|Let the ballot express our
Tuesday, January 26, will be a
crucial day in the history of this country, when it
elects its sixth Executive President. Much has
already been said of this election, perhaps the most
divisive and acrimonious presidential poll that has
been staged in this country.
We shall not comment on the merits and demerits
of the respective candidates. These issues have been
analysed elsewhere in this newspaper. However, we
would wish to focus on two issues: The conduct of
the election and the challenges facing the President
who will be elected on Tuesday.
Most would agree that, ever since this election
was called in November, election laws have been
observed in the breach. There has been a blatant
disregard for the rules and regulations governing
the polls. Ethics, morals and conventions have been
cast aside, as the major parties embarked on their
We witnessed how an exasperated Commissioner of
Elections attempted to deal with the issue, first
with appeals, then with warnings and strictures.
Finally, in desperation, the Commissioner was to say
that he would not visit his office, after the
conclusion of the election!
We must also express our strong concern about the
culture of violence that appears to be enveloping
our electoral process. At the time of writing, four
deaths have been reported, and the victims have been
innocent party supporters who did nothing more than
engage in their democratic right of supporting a
candidate of their choice.
If the Commissioner of Elections was powerless to
stop the malpractices that were being perpetrated
during the campaign, then the Police stands accused
of being silent spectators. It is no exaggeration to
say that the public, whatever their party
affiliations, has lost all respect for this Law
enforcement authority, which is expected to uphold
the Law, instead of breaking it themselves.
A rare positive note in this regard was observed
last week, when the two general secretaries of the
two main alliances contesting the poll, Susil
Premajayantha of the United Peoples’ Freedom
Alliance and Tissa Attanayake of the United National
Alliance emerged together at the Elections
Commissioner’s office, to jointly appeal to party
workers and voters to refrain from election
Indeed, it is a fact that, after all the
vitriolic rhetoric at the election, the political
leaders will shake hands, forget the past and think
of what would be their next step. It is the innocent
party worker at the grassroots level who will lose
his property, limb or life, all for the sake of an
election in which he is only a minute stakeholder.
But, during the campaign, fuelled by rhetoric and
rumour, passions are inflamed and tempers are
frayed. There is violence and more violence to
counter it. The trail of destruction leaves a sense
of hatred, that only begets more disastrous
consequences for all concerned. It is time that the
average citizen understands this and does not become
a dispensable pawn in the larger game of politics.
Already, fears have been expressed that the
elections will be marred by more violence and
irregularities, and we sincerely hope that this does
not become a reality. We, as a nation, defeated the
most ruthless terrorist organisation in the world.
Surely, we should have enough discipline amongst
ourselves to reign in our emotions and let the
ballot - and not the bullet - express our wishes.
We must also address the issue of what awaits the
winner in Tuesday’s election. It is time to realise
that this is the first presidential election in this
country which is being conducted without the shadow
of terrorism looming over it. Whoever wins the poll
will, for the first time, inherit a country free of
As we see it, two major hurdles lie in wait: the
challenge of restoring economic prosperity to a
nation ravaged by 30 years of war and the task of
redressing the grievance of ‘minority’ communities,
to ensure that the spectre of terrorism will never
haunt this country ever again. These challenges, by
themselves, are formidable. Therefore, the
presidency, in a sense, will be a crown of thorns.
The economic reforms unleashed in the late ’70s,
never reached their potential, because terrorism
enveloped the nation in the early ’80s. Some
development has taken place, but little Lanka can
take a great leap forwards, if only they can be led
towards that goal of economic prosperity. That will
be a foremost task for the new President.
But that must be accomplished hand in hand with
an understanding of the root causes of terrorism,
and a commitment, vision and mission to resolve the
issues facing the so-called ‘minority’ communities.
Or else, we, as a nation, run the risk of getting
caught in the vicious cycle of terrorism yet again.
These obstacles must be the first tasks for the
newly elected President. Nevertheless, we hope that
Tuesday will see a peaceful, free and fair poll, and
that the man most suited to see Sri Lanka through to
a new era of peace and prosperity, will win.