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16th March 1997

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Much ado and much ado only

And with the local government election campaign entering its final days next week, candidates and their leaders promoting party agendas, the voter has been called upon to vote for party, not person at next Friday's election. An election which ought to revolve around local issues such as garbage collection, pot-holes and mad dogs, has been elevated to a pedestal involving national issues of a serious order.

The People's Alliance has been harping on the UNP's past on election platforms across the country, focusing on the dire consequences of Beeshanaya and Dushanaya. It is unfortunate however that the PA itself appears to have no clean or clear track record of achievements over the past two and a half years to speak of. The UNP on the other hand has been saying that if it is a question of Beeshanaya and Dushanaya, then it is now only Paachanaya - much ado about nothing and nothing that the people can look forward to.

A disturbing feature of the local government elections this time has been the level of thuggery evident on all sides. Thuggery too has been magnified from the local to a national level because it has been seen to be so pervasive at these elections and not confined to minor local incidents as before. Such is the political environment today that it is not only candidates with muscle and a stomach for violence who are in the main in the field. What has been happening so far and what is likely to happen this coming week, if this trend is to continue, is that only those voters with some guts will dare to go out to cast their votes.

Politics and the mess of pottage that goes with it, has indeed become so disgusting that there is a serious campaign on to introduce the old Executive Committee System of government which existed prior to Independence. It is believed that this is one way by which party politics can be transcended and the representatives of the people called upon to work towards one goal - service to the nation, and her people, and not merely to a party or the henchaiyas who orbit around it.

However debatable the question of introducing the Executive Committee System at the national level, there can be no doubt that local government is one area where this system must be introduced in the future. It will not be long before people acquire the salutary habit of voting for a person who can command the respect of those whom he or she represents. No broomstick merely because he/she comes from a party should be elected - and that would apply to the current election too. Likewise a good candidate from the wrong party must not be defeated. But that does not appear to be the way things would unfold at next Friday's elections.

Looking at the way the various political parties have pitched their claims and acted during the current campaign, it would appear to be taking the complexion of a mid-term test on the performance of the present government-a test of whether the people feel they are better off now than they were before August 1994.

And as a postscript to the election show the smaller parties will be looking for a say in the event of a close fight between the two main parties, much the way the Ashraff and Thondaman duo have held each and every national government to ransom in recent times.

All we can do is to ask for a clean election. May the pulse of the people be tested, let the voice of the people be heard loud and clear without being clouded by violence of any sort, and the election itself turned into a sham election, the kind we see in so many countries where democracy is only a facade.

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