dominate & refused to share power. This hindered the unity of the country.
Power-sharing is good because :
- It helps to reduce the conflict between social groups.
- It is a good way to ensure the stability of political order.
- It is good for democracy. It is the spirit of democracy because people have the right to be consulted on how they are to be governed.
- The first point is called prudential because it states that power-sharing will bring out better outcomes.
- Moral reasons emphasize the very act of power-sharing as valuable.
Forms of Power Sharing
Many people felt that if the power to decide is dispersed, it would not be possible to take quick decisions and enforce them.
One basic principle of democracy is that people are the source of all political power, & people rule themselves. In a good democratic government, due respect is given to diverse groups that exist in a society. Everyone has a voice in the shaping of public policies.
In modern democracies, power-sharing arrangements can take many forms.
- Power is shared among different organs of the govt.
Horizontal distribution of power.
- In this form of distribution, power is shared among different organs of government such as the legislature, executive, and judiciary.
- This type of distribution advocates the separation of powers in which different organs of government at the same level exercise different powers.
- Separation of powers ensures a check over the unlimited powers of each organ. This results in a balance of power among various institutions.
- It is also called a system of “checks and balances”.
- Vertical Distribution of Powers :
- Under this form of power-sharing arrangement, power is shared among governments at different levels. e.g. a general government for the entire country and a government at the provincial level.
- A general government for the entire country is usually called a Federal government. In our country, it is called a central government.
- In some countries like India & Belgium, the constitution clearly lays down the powers of the government at different levels. This is called the “Federal division of powers”.
- All such division of powers involving higher and lower level of government is called vertical division of powers.
- Power-sharing among different social groups :
- In another way, power may also be shared among different social groups, such as the religious and linguistic groups.
- This type of arrangement is meant to give space in the government and administration to diverse social groups who otherwise would feel alienated from the government.
- This method is used to give minority communities a fair share in power.
- Community government in Belgium and Reserved constituencies in assemblies and Parliament in India are examples of this type of arrangement.
- Power-sharing among political parties and pressure groups :
Sometimes power-sharing arrangements can also be seen in the way political parties, pressure groups, and movements control or influence power because in a democracy the citizens must have a choice among various contenders for powers.
- Ethnic : A social based division based on shared culture people belonging to same ethnic group believe in their common descent because of similarities of physical type or of culture, or both. They need not always have the same religion or nationality.
- Majoritarian : A concept which signifies a belief that the majority community should be able to rule a country in whichever way it wants is known as “Majoritarian”. In this type of rule they disregard the wishes and needs of the minority.
- Civil war : A violent conflict between opposing groups within a country is known as civil war. Some times it becomes so intense that it appears like a war.
- Prudential : Based on prudence, or on careful calculation of gains and losses. Prudential decisions are usually contrasted with those decisions, which are based purely on moral considerations.
- Moral : It is a set of reasons which emphasise the intrinsic worth of power sharing.
- Community government : A type of government which is elected by people belonging to one language community is called community government.
- Federal government : It is a type of government in which powers are shared among the different levels.
- Power sharing : It is the distribution of powers among the organs of the government at different level.
- Checks and Balance : A system in which each organ of the government checks the others which results in a balance of power among various institutions.
- Sri Lankan Tamils : Tamil natives of Sri Lanka are called Sri Lankan Tamils.
- Indian Tamils : The Tamilians whose forefathers came from India as plantation workers during colonial period and settled in Sri Lanka are called Indian Tamils.
- Horizontal Distribution of Power : A type of distribution in which power is shared among different organs of government such as the legislature, executive and judiciary. They are placed at the same level.
Very Short Answer Type Question
- What does the term power sharing signify ?
- What is ethnic composition ?
- What was the special problem of Dutch speaking in Belgium ?
- Why was the Act of 1956 passed ?
- How did Sri Lankan Tamil start their struggle?
- Why did the Belgian leaders amend the constitution four times ?
- What importance lies with Brussels ?
- What do you mean by community government ?
- Define the term civil war ?
- What do you mean by the term ‘Prudential’ ?
- Give the difference between ‘Prudential and Moral’.
- In what way the term ‘Democracy’ came into existence.
- What is horizontal distribution of powers ?
