By Romesh Abeywickrema
was a time in this country not so long ago when a
politician made a speech people would make a beeline to
the closest TV or radio to catch what was being said.
They would hang on to every word trying to decipher the
‘deeper message’ and invariably there was one. Today it
is the same – people would run to the TV or radio
broadcasting the politician’s speech, but no, not to
listen to every word but to turn the thing off or to
change the channel.
politicians are probably the least trusted among the
many categories of ‘servants’ that have been foisted on
a long-suffering public. If what politicians said was
taken with a pinch of salt in the days of yore it is
more in the range of a sack these days with shameless
politicians saying one thing today only to say the
opposite tomorrow expecting people to keep pace with
their changing colours. With their credibility in
tatters it matters little to the discerning public what
politicians decide to shout about hence them switching
off the political ‘noise.’
the rot set in fairly recently is generally agreed upon.
One reason identified as the main contributor to the
plunge in standards is the plethora of elections that
the people have been forced to put up with by power
hungry politicians who resort to any tactic, the latest
in vogue being staggered elections, in order to hang on
some sort of election taking place almost on a monthly
basis and politicians screaming at each other day in and
day out from political platforms there is only so much
that people can take of ‘we are this and they are that.’
Which is why there is little interest in the gutter
politics being practised today except of course for the
Home and home battle
However what has revived interest in this otherwise dead
political discourse is the ongoing home and home battle
two main contenders for provincial office from the
ruling UPFA at least in Galle are to say the least,
poles apart. One a 22-year-old actress, a product of a
Colombo international school who has been parachuted to
and the other, a self professed thug from the local
neighbourhood seeking re-election to the council.
the young actress from Colombo could offer the residents
of Galle and what the former southern provincial
councillor has done for his constituents in his last
term the voters of the district will decide on October
10, but what defies explanation is the level to which
local politics has descended to in the last few weeks
judging by the antics of these two who have caught the
attention of not only the Chief Executive but the entire
country. What is cause for concern is that both count on
the political clout flowing from ‘up above’ to carry on
as they do.
Rotten never gets better
one must keep in mind is that today’s provincial
councillor is tomorrow’s parliamentarian. What is rotten
never gets better, only more rotten. In this context if
one were to examine the provincial cupboard, the
material for the future comprises an intriguing
collection — from former Tiger child soldiers to those
with murder charges and those accused of rape make up
the top-end. This is the fare that would be on the table
as far as the voters go in the not too distant future.
such prospects one shudders to think the double flips
the likes of the Senanayakes, Sir Johns, Bandaranaikes,
and Goonetillekes must be doing in the ‘other’ world.
are the days when politicians would fight the good fight
on the election trail, shake hands at the end of the
day, and have a good laugh over a drink. It was a time
when students would be encouraged to listen to what the
politicians had to say because there was substance in
what they said and much to learn from and draw
inspiration from. These educated men and women of
character would put much effort into preparing speeches
and unlike today did not take the people for fools
however illiterate the average man and woman may have
been in those days.
could recall with nostalgia S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, the
Senanayakes, Sir John Kotelawala, Colvin R. de Silva,
N.M. Perera and even J.R. Jayewardene in their element,
crossing swords in parliament and elsewhere with their
oratory. What classy acts these were and in more recent
times the likes of Bandaranaike junior, the late Anura,
Lakshman Kadirgamar, etc. come to mind. Whatever the
turf, their battles were limited to words and never was
there even a hint of violence in what they did or said.
Contrast that crop of politicians with today’s heroes
like the Mervyn Silvas and Nishantha Muthuhettiges and
we know what we are in for.
Load of excreta
last few days Muthuhettige has been in and out of remand
prison for shooting his mouth during the Southern
Provincial Council election campaign. He also boasted he
could shoot the real thing with both hands.
the sharp shooter landed in prison supposedly because he
threatened the young actress, Anarkali, for deciding to
challenge him in his home base. Soon he was bailed out,
but before he could say ‘free,’ the man