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The Fifth Column

14th March 1999

Virtue sometimes to be stubborn

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My dear Dayananda

I thought of writing to you because you seem to be the man of the moment, especially with the upcoming elections for five provincial councils.

I must say you acted very courageously when you decided that those elections should be held on the First of April and then stubbornly refused to change it when so many people were demanding that the date be changed.

To say 'no' when the President, the Catholic Church and Muslim political parties were demanding a change requires some guts and you didn't change your position until the Supreme Court asked you to do so. I admire you for that.

Now, it occurred to me that since you seem to be that kind of stubborn person you might also implement other election laws to the letter and that is why I thought of writing to you.

Consider, for instance, the law regarding posters. Everyone knows that posters promoting candidates are illegal but all we see on our city walls are such posters these days. Now, couldn't you declare once and for all that all candidates who have posters in their support would have their nominations cancelled? That would put an end to this menace once and for all.

Then, Dayananda, we heard you complaining about election offences and rigging at some centres at Wayamba in January.

Now, couldn't you declare that any party which resorts to such tactics would be automatically disqualified?

What can you do about people who get other people to walk on the streets naked, Dayananda? Isn't there some kind of law against them? Or is it that such acts were not thought of when the election laws were being written and therefore they are not listed as offences?

Then, what can you do about the Police, Dayananda? I know, at the moment you have absolutely no control over them but maybe you could make a little noise about that too.

Of course, Dayananda, I know that all this is difficult to do in this five-star democracy of ours. At the same time, we find our Leader of the Opposition telling us that you should be given more independence and powers to perform your duties.

I hope you don't take such claims seriously. After all, he is the Leader of the Opposition and when you are the Leader of the Opposition you are bound to make such statements!

Anyway, I wish you well for the upcoming elections. If you can act impartially you may not be promoted as Defence Secretary nor will you get a diplomatic posting on retirement but you will earn the respect of all of us. We hope you can do that!

Yours truly,

Punchi Putha.

PS - We all know the story about how Hector Kobbekaduwa had his vote cast by someone else at the 1982 Presidential Election. Now, after Wayamba, they say that going to vote at Sri Lankan elections is like a morning visit to the toilet: either you go very early in the morning or there is no point in going at all!

Rajpal Abeynayake's Column

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