Whoever thought of the pithy Sinhala saying 'mada sodaagathkala goviyaa rajakamatath sudusui' (once he washes away the mud, the farmer is fit to be king), probably did not have Sri Lanka's sixth presidential election on Tuesday in mind.
But come Wednesday, whoever wins the election will have a lot of washing to do: such is the amount of mud that has been dished out in this campaign.
In the last two weeks, the campaign entered the texts, lies and video tape phase: there was the de facto government spokesman, Wimal Weerawansa parading the hitherto unheard of Muzammil complete with bundles of money and videotapes, allegedly being bribed to the tune of 30 million rupees by someone in the Fonseka campaign-and inflation seems to have hit the price tag of parliamentarians, too!
We know that Weerawansa had his talents as an opening batsman for Kalutara Vidyalaya and also as a journalist before he took to the more lucrative occupation of politics but we didn't know him as an author of pulp fiction. And, if he does find himself unemployed after the next general election he shouldn't try that occupation; Comedy Star may be more up his street.
The Fonseka campaign of course was not to be outdone that easily. Lo and behold, almost the next day we had Mangala Samaraweera telling us how Johnston Fernando plotted the murder of President Rajapaksa and how he was blackmailed into joining the ruling party-complete, of course, with the now mandatory CD!
This is what this campaign has been about: not about the thirteenth amendment, the economy or the seventeenth amendment. It has been about whether Basil Rajapaksa bought hot properties in Colombo Seven or whether Sarath Fonseka planted an egg hopper on his cook's cheek; it has been about why Anarkali was given nomination to the Southern provincial council or about Fonseka's alleged peccadilloes with the Women's Corps.
But what of the candidates themselves? What do they offer? Are there issues over which we can decide between them?
The President tells us that if we elect him, he is not making any promises but he will deliver a first world country in six years' time. Whew! In fact, there is a campaign advertisement which shows Sri Lanka suddenly transforming itself into a land of skyscrapers, highways and neon lights. Seeing that, I am almost tempted to mark that cross against the betel leaf. But then, the four flyovers at Urugodawatte, Kelaniya, Nugegoda and Dehiwela took an awfully long time -- and a hell of a lot of money -- to build, didn't they?
The General is not so flamboyant. He doesn't wave his arms about and he doesn't ask questions from the audience. He speaks at campaign rallies in the same manner that he would make a funeral oration. Probably the message is that what you see is what you get-after all, the hair is not dyed and there is more salt than pepper in his moustache!
He promises 'yaha paalanaya' (good governance) instead. Well, he better be damn good at governance if he gets elected because he will have to govern a caboodle that includes Ranil and his power starved right wing UNP, Somawansa and his leftist JVP, Mangala and his marooned SLFP(M) and good old Sampanthan who does not know whether he is coming or going.
But this campaign has not been in vain. Undertakers have -- until at the time of writing --notched up the sales of four coffins, Sanath Jayasuriya has secured his 2011 World Cup contract and the UNP has got rid of S.B. Dissanayake and Johnston Fernando.
At the end of it all, I have to admire the courage and perseverance of several individuals and institutions, so let us salute them and give them the pat in the back that they so richly deserve.
The award for the most accurate reporting from the election front must go to Rupavahini and the Independent Television Network although it will have to be a joint award because it would be really difficult to decide between the winner and the runner-up.
The amount of publicity that General Fonseka got from these two networks without paying a cent ensured that no one will now say 'General Who?' They know him, they know about his son-in-law and they even know that he likes egg hoppers, hard boiled, no less! Why, we even know that he has a strong dislike of polecats (yes, 'kalaveddas')!
The next award for courage in the most adverse circumstances must go to the Police Department and its new IGP. Why, you may ask? Why, you raid a printing press hoping to get scurrilous posters of the President, find posters defamatory of the General instead and then get interdicted -- what more can you ask for in terms of paying the supreme sacrifice?
Maybe we should teach all policemen Braille, give them bat wings and ask them to join the World Association for the visually handicapped. They are all eminently qualified, aren't they, when you consider the amount of cut outs and posters that dot our landscape these days?
But the most prestigious award, the 'Man of the Match' is reserved for that unique, non-pensionable individual, Dayananda Dissanayake, our beloved Commissioner of Elections. We know he is ageing and well past his retirement age, but is he losing the plot now?
At first he appeals to everyone to play by the rules and orders posters and cut outs to be removed and requests fair coverage in the media. No one cares about him and he throws a tantrum threatening to appoint a Competent Authority. After an endless delay the Competent Authority is appointed but nothing happens and his appointment is then withdrawn. Dissanayake then says he is sick of the whole lot and will not return to office after the polls.
Well and good, Sir, but I must say your coming to office all these days has hardly made any difference. But the icing on the cake is your latest statement: you have devised a 'magic sticker' for the ballot boxes, so the poll will be free and fair!
And, you now advise the losing candidate not to complain about rigging, impersonation and substituting of ballot boxes because it is simply impossible, you say -- two days before the election! I am sure, Sir, you will also issue a certificate at the end of this election saying that it was 'successfully concluded'.
Wow, such confidence in the infallibility of the system! Maybe you were a junior officer in the Elections Department during the 1982 referendum. But didn't you preside over Wayamba, that famous provincial election stage managed by S.B. Dissanayake during the now holier-than-thou Chandrika Kumaratunga era? Haven't you heard of Sri Lankan ingenuity at elections -- pineapple juice and all?
Therefore, Mr. Dissanayake , to you must go the Oscar for the Best Actor for your role in this remake of the 1980 Fonseka (Gamini, of course) classic, 'Uthumaneni' and for managing to keep a straight face while telling us all this!
So, with two days to go and with a half a metre long ballot paper to contend with, where do we, you and me, the average chanda dayake, stand? Pardon me, I'm a floating voter and I'm still floating-and would probably be floating when polling opens at seven o'clock Tuesday, unless someone shoots me on the way to the polling booth because I look a bit like Tiran Alles.
I suppose there is only one certainty in this election: the man who decides the fate of our nation for the next six years will be a man with a moustache.
And, unlike in the last fifteen years, it won't be Velupillai Prabhakaran either.
Reasons to vote for
1. Our entry in the Guiness Book of world records for the largest cabinet in the world will be retained.
2. Wimal Weerawansa, Mervyn Silva and Rajitha Senaratne will continue to entertain us.
3. The Rajapaksa International Airport will be built in Hambantota.
4. Wastage and unnecessary government expenses will be reduced by not appointing the Constitutional Council.
5. Armed Forces Chiefs will come on television and educate voters about who they should vote for .
Reasons not to vote for Mahinda Rajapaksa:
1. All those ‘B’ grade artistes who appeared on ‘Tharunyata hetak’ will want presidential advisor posts.
2. S. B. Dissanayake could become Prime Minister.
3. Nimal Siripala de Silva could become Prime Minister — and our dengue, swine flu and rubella related deaths may increase because he is no longer Health Minister
4. Sanath Jayasuriya will open the batting in the 2011 World Cup
5. Sri Lanka will become a first world country — and we will lose all foreign aid and will start interfering in the affairs of other countries like Britain and America.
Reasons to vote for Sarath Fonseka:
1. To prevent the UNP from embarrassing himself at the 2016 presidential election.
2. To enjoy seeing Ranil Wickremesinghe and Somawansa Amerasinghe on the same stage
3. To ensure national unity — because now even R. Sampanthan signs in Sinhala!
4. To reduce unemployment by ensuring that Mangala Samaraweera remains employed
5. To elect a ‘sanvedi palapurudu nayakaya’ as we have been asked to do: which is why he said ‘kalavedda’ and ‘paaharaya’ publicly, showing his military experience and sensitivity to criticism?
Reasons not to vote for Sarath Fonseka:
1. Sarath Fonseka will go and live in Oklahoma.
2. Dayananda Dissanayake may be forced to retire.
3. Polecats (kalaveddas) may become an endangered species.
4. Millions of newly printed thousand rupee notes will be destroyed.
5. Mihin Lanka may be renamed Fon Lanka.