On June 19 the United States Department of State’s Annual Country Report on Terrorism for 2014 noted that there have been no known attacks in Sri Lanka that could be attributed to the LTTE since the end of the war, but the international financial support systems are still intact despite its military defeat at the hands of Sri Lankan government. This acknowledgement only a few weeks after the former president’s own raising of concerns during a religious ceremony held at the premises of the Sri Maha Bodhi in Anuradhapura raises a very stimulating question. Will the much anticipated general election of 2015 be a vote raising concerns of economic stability and good governance or be reduced to the base value of human existence: security and peace? The aim of this article will not be to discern the accuracy of the claims made rather the impact these revelations may have upon the psyche of the voter come Election Day.
Ira De Silva in a letter to the Editor of the Asian Tribune alluded to the age old critic of Sri Lankans: the propensity to have a very short memory. She claimed that “it is imperative that on May 18th and 19th, they (Sri Lankans) be reminded that they lived in fear of their lives, that they were killed anywhere and everywhere in the country without warning by the LTTE terrorists”. Yet, the author finds that this year as well on May 18 the victory day celebrations were conducted; however in her defence it can be presumed that she calls for an extended celebration where by May 19 is also incorporated in to the victory day celebrations conducted annually. From a Machiavellian world view it makes perfect sense to reminisce where by the threats which exist are kept fresh in the mind of the populous and if history is to be referred it is such standpoints which have led to range of less than democratic polices being justified. Yet, if Sri Lanka is to move towards the Pluralist and Democratic society which is called for by the government and opposition alike; the author wonders if the Machiavellian view is the best way forward. Returning to the concern in debate, articles similar to Ms. De Silva’s which is increasingly being circulated in the authors view is proof of the growing discontentment among the masses over the 100 day plans failure to call for elections on the 23rd of April 2015 as per the pre-election promises.
Counter to this, the satisfactory nature of the 100 day program has been repeatedly voiced by the Norwegian government. In April the Norwegian Ambassador praised the initiatives taken by the current government to establish good governance and restore democracy amidst various obstacles. However, as is the case with politics in general the 100 day program is more a mixed bag than the optimists and sceptics are willing to acknowledge. For instance relief measures were introduced to the public such as the interim allowance of Rs. 3,500 for pensioners, reduction of fuel prices, tax exemption on phone reload charges and introduction of the National Drugs policy while the failure of the 100 days can be seen in the oppositions critic of the government and its failure to fulfil the promise of abolishing the executive presidency, providing concessions to those who have pawned their jewellery and the delay in the dissolution of the Parliament.
The truth regarding the demilitarization of the north is hard to establish due to the multiple sources of information claiming credibility ranging from the government media briefings to citizen journalists. Yet, experience has shown that the truth is of lesser importance compared to the version of the truth which best appeals to one’s personal priorities and incentives. Thus, finally we arrive to the real question under contest. Will the need for good governance and reducing economic inequality -which in the author’s view is the true bane of humanities existence which has spurred violence and war the world over through the chronicles of time- prevail or will the needs of the voter be once more determined by the fear of returning terror and the need to reignite the mass infrastructure development projects. Once upon a time Sri Lankan elections hung on the balance due to the most simplest of considerations such as a loaf of bread over the more pressing longer term macro-economic issues the intellectuals of society always seem to gloss over. Though this may have been in the distant past, the revelations which have been made by the US State Department raises the question if the first cause among equals namely security trump the claims for good governance, corruption and liberty or will the later pervade creating an unprecedented precedence in this island nation political direction.