wins, paradise lost
As the Presidential race draws to a close with campaigning to conclude
tomorrow, there are mixed feelings among the voters. On the one
hand, a sense of resignation that whoever wins, the lot of the common
man changes little with these periodic, almost annual elections;
on the other, the sense of responsibility that after all, this is
a crucial vote - for the job of CEO of Sri Lanka Incorporated.
While one section of the people is looking at a candidate who can
lift the country out of the economic rut it has fallen into over
the years and thereby raise the standard of living, another segment
is looking at a candidate who they feel, will ensure the unitary
nature of the State and defeat the forces of terrorism and separatism.
Unfortunately, those who want both have only one vote. In 1994,
writing before the election we summed up the choice before the people
as "close your nose and vote for the (then) Government; or
shut your eyes and vote for the (then) Opposition".
The people gave their verdict and repeated it in 1999 as if to emphasise
that they did not make a mistake in 1994. Now, they can look back
and reflect on whether they are better off in 2005 than they were
One man is going to win - and another (nay, 12 others) are going
to lose. Even if there is a tie between the first two - the Elections
Commissioner can cast his vote and decide the winner!
And by all accounts, a little over 50 per cent is going to vote
for the winner; and a little less than 50 per cent of this country
is going to vote against that winner. So the future President of
this country is, in fact, going to be the President of half the
voters of this country.
The argument will be that that is how democracy works and there
is still no better system than the 'one-man (or woman)-one-vote'
democracy that has been evolved since the introduction of universal
All candidates now claim that - once elected - they will embrace
all political parties; all religious groups; all ethnic communities;
all social groups and all linguistic groups, but that has all become
a stale joke.
know all too well that political IOUs have to be encashed - and
a few good guys among a majority of utter rotters from among the
50 percent of the winners will be appointed to power and place while
a pool of good guys from among the 50 percent of the losers will
be ignored from the administration of the country.
What is therefore more important for us to focus on now is the post-election
scenario. Whoever wins, this country and its people will have to
face hard facts, if not hard times in the months ahead. We are just
enjoying a temporary respite between a rock and a hard place because
of the election.
The new President will face such great challenges or problems than
one simply wonders why on earth there is this mad scramble for a
crown so full of thorns. One thing a President can do to ease those
headaches is to permit the independent Commissions in terms of the
17th amendment to the Constitution to function.
Although the politicians of this country were able to bring about
these independent Commissions in 2001, their functioning leaves
much to be desired.
We saw the sorry sight of the Muslim parties dragging their feet
in appointing a nominee to the supreme Constitutional Council which
resulted in appointments to other independent institutions - the
Court of Appeal, the Police Commission etc., being delayed.
The outgoing President blocked the appointment of the independent
Elections Commission by her sheer obstructionist, politically motivated
approach to such appointments.
Whoever becomes President, there is a crying need to de-politicise
these vital sectors of public administration. This will leave the
President free to concentrate on other crucial political issues
like the settlement of the northern insurgency and the desperate
need to raise the economic standards of all Sri Lankans.
We cannot close our eyes to the unpalatable truth that Sri Lanka
is fast slipping into the basket of the poorest countries in the
world where people are willing to risk their lives to sail in fishing
boats to faraway lands like Italy, going in droves as housemaids
to West Asia, and where professionals are in search of greener pastures
gaining an unfair advantage over those who opt to stay behind.
The campaign slogans themselves are an indictment of the level to
which politics in Sri Lanka has descended - candidates promising
milk powder, jobs and cheap fertilizer. So let us steel ourselves
-- not so much for the election next Thursday, but for life in this
lost paradise thereafter.