Polls, Tigers and yahapalanaya
Posted on August 4th, 2017

Editorial Courtesy The Island

All signs are that there won’t be any elections in the foreseeable future and at this rate disuse atrophy is likely to affect our right to exercise franchise. Time was when there were no elections in some areas under direct LTTE control. Thankfully, the Tigers were militarily neutralised eight years ago and democracy was rekindled in those parts of the country. But, today, thanks to the yahapalana leaders the entire country is without elections!

Polls phobia is to politicians what hydrophobia is to canines, as we have argued in these columns previously. Mad dogs are, however, less dangerous to society than politicians afflicted with polls phobia. The diseased animals can be put down, but people have to put up with the greedy politicians who fear elections.

People’s freedom to exercise their franchise freely is a prerequisite for the democratic wellbeing of any civilised society. Sri Lankans have sadly been denied that fundamental right in the most unspeakable manner. Adding insult to injury, those responsible for postponing elections on flimsy pretexts are extolling the virtues of democracy and good governance!

Minister of Local Government and Provincial Councils Faizer Mustapha has recently told the media that a two-thirds majority in Parliament is required to put off the provincial council polls. Interestingly, Mustapha, who keeps postponing elections, trotting out various lame excuses, is an appointed MP! Initially, he pretended to be serious about his efforts to implement electoral reforms and conduct the mini polls. But, today, he does not even care to camouflage the government’s campaign to roll back the electoral map. They have beaten JRJ, the Old Fox, who threatened to roll back the electoral map, but failed to achieve his goal; he had to hold a referendum to postpone a general election.

Why the government is scared of elections is understandable. Most of its election pledges remain unfulfilled and their leaders stand accused of indulging in corruption, abusing power and ruthlessly suppressing democratic dissent and workers’ rights. Public resentment is welling up rapidly. An electoral defeat ahead of the next general election will mark the beginning of the end of the yahapalana regime. The government leaders are postponing elections in the hope that the situation may improve with the passage of time for them to face an election. But, they are only hoping against hope. Postponing elections to solve problems troubling a government is like trying to ‘control dysentery with a loincloth’, as a local saying goes. In 1975, an SLFP-led government postponed a general election arbitrarily by two years, but could not avoid a crushing defeat at the 1977 general election. It took 17 long years for the Blues to make a comeback.

Elections are safety valves which prevent pressure build-ups, which tend to find expression in violent political upheavals. The JRJ government replaced a general election with a heavily rigged referendum in 1982 and that colossal blunder helped the JVP effectively tap public resentment and youth unrest to plunge the country into a bloodbath a few years later.

One of the main planks of the yahapalana platform during the latter stages of the Rajapaksa government was restoring the democratic rights of the people. The present-day leaders who were in the Opposition at that time shed copious tears for the masses. It will be interesting to see the reaction of the self-appointed champions of good governance running civil society outfits to the government efforts to postpone provincial council polls as well on some flimsy pretext.

The public will be able to see the yahapalana hypocrites for what they really are if the government goes ahead with its sinister plan to postpone PC polls and the relevant bill to be presented to Parliament is debated and put to the vote.

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