Biggest challenge facing the intelligent voter
Posted on November 14th, 2019

Janaka Perera

More than any other past Presidential Election the one that is to be held tomorrow (November 16) poses the most difficult challenge to intelligent voters. Considering over two decades of unwelcome experiences and a continuing corrupt system will it be a Hobson’s choice for them? 

Will they have to vote for the best of the bad lot?

This is also a presidential election no former president or prime minister is contesting. 

I do not wish to blame all ordinary citizens (except dyed- in-the wool UNP supporters) who voted for the so-called ‘yahapalanaya’ in 2015 because many of them expected a genuine change since the Rajapaksa regime failed to meet obligations expected of it after the war victory of 2009.  Instead they sat on their laurels.  This undoubtedly led to much disillusionment.

There’s no point in trying to find silly excuses saying a Western-Indian conspiracy was the sole cause of the previous government’s downfall.  It is like the simplistic argument of some communists that a CIA conspiracy was behind the downfall of the Soviet Bloc. Foreign conspirators and their local agents no doubt were involved in varying degrees but no external force can succeed unless there are internal contradictions or internal crisis that can be exploited to its advantage.  This is what happened to both the Soviet and the Rajapaksa governments. This is the hard fact we need to recognize.

It is obvious that no other candidate but only Gotabhaya Rajapaksa or Sajith Premadasa will win. They may not be bad as individuals but the real question is about many of those around them.  We find that in both camps the old faces – the same dubious characters, who have faced all kinds of allegations (which have never been probed and action taken) actively campaigning for the two candidates.

The crooks and thugs on both sides appear to think they will suffer little or no punishment whoever wins.  In addition we see on both sides politicos who have jumped from party platform to another over the past two decades.  How much influence will they wield if either candidate wins?  Either way, we as ordinary citizens can expect no fundamental change in this corrupt system no matter who wins.  The main reason is balanced and objective thinking is alien to the majority of our voters irrespective of their political views.  They can never understand the complexities of a situation and suffer from selective amnesia. They look at issues through tinted glasses, depending on their political preferences. Many of them are blind loyalists of leaders and/or parties. They cannot bear to see or hear any criticism of their idols. They are like the three proverbial monkeys.

It is the utter disillusionment with the past performance of the two main parties / alliances that an unprecedented number of independent presidential candidates are contesting this time.   The blind worshipers of the three main candidates however seem to think that all such candidates are trying to undermine the support for this or that main candidate

What should the intelligent voter do?  Should his/her vote go for the candidate in whom he/she has full confidence?  Can anyone have such faith in a candidate until we see his performance?  Hence regardless whom we elect we are compelled to take a risk.

We must also make note that the 19th Amendment has limited presidential powers.

Although many of the independent candidates have excellent proposals unfortunately they cannot draw the attention of the majority, the since the latter always go on the beaten track. We cannot envisage a third group / alliance coming to power in Sri Lanka unlike in Pakistan in the foreseeable future. 

The only option for most people then is to vote for person – out of the two main candidates – whose campaign raised less doubts regardless of whether he gets the first or second preference.

Voters need answers at least  to the following.

The Podu Jana Peramuna and the JVP both appointed their candidates without much delay whereas until the last minute the UNP-led New Democratic Front could not decide on a candidate. Party leader Ranil Wickremesinghe was dilly dallying. Conflict of opinion within the party on who should become the candidate came out into the open. Some seemed almost confident that Sajith would not be selected. But since their hopes were dashed they are now compelled to back him. Will this friction surface again? Will Ranil allow him to do as he wants?

Since Sajith Premadasa is a Cabinet Minister of the present Government how many of the promises he is now making has he been able to fulfill during the past four years? If it is very little, why was it so? Was he obstructed at every turn?

Then there’s the hullabaloo over Gotabhaya Rajapaksa’s alleged U.S. citizenship. Sajith supporters have already lost a court case on this issue.  The American Embassy in Colombo has stated that it will take several months for the Federal Government to release the lists of all those who have renounced U.S. citizenship.  Therefore it would not be possible for the embassy to provide answers right now to whether this or that individual is no longer a U.S. citizen.

If the New Democratic Front says it cannot accept lawyer Ali Sabry’s denial that Gotabhaya is a U.S. citizen then the NDF should provide irrefutable proof in a court of law that the documents Ali Sabry showed to the media are forgeries. Merely speculating and raising suspicions are an exercise in futility since these have no bearings on the Elections Commission.

If the NDF is very sure that Gotabhaya is still a U.S. citizen they have time to find proof even after the election.  If such proof is found and assuming that Gotabhaya has won his victory can still be declared null and void.  When Rajapaksa supporter Geetha Kumarasinghe announced that she had renounced her Swiss citizenship no one questioned her claim.   

Then why was this hurry to prove that Gotabhaya is still a U.S. citizen and get him out of the way?

These are points to ponder.

 Anyway, whoever wins the election we need a strong independent (not guided by party loyalties) opposition – watch dog to keep the government on its toes. 

This is long overdue.

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