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22nd August 1999

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Front Page
Mirror Magazine

    Politics needs better players

    There is no doubt about it. With national elections being inevitable sometime next year, the country's two major political parties are in a pugnacious mood. The escalation of political propaganda by both parties has been obvious in the last few weeks, and if this trend continues until election eve, the public will be privy to some uglier scenes.

    Though there will be an obvious escalation of political activity when any national poll approaches, the political sensitisation this time around is bordering on a panic reaction, which is disturbing. The government has already begun using the state machinery at its command, reportedly, to tap phones and intercept e-mails.

    The latter allegation has been denied by the Minister of Industries and Scientific Affairs. Even if the government was innocent on both these counts, last week's spectacle of the state media being used for a TV debate on the Channel 9 issue, was hard evidence that the government is prepared to use whatever is at its disposal to shore up its political image.

    The Opposition on the other hand, has sent out a message that it is ready to shed its image of being docile and dormant. But the Opposition's new activist mode has also come for some flak, latterly from people like diplomats, who queried whether the Opposition is not prepared to "respect the security zones which have been established in the city.'' The Opposition has to carefully consider its plan of street activism, and weigh that strategy against the more subtle tactics of espionage and psychological warfare being waged by the People's Alliance.

    Each party is entitled to its own methods or its own madness, but political spectators will be wishing that none of these respective plans of action will get out of hand. To keep the political discourse civil is imperative in any pre–election atmosphere, particularly if it is to be ensured that party rivalries do not degenerate into mindless violence.

    That apart, the people could be excused if they suspect that there is some element of farce in all of these petty rivalries that are being played out in the public spotlight. It appears that both sides are quite inadvertently displaying what poor talent they possess, or what kinds of villains they have as party frontliners or propagandists.

    In other words, the fight that is developing between the two traditional political rivals, appears to be showing the quality of the people who rule and who are aspiring to be rulers.

    Another manifestation of the emptiness of today's political gamesmanship was displayed when the PA took to the streets (and to the parks and the pavements and wherever) to celebrate five years in government.

    The PA, which five years ago promised a "real difference'' has been reduced to blindly repeating the same mistakes made by the UNP administration it succeeded. This was obvious from yesterday's tamasha which was so blatantly sponsored by the exchequer of state. The caps, the floats the T-shirts the rice packets and the half-bottle of arrack and all of it, were courtesy State funding or alternately via private funds that were realised through the conscription of the private sector for party purposes.

    The result? The people will be poorer by some 30 million rupees, while the floats will be left to rot in some government go-down. All of this money could have been put to better use may be an expensive medical unit for the sick or to construct some facility such as a theme park which would have been permanently beneficial to the country's youth.

    It is time political parties broke away from primitive events such as rallies of the type which were witnessed yesterday, which are but in the final analysis excuses to give a morale booster for parochial political leaders and their followers.

Political Column

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