Foreign Affairs

A Golden Chance Not To Fritter Away

By Emil van der Poorten –

Emil van der Poorten

Emil van der Poorten

The choice of Maithripala Sirisena to throw his hat into the ring has resulted in what should be the most significant sigh of political relief skilled in Sri Lanka in a extended time, not to mention the usual fire-cracker sounds of celebration!

Whilst it is straightforward adequate to see this as an unmitigated blessing to a land that is drowning in a cesspool of corruption, a word of caution is not just required, it is crucial.

Particularly offered the players in this melodrama, 1 wants to bring a lot more than a bit of circumspection to bear here.

Whilst there is probably to be a substantial quantity of speculation as to who specifically had the greatest responsibility for obtaining Sirisena to “turn,” there is little doubt, given her look on the platform from which the announcement was created, standing right by Mr. Sirisena, that Chandrika Kumaratunge played a substantial role, probably calling in her markers from way, way back.

Offered that lady’s track record a single would be properly advised to apply the old adage to an evaluation of Mr Sirisena: “Tell me who your friends are and I’ll inform you who you are.”  And, let’s face it, that wouldn’t put the erstwhile Minister of Well being at the upper level of any band of political angels!

MaitripalaChandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunge does not precisely have a sterling record in the matter of not becoming vindictive and vindictiveness is no recipe for a return to excellent governance if Mr. Sirisena is successful in his quest for the Holy Grail. Neither is she, by any stretch, an example of someone who displayed principle and competence at the time she claimed to steer this nation.  Nonetheless, let’s assume that she has noticed the light during her certain journey to a Sri Lankan Damascus. Following all, Saul did end up as Saint Paul, even if that particular religious fact is becoming quoted in this particular instance by an unbeliever!

That said, I will reiterate what I proposed in a piece in Colombo Telegraph a while ago: all the essential preparations have to be made to prosecute, to the full extent of the law, these who have economically raped and pillaged this nation under the protection of the Rajapaksa Regime. I am not suggesting that any of these who did the same under Chandrika Kumaratunga or her predecessors be let off that particular hook, but a start off should be created and it is most sensible to go following these who’ve had the least quantity of time to cover their tracks.  That is a sine qua non in the cleansing and healing method which this country should begin if it is to return to something resembling law, order and good governance. I will, again, situation the challenge I did a although back to the members of such as Friday Forum: you surely have among your number those with the skills to play a top role in this endeavour and I challenge you, once again to emerge from your collective protective cocoon, quit basically issuing statements and do anything good and productive in the national interest.  Even if the current corrupt bunch continue in power after the next Presidential election, the act I am suggesting will not be in vain since it will have established a beachhead of principle that can never ever be regarded wasted.

I don’t know about the logistics of change that are needed and which, broadly speaking, all those involved in the anti-Rajapaksa movement subscribe to. Nonetheless, what they have had to say definitely puts them on the side of the angels in this contest, even if something even vaguely resembling moral or ethical conduct would do so in the present Sri Lankan context!

What I have seen, though, at initial hand is the danger of critical dilution of any effort to return to democratic practice in this nation by the participation of those who’ve given ample proof of their becoming ready to influence choice-makers to equivocate in matters of simple principle and justice.

As someone who witnessed this in miniature and was among those who fought a losing battle to turn that specific tide at a rugby club, I witnessed, at first hand, a wholesale sellout of principle in the rugby arena. I saw how, due to the fact of the need to have to curry favour with “the powers that be” whose progeny were the “stars” of a club purporting to represent the “Senior Service,” even the use of an assault weapon on the field of play was, basically, let slide. Why?  Because of a worry of “upsetting” the most crucial rugby fan in this nation! That there had been enterprise considerations attached to this manipulation of response was patently clear to any witness of what unfolded. I refer to this since it resulted in the selling out of fans, dozens of whom had been hospitalized since of the mayhem unleashed on them right after matches involving those specific protagonists, and witnesses who had placed their employment on the line by submitting signed statements to corroborate video, some of which I nevertheless have in my possession.

Suffice it to say that these “Dinuwath dinuwa, paradunath dinuwa[1]  businessmen are the really identical enterprise types who play a substantial role on the national political stage by virtue of their connections to each sides of the political equation.  They have to not be permitted to subvert the need to have for justice and fairness and the bringing to book of those who have displayed an unparalleled capacity to rob this country blind. All they have been interested in is their own narrow company interests and they need to not be permitted to influence and impede the course of justice simply because they are driven by the require to preserve the “insurance” they have so effectively maintained via thick and thin, even though a entire nation went to the dogs. That need to not be negotiable in any shape, type or fashion. These sycophants have been a massive portion of the difficulty that has paraded as governance in this country and they have to not be permitted to impede the course of justice once more parading as element of the remedy.

As far as public opinion is concerned, the tide has turned and there is a veritable tsunami of dissatisfaction prepared to express itself against the Rajapaksa Regime. How does 1 harness this most successfully?

In the matter of campaigning, let me make a couple of suggestions from encounter garnered from much more than half a century of political activity, significantly of it in the trenches of electoral combat both here in Sri Lanka (in a more civilized and civil time) and elsewhere, exactly where the kind of violence which is a day-to-day element of political activity of any sort in Sri Lanka was conspicuous by its absence! Even provided that caveat, the three basic suggestions I am about to make are much more than relevant to a national constituency that is much more politically sophisticated than those of several functioning democracies.

  1. Prior to election day (E-Day), canvassers require to to knock on each and every door in this nation to persuade each voter to cast his or her ballot on election day. Where attainable this foot-canvassing should be augmented by telephone canvassing with a properly-ready script, by telephone-canvassers who have been trained (specifically not to shed their tempers!)
  2. And, on E-day, every work must be made to get every voter to the polls. Trying to exclude these suspected of supporting the present regime from such an effort would be a mug’s game because, with the climate of worry prevailing in this nation and what is going to be the unleashing of violence with no precedent by the incumbent government, extremely few are going to threat showing colours that would be deemed to be opposed to the incumbent.
  3. Then comes, possibly the most critical element of E-Day: guaranteeing that the ballot boxes are not tampered with and that the votes are reported as cast. Even if, by some miracle that results in Mahinda Rajapaksa being elected to a third (illegal) term, it will have established a cornerstone of democratic practice that has all but disappeared from this country, thereby generating a considerable contribution to the rebuilding of that political culture at some point in the future.

Yes, dear reader, we do reside in fascinating times, and what we make of them is entirely up to each and every single one of us. Let not future generations say that we have been found wanting at a time when the very destiny of this nation will be determined.

[1] The English translation of this pithy Sinhala saying would study something like “If we win, we’ve won and if we shed, we’ll nevertheless have won.”

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