Fraudulent elections and election monitor lizards

By Malinda Seneviratne
Someone once said, "Even God’s kingdom is not a democracy; He doesn’t stand for election". I don’t believe in god, but this must be really bad news to those who do. For it follows, sadly, that lesser mortals have no earthly reason to complain about their will being hijacked by unscrupulous politicians. For now, even us atheists don’t have much to celebrate, for "a fraudulent election", has for all practical purposes emerged as an inevitability. Stuffing ballot-boxes, voter intimidation and impersonation, etc., etc., is all part and parcel of the game. And like all games, there are rules. The main rule is, "Just Do it!" (like Nike). But wait a minute. There’s something in the small print. It says, "by hook or by crook!" Sad, no?

We have all heard about the Golden Rule: he who has the gold makes the rules. This dictum has such universal validity that I am surprised that god forgot to get one of his many prophets to inscribe it in one of His many holy books. Would have saved quite a bit of bloodshed, I think.

As I said, the Golden Rule applies to all things. Even election. I should say, especially elections. Profit-mad business people are not given to charity except to dodge the Inland Revenue Department. They don’t spend money. They invest. So there is a good commerce between political candidates/parties and business people. Demand and supply figure in these transactions, market predictions are analysed and if you’ve played your cards right, you are likely to reap profits. I am sure a significant number of the sillara veerayas who made up that dubious organisation, Sri Lanka First, have already invested heavily in these elections. This is also electoral fraud, in my mind.

Actually we didn’t have to wait for parliament to be dissolved to know that the coming elections would be fraud-ridden. With respect to the proportional representation system, articles 96-99 in the constitution clearly state that the number of representatives from a given district is dependent on its number of voters. We all know that thousands and thousands of Tamil people (not to mention Muslims and Sinhalese) have fled Tamil terrorism in Jaffna. They have walked into the more hospitable areas in the Western Province to live among the Sinhalese. This exodus has not been factored in when the Elections Commissioner assigned numbers to Jaffna and the Wanni.

Thus, Tamils already suffering from "systemic discrimination" get at least 2 extra MPs to tout Eelamism in parliament. And that’s not all, all those Tamils who took up residence in Colombo now constitute a block vote, enhancing the chances of a Tamil party getting another one or two seats from this district. So, before the starter’s gun has been fired and long before live bullets are sprayed in the name of democracy, the people of the South have been cheated.

Fraud is bad, everyone will agree. What is more pernicious is to whitewash fraud. Over the years, our politicians (usually governments in power) have devised a neat method to tell disgruntled people to go to hell if they complain about not being allowed to participate freely in a fair election, for giving respectability to the lie is as important as rigging. Now we have a fascinating species that comes flying through the air, meet up with their local cousins, potter around polling booths, enjoy the sun, the beach, the wild life, not to mention five star luxury and go home well holidayed. I call them election monitor lizards.

There are, as I said, two kinds. The foreign ones are usually white. You know, they come from countries where nothing untoward happens during elections. And they are white, let me repeat. So, they don’t lie. They are honest, impartial creatures, as impartial as say, Eric Solheim, who is said to be as neutral as god himself.

As I said, they have a ball here. All they have to do by way of "work" is to come up with a report. They report isolated incidents (they can’t cover everything, for they too have their limitations although coming here from those heavenly territories in Europe and North America). And even if they were to report gross violations of the elections law, results are never invalidated. Fresh elections are never called. Rohana Wijeweera’s election petition has probably gathered a lot of dust over the past 19 years, I am sure.

Just to make clear about how "reliable" these monitors are, let me refer our readers to a recantation offered by a British lady who was on one of the teams watching out for democracy in our country. She decided to rat on the rest of her gang about 4 months after the PA was "elected" last October. She officially "disassociated" herself from the "findings" of the report. As we say in Sinhala this happened long, long after the perahera had passed.

Who are these people? The Uththareethara Sabhava of all things political in this country? People don’t seem to realise that each time we say "Aney, come-ko", these people don’t stop poking their fingers all over our body politic. They gouge out eyes. Maybe that’s why we are so blind.

Time to say, "No way Jose; enough is enough!" If you are planning to come here, don’t. If you are already here, please vacate your plush hotel rooms and find another place to spend your vacation. Or pay up. For we are a poor country. We just can’t afford to pay for trash, especially garbage that helps wipe guilt off the faces of corrupt and belligerent politicians.

Then there are our local monitor lizards, the home-grown types. They are the grandmasters of "civil society". They too come up with reports (again long after the nettuwas and the thammattam karayas are done with their performances). They probably do a better job than their sudu cousins in terms of coverage. At the end of the day all they have done is added some numbers to a story that is not news to anyone. It is a short story with a simple title: "The Election Was Rigged".

And they too get paid. They probably love elections. Each election constitutes a veritable illama, a rich vein through which courses bubbling dollars and pounds. Easy to tap. All they have to do is to have a post-election seminar where "findings" are presented to the media and make sure that mention is made of how Tamils in the "uncleared" areas could not vote. And of course be hush-hush about the implications of such statements, viz. it is only in the "cleared" (i.e. non-LTTE controlled) areas where people get to exercise their franchise!

Please Mr. Kingsley Rodrigo, and Dr. Pakaiasothy Saravanamuttu, tell us how much your respective organisations got to ensure a free and fair election. Tell us who gave you the money, how much you spent on travelling, food, hotels etc. In fact give us all the details. The public you are so fond of would love to know, I am sure.

I don’t mind monitor lizards. My problem is that they should leave monitoring elections to the people. Until such time a system of checks and balances are developed organically by the people themselves, the most these people can do is to bat for the party in power, one way or the other.

I, for one, have no faith in people who get paid to champion the grievances of ordinary people. It only means you have a price. Means you can be bought. And, I am willing to bet, for sillara amounts too.