Disgrace to democracy

Monday, 10 October 2011 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

He who lives by the sword dies by the sword, as the adage goes, and politicians who have promoted a culture of thuggery, violence and coercion are now seeing the results of their own actions.  The shooting incident along with a loss in the mayoral race of capital Colombo marred what would otherwise have been an extremely positive win for the ruling party, the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA).

Yet, there was never reason to believe that this would be a free and fair election. The Deputy Elections Commissioner himself admitted a few days before the polls that he did not have the power to stop abuse of State property and could only urge public media to respect election law – a plea that obviously went unheeded.

Campaign for Free and Fair Elections (CaFFE) went on record after the results were released insisting that these elections were not free and fair. They also pointed out that the grave incidents in Mulleriyawa could not be a surprise given the high level of intimidation that took place in the area ahead of the elections. However, since many people did not report the violations and the Police was even more reluctant to conduct strong and impartial investigations, the warnings went unheeded with grievous results. Politicisation of the Police has left it with little ability to act in an impartial manner.

UNP MP Dayasiri Jayasekera has told the media that the incident in Mulleriyawa could have been averted if Parliament had listened to his warnings just a day before. However, he was actually removed from the House and his statement was expunged from Parliament records. He has a point, but what is of more importance is the fact that few in Parliament can be called “people’s leaders”.

In all honesty, it is the thug politics enthused by the Parliament members themselves that has resulted in politics becoming such a dirty game in Sri Lanka and corroding every strata of power. The people know the truth even though MPs and others politicians may choose to live in denial. It can only be hoped that the new members who have been elected at least attempt to change this trend – but that is an Utopian expectation.

These elections have shown beyond a doubt that peace and economic development do not automatically ensure a better political culture – in fact it seems to be heading in the opposite direction. All politicians who pursue violence as a means of ‘serving the public’ should be ashamed of their hypocrisy and gross negligence of democracy.

Colombo is a stronghold of the main opposition United National Party (UNP) and it managed to hang onto its position with over 24,000 votes in its favour. The UPFA campaigned aggressively to win the Colombo mayor post, which has been with the UNP for over 52 years, but it was unsuccessful.

However, this is the only feather in the UNP’s cap. It lost many other fortresses, including Dehiwala, Nuwara Eliya and Kandy for the first time in over half a century. This does not bode well for its future and adds another tombstone to its collection of lost elections. If, as the UNP Leader said, winning Colombo will be the turning point of the party’s fortune, then it is time to make his own words come true.