Election voting: meaningful or meaningless?
Posted on March 15th, 2011

By Mario Perera, Kadawata

This is a question many are asking themselves and others on the eve of this fiercely fought out elections to local bodies, where the prize money the winners get is a miserly rupees 5000. Just a few days ago the “ƒ”¹…”Derana’ morning news analyst summed up the reasons for this frenetic dash for victory at all costs (including life, limb and property) by surnaming the councils concerned as “ƒ”¹…”dens of thieves’. A JVP speaker went to the extent of detailing the “ƒ”¹…”under the table’ money deals at the disposal of the winners, even describing what such members get from the use of public toilets, “ƒ”¹…”urinals’ and (what a former famous Kandy mayor known to trip up in his English usage called) “ƒ”¹…”arsenals’ (!). So everything, even human excreta deposited in urinals and “ƒ”¹…”arsenals’, bring dividends. Indeed nothing is over until the paper work is done!

 Recently an opposition candidate visited my home almost pleading for my vote. I asked him: what is the guarantee you will remain within your party if elected. Then I elaborated on former stalwarts of the same party (Rajitha, Luxman, G.L., Johnston to name a few) that shamelessly crossed over to the government ranks and are more vociferous than the pure breeds of that side. I was told with a broad grin: mama ehema neme. I am not like that. That is what others said too. In our society, the word, especially this type of word coinage, counts for nothing. The word that binds is the offshoot of a society the cement of which is “ƒ”¹…”trust’. This cement has been washed away a long time ago by a force called “ƒ”¹…”greed’ stronger than all “ƒ”¹…”tsunamis’ put together.

 An argument frequently advanced for voting for the government party is “ƒ”¹…”gratitude’. Did not the man at the top win the war? Certainly he provided the political leeway that enabled the decisive thrust and final victory. He was helped by an as much determined team. As in cricket the captain needs his batsmen, bowlers and fielders to deliver the goods. “ƒ”¹…”Cometh the hour cometh the man’ is a well known saying. And the hour produced the man who took us to victory. This “ƒ”¹…”hour’ symbolizes nothing other than the “ƒ”¹…”need of the country’, this field of merit that is Mother Lanka: pin ketha hela lak derana. It is the comon merit of the children of Lanka that brought forth the saviour and the salvation. He did not come from heaven like some other saviours, and the merit is not all his for self appropriation. No one doubts that gratitude is also a creator of merit, and the people of mother Lanka are grateful to its saviours.

 Yet the question is: how far must this gratitude go? Does gratitude mean keeping its object in the seat of power for ever and ever? The Lord Buddha we ae told kept his eyes fixed on the Tree of Enlightenment for one whole week but did not remain transfixed by the tree for the rest of his life. The nation has already shown its gratitude in many a way. The President has been voted in for his second term by overwhelming majorities. Constitutional amendments have rendered his tenure of office limitless. His kith and kin are in the highest places and enjoying unlimited access to power and wealth.  But how long must this go on? Surely as long as the country needs the present system or said otherwise, as long as this field of merit, Mother Lanka, needs this trustee. We are reminded of Devanam Piyatissa’s statement that kingship is not ownership but a trust. Power and the hour of the country’s need are inseparable. So that is the key expression: the need of the country. Examples, and striking ones at that, are to be found elsewhere as well. Churchill was dethroned by the British nation although he had been a principal architect of victory in the Second World War. De Gaulle was voted out by the French people. They were all saviours of their nations.

It would be vain to think the Sri Lankans should be different and keep their man and his family in their driving seats come what may.

 We profess, as a nation, a religious culture in which nothing is thought of as being “ƒ”¹…”permanent’. Even “ƒ”¹…”nirvana’ is not permanent: when the wax of attachment is consumed the light goes off. It does not go to a place of permanent bliss call it “ƒ”¹…”heaven’, “ƒ”¹…”moksha’ or whatever. Our State religion promotes insight into the “ƒ”¹…”real nature of things’. Indeed all these preaching, recitations and ritualistic practices proclaim in unison the inherent wish of our people addressed to the “ƒ”¹…”Light of the World’ and formulated in the words: Lord that I may see! The point is that the world of self induced incomprehensible mystification also called delusion which is the legal version of hallucinatory drugs, make people just not want to see. The Bible tells us what Adam and Eve saw when their eyes were really open: the truth of their nakedness. As for gratitude, the new wave that ushered in the Rajapakses was launched by Mr.Bandaranayake. Now even his statue on the Galle Face appears to be fighting a losing battle to retain its place! Do we not say in a lighter vein: kelehi guna danne padikkama?

 All this goes to show that whatever the lofty principles and theories, what matters in the end is the country’s “ƒ”¹…”need of the hour’. As for gratitude, it is ultimately destined to follow the path of impermanence with, if at all, a final resting place being a few lines in history books. Many nations have endorsed this view by paying homage of all manner to the tomb of the “ƒ”¹…”unknown soldier’, singing the national anthem, placing wreaths, bowing in silence, saluting, shedding tears, declaring a national holiday…all to the unknown force behind the scene which in silence and selflessness worked to save the country before disappearing once again into anonymity. No room here for individuals to bask in vain glory.

 This nation has offered its tributes of gratitude to its saviour. The President wields limitless power. It is so limitless that even electioneering is a farce. People who are elected through one party cross over overnight: while their companions slept they were striving upwards in the night! The nation has given all power to the President. Not only to him but also to his immediate and less immediate family members and their associates.  This mandate is not only to wield power but to all gains that come with power, principally that formulated in the five letter word, money. His hold is not only over the apparatus of the executive, but also over the legislative and the judiciary in a way that surpasses that of his predecessors in office. Gratitude however does not include the connotation of “ƒ”¹…”eternal commitment’. We will always be grateful to him, just the same way we are grateful to Duttu Gemunu and Parakrama Bahu and Keppetipola Disawa to conjure up forms and figures of the past. Let us call the President a king (as in that song sung in a trance by the young blue-eyed damsel), let the monastic orders shower titles on him (does not matter that they be difficult to pronounce or even to understand-the more flabbergasting they are the more they make the eye-balls turn upwards). But let us not transform him into a Pope (whose reign is over space and time; whose throne the hearts of men…). That would  be ludicrous going against the belief structure of the vast majority of our people, and would be a pure exercise more of stupidity than even of vanity, binding our nation in fetters and holding it to ransom.

 

One Response to “Election voting: meaningful or meaningless?”

  1. anura seneviratna Says:

    Dear Mario,
    Your rationality, clarity and facts as they are truly wholesome, Thank you.
    Warmest regards,
    Anura.

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