On Upali S Jayasekera’s ‘Guidelines for the Voter’
Upali S. Jayasekera, who writes frequently to the newspapers, has
made a decision regarding what kind of candidate he would vote for. He
has approached the issue from the opposite direction, actually,
outlining the kind of candidate he would not vote for.
I find Upali’s method of elimination reasonable for the most part and
since it feeds the project I outlined in the Daily News of February 17,
2010, I quote it in full.
1. Those who crossed over to other political parties for personal
benefit or to cover up their past corrupt practices, turning their backs
on the voters who voted them into Parliament.
2. Those who seem to have amassed wealth being engaged in politics or
collected allowances or house rent wrongly or dishonestly, or have been
involved in corrupt practices.
3. Those alleged to be behind thuggery and violence.
4. Those who look uneducated or lack functional education.
5. Those breaking the election law by resorting to exhibit cut-outs,
banners and posters, plastering public and other people’s walls and
6. Those wearing the Cheevaraya, so that I will not be a party in
assisting in the disgracing of the Cheevaraya, breaking the Vinaya Rules
applicable to the clergy or acting against the tenets of Buddhism.
7. Those who appear to be resorting to communal, racial or religious
8. Those who appear to lack principles by crisis-crossing from one
political party to another, ‘chewing the cud’, so to say, in the
9. Those who I think should retire from politics giving way to the
young to take their place.
10. Those who have caused losses to public enterprises while holding
top positions in such institutions.
11. Those whose vocabulary in public speaking is not decent or sober.
12. Those who fail to declare their assets.
Of course I don’t agree with the entire set. For example, in a
political world made of mudslinging, Point three above can be abused by
all candidates; all they have to do to eliminate opponents is to make
allegations of thuggery and violence and very soon we could find we have
no one to vote for. I think Point eight is covered in Point one and
prefer the latter because ‘appear to’ is too vague. The same goes for
Point seven; it is too subjective. Point nine is valid provided that
there is evidence of senility. Dr. P.R. Anthonis was performing surgery
well into his 90s and I am sure there have been politicians who have
out-performed youngsters. As for Point six, although I believe
personally that the Maha Sangha if it sets itself the task of getting
sewerage systems cleaned should like the mayor ensure it gets done and
not jump into the cess pit, I am not conversant enough with the Vinaya
Rules to agree or disagree. For the record, anyone can disgrace any
institution, regardless of rules or norms of conduct and the potential
to disgrace should not I think warrant automatic censure.
No one and eight are roughly the same. Theoretically, ‘crossing over’
is not a crime. I mean, it is theoretically possible for people to
realize they are in the wrong camp and having recognized error proceed
to correct. It is what they do or do not do once crossing over that will
have to be assessed. In general it is not hard to ascertain who jumped
for personal benefit including the need to save their behinds for being
corrupt. On the other hand, given that the voter first selects party and
then candidate there is a moral issue that comes into play here. Anyone
who has crossed over must first apologize to those who voted for him/her
and offer a full explanation why he/she crossed over in the first place.
We could throw in a condition: cross twice and you are out.
No. two and No. 12 go together. May be we need an independent audit
commission to really make sure that those who run for office are not
interested in feathering nests. Over the years, we have had rare cases
of asset declaration. This is usually done by those who don’t have much
by way of assets to declare. Others are good at stashing away assets in
the bank accounts of friends and family and exploiting loopholes in the
law to cover tracks pertaining to purchases. Still, when Mr. Duppatha
becomes Mr. Dhanavatha, the signs are pretty obvious. We don’t need an
asset declaration. Rings, girth, gold, property, vehicles and such can’t
I like No. seven ‘Extremism’ is not easy to define though. For
example, one might consider certain kinds of evangelical thrusts as
being ‘unethical’ and even ‘extremist’ and others could say ‘they are
using whatever means necessary; just like politicians’ or even take
refuge in something like this: ‘what you call “extremist” is a
fundamental tenet of our faith and if you object to it you are guilty of
being intolerant’. These are the arguments used by fanatics and the
moment they say ‘religion=politics’ then it’s a free-for-all and there’s
no room for crybabies. But it is up to an individual voter to assess
levels of acceptability in affirming identity.
No. 10 is critical, I think. It refers to incompetence. And it should
not be limited to losses but to inability to deliver in terms of
expectations. We don’t need to re-elect someone who has shown he/she
cannot do a decent job. We must reject incompetent incumbents and
incompetents now in the Opposition and seeking a second or third
opportunity to mess things up.
I think Upali has made an important contribution by publishing his
‘guidelines’ and it is my fervent hope that the voters take note. Sure,
we really don’t have much of a choice, but then again, we have to make
sure that we make the most of what little choice we do have. The lists
are long and we have three choices.
We must pick the best out of the bad lot or else we lose the right to
complain. Yes, yes, after the fact we can pretend the person(s) we voted
for did not get in, but that’s not something we can tell our conscience.
Upali has done his bit. It’s up to the rest of us to do our bit.
Meaning, we should think a little before we vote.