You are currently browsing the daily archive for March 28, 2010.

The fiasco over the UNP nominations list for Moneragala, hugely entertaining though it is, should also one hopes be the last nail in the coffin of the current electoral system. It is quite preposterous that a political party should claim that the nomination paper handed in on its behalf is a forgery, and at the same time not want, or be unable to do anything, to prevent an election that is based on this forgery taking place.

Underlying this absurdity is the fatal collectivism introduced by the Jayewardene constitution into the mechanism through which the people elect their representatives to the legislature. Because of the all or nothing approach engendered by the list system, individuals cannot generally be held to account for abuses (forgeries or electoral malpractices or whatever), because any disciplinary action would have to deal with the whole list. This would not only be unfair on individuals, it would also upset the whole democratic process, inasmuch as the people would then be left without any real choice. 

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I must confess to feeling some relief on Wednesday morning. Perhaps as a result of living in Colombo, and imbibing its pernicious predilections, I had worried about the result of the Presidential election. True, rational thought suggested one need not feel anxious. This was reinforced even by the details of a poll, commissioned I was told by international interventionists, on behalf of General Fonseka. This claimed he would win by a tiny margin but acknowledged that he would lose almost all districts in the south of the country, save for Colombo and its ilk. Given the unrealistic margins it predicted in those areas one should have felt confident.

But still, the manner in which the voters of this country have expressed themselves democratically (and also affirmed their determination that democracy should continue) is heartening, and a reason for pride. They have affirmed their faith in the future and in political principle. They have rejected ‘dysfunction and breakdown’, which dear old Dr Saravanamuttu declared had taken place in Sri Lanka even while everyone else acknowledged that the election was peaceful and orderly, and only a different result might have created chaos.

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Perhaps the saddest aspect of the campaign for General Fonseka was the complete absence of principle evinced by the vast majority of thinking persons who ended up supporting him. I was for instance astonished to find quondam intellectuals such as Dr Saravanamuttu and Jehan Perera pontificating in a manner that suggested they thought General Fonseka a potentially productive President. With regard to the former I was particularly disappointed because he had initially expressed some surprise at the idea of such a common candidate, and claimed that it was all Ranil Wickremesinghe’s fault for being so weak.

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 Amongst the more astonishing features of the election was the association between the UNP and the JVP to promote the candidacy of General Fonseka. Or, rather, this was in itself not astonishing, for clearly both parties would have felt a need to clutch at any straw, even a blockbuster of the caliber of the General, to do better than they had done in other recent elections. This is understandable, given the need to become competitive, if they were to hold onto any substantial support for the future.

 But one would have thought there were some limits. Given that any political party claims to have a core of fundamental values that ensure the commitment of both party activists and thinking voters, it was strange that they could have thought the abandonment of all principle would have helped them for the future.

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With regard to the UNP performance over the election, there were two schools of thought that seem at first sight distinct. The first is that it shows the enduring genius of Ranil Wickremesinghe, who managed to turn what would have been certain defeat for himself into a campaign to confirm his control of his party. He was thus claimed to have got rid of his only serious rival in the party, S B Dissanayake, and also a potential articulate irritant in the form of Johnston Fernando. Now that the General did so much worse than he himself did in 2005, the argument is that the forces of civilization will once more rally to the once and future King.

This perspective has been strengthened by photographs of him after the results were declared, in which he is grinning like a cat that has secured the cream for himself. Certainly his prompt endorsement of the election, and his distancing the UNP from the attempt to cry fraud, shows someone who is determined now to make a fresh start.

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Rajiva Wijesinha

March 2010
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