Rancour free campaign needed
The country is
entering a new phase in its history. The next Parliament will
have to charter the post-conflict reconciliation, rehabilitation
and development of the country.
This is a challenging task that calls for widest unity and
cooperation. The development of the war-torn areas will have to
receive priority if such unity is to be reinforced. This calls
for a new political culture and a new political agenda.
Usually election campaigns are full of rancourous politics. A
glaring example was the Presidential election campaign 2010. In
it few of the major issues faced by the country were discussed.
What occupied the centre of stage were mudslinging, accusations
and counter accusations. Even the language used left much to be
Political opponents were vilified, humiliated and threatened.
As new evidence is being unearthed a picture of a dangerous
confrontation that was to take place comes to the focus.
Fortunately, the magnitude of the President’s majority vote
prevented it happening.
One often wonders whether the political rancour and acrimony
that take centre stage at hustings is a sign of our
underdevelopment or a by-product of the electoral system put in
place by J R Jayewardene. Whatever it may be the time has come
to put a stop to this rancour and acrimony.
Political rivalries and competitions have to be conducted on
a higher plane. Sane political discourse should replace the
mudslinging and character assassinations. After all, the
election is to elect the legislators.
Citizens should be given a chance to select from among
different policies and programs as well as between different
candidates. When the personal factors are given excess
prominence policies and programs remain unknown. Legislators as
well as candidates aspiring to become legislators would not be
then least concerned about policies. Instead they would be more
concerned about boosting their egos and images.
Now in the immediate aftermath of the nominations all
candidates are pledging to cooperate in the holding of a free
and fair election. They, claiming to be paragons of virtue
solemnly promised to abide by election rules and regulations.
Yet they flout the law at their earliest convenience.
Posters, banners and cutouts have already appeared in great
numbers in public places. In the city almost every lamp post has
been used for personal electoral propaganda. This is the
beginning of the cursed manaape (preference) war. It would be
more decent and meaningful to use the print and electronic media
for such publicity. It would be cheaper too.
Such vulgar display of image building not only arouses
revulsion but also brings up the question of how our politicians
have amassed money to spend on them. If Ministers and MPS who
have been in office for more than five years need such publicity
to get their image registered in the minds of citizens it is a
sad reflection on their ‘public service’.
It is the duty of the voters to eliminate those that promote
hatred and evil and elect more sober, disciplined and cultured
legislators who could be trusted to represent them and manage
affairs of state more prudently and wisely. Parliament should
once again become a chamber of learned discourse instead of
becoming a stage for street dramas of the type that local
ruffians engage in too often. Even schoolchildren could be able
to listen to the Parliamentarians debating without being exposed
to unparliamentary language or indecent behaviour.
Sri Lanka has
scored another first. This time it is for being the most
democratic country. The West keeps on telling us pluralism is
the hallmark of democracy. It never gets tired of criticizing
one-party states for being totalitarian.
Yet most western countries, especially the United States,
however, cannot display any pluralism that exceeds two in
Sri Lanka is far ahead in pluralism. Its pluralism is more
broad and hence by western standards more democratic. A total of
736 parties and groups have handed over nominations to contest
the General Election. Can the United States reach this figure
even in the 22nd Century?
The prize of course should be given to Digamadulla. There 28
recognized parties and 48 independent groups contesting the
election. The ballot paper would exceed 125 cm in length.
Leaving everything else aside, in electoral mathematics none
could beat Sri Lanka.