Thursday, November 27, 2014

The voter must prevail!

I have my political preferences. That's my democratic right. I subscribe to a set of beliefs which have put me at odds with most of those who take issue with them. For the first time, I will be voting. I know what the ideals I stand for, and while they do not necessarily follow what my family or friends think fit, I do concur that they are, as everything else in this frail, human world is, subject to the "අට ලෝ දහම" (the eight vicissitudes of life) and the eternal truth of impermanence.

Still, I know my countrymen will be watching and waiting. There's a reason for this. 2015 isn't 2010. There are other issues, far dwarfing the war victory won five years back. It's this more than anything else, the way I see it, which makes it imperative for every voter to decide. Carefully.

There's one more week to go before nomination papers are handed in. That's seven days. Much can happen. To top all this, there's one more month before Election Day. That's 30 days. It's no secret that this government has been shaken, considerably, though not to the extent that most anti-regime commentators will have you believe. Contrary to what Victor Ivan believes, the government hasn't halved. Not yet. There's still time left. The way I see it, both parties (or individuals) in this contest can make the best out of it. Big time. I don't know the credentials of either of them to offer a full, comprehensive sketch. In any case, that's not what should ruffle us here.

Sri Lanka has had a history of ups and downs when it comes to democracy. It has been rightly noted that the introduction of the franchise in England was preceded by the expansion of educational opportunities and political consciousness. In Sri Lanka, the reverse was true. The vote was the means through which the people were emancipated; it precipitated the same expansion of educational opportunities and political consciousness England had seen before the franchise's introduction there. It was the ballot and nothing else which sped up our collective demand for welfare, which was what 1948 and 1972 gave us. Democracy, being the elusive ideal we all aim at, was the immediate result of universal suffrage here. That's cause enough for pride, but not for complacency.

It is a testament to our people's intelligence that they overthrew a ruling government on more than seven occasions. But times have changed. We live in a different era, a different country. It's no longer about serving the people. It's about hanging onto power by hook or crook. This is not to say that politicians were lily-white angels during the Senanayake or Bandaranaike years, but the truth is that ideals have been replaced by lust for personal gain. It's about money and nothing but money. We've given up that impartiality our people once exercised when voting to embrace party colours unduly. Sad.

Still, I'm not all that glum. I look forward to 2015. The Mahinda-Maithripala fight is going to get intense. In keeping with the tenets of that great teacher Siddhartha Gautama, I therefore implore those voting this time to exercise the virtues of metta (loving kindness), karuna (compassion), and upekkha (equanimity). It is the collective wish of our country that we elect the right man for the right job. We have our differences, true, but that should not hinder us from imagining the same end: a correct path to take our country forward.

We have potential. Enough and more of it. It is true that while we have sacrificed spiritual gain for infrastructure and "development", we still cling onto those values which define who we are ("අපේ කම"). As a collective, we are one. Our vote is our right. It shouldn't be used to unduly topple incumbents when they have done good or stick with them out of an irrational fear of change. Both candidates come with solid track records, and while I'm not willing to grant either of them an angelic status, I do know this: they are honest as far as "getting the job done" goes. There can be debate about this, of course, and I agree that there are enough and more lesser things which both are known for.


Voters must decide. January 8 is one-and-a-half months away. Things have moved fast. In politics, that's the way it is. Fortunately or unfortunately, however, we're moving much faster than we were in 2010. That's good. Shows how restrained our voters must be. When it's a snap election, we are the real deciders. We can topple or we can keep. What's important, therefore, is that the voter's mandate should be the final say. Grumbling about his final decision and talking about "change" thereafter isn't the answer. Move on with it. Change is needed. Voters choose. Anything beyond this would be opposed to democracy.

So yes, I have my party colours. Who doesn't? It's not a cloud cuckoo land we're residing in. We live in one of Asia's oldest democracies, "oldest" as far as universal suffrage goes. I don't admit that my preferences are superior to any other, so this doesn't make me a kepuwath nil or kepuwath kola. It's time we see beyond party colours alone and try to make policies rather than ideologies prime factors. So whoever wins, whoever loses, let power pass hands peacefully. The people will choose. Wisely. Never go beyond that.

Meanwhile, it's nearing Christmas. A time for cheer and for humility. Let us reflect on what we are to do, then. Let us look back on the years past and ask ourselves a question: "Are we satisfied?" If we are, let it be. If we aren't, let it not be. At a time when councilors, MPs, journalists, and nearly everyone else are being purchased for a song and two cents, let the voter prevail. Let him stick with what he believes. Let him be. Everything else will flow. Gracefully. It's all about choosing the more able candidate. The choice is ours. As always.

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