- What is system of ‘checks and balances ?
- What is vertical division of power ?
- Define the term Federal Government.
- What is a coalition government ?
- State two main bases of the social division in Sri Lanka.
- Which are the two social groups in Sri Lanka ?
- What is majoritarianism ?
Short Answer Type Question
- What were the series of majoritarian measures ?
- Why the ethnic composition of Belgium is very complex ?
- What led to the tensions between the Dutch speaking and French speaking communities during 1950 s and 1960s ?
- Give an account of ethnic composition of Sri Lanka.
- What made Sri Lankan Tamils feel alienated?
- Why did civil war break out in Brussels ?
- What are the two sets of reason which signify power sharing ?
- What are the basic principal of democracy ?
- Differentiate between horizontal division of powers and vertical division of powers.
- How powers are shared in different social groups and why ?
- What led to the ethnic tension in Belgium? Why was it more acute in Brussels ?
- How did the Sri Lankan and the Belgium governments try to solve the ethnic problem ?
- What is the relationship between democracy and power sharing ?
- Mention any four steps which were taken by the Sri Lankan government to achieve majoritarianism.
Long Answer Type Question
- Examine the main elements of the Belgian model of power sharing.
- Why is power sharing desirable ?
- Explain the major forms of power sharing in modern democracies.
- Explain the power sharing arrangement among the political parties and pressure groups.
- How is federal government better than unitary government ? Explain with examples of Belgium and Sri Lanka.
- How were the ethnic problems solved in Belgium? Mention any four steps which were taken by the government to solve the problems ?
- Explain the major forms of power sharing in modern democracies.
- What are some of the basic elements of Belgium model of power sharing ? Write any three.
Multiple Choice Question
1. Belgium has border with Netherlands, France & …………….
2. The people who live in Flemish region speak …………….. language.
3. ………………. people live in wallonia region and speak French.
(A) 30 %
(B) 20 %
(C) 40 %
(D) 50 %
4. What is the capital of Belgium ?
5. What percent of the Belgians speak German ?
(A) 5 %
(B) 1 %
(C) 2 %
(D) 3 %
6. Sinhala speaking people are ………….
7. Sri Lanka became independent in ………….. ?
8. ……………… lives in Flemish region and speak Dutch language.
(A) 57 %
(B) 58 %
(C) 59 %
(D) 60 %
9. The minority French speaking community was relatively ……………… and ………….
(A) Rich and powerful
(B) Strong & poor
(C) Poor and Lazy
(D) None of these
10. In the capital city Brussels …………. % of speak French while ……………….. % are Dutch speaking.
(A) 20 % and 80 %
(B) 80 % and 20 %
(C) 40 % and 60 %
(D) 60 % and 40 %
11. The major social groups of Sri Lanka are ……… and ………
(A) Hindus and Sinhalese
(B) Sinhalese and French
(C) Dutch and French
(D) Sinhalese and Sri Lankan Tamils
12. In which one of the following years Sri Lanka emerged as an independent country ?
13. To establish Sinhala supremacy Sri Lankan government passed an act under which ……….
(A) Sinhala was recognized as only official language
(B) Tamil and Sinhala both were recognized as official languages
(C) English was recognised as only official language
(D) Sinhala and English were recognized as official languages
14. The Principle of majoritarianism led to a Civil War in ………………
(A) Sri Lanka
15. Under vertical division of power, sharing of power is ………………
(A) Among governments at different levels
(B) Among different organs of the government
(C) Among different social groups
(D) Among different political parties
16. ‘Sri Lankan Tamil’ refers to which of the following ?
(A) Tamil Muslim
(B) Tamil native of the country
(C) Tamil whose forefathers came from India in the colonial period
(D) Tamil Hindu
17. How many times the constitution of Belgium was amended between 1970 and 1993?
(A) Two times
(B) Three times
(C) Four times
(D) One time
18. Division of powers between higher and lower levels of government is called –
(A) Horizontal distribution
(B) Parallel distribution
(C) Vertical division
(D) Diagonal division
19. Under distributions of power sharing, power is shared which among legislature, executive and judiciary –
20. Which of the following ethnic groups in Belgium has the largest population ?
(D) None of the above