Conscience Keeper

of the State

Thomas Jefferson observed, "I know of no safe repository of the ultimate powers of society but the people themselves". The key to good governance is to design a mechanism that ensures that people, not their elected servants, are truly the repository of the ultimate power of society.

All nation-states need a new institution, Sovereign Rights Commission with authority to direct referendums, except on issues fundamental to democracy or the integrity of the nation. There can thus be no referendum on the state being theocratic or a region seceding. These commissions will oversee that the sovereign rights of the people to information, consultation, participation and referendums are properly instituted and accessible to the people. They will, through referendums held along with local, state or national elections, as may be appropriate, correct faulty institutions of governance, and overrule undesirable decisions based on power and business politics and kickbacks, that degrade the society or the environment. They will thus provide a legitimate, non-violent process for revitalising the society.


The conscience keeper of humanism, apostle of the next millennium.

Like the royal priest of bygone days, such commissions will function as the conscience keeper of the state, based on the values of the society as a whole.

On approval by the people, the commissions will authenticate the proposal truly in the name of the people, appropriately phase and monitor its timely and proper implementation.

In Pakistan and Philippines, dictators abused referendums to legitimise their rule for life. Referendum is not a right of the representatives, but of the people to overrule their representatives.

The Constitution of Sri Lanka provides that the parliament can direct referendums. Recently, its President proposed referendum on granting local autonomy to the Tamil region. It truly is their democratic right. The opposition politicised and blocked it.

Independent commissions with authority to direct referendums, is clearly the best solution for safeguarding the four sovereign rights of the people. However, to guard against its members acting in collusion with political or business interests, the people can additionally provide that if 10 per cent of village or urban neighbourhood assemblies, through resolution, demand referendum on any issue, it shall be mandatory for the commission to process it.

The Economist of December 21, 1996 in an article "Full Democracy" observed that democracy shall be entering a new phase in the twenty-first century, bordering on direct democracy, through increasing use of referendums. The Sovereign Rights Commission is thus clearly a vital key institution of the future.


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