Pawns, false alarms in the campaign game | Daily News

Pawns, false alarms in the campaign game

This country has never been short of high political drama, bizarre twists and gimmickry during election times and this Presidential election is no different. With the campaign hotting up, the polls barely one week away, last ditch attempts are being made by the two main contenders to wrest the initiative in their favour. Towards this end some parties would stoop to even the most ridiculous and shameful tactics to sway voters in their favour, not giving a tuppence as to the means adopted.

It is in this light that the current attempt being made by the campaign of one of the candidates to stoke fears in the minds of the voting public over the yet to be signed Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) agreement should be viewed. No amount of the allaying of fears by the Government that any signing of this agreement will be done only after the Presidential election and following the sanction received by Parliament has whetted the appetite for drama of the Opposition camp which has now even co-opted elements who cannot but be clueless of what it is all about, to demonize the agreement. It is clear that many of those protesting against the MCC pact have no understanding about it at all.

Among these are a group of film stars (fading ones at that) who on Tuesday held a press conference painting a picture of an Armageddon that would visit Mother Lanka should the Government proceeded with the agreement. No mention though was made to the fact that the selfsame MCC dated back to the year 2008 when the agreement was first entered into by the same candidate whose cause they are espousing today, without making it public.

How could one expect some film actor or actress who lives in the surreal world of make believe to comprehend the vital importance of bilateral economic and trade agreements entered into by the Government or grasp the finer details of such agreements, in criticizing them out of hand if not for the fact that they are doing the bidding of their political masters?

It is not just local cinema artistes. Even more enlightened segments, who should know better, have joined in the chorus of criticism when all fears in this respect have been laid to rest which indicates a clear political motive behind the whole affair. One would have thought by now that it was only the GMOA doctors who ventured into fields outside their profession and sought to hector the Governments on the dangers of entering into specific trade agreements. They even circulated a letter purportedly written by His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith on the MCC, which his office later rejected as being fake.

However not to be outdone, we now see the Bar Association of Sri Lanka too taking up cudgels on behalf of the self same Presidential candidate and plugging the line that the MCC agreement was detrimental to the country. Moreover, a Bhikku who began a death fast in this connection has now given it up after assurances from the authorities concerned. Of course, there were no such protests when the previous Government tried to sign this agreement several times.

Elections Commission Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya has already imposed a moratorium on temples being used for political work and had gone to the extent of prohibiting political sermons by monks and other religious dignitaries during audiences with candidates. This, no doubt, is with a view to ensuring a level playing field in that members of the clergy carry a lot of sway over the ordinary folk and hence are likely to influence their thinking politically. He should also pay attention to other means adopted by the clergy to influence the public. It is clear that the monk concerned was acting in concert with the views and stand adopted by one candidate in the fray which amounts to an indirect canvassing on behalf of that candidate which in turn goes against the grain of the level playing field which the Elections chief is wedded to ensure.

With one week to go before D-Day there is no knowing what other tactics and gimmicks the candidates would adopt in the dying days of the campaign, or, put in cricketing terms, during the slog overs. No room should be left for any candidate to make allegations on the eve of the campaign deadline so that his rival(s) would not be in a position to refute the same due to the 48-hour political ‘blackout’ thereafter.

The Elections Chief has proved his mettle under the most trying circumstances in the past as we have been reiterating in these columns. Hence, there can be little doubt that he will put in measures to pre-empt any acts contemplated by any of the candidates to gain the upper hand over their rivals.

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