Nation-building and presidential election campaign | Daily News


Nation-building and presidential election campaign

Our experience of the election campaigns in the past reminds us of an ugly picture. The solemn pledges of the candidates for building the Sri Lankan nation to bring in social cohesion and national integration came all but ground to a halt. Some members from the House and many others from the civil society, both laity and religious order, rebuffed this supreme goal in order to collect more votes. They plunged the country into an abysmal situation.

It now appears increasingly likely that history will repeat itself. It will make a political mess in dividing the vote banks into ethnic or religious grounds. Therefore, it is important for all the candidates to gather into one place and request their supporters not to indulge in communal politics for the sake of the country.

There remains a considerable doubt as to whether there is any basis for such discussion. But a green light seems to be on from all the political lobbies to garner the strength to their policies from right across the ethnic scenario, dim light at the end of the tunnel. The post-war circumstances of the country envisage that such a workable concerted effort is the immediate need of the society.

Communal disharmony

The carbuncular ulcers of communal disharmony fanned by the emotional eruptions caused by incidents such as suicidal booming on churches and hotels still seem to eat into the very core of the Sri Lankan nation. This is not time to exert to dwell on such communal emotions for gaining our political ends, but presidential campaign must be taken as one of the best opportunities for generating a consensus among the Sri Lankans to establish a Sri Lankan identity as can be seen in our giant neighbour, India.

Thus, the communal undercurrent that has been in existence despite the certain attempts to stop it by interested quarters, creating big wounds has to be diverted into one strong current of peaceful coexistence. This must go beyond merely wooing votes from the other ethnic groups to lay down a firm foundation for educating the people of the grave need of the hour to rebuild our nation.

One of the great tragedies in the post-independent politics in Sri Lanka is the rising of political parties on a communal basis. Whether mainstream politics under the different national leaders has been the main reason for the situation has to be dealt with in detail separately. Though the emergence of political parties can be regarded as cornerstone of a vibrant democracy, what we have experienced at almost all the elections were the demands made by different political parties representing ethnic groups for measures on ethnic grounds, and the country has seen this battle play out even in its contemporary history.

This may be due to the fact that only during the election eves the politicians are either genuinely or deceptively ready to listen to the grievances of people, yet it is up to the political leaders of those parties to carry out their campaigns in such a way lest they should raise communal flames causing emotional waves among the people belonging to other parties representing ethnic groups.

On the other hand, representatives and others in such situations must be circumvented not to wallow on such demands to fish in troubled waters placing their gains before the well-being of the nation.

One alternative action that can be taken to avoid this unhealthy aspect of politics is to include into the election manifestoes of the parties a provision not to allow their members to utter communal slogans at the election meetings or lavish in communal politics.

Peaceful coexistence

This writer is of the opinion that if a candidate has chosen building nation as the priority of his election campaign, he or she has understood the need of the hour.

Civil society groups, professional groups, local community groups and universities have a very big role to play to establish a peaceful, conducive environment for the election by educating the voter of the importance of peaceful coexistence.

However, it is pathetic that some university dons too are inclined in clamouring for their favourite political parties leaving behind the essential role they are expected to carry on with their intellectual capacity and research findings.

Their main task, as I see it, is not to keep faith in political figures to deliver change, but to strengthen the democratic governance by binging in political frameworks or structures to introduce a new political culture to the country and to reveal the importance of such changes for creating a better society.

Pouring eloquence on some politicians and trying to convince the general public of their abilities and capabilities labelling them as heroes for the people to believe in is worse than the boasting slogans of those so-called politicians.

These groups too must have their own policies revealed to the country to work for the politics and the nation, and design and implement their strategies for nation-building keeping aside their own political hues.

Apparently, it is sad to say, the statements made by some so-called professional bodies are biased and politically motivated, which in turn will not only bring disgrace to their profession and their fellow members but also place the country at jeopardy.

Lessons learnt at the presidential elections in 2015 depicted the influence the civil and professional bodies can make to change the electoral map or electoral journey of the country.

Therefore, time is ripe for such organisations to do their best for a better future for the country. 

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