A welcome trend
Elections and violence have often been synonymous in
this country. The mere announcement that an election is imminent
is often enough to whip parties and their supporters into a
frenzy. Clashes among supporters usually follow the rhetoric of
the candidates. There have been many deaths during past
elections, not to mention various forms of harassment.
Elections violence is a blot on our democratic values. An
election is an opportunity for the people to exercise their
franchise according to their conscience to select people’s
representatives to various bodies such as Parliament, Provincial
Councils and Municipal Councils.
Candidates have every right to enlighten the public on their
plans, but they should rein in their supporters whose
over-enthusiasm could lead to unfortunate incidents.
It is in this context that all right thinking citizens will
welcome a report by the People’s Action for Free and Fair
Election (PAFFREL) that polls violence in the North Western and
Central Provinces has seen a drastic decline compared to the
Sabaragamuwa and North Central Provincial elections last year.
This is indeed a positive development and an indication that
the electorate is getting more politically mature. Elections
violence is almost unheard of in established democracies and we
are also getting there.
The elimination of both pre and post elections violence must
be a priority for leaders of political parties and the
candidates. Zero violence is a prerequisite for a free and fair
poll. Respecting elections laws relating to propaganda (posters
etc) and voters’ rights is equally important.
There is no doubt that the present Proportional
Representation Electoral system provides ample opportunities for
friction not only among political parties but also among the
candidates of the same party.
The reason is the intense competition for the voters’
preference votes. With a voter only having three preferential
votes, all candidates are eager to be in the good books of their
electors. The sooner this system is replaced by the newly
proposed hybrid first past the post/PR system, the better.
Another factor that breeds violence is that candidates have
to garner votes from an entire district, as opposed to an
electorate under the earlier system. Wealthy candidates have a
head start in this scenario and there are many occasions when
candidates use strong arm tactics to wield their power over the
district. We hope the new system would address these concerns.
With several more provinces including the Western Province
slated to have polls soon, voters hope that the trend witnessed
in Wayamba and Central Provinces would continue. That will be a
victory for democracy and fundamental rights of the people.
Lanka’s Sprint Queen
There were two big stories in the sports pages of all
national newspapers yesterday. One was the record-breaking feat
of spin wizard Muttaiah Muralitharan and the other, the
retirement from athletics of sprint queen Susanthika Jayasinghe.
They are easily among the biggest names in local - and
international - sport. As Sri Lankans, we should be proud that
our country has produced such illustrious sports personalities.
Jayasinghe, who announced her retirement from athletics on
Thursday, is without any doubt the best athletics star in Sri
Lanka. But the road to stardom and international acclaim was not
easy for her.
It is to her credit that she rose to Olympian heights from a
humble village in Warakapola. Her life story is a lesson for all
aspiring athletes in rural areas - one can reach the top with
perseverance and determination, overcoming hardships such as
lack of training facilities and equipment, lack of exposure and
even prejudice against rural talent.
Even in the international arena, she had to face many false
charges and obstacles, all of which she surmounted in her quest
to bring fame to the Motherland.
Her biggest achievement is winning an Olympic medal for Sri
Lanka at the Sydney 2000 Games. This was 52 long years after
Duncan White achieved a similar feat. Her victory was a moment
that united the entire nation in a wave of euphoria.
This was indeed the pinnacle of a career that began with
Girls 100m and 200m gold medals at the Junior Asian Track &
Field Championships in Indonesia way back in 1993.
It is heartening to hear that Jayasinghe has promised
President Mahinda Rajapaksa that she would contribute to the
uplift of athletics in Sri Lanka in some way, without
necessarily getting involved in sports administration.
There is already speculation whether she would ‘come back’ as
a coach. This is an idea that Susie, as she was affectionately
called, should consider seriously. Her guidance, insight and
techniques could be invaluable for the young generation of
athletes hoping for Olympic glory.
In the meantime, she is about to achieve a personal milestone
- gaining motherhood. Her feats will be etched in the collective
memory of the Nation and it is our earnest hope that she would
be able to guide another talented youngster to ‘Go for Gold’ at
a future edition of the Olympics.