Abandoning hate politics
Unlike in the immediate
post-independence era politics of today has taken on a
vituperative flavour that has even rubbed off on the ordinary
masses. Today entire villages are divided on political lines
even pitting friends and families against one other. The
prevailing divisive political culture has also spawned
unprecedented violence which comes to a head at election time
during the highly charged political atmosphere. These political
tensions have also retarded development because it has been
customary for any incoming administrations to halt whatever
development programs started by their predecessors. The vicious
cycle continued at great cost to the nation.
It is in this context that the statement by President Mahinda
Rajapaksa that he would leave no room for hate politics in the
country should be appreciated. Addressing a group of Kandy
Municipal Councillors at the President's House in Kandy he said
that people love those politicians who have renounced hate
politics and act humanely.
Old timers still recall those halcyon days in the immediate
post independence era when party politics was practised in a
tranquil and serene climate.
Then political rivalry was only confined to the election
period and even platform speeches though not without the usual
fire and brimstone were devoid of personal attack and rancour.
Following the hustings the victors and vanquished joined in
friendly camaraderie and everything was back to normal. This
friendly political culture also had a benign influence on the
populace who followed the example of their political leaders.
Post election violence was something unheard of at the time.
Sadly the rot set in, in 1977 when for the first time
large-scale organized political violence was unleashed on the
vanquished. Homes of the supporters of the defeated party were
set on fire and even murder committed leading to cracks in the
hitherto sedate and tranquil political landscape in the country
and signalled the advent of hate politics.
Not to be outdone the political leaders themselves enthroned
hate politics by depriving their rivals of their civic rights
and harassing them in numerous ways. For the first time in the
country Commissions of Inquiry were set up to try and humiliate
political opponents purely based on revenge, widening the
fissures and promoting further hate among the polity.
This legacy of hate politics is being carried forward to this
day exacerbated by more and more divisive instruments such as
the PR system that has succeeding even in promoting hate among
the members of the same political party.
This hate mongering is best exemplified in the August
assembly of Parliament where brawls and fisticuffs have become
the norm with legislators stooping to the lowest levels of
conduct and behaviour to prevail over their opponents.
At a time the country is in the midst of a healing process
and reconciliation it would be ideal if our politicians could
set the tempo in defusing hate so it would have a catalytic
effect on the general polity. What the country needs today is
unity among all segments irrespective ethnic or political
differences to take the country forward to realize its
development goals. The ideal opportunity has been presented for
this with the end to the three decade old war and new
independence ushered in the country.
Hopefully the President's sentiments would be paid heed to by
all politicians to give up hate politics and work as one to
steer the country into a new era. They can by all means differ
on policy and argue on their merits and demerits. But these
should be done within the norms of decency and accepted conduct.
They should not border on hate or personal antagonism. Such a
change is bound to rub off on the ordinary masses leading to a
violent free political culture in this country.
Hopefully the election reforms that are now being
contemplated would come up with a system that would eliminate
the contentions and acrimonious electioneering that lends to
divisions and hate politics. Parliament should also be converted
into a sober place where while the usual parry and thrust of
debate continues dignity and decorum would be observed leading
to the diffusing of tensions and hate.
Hate politics has taken a heavy toll on the country. The
President has in no uncertain terms made it clear he would not
condone it any longer. He must ensure his edict is followed down