An election gambitView(s):
My dear Maco Nimal,
I am writing to you after a couple of months because the date for the elections you promised us has come and gone – and no elections have been held. If anything, this whole issue about the election has got ‘curioser and curioser’ even though yet another date in April has now been announced by you.
Really, there should be no fuss at all about these elections. It will not change the top job. It will not change the Cabinet. It will not change the composition of Parliament. All it can change is who takes away our garbage and who looks after our sewerage. Yet, for some, it is now a life and death matter!
It can be said that, ‘never in the history of elections in this country has so much been done by so many to prevent an election that is of so little significance’. Maco Nimal, some of those actions are beyond your control, but you should know that even your actions will now come under close scrutiny.
First, we had someone trying to amend the laws relating to local government elections, in the hope that this will delay elections. When that didn’t happen, we saw the Public Administration Secretary ordering that the deposits of candidates not be accepted, when he had no business to say that.
Then, while the opposition went to court to ensure that the elections would be held on time, a retired Army officer surfaced from somewhere, petitioning the same court asking that they not be held! The court didn’t pursue the opposition petitions because you, Maco, told them that elections will be held.
That is when the powers that be decided that, because Paradise is bankrupt, money will be released only for ‘essential’ activities. Independence day celebrations on a grand scale, a ‘Janaraja perahera’ and appointing two more Cabinet ministers were ‘essential’, they told us, but not those elections.
That is also why the Treasury Secretary went to court and said he did not have money to hold the election. When you asked him for money, Maco Nimal, you were told he didn’t have enough. Why, even the Printer lady said she cannot print all the ballot papers unless you paid her upfront!
The icing on the cake came from Uncle Ranil. He told Parliament that the election you called wasn’t legal because your Commission didn’t have a quorum. “So, there is no election, even if there was, there is no money,” he said in a fantastic performance that would have put Mr Bean to shame.
When you went to court and told them the polls could not be held in March, you must have heaved a sigh of relief, hoping that the matter would end there. That was when Madduma Bandara, that busybody from the ‘telephone’ camp went to court again asking that money be released for the poll.
The court then said the Treasury Secretary had no business keeping the money for ‘essential’ matters as it had been set aside for the election. That meant he had to release the money and you had to hold the election. The ball was back in your court and not with the highest court in the land, so to speak.
Honestly, Maco Nimal, we thought you will announce a new date immediately but you took your time to do so. When you did, it wasn’t the nearest date available, being seven weeks away. As the so-called ‘neutral’ referee in this political game, were you giving time for the powers-that-be to regroup?
That, they seem to have done already. The other day, a ‘pohottuwa’ backbencher stammered and stuttered in the House by the Lake as he read out a script, obviously written by someone else, claiming that the decision of the highest court in the land infringed on the privileges of those in the House!
Right on cue, up jumped the deputy minister from the Treasury demanding that the court order releasing money for the election should not be acted on, until the privileges issue was dealt with. There is a sense of déjà vu in all this because the stage seems to be set for another postponement.
So, whose side will you take? You will have to decide soon whether you take orders from the House or from the highest court in the land. It is an unenviable position to be in but some do say that, although you go through the motions of holding an election, you are also taking orders from the top.
You can either go down fighting for the rights of voters or you can take the easy way out, saying ‘Yes, Sir,’ to instructions from the top. If it is the latter, take a moment to reflect about Lalith, who was handed a prison sentence, for doing what his master asked him to do, will you, Maco Nimal?
PS: Your predecessor, the ‘other’ Mahinda, has reapplied to join your Commission when it is reconstituted, so your days may be numbered anyway. There must be something wrong with the name ‘Mahinda’ – they just can’t let go and want to stay on, be they Rajapaksa, Yapa or Deshapriya!
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