The violence-marred lead up to Saturday’s elections to the North Central and Sabaragamuwa Provincial Council elections is yet another sad reflection of how leading political parties in the country have moved away from their commitment to holding free and fair elections. Instead they seem to be more committed to winning an election “by hook or by crook”, no matter what election laws they have to flout.
When the issue of election violence came up in Parliament last week, it was another attempt by the main parties contesting the polls, the UPFA, the UNP and the JVP to blame one another for the violence and not take responsibility for any of the incidents.
Leader of the House Nimal Siripala De Silva used the old adage ‘those who live by the sword will perish by it” to point the finger at the JVP and the UNP for the violence while both the UNP and the JVP blamed the government for attacks on their supporters and offices.
Minister De Silva’s comments came during an adjournment motion moved by UNP Colombo district MP Ravi Karunanayaka the day before the polls, urging the government to ensure that law and order is restored in the two provinces and those who have acted above the law be punished.
The motion was supported by the JVP with its Parliamentary group Leader Anura Dissanayake stating that the government is not interested in holding free and fair elections but wants to grab power at any cost.” There may be short term benefits for the government in using thuggery, threats and intimidation against political opponents with state power on its side but in the long term, it will be such acts that will spell the death knell for democracy in the country,” he said.
SLMC leader Rauff Hakeem said several Muslim candidates contesting the polls had been attacked adding that inaction by the police in the face of blatant violation of election laws means people can no longer have confidence in the police.
But government speakers led by Minister De Silva blamed the opposition for inciting violence.” “The UNP put a cardboard general to contest the NCP while they put an actor for Sabaragamuwa. The retired general brought in army deserters and set the stage for the violence in the NCP while the actor who has no knowledge of politics tried to get on the stage at opposition election rallies and got engaged in fights,” he charged.
The fact that the government is weighing heavily on the war to keep its support alive is no secret and was further evident in Minister De Silva’s remarks. “The army is about to put the final nail on Prabhakaran’s coffin and the people will put up with a few hardships because they care more about national security than other issues,” he said.
Another Government speaker Minister Hemakumara Nanayakkara came down hard on the JVP saying it was betraying the country and the people by aligning itself with the UNP when the President’s war against the LTTE is drawing to a close. “The JVP which worked to bring the President to power is now pulling him by the leg when the LTTE is to be finished off,” he said. The reality for the ruling party and the other two parties is that neither has a squeaky clean image when it comes to elections.
The UNP is guilty of one of the worst possible electoral exercises, by way of the infamous referendum of 1982. The SLFP led alliance is equally guilty of conducting the Wayamba Provincial Councils polls in the most disgraceful manner in 2004. As for the JVP that entered the democratic mainstream long after the other two parties, their threats to kill the first five who voted at the first ever PC polls in 1988 will live long in their opponents’ memories. So given their poor past record, what these political parties need to do is try to clean up their acts even now. Otherwise the future of free and fair franchise in which we take much pride, will hold no real meaning in the future.