Sri Lanka has fast abandoned its record of being able
to change government's through peaceful democratic franchise. What we are
witnessing instead is a circus of political opportunism, in which crazed
political players are vying for the spoils of public office. We are also
witnessing the spectacle of the absurd, of politicians jumping from one
political camp to another, vehemently opposing all that they had earlier
stood for and advocated.
In 1994, our question was whether the people would hold their noses
and vote for the government, or close their eyes and vote for the opposition.
After seven years of "governance'' the then opposition's track record of
being in government is only too well known. One justifiable question is
whether last October's election, for instance, "reasonably reflected the
will of the electorate,'' to put things in those rather gingerly terms
that the European Union election monitoring committee chooses to put it.
Both mainstream Prime Ministerial candidates this time around, Ranil
Wickremesinghe and Ratnasiri Wickremanayake have said that whichever party
that's returned to power should be given a mandate of 120 seats at the
least. That's to avoid the now familiar political reality of smaller parties
holding the two major parties to ransom.
Ranil Wickremesinghe's promise to enlist the opposition in the task
of governance, if he is elected, is laudable, especially in a context in
which the country seems to be badly fractured on party lines. President
Kumaratunga, on the other hand, is culpable of not being able to recognize
the opposition as a part of the democratic process, and as representative
of the viewpoints and aspirations of a significant slice of this country's
An opposition's role is to be critical, but not obstructive. A government
on the other hand is duty bound to seek the cooperation of the opposition
and other parties. A responsible government should seek the cooperation
and advise of these elements.
The country on the other hand is heading for ruination, and if any symptoms
are necessary, the election violence we see around us is indicative of
the state of the nation. The nation seems to glimpse a ray of hope however.
It is that on Wednesday, the Elections Chief, the Police and the Armed
Forces will acquit themselves admirably and ensure that the people's will
is reflected in the final result. Any distortion of the people's will is
bound to have disastrous consequences, and such a disastrous outcome could
manifest itself in several other destructive ways which will not be healthy
for an already hurting nation.
A thought should be spared also for the nearly 1 million voters overseas,
who have been effectively disenfranchised due to the inefficiency of an
electoral system which an advanced democracy such as Sri Lanka should be
ashamed of. Among the disenfranchised are around 850,000 foreign workers,
who according to government statistics, remitted home around Rs 87,000
million last year alone. We finally urge that all parties, and all interested
actors in this election cast aside their differences to ensure a peaceful,
free and fair election in the interests of the long term sustenance of