Nothing but Elections


I write this on Dec. 31 but the fact the old year is soon to end and a new one begin is almost lost on me, my mind so preoccupied with the forthcoming elections. Why so, one would ask. Never have we been so keen on an election or so bothered by its outcome and wondered so earnestly whether it will be fair and free and what its aftermath would be – a continuation of the same Prez, a new one installed or most difficult to even imagine - mayhem. People say stock up: there’s sure to be a curfew. I, the ever see-er of the glass half full, feels these fears are unfounded and grounded on hearsay and uncomfortable imaginings. After all, even if the results don’t suit the thugs who are so present in our midst, and encouraged, they will realize it is not wise or productive to raise hell since hell can be raised by others too. Also we have seen a bit of the straightening of the spines of those who are bound by their jobs to maintain law and order, even if they allowed a wanted suspect to sail through the VIP channel at Katunayake airport and have a short holiday in Singapore. Traffic seems to be heavy between that country and ours, for whatever reasons! The keepers of the law have stood and watched as offices of, and platforms for the Common Candidate were attacked, vandalized and destroyed. But you know how it is. The very smell of success, even a whiff of it is a strong impetus to lean thataways. There is no country like our country for the adage: vaasi paththata hoiya being observed and practiced.

Shocking too that one party in the contest has those within it who perpetuate hara kiri/ suicide for the party. They spoil the party’s reputation and the leader’s chances of winning by their antics. I need not elaborate. Getting down Khan and Jaqueline, even if free of expenses met by our money, was one such backfiring gimmick.

One of the contestants is close in many ways to the Father of our Nation – D S Senanayake – not by blood but by breeding and disposition. Reading his biographical note in Internet one is told that Sirisena senior was a volunteer in the army during WW II and was given land in Polonnaruwa by D S. Then the son Maithripala’s obvious love for the country; his pride in claiming to be a peasant and having worked in paddy fields is so reminiscent of what D S was. He, D S, so loved the peasant that he labored to eradicate malaria from the NCP and other areas and gave land to the desperate rural landless. I remember as a very small kid going to D S’s first colonization scheme in Kottukachchiya lying between Anamaduwa and Puttalam. We also remember in the same flash of reminiscing, another man who served the peasant so well, refused the premiership when offered it by Dudley Senanayake, and is dubbed Minneriya Deviyo. I never failed to sprout gooseflesh of patriotism and admiration each time I walked across the Udawalawe bund and stopped midway to read the notice that said: Here Hon C P de Silva, Minister of … impounded the Walawe Ganga… I did not see this plaque the last time I went across the Udawalawe dam. Was it that I missed it as we drove across the bund? Not likely since I had my eyes peeled on the right edge looking out for the historic plaque.

The first parliamentary election

Remembering elections of the past, up until after the new Constitution of 1978 when the powerful executive president was created, elections meant Parliamentary elections and they were clean and results to be trusted Also the contestants paid their way. Reading about the first elections of a soon to be independent country, the 1947 elections, the differences noted are stark. The UNP under D S won 39.81 % of votes gaining 42 seats in the Lower House. Surprising to find the LSSP came second with 10.81% and 10 seats. The All Ceylon Tamil Congress was third gaining 4.37% votes, winning seven seats. The Ceylon Indian Congress got 3.83% and six seats. The Bolshevik Samasamaja Party got 6.00% and won five seats, while the Communist Party gained 3.73% and had three seats. "D S was the credible symbol for the country’s unity." In 1949 a faction of the Ceylon Tamil Congress broke away and formed the Tamil Federal Party under S J V Chelvanayakam. In July 1951 SWRD Bandaranaike seceded from the UNP and formed his party, the SLFP.

Referring to the past we recollect the clashes John Kotelawala had on several fronts with Jawaharlal Nehru, intrepid man that Kotelawala was. Only his brashness could carry him through. He wanted Ceylon to join the South East Asia Treaty Organisation (SEATO) but failed. Ceylon was however admitted to the UN in 1955. Then came the SLFP using the UNP’s pro-western stance as a potent propaganda weapon. Dudley Senanayake was honest and much loved but Dudley was perhaps too good for politics. SWRD Bandaranaike gave prominence to the pancha maha bala vega of sangha, veda, guru, govi and kamkaru before they were ready for it and there was chaos. He was murdered by those who could be classed members of this vast grouping. The linguistic policy introduced in the time of the Mahajana Eksath Peramuna was explosive and yes, disastrous to future generations. "SWRD introduced a dangerous emotionalism and elitism of the Sinhalese" and "the hijack of Ceylon from her pluralistic legacy" as Manuka Wijesinghe in her book ‘Sinhala Only’ writes. She says of the Sinhala Only Act "It was majority-pleasing and vote-winning."

So what we earnestly wish for is a re-invigoration of help and dignity to the farmer and the fisher and other people who live by the sweat of their brow and a distinct reduction in corruption and of course nepotism – the last two despicable ingrowths that have taken hold of late. We are also sick and tired of the opulence of some against the stark poverty of most. These menaces must be uprooted forthwith.

Thoughts at the very end of the year

Enumerating my feelings on the last day of 2014, I find I feel love and hate; also apprehension and fear. Shocked I have been very much. I love the people of this country, so many are so good. I love the advertisements inserted in the newspapers on behalf of the Common Candidate with the five coloured word UNITE and the slogan ‘Let’s start heading towards a new future.’ I dislike the unfair advantage taken by people on behalf of the incumbent President. I applaud the title of Focus on Rights article in a sister Sunday newspaper by Kishali Pinto-Jayawardena: "Open public defiance has beaten the ‘white van.’" I add that outright, outspoken public defiance will eliminate more evils from the country, which we feel sure is headed for a much better year and future. That means defiance will not be necessary!

I wish to end this article, moving away from elections, with a few messages sent me.

‘Inside every older person is a younger person wondering what the hell happened’ - so true!

‘If there are no ups and downs in your life, it means you are dead.’ This came accompanied by a picture of the lines made on a chart by a monitoring machine plugged to a person in intensive medical care. The saying is meaningful both literarily and metaphorically.

This last is good for the end of the year and resolutions to be made for the new. ‘In the end we only regret the chances we did not take, relationships we were afraid to have and the decisions we waited too long to make.’ It works the other way too for a person like me who remembers those foolish things so vividly: chances not taken, yes; relationships forged which were unwise and unhelpful, harmful even; decisions made on the spur of the moment. The only conclusion: to each his/her own! And look to the future!

Best to you in 2015!

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