Editorial

9th December 2001

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Starting over

The people have entrusted the UNF and its leader Ranil Wickremesinghe an enormous responsibility with Wednesday's mandate a responsibility that is nothing short of frightening.

Amidst the euphoria of victory, let's also make no mistake about the fact that this is in all probability the last chance for a UNP government. If the UNP does not seize this chance and commit itself wholeheartedly and absolutely to the task of alleviating the problems of the people, the fate that overtook the PA is bound to catch up with it all too soon. The most powerful political parties have become effete - the radical Left Labour Party swallowed up the powerful Liberal Party of the 1900s in England.

As a political philosophy for the immediate future, the UNF may well consider a commitment to national healing, whether it be in terms of race, community or political preference. Whether this sentiment should be translated into an all-party government with limited objectives, is a mater for the victor to think over.

If the opposition is to be kept occupied, there must be productive ways of doing this. The mind-boggling task ahead defies comprehension, almost. It is too much for one man to be expected to shoulder this burden. There are ambitious and capable people in the party. But they should keep their ambitions on hold for the moment and dedicate themselves to the collective national task over the next few years. Divisive tendencies at this stage will only bring about a political debacle which will swallow all in its wake.

As for Ranil Wickremesinghe it has been a long rough journey. This for him is maturing season. He refused to be drawn into the circus of political vilification and instead treated it with disdain. Many of his overt critics have privately expressed, even grudgingly, the hope that he will pull this country out of its third world back water status, and give back our people a measure of self respect. That's the hope we all must share.

But self-respect must also come from being able to elect a government of one's choice. After 70 years of adult franchise, we are no better- probably even worse -than a banana republic. The UNP, by neutralizing PA thugs in pre-emptive strikes, provided an environment for at least the modicum of security that was evident on election day. The President lost her cool on at least two occasions on the run up to the polls, but she had it well within her power to bring things under control. Her being ineffectual led many people to believe that hers was a credo of "do anything but don't get caught." 

Who started the trend of election malpractice is not a worthwhile productive question. How and how soon will it be ended are the questions which demand immediate answers.

The Commissioner of Elections meanwhile braved all odds, and a barrage of mud slinging from eight Ministers from the SLFP, CP, MEP and LSSP and delivered the cleanest possible elections under the circumstances. The IGP needs to take a bow too; he did a good job despite the obvious pressure brought to bear on him.

Finally, the new dispensation has to be one that doesn't say "if you are not with us you are against us." It should not go about labelling people as anti-government merely because they have different views. What's needed is a government that will deliver the goods, not just for itself but for the people too. 

It needs to be a government that empathizes with the pain and the sentiment of the large mass of people in short a government for the people and, might we say, one that makes us proud and not ashamed to be Sri Lankans. 


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