Gimmicks and bribes
'The Island' Sunday Edition yesterday carried a picture of a group of torch bearers (or Pandankarayas?) guiding ex MP and UNP media spokesman Karunasena Kodituwakku and another prospective UNP candidate to an election rally in Malabe. They had done so in protest against the governments inability to ensure an uninterrupted power supply, we are told.
On seeing this picture, some of our readers gnashing their teeth and cursing the government for power cuts may have heaved a sigh of relief thinking that the UNP had taken up their cause. They may have thought that if there came a UNP government, there would be light. Hope springs eternal in human breast, it is said.
The main cause of the present power crisis, which is to be compounded in years to come, is said to be the failure of the government to have implemented the Norochcholai coal-fired power project. This power project had to be abandoned or shelved indefinitely due to stiff resistance put up by a group of people led by the Bishop of Chilaw. Experts have warned that unless it is implemented shortly, the country will be in for a far worse power crisis with longer power cuts and massive increases in electricity bills.
The PA is dilly dallying on the project obviously for fear of losing a sizeable chunk of the Catholic vote in Chilaw. Not much is heard from the UNP either about the project, for or against. A pertinent question therefore would be: What is the UNPs position on the Norochcholai project? Mr. Kodituwakku et al who are disporting themselves in gimmicks like Pandan protests should make the partys position on this proposed power plant known to the electors.
If the UNP has a feasible programme of action by way of an alternative to this project to steer the country out of the existing power crisis. It must all be made public. The PA has obviously failed to deliver on power generation and is engaged in diatribe against opponents and trotting out lame excuses to justify its pathetic failure.
Apart from power generation, there are many other questions that need to be answered by the parties that seek election to power - especially the UNP, which is expected to be an alternative to the PA. The PA after being returned to power in 2000 formed a jumbo cabinet to prevent its administration crumbling, the signs of which were visible from the very inception. But when the UNP moved a no faith motion, convinced of an imminent defeat in Parliament, the PA had to cut down drastically on the number of cabinet ministers under pressure from the JVP with which it had to knock up an alliance.
This was done at the expense of many PA stalwarts who had been cabinet ministers. The desertion of the party by some of them - others left due to their differences with President Kumaratunga - has been attributed to the sacrifice by the PA leadership of their portfolios at the behest of the JVP. They are today in the UNP. It is popularly believed that in the event of the UNP forming the government, it will be faced with the same problems as the PA unless these dissidents are accommodated in its cabinet besides other ambitious senior party members. How will the UNP deal with this problem? How big/small will be its cabinet if it is elected to power?
Besides, there are several other questions that have to be answered by the parties in the fray. Usually many an unsavoury element gets nomination from main political parties by virtue of their wealth and influence. Some of them even have criminal track records. Will the political parties keep these elements at bay?
There is a surfeit of polls monitoring groups and they will have to peruse the nomination lists and enlighten the electors on these undesirables whatever party they may be from.
Government politicians are crying from rooftops that some of their erstwhile friends who have decamped have amassed ill-gotten wealth. We are treated ad nauseam to repeat telecasts of a palatial house built by one such defector. (The government has, however, as we have said earlier, turned a blind eye to a mansion built by another PA politician in Kandy.) While the government stands exposed for having had such politicians in its fold and for not having taken action against them for plundering public funds, the evidence of wealth politicians have amassed through dubious means points to the need to take precautions. Will the parties declare assets of their candidates?
The Organisation Professional Associations (OPA) has already made a request to all political parties to this effect. Will political parties comply with this request?
There is euphoria in the wake of the passage of the 17th Amendment. Will the party/parties that forms/form the next government give priority to the task of setting up of the independent commissions and the Constitutional Council? And what is the timeframe?
Then there is the LTTE. How are the political parties seeking state power going to deal with it? Will there be a ceasefire declared and/or will there be talks with the terrorists? If so, what solution do they have in mind to offer to the LTTE? What will become of the areas held by the troops at present? Will their solutions be within the framework of a unitary state? Above all, what will become of the war effort?
And what measures will be adopted to put the ailing economy back on its feet?
These are some of the issues that must be dealt with by political parties that are jostling for power. That is the way to help the public make an informed assessment of what the parties will do if elected. No amount of gimmicks - pandam parades etc.- or lavishing of election-time bribes on the people - allowances, price reductions etc. - will be of any use to them in the long run.
All this said, the problem is whether politicians will honour their election-time promises once they are ensconced in power. For none other than Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake has dismissed election manifestos as something not to be taken seriously. This is also a question that can be posed to political parties: Will you take your manifestos seriously?
Your comments to the Editor
|NEWS | FEATURES | OPINION | BUSINESS | CARTOON | SPORTS|