Defend political worth

Tuesday, 16 February 2016 00:01 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Where former President Mahinda Rajapaksa treads, controversy follows. After months of relative quiet, the political space is rumbling once again with the possibility of a new political party being formed with the patronage and participation of the Rajapaksa family in anticipation of the Local Government elections. For once the “punchi chande” may not be so “punchi” after all. 

Political parties are formed to espouse political ideals and goals for a country. Therefore the aims of any political party are incredibly important as it forms the basis of what a country aims to become. Political parties and politicians that have spearheaded separatism, nationalism and fostered insecurity to push forward their own agendas may have short lifespans but by their very presence serves to marginalise communities and polarise discourse between large parts of the population. Given the track record of Rajapaksa and his supporters it is very likely that the aim of any new political party formed by them will encompass as narrow a definition of nationalism as possible.  


The possible emergence of a new political party comes in the backdrop of important reconciliation measures made by the Government. Some of them such as singing the national anthem in Tamil may be dismissed as symbolic but others such as releasing military land to their original owners, or appointing civilian Governors to the north and east have had been significant steps. But the hard tasks are clearly ahead. The pledges made to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) have to be implemented and investigation of allegations during the end years of the war will clearly create many questions, deepen insecurity and mistrust between communities and serve as fantastic fodder for opportunistic politicians. 


Already movements such as “Sinha-le” are doing irreparable harm to the unity between different ethnic groups. Any effort to provide justice to the Tamil minority will be grabbed as evidence of “betrayal” by the National Government and a chance to push forward more nationalist agendas.  Whipping up ethnic tensions is easy for politicians as they are not the ones to suffer from the fallout. The results are felt by innocent people. The riots that unfolded in Aluthgama cannot be allowed to be forgotten. 

Even leaving aside matters of reconciliation, central issues such as women’s empowerment have so far been treated dismally by the Joint Opposition members that form the backbone of the movement to form a separate political party. Last week when legislation to increase women’s representation in Local Government bodies was tabled in Parliament, the protest staged by members of the Joint Opposition shows their complete disregard for any efforts towards equality, whether they are gender or ethnicity based. 


Women make up an estimated 52% of Sri Lanka’s population but form less than 5% of Parliament and less than 3% of all provincial and local level bodies. This is a disgraceful situation for a country that produced the world’s first female prime minister. Nearly all countries around the world are working for greater women’s representation with Rwanda currently leading the world at 60% but Sri Lanka lags behind because of its inability to embrace reform.

Political parties with regressive agendas formed for the benefit of a few rejected politicians should not be allowed to drag the entire country back to the dark ages.