From a democratic perspective it would seem self-evident that those who live by the poll die by the poll. But losing hope in the possibility of holding on to such heady power or regaining it appears a terrible prospect for any political party.
Few would deny the fact that Sri Lanka’s political arena nowadays, with the exception of a few old guard representatives, does not attract distinguished gentlemen willing to use their know-how and time for nation-building. On the contrary, it has become the happy hunting ground of riff-raff and hoodlums with proven records of criminality.
The problem is that the people have been offered such a poor choice of candidates. Really it may sound incomprehensible that many of these politically-anointed characters are convicted criminals who are given the freedom to ride roughshod over the general public, the once elitist bureaucracy and diplomatic community. It is an open secret that people with dubious reputations such as cheap serial conmen who have spent time in remand prison have leapfrogged to positions totally beyond their capabilities.
There are numerous other unfathomable appointments of many unsuitable and crooked individuals who should be guests of our state penitentiaries. There are others among them who have the shady distinction of being remanded in custody for cheating, thuggery and larceny not to mention the scores of cheap conmen among them.
This is because of the criminalization of politics where many high-ranking government officials who have been indicted or face criminal or ethical investigations, are let off with a rap on the knuckles or walk away scot free, in spite of the enormity of their crime.
Some who should have been considered insufferable political ‘has been,’ who have become a potential disaster to the administrations, are often seen back and gloating after being cocooned in their previous ministerial sanctums. Such economic and political crises created by such criminal characters are not likely to be a bundle of laughs for the ordinary citizens either.
Besides, all elections come at a colossal cost where the taxpayer has to dole out the expenses for basically choosing between one or the other big party political dynasties which have been alternately see-sawing in power since independence. The main legitimate worry in such a scenario concerns its replacement, which has an equally bad, if not worse track record of governance. The voters, over the last two and a half decades or so, have had low expectancy of what successive governments can achieve.
Taxpayers will fork out some Rs. 4 billion for the cost of staging the August 17 election, eight months after paying about Rs. 3 billion for holding the presidential election. Elections Commissioner Mahinda Deshapriya estimates that candidates in some of the larger districts collectively spend about Rs. 3.5 billion to Rs. 4 billion on campaigns.
Already the Elections Commission has granted the police Rs. 75 million to recruit people to help in the removal of posters and cut-outs. The posters are often put up in the night, but police and the recruits remove them before dawn.
For decades now, voters on their way to cast their ballots for the country’s parliamentary elections have been wooed with a frenzied last-minute poster campaigns which became a sitting target for tar-brush vandals. Elections laws that came into force after the closing of nominations, prohibit processions, demonstrations and the pasting of posters and handbills.
Despite the official warnings, the entire country has always been festooned with overnight poster and hand-bills campaign which elections officials have consistently attributed to the majority of election-related violence.
Every bit of available public space including walls, trees, gates and even lamp-posts are being decorated with posters, depicting the smiling mugs of candidates. Polls officials over the years have come up with some of the weirdest tales of supporters mainly in the provinces attempting to beat the ban. At one such campaign some supporters in the provinces had driven herds of cattle and water buffalo caparisoned with posters through villages and townships. There is also the story that has gone down in the annals of political history as a campaign that got everyone’s goat!
Herds of insatiably hungry goats in the central Kadugannawa District had rival supporters looking rather sheepish, after they gobbled up posters of all aspiring candidates. The incident almost triggered a major clash among rival political supporters until police pointed out that the goats had acquired a taste for the posters and the rice paste used to stick them up.
Again, slight amendments to posters by mischievous artistically-inspired elements on both sides have offered a great deal of amusement to passers-by. The smiling faces on a good many of the posters have been tar-brushed and defaced or have been given ridiculously looking dictatorial types of moustaches.
There was a time when even the posters of women candidates were not spared the artistic touches of vandal rival supporters who have changed their feminine profiles to decidedly masculine ones with a few, deft strokes of a brush.
But I must say that some of the moustache doodlers are pretty innovative artists all the same. Some of the facial hair-lines added to even the feminine contenders show them up as reminders of past fascist villains. As for some of the men’s mugs that assail us even their bare faces tell it all. After all, the camera never lies!