October 16, 2019
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    Democracy and franchise under scrutiny

    October 08, 2019

    The last seven decades of political independence and freedom for political options have seen a plethora of shifting scenarios in the socio-cultural and historical horizons of our dear motherland. Another such scenario is about to overtake the Sri Lankans with the on-coming long line of decisive national events slated for the coming months as the citizens across the country faces the highly complex serious of presidential, parliamentary and provincial government elections. For one thing, democracy and politics, like in many a country in turmoil, are feverishly but erratically active at the moment as we observe the scenes in national politics being staged linked with the choice of candidates for the executive presidency and eventual choices people are under pressure to make in selecting their representatives for that most hallowed portal of democracy, which is the parliament.

    All concerned citizens cannot but feel baffled, confused and lost in a barrage of news highlighting the political issues at stake as we gaze with curiosity and anxiety at our TV screens, glance through the newspapers and scan the social media as well.

    Crucial issues at stake

    With the entire country under siege, embroiled in serious socio-cultural and political issues, we sadly are depressed with the political instability, failing economy and ethnic tensions that continue to affect us negatively and destructively. Religious extremism, international terrorism, the world-wide drug trade with its insuperable cartels and the ever-widening national and international debt continue to weigh us down mercilessly. When and who will bring us liberation from these disasters is the gut-question every concerned person is asking today.

    There seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel despite the expected benefits from magnificent mega-development projects already in vogue and yet to be planned and accomplished as the country prods along from bad to worse in the national living index. It was the dream of all that peace, tranquillity and prosperity would readily dawn with the happy end of the long-drawn thirty-year ethnic war that made very specially the north and east of the island nation an endroit of death, misery, bloodshed and destruction.

    The work of the Truth and ReconCiliation commission, the multiple probes into financial misappropriations, mismanagement of national assets, the bond-scam investigation, the ever snow-balling scourge of bribery and corruption both in the state and private sector, form a distasteful litany of woes that have plagued, crippled and continue to cast frightening and long shadows over the island-nation’s landscape.

    The protracted strikes launched by the railway employees and the agitation of those in the medical services are leaving thousands of commuters and patients in utter straits denying them their due justice and rights. The negative impact of such agitations has been so bad and adverse that the government was forced to gazette them as essential services threatening those who do not report to duty on given deadlines, would be considered as having vacated their posts.

    It was heart-rending to see the cry of the maimed and injured soldiers, parched in the sun and drenched in the rain, languishing on a long strike asking for greater care and concern. In the meantime, there is a heightened activity with the coming presidential elections with candidates flanked by their enthusiastic supporters campaigning and struggling to reach the masses with each one claiming to be garnering more support than the other and vying with each other pledging better deals.

    The way forward

    There is scant reference in these campaigns to the plight of the nation’s woes and struggles except mutual criticism and mud-slinging. Instead, the public in general and the electorate are being treated to deceptive and erroneous manifestoes and assurances of a better era to come and a more prosperous era to dawn if any one of them is elected. Electioneering has become a political game that is being regularly played and enjoyed by astute politicians and their stooges who are experts in the art of false persuasion, promises and pledges that are duping the common-folk: the masses.

    In Sri Lanka, democracy and political options have become the veritable opium of the people themselves who have got unknowingly corrupted by such political activity to the detriment of the nation’s common good and collective prosperity. The numerous golden opportunities of seventy years of democracy, political activity and franchise that should have been exploited by the people themselves towards achieving political maturity and civic consciousness seem to have slipped off their hands with politicians making them dance to their deceptive tunes.

    We often today bemoan sadly how we have lagged behind so despicably while our Asian neighbours such as South Korea, Japan, Thailand and Singapore have made progress in leaps and bounds making their lands fertile and industrious with their people enjoying a very high standard of living, providing housing and employment, health care and other financial securities and first-class education and employment to their youth. What has become of Sri Lanka which once even went to the defence of Japan and its interests in Asia and the international commonwealth of nations! Many foreigners who have come to love and appreciate this beautiful island nation, once the Taprobane of the Portuguese and the Serendipity of the Arabian traders, at the moment are stunned to hear of a Sri Lanka which fights ethnic wars, becoming a drug-peddling Asian city capital, one guilty of war-crimes, willing to impose the death-penalty and fraught with continuous political instability. Such ugly features are bound to make a travesty of democracy and infringe on peace and progress of every one of her honourable citizens with their basic human dignity and rights that flow from it.

    Clean politics must ensure the overall security of all the people and lead the country on a realistic and realizable path to peace and prosperity. There is besides the rich patrimony of resources, namely of religious leadership and spiritual treasures of the many religious traditions to bring a change of heart and inspiration to mend our crooked ways, heal our wounds and re-discover the soul of Lanka. They can facilitate the paths of social justice and democratic rights.

    The time is at hand to reverse those socio-cultural, political and historical trends that have made our country lose its lustre and glory and earn again the noble name we once enjoyed but now sadly lost in the eyes of the world society. Reform and renewal from the top leadership coupled with grass-root renewal movements will usher in this crucially needed change in the country. It is up to the people to come to know the exact and actual situation their beloved motherland stands at this juncture and while being well-informed, go ahead to make their political choices, options and decisions much wiser and more precise than it has been in the recent times. There is much to be learnt about true democracy and exercise of one’s freedom judging from the lessons perceived from events that have overtaken us for the last seventy years. We need honest politicians who can measure up to be true national leaders, a statesman who is capable of leading the country forward. A noble sense of Lankan-ness must inspire all to march as one country going beyond short-sighted ideologies, sinking differences and avoiding all forms of extremisms. The time is rife and the hour is at hand for striking a wise deal in the days soon to come with choices that are right and mature. We cannot falter in this grave national responsibility to the country and one another as loyal Sri Lankans: a people who genuinely love their country, desiring to see it stay strong, wealthy, safe and beautiful and holding it near and dear to their hearts.

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    Desathiya