Better look ahead
The General Election campaign is due to
start in a few days following the acceptance of nominations. A
record number of political parties and Independent groups are
likely to join the fray.
Unlike the Presidential Election where there could be only
one winner a diversity of choices are before the electorate at a
General Election. Though the election was expected for some time
none of the political parties except the United People’s Freedom
Alliance have been prepared. The biggest drawback for the
Opposition seems to be their defeat at the Presidential poll
which has torn asunder the grand alliance it formed.
As it received a humiliating defeat they had to change their
strategy. The fall out from that defeat has been the inability
to hold on to their former unity. This, of course, was to be
expected as the single objective on which the disparate
political parties and groups came together was to defeat
President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Perhaps the masses sensed that the country would have been
plunged into anarchy had they come to power since there was no
common agenda for implementation.
Unfortunately the entire electoral campaign revolved round
personalities and policy discussions hardly took any prominence.
When the debate was only on personalities the voters had a
simple and easy choice. They went by the performance of
candidates and not so much by the promises made. For example,
the public servants were not duped by the promise of a Rs 10,000
monthly wage increase. Majority of them voted for President
Mahinda Rajapaksa who had already delivered on many promises
It would be better for politicians on both sides of the
political divide to lay emphasis on their future policies and
programs of action at the General Election rather than engage in
endless controversies over trivial matters that has become a
habit among them.
The preference vote system actually brings to the fore the
personality of individual contestants and relegates to a
subsidiary place the policies of different political parties to
which they belong. As far as the people are concerned the first
criterion would be the policies that would be expected to be
implemented by the parties. Without identifying the policies
correctly it would be impossible to differentiate between
various contestants and decide upon their preferences for
The hopes of the people are many. They want political
stability to ensure continued development. They also yearn for a
durable solution to the vexed relations between the various
national and religious communities inhabiting the island. It is
necessary to begin a new chapter in inter-communal relations.
All political parties, including those that represent the people
in the North and East should accept the reality of the day. The
need of the day is unity and national reconciliation.
It is a prelude to any development. For the latter to take
place the damages of the war have to be restored. Rehabilitation
and reconstruction should get first priority. Rebuilding the
war-torn lives and economies of the people comes next.
Development by itself would be meaningless if it is confined
to the urban areas or to a particular part of the country. It
should be associated with social and economic equity.
It should also be remembered that development does not mean
free gifts like manna falling from heaven. Development comes at
the cost of sacrifice and dedication. It is naive to expect the
Government to bring development if all citizens do not join in
the effort with their sacrifice and dedication.
That also includes the elimination of corruption and waste,
the giving up of ostentation and the tendency to show off.
No society can develop if it does not look after the poor and
the downtrodden. That is why development should be accompanied
with social justice. The Government has to implement a pro-poor
policy of development. The traditional neo-liberal path of
development in which the fruits of development do not trickle
down to the grass roots has proved its inefficiency and failure.
That is the message by the overwhelming vote given to President
Mahinda Rajapaksa at the last election. It is up to the UPFA to
carry it forward.