It is that time of year again when our country becomes afflicted with polls insanity. Over the last few decades, perpetual political drama seems to relentlessly plague our nation, without exception and without respite.
The citizens of Sri Lanka are quite used to this lunatic aberration where the bullets usually precede the ballots. No sense of bewilderment then because it had become so foreseeable, despite certain optimists predicting soon after nominations that it seemed as if the nation was heading was for perhaps its most peaceful poll in decades.
Besides, every party in power misuses the police to harass opponents while protecting its own goons. Instead of justice and clean politics, we have rising criminalization. A land without justice in a reasonable period will necessarily be a land in which lawbreakers will beat law-abiders
Yet, who can predict vagaries of either the weather gods or the politicians? The whims of both natural and human elements often make fools of the meteorologists and political pundits. Still real disaster in either form occurs when you are least prepared for it. Considering the tiring political confrontations between political rivals the three victims of such violence lying on mortuary slabs had not been completely unexpected.
Thushara Devalegama, a UNP supporter, was attacked and killed by an unidentified group on 29 June 2015 in Nivithigala, Ratnapura District. Two people (Siththi Maheema and another) were killed and around a dozen others injured when gunmen arriving in two vehicles opened fire into a crowd attending an election rally for UNP candidate Ravi Karunanayake at Kotahena on July 31, 2015.
Sri Lanka’s election watchdog PAFFREL revealed that it had received 915 complaints in relation to 972 electoral and general law violations by mid-week. Among them, 114 were related to acts of violence and 132 incidents of electoral or general law violations.
Our country’s political history has been marked by a conjunction of the nonsensical legalism and lawlessness. We are seemingly a nation of many internal frontiers, where we hear of political warlords commanding irregular armies, some allegedly under the patronage of high-ranking ministers. This type of power by ‘para-militarism’ is one reason why a peculiar system of ‘frontier injustice’ has been flourishing, particularly in the provinces.
The political strongmen and their gun-packing goons all believe they have a God-given right to think and act offensively during an election campaign. The lawless often follow an old legal aphorism that when you have a weak defense you put your opponent on trial. After years of experience, watching themselves and their opponents committing slow-motion political suicide, one would have thought our political leaders would lose no time in moving swiftly in an endeavour to prevent the country from disintegrating altogether.
Still there are indications that even the big parties’ maniacal-fan bases may have gone over the top of their limit, time and time again. How long can the country endure this kind of punishment? In their rejoinders for justification, all groupings seeking precious ballots claim to be self-defense movements. For nearly three decades now, traumatized Sri Lankans have been witnessing these feral antics, a malevolent legacy bequeathed by the pioneers of modern-day attack politics.
There have never been any logical explanations. How could there be when there are no reasonable excuses for unreasonable and undemocratic acts? But they all seem to clearly perceive a variance between their own trademark of ‘progressive’ leadership and the ‘dubitable’ practices of their opponents.
Besides, every party in power misuses the police to harass opponents while protecting its own goons. Instead of justice and clean politics, we have rising criminalization. A land without justice in a reasonable period will necessarily be a land in which lawbreakers will beat law-abiders. This will be true not only in politics but in business, the professions, and everything else.
Talk of our main party leaders, the Rajapaksas, the Wickremasinghes, the Sirisenas et al and the more perceptive among us will realize that they all have a common trait which is the pursuance of the politics of glory. Ever since he became Prime Minister, Wickremesinghe has been displaying distressing signs of erratic behavior.
Rajapaksa despite his political savvy made the biggest mistake of his life while overestimating his popularity by calling for a premature third-term presidential election. He forgot completely that he had alienated the minorities and had also offended a large section of moderate Sinhala Buddhists who refused to have any truck with fanatical forces that brought disgrace to serene and tolerant beliefs.
Even the current subsequent developments within the newly formed government following the presidential poll indicated their confusion and serious differences of opinion among the partners. Analysts claimed that Sirisena had been relegated to a pushover and that Wickremasinghe was leading him by a nose ring and calling the shots! His behaviour, they contend, appears to have been aligned slightly more to favor the creed of a fascist pocket Napoleon. His recent excessively unwarranted reactions and insidious witch-hunts can only be a sign of a man no longer able to differentiate between whimsy and reality. It appears to be the same kind of megalomaniacal prognosis the UNP is thrusting on Rajapaksa.
Sirisena catapulted to power with the assurance of improving living standards and guaranteeing democratic rights, all within a whirlwind 100 days, after which he would call a Parliamentary election. However, these plans quickly went awry amid a worsening international economic breakdown and, as in Greece, draconian austerity demands from the representatives of global finance capital.
So what of the forthcoming General election? Despite Rajapaksa’s high profile, many experts believe that both the UPFA, and Wickramasinghe’s UNP (United National Party) will struggle to gain an outright majority in the 225-member parliament. Analysts are placing their wagers on a hung Parliament. Yet some believe that a hung parliament would favour the UNP because they have a better relationship with two smaller parties – the Tamil National Alliance and the leftist JVP (Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna) – which could allow them to form a coalition.
The vote is your right. But it seems sad there remains mostly the wrong choice for any voter. A better one would have been a hung parliament and hanged politicos!