The Guest Column by Victor Ivon

1st October 2000

Scapegoat for political survival

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At a time when the Alliance for a free and fair election has started a movement to get the people to wear a yellow band for a free and fair election, the President too, it is observed, has published a special advertisement in her own name. In the photograph used in this advertisement bands various bright colours are used in place of the yellow bands.The President's message which it carries reads. 

'My government and I am committed to a free and fair election at the coming general election in the same way we were committed to protect the right to vote through free and fair election in the last six occasions. 

What the President tells the country thereby is that every election without exception during her period of administration was held in an extremely free and fair manner. On that basis, the Wayamba election which may be considered the most open and massive plunder of votes, as well as the Presidential Election of '99 which may be considered to have been held not in the same rough and violent way as the Wayamba but in an extremely subtle and modern manner, has to be rated as an extremely free and fair exercise. If the coming Parliamentary Election is going to be held in free and fair a manner as the previous elections, it is not difficult to foresee what is going to happen at this election. 

President J.R. Jayewardene's line of thought too, was very much similar to this. After extending by six more years the life of a Parliament in which he had a five-fifths majority, he told the country that he did everything in an extremely democratic manner. What President Chandrika Kumaratunga tells the country is not very different. Under a democratic political system, all members of Parliament become former MPs with no power, immediately after the Parliament is dissolved. However, according to the new tradition initiated by the Chandrika Kumaratunga government, no change occurs in the status of the MPs even after the dissolution of the Parliament. They remain a group of persons with the same powers and privileges. In a country where a democratic system prevails, it is illegal to grant appointments for jobs, to grant loans from state banks, to write loans, to grant lands and to take other actions after the Parliament is dissolved.

However, in our country, the biggest development works are undertaken after dissolution of Parliament. The greatest number of persons are given jobs after dissolution of Parliament. Title deeds for lands for the leaders are handed over to recipients personally by the President. 

Although all these actions should fall under the category of bribery, the law is silent on all these illegal acts. 

It was a deputy minister of the PA government itself who said that the greatest terrorist in Anurdhapura is the chief minister of the North Central Province. His armies attack not only the opposition activists, but also some members of his own party, in order to ensure his son's victory. The leader of the PA group in Anuradhapura too was beaten up by these armies. When Mr. D.M. Jayaratne, the PA Secretary, said that in Kandy there is not an election campaign but a war, and that some deserters from the army were playing an active role in it. The Deputy Minister for Defence is conducting a war in Jaffna against Prabhakaran and another war in Kandy against all others contesting at the election there. 

The stories from Puttalam and Kegalle are hair raising. A young man in a group of some opposition party activists was killed when the PA ringleader at Kegalle launched an attack on that group. Another tough character of the PA not only assaulted some activists supporting a candidate of his own party but also undressed all of them and chased them away. A peaceful movement started by the JVP to protest against the policy of silence followed by the Matale police about the attacks launched against the activists of that party in the Matale district was attacked and shot at by the police. 

The young man injured in that shooting lay in a critical condition. The head of the police there is a close relation of the chief minister. The office of the President's younger brother who contests from another party was attacked in spite of the fact the area around the Bandaranaike Samadhi where that office is located is in a high security zone. 

Although it is the President's responsibility to restrain this violent trend which has arisen in the country she follows a policy of watching in silence and does not appear to take any action to control her trusted tough colleagues. A policy of giving heritage to violence can have terrible consequences. 

If the government intends to win this elections through violence, a victory scored through violence will probably provide a strong basis for a future insurrection rather than for a stable administration. On the other hand, if a course of action giving weightage to more and more violence leads to a defeat rather than to a victory, the victims of the violence that will follow will be not the leaders of the PA but the innocent party people at the village level. 

Pushing one's supporters towards a perilous situation for the sake of one's own survival should not be a feature of a good administrator. The President must also understand that a democratic system of government is not similar to monarchy. In a democratic system a ruling party should remain in power as long as the people want it. An attempt to stay in power when the people reject that party will turn the whole system into a mess. Although a party restrained enough to leave when the people reject it might be able to come back to power on a subsequent occasion, a ruling party that does not do so might sometimes be swept out of the political arena permanently. Short-sighted leaders run the risks of losing their future for the sake of short term benefits.

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