Towards a clean election campaign | Daily News


Towards a clean election campaign

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa has said that he looked forward to the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) as well as other parties conducting the election campaign free from mudslinging and character assassination.

“I have distanced myself from people who resorted to mudslinging,” he said in reference to certain politicians. Hopefully, the Premier’s exhortation to politicians not to resort to mudslinging would set the tone for the upcoming election campaign. Mudslinging, character assassination and personal abuse have become an ingrained feature in our political discourse for a long time. Only time will tell if the Premier’s sentiments will be taken seriously by our politicians from all parties.

This is not only a repugnant aspect in our political culture but is also the chief cause why politics and politicians are spoken about with disdain by the public. It naturally removes all sense of decency from the guilty party and the political party he/she represents. In fact politics in this country has been removed from all sense of decency in recent times. The scenes witnessed in Parliament and the language used inside the August Assembly is a clear demonstration as to the types who have taken to politics in the present day from all political hues. Needless to say, education and scholarship are alien to these elements.

A former President said he would desire it even if one individual of higher learning and intellectual ability enters Parliament from each electoral district in the country, in a clear reference to the large paucity of such talent in our Parliaments down the years.

Elections should be fought on issues and policies and not based on personalities. Ideally, all political leaders should mount a single platform to make a collective pledge that no member of their respective parties will resort to mudslinging and character assassination during this election campaign, following the sentiments expressed in this regard by the Prime Minister. Those who defy this pledge should be penalized by their leaders.

For a long time there had been yearning by the public for people of quality to take up politics and enter Parliament not only to enrich the content of debate but also set the tone for a whole new political culture in this country. Ideally we should hark back to the immediate post-Independence period where elections were clean and devoid of the vulgarities we have come to witness down the years since then. Ditto for conduct of Members inside Parliament.

Of course that was the era of gentlemanly politicians where Parliamentary debates were marked by witty repartee and parry and thrust, rather than personal invective that is being witnessed at present. That was a time when philanthropists, men and women of standing in society and landed gentry individuals with means took to politics to genuinely serve the country and its people and left the stage all the poorer. In contrast what we see today is many unsavoury characters entering Parliament which is the chief reason for the deterioration of standards.

Hopefully, this time around the public will not be made to suffer the same antics that was witnessed by our honorable people’s representatives in recent times. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, we are certain, would ensure that strict discipline is maintained in the House this time around. The President himself had earlier bemoaned the parlous state of Parliamentary standards in his maiden address to Parliament after assuming office. He also made comparisons with the past and hoped for a reversion to that pristine state, when they as young students were privileged to hear and witness the quality and content of the many debates that took place from the Parliament’s Public Gallery.

Of course there is the other side of the coin. There is a popular school of thought that those who are decent, educated and of high social standing are unable to garner votes for their parties and, hence, there is a tendency on the part of the parties to nominate the toughies and baddies, who, although devoid of any grey matter, are able to bring victory due to their popularity.

This no doubt is a reflection of the voters too and regretfully this country will have to suffer such types for some more time. How else can one explain the nomination of a member from the Opposition who tried to hang himself from a ceiling fan in the full glare of television, to contest the election this time around too. No doubt such characters have their own worth like getting things done for their voters and the electorate. Their worth as lawmakers and their ability to evaluate and understand important Bills and laws is another matter altogether. There actually were some MPs of the last Parliament who had not spoken much in any of the debates. There is a clear need to change this status quo and make Parliament a hive of intellect and wisdom.

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