|Saturday, 20 March 2004|
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Relieving sports of politics
At a time when the blighting impact of politics is felt almost everywhere, President Kumaratunga's recent words that politics will be kept out of sports, are most refreshing and reassuring.
Indeed, our political leaders are duty-bound to ensure the depoliticization of society to the extent possible and we are glad that the President has perceived the need to forge ahead with this undertaking under a future administration headed by her.
However, pervasive though politics may be, we cannot understand why fields such as sports and the Arts, which, under normal circumstances, have absolutely nothing to do with the blood and thunder of politics, have been rendered vulnerable to its withering spell. This process has advanced to its chilling apogee now, with some reputed sports bodies being administered by persons of questionable integrity.
Something that the public would find equally unpalatable is the appointment of sportsmen with compromised integrities and personal records, to captain some national sports teams. Such indiscreet decisions make a travesty of sports. One could only predict a bleak future for our sports, if these spreading blights are not arrested.
It is for these reasons that we welcome the President's pronouncements on depoliticizing sports. Sports bodies have become dens of corruption with politicians at the helm actively supporting these power hungry, money grabbing parasites.
The reign of the Minister of Sports has been inept and incompetent, an absolute disgrace.
Sports has hit a new low. Mutual back scratching, foreign trips for lackeys with rampant favouritism in selections being the order of the day.
A special committee a couple of years ago headed by the Chairman of the Sports Council Sidat Sri Nandalochana made highly commendable and very practical recommendations to clean up the Augean stables and ensure honesty, accountability in sport.
The Nandalochana committee laid down the mechanism to eliminate corruption and favouritism to ensure that sports was freed from the ugly tentacles of corrupt politicians and their ilk.
But like all good things the report of the Nandalochana Committee is in the limbo of forgotten things, gathering dust in the Ministry of Sports.
We need to say good bye to those days when goon squads and money bags played major roles in these decisions. Never again should naked coercion be brought to bear in the election of sports personnel. Let the glory days of sports be here again.
Winning the voters
This is Asia's elections year. With so many candidates in the fray, the main worry is getting the message across to voters. Candidates are striving to find the best way to say 'vote for me' in a competitive electoral race. They are increasingly turning to new technology to woo voters, though traditional methods have not been abandoned.
According to news agency reports, the latest propaganda tool is the mobile phone. Candidates are reported to be inundating millions of mobile-phone wielding young voters with SMS messages that extol their virtues.
Some leaders and candidates are sending recorded voice messages to telephones, explaining why voters should opt for them. A voice message recorded by Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee has been sent to nearly 46 million landline telephones.
The Internet has also become a new propaganda outlet for candidates. Several candidates contesting Sri Lanka's election on April 2 inaugurated websites recently.
Despite the rise of new technology, television and radio remain powerful media for political advertising. Local TV and radio stations are cashing in on candidates' desire to get the maximum possible number of preference votes. Television and radio do ensure a captive audience for the politicians, unlike print media.
Newspaper advertising is becoming popular among politicians. The 2004 election campaign has however seen a decrease in the 'other' print medium - the poster. A crackdown has largely kept smiling politicians off our walls, but one can hardly deny the effectiveness of a good poster. We cannot avoid seeing them and even briefing memorising the candidate's name.
But nothing compares to propaganda rallies and house-to-house campaigning. Rallies enable voters to see their prospective representatives in the flesh and hear their views. They might even mingle with the crowd and hold a baby for the cameras. The door-to-door campaign is perhaps the only occasion that politicians literally come to your doorstep. After the election, it is usually the other way around.
And to cap it all, politicians are turning to headgear to flash their numbers. Reports say there is a surge in demand for caps with party symbols ahead of the April 2 polls.
In the end, winning the voter's heart is no easy task. The latest technology and marketing savvy will be useless if politicians cannot feel the pulse of the people. That is an art they have to master on their own.
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