16th July 2000

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History lessons

All the public relations and the fren-zied activity that surround the po-litical package that has been cooked up between the government and the UNP indicates that the various political players in the whole exercise have varying expectations. The hurried consultations that the President has had with the leaders of the Tamil parties, indicate that she is in a desperate hurry to show the Tamil constituency that she is making certain "concessions" on their behalf.

Ranil Wickremesinghe on the other hand, lives in the hope that the combined forces of the Tamil parties and the Sinhala interests spearheaded by the Maha Sangha, will cancel each other out, bringing the whole political exercise concerning the package to a halt.

The package therefore seems to be headed for the dustbins, whichever fashion those dustbins are labelled. ( Dustbins of history, the dustbins of politics, just plain dustbins...) There are many other detritus of political reconciliation exercises which are already heaped in those pails of historical dregs.

The GL- Thiruchelvam package seems to be already there, and rotting. This present package on the other hand, which seems to be poised head - first in there, is the GL - Choksy effort

It's difficult to grasp why the government is blinded to the fact that the war is part of the package in the sense that the LTTE cannot be appeased. The LTTE is the modern incarnation of the Nazi's ruthless, recalcitrant, and utterly unprincipled.

World War II did not come to a grinding halt, when Chamberlain offered sops to Hitler with a view to appeasing him. But, what'd5s at least evident from the government'd5s exercise in appeasement is that the old clich`e that "one thing everyone learns from history is that nobody learns anything from history" is eminently vindicated.

Commissioner's job

Elections Chief Dayananda Dissanayake has given a candid in-terview to a journalist of The Sunday Times last week. He has said that he needs more powers, and that the police should come under the overall command of the Commissioner of Elections, while a national poll is being conducted.

Though the Elections Commissioner has not made a hue and cry about it, his opinion that the police cannot effectively police itself, amounts to saying that the Police conduct during previous elections has not been satisfactory.

Mr. Dissanayake also quietly lays to rest the notion that a foreign team of observers can give a verdict on how an election in this country is conducted. In other words, a foreign imprimatur, or a foreign "pass-label" on an election may be the ultimate way of passing off a fraudulent poll as one that passes muster.

Mr. Dissnayake, in his own nonchalant way, has touched on the sickness that afflicts the system. As a public servant, he cannot exactly raise the roof about it - but his cool way of laying his finger on the glaring shortcomings is quite admirable.

That's because he necessarily infers that the current system is just not good. He approves the call for an Independent Commission of Elections, and calls for the police to come under his control during a poll, and says that all political parties should be bona fide actors in the election process.

If that last condition is impossible to obtain, its the first two that will guarantee that the people's will is accorded due respect at the national hustings. But, the powers that be don't seem to be inclined to grant any such concessions. In one way, they want the Commissioner to do his job, in the most difficult way possible. It's a tall order - which is why no national poll seems credible these days in retrospect.

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