Towards peaceful Elections
The appeal made
by religious leaders for the conduct of a violence free election
at the two provinces that go to the poll tomorrow should be
heeded with all seriousness by all political parties in the
Members of the Society of Religions who met the Elections
Commissioner Dayananda Dissanayake on Wednesday had requested
him to ensure a violence free poll for the North Central and
They have expressed alarm at the mounting incidents of
violence in the run up to the poll and called for remedial
action from the polls chief. That a group of religious leaders
no less representing all major religions in the country should
sound an alarm in this manner shows the degree to which the
existing political chasm has transformed into violence and
This does not bode well for the unity call made by Government
leaders at a time the country is on the verge of vanquishing
terrorism. Political rivalry should not be allowed to stand in
the way of unity.
True, the country has come a long way on the political front
from those spacious days immediately following independence.
Today it is a much more dynamic entity politically speaking with
the public active participants in the democratic process.
However political rivalry should not be allowed to descend into
violence and anarchy. Lives and public property needs to be
protected from overzealous party activists of all hues.
In mature democracies tolerance and magnanimity is evident in
political campaigns. The recent US Primaries demonstrated this
to the hilt where the political discourses were kept on an even
keel sans rancour and acrimony.
Political violence is unheard of in such a milieu. We too had
a similar election culture in the immediate post Independence
era where elections were marked by healthy rivalry where
violence if any was peripheral.
Regrettably things changed for the worst with the passage of
The rot set in after 1977 when for the first time election
violence became institutionalised. The leader of the victorious
party set the tone by famously declaring one weeks leave for the
Police Department while goons went on the rampage on a spree of
murder and arson targeting political opponents.
Since then elections were not the same peaceful affair the
country had known until then. The situation reached a new low at
the 1982 referendum when there was open plundering of votes with
even the vote of the main rival Presidential candidate cast
before he arrived at polling station. The trend was already set
for vote rigging, malprectices and polls violence to flourish
with state patronage.
Those who are today shedding copious tears over alleged
election violence and malpractices should do some introspection
before accusing their rivals willy nilly.
It is the genie that they released when in power that has
lain seige of the country’s body politic and sullied the
political landscape as also seen from the dark episode of the
infamous Wayamba election. The then Government should be held
responsible for bequeathing to the country this legacy of
institutionalised violence that has changed our election
culture. True, active participation in elections is a hallmark
of a vibrant democracy.
So is the cut and thrust of political debate where rivals
tear each other into pieces. However it is important that these
rivalries are confined to verbal duels. They should not overstep
the bounds of healthy political rivalry and descend into
anarchy. Sadly Sri Lnaka’s political landscape has being marred
by political violence which does not auger well for the
Time was when elections in this country were quiet affairs
when the atmosphere took on a celebrative air. The public
treasured their franchise and protected their vote with a
religious fervour. Election nights were the climax when the
public kept vigil to eagerly lap up the results with the men
folk revved up under Bacchanal influence .
Crackers were lit as the victors rejoiced while the
vanquished resigned themselves to the verdict and life moved on
as before. Violent incidents were few and far between as voters
went to the polling booths and cast their votes without fear or
It is time that the authorities take steps to return the
country to that culture many decades ago when elections depicted
the true face of democracy at play. The Government alone cannot
make this happen.
All parties should get together to restore the status quo.
True, unlike in the past there is much at stake in present day
elections. But these considerations should be transcended if we
are not be looked at askance by the democratic world as unworthy
recipients of the democratic system.
It would be ideal if an All Party committee is formed to
identify areas where political violence could be eliminated and
remedial measures proposed to bring opposing parties together in
healthy rivalry as seen in most democracies. It is only then can
we claim to be a truly united nation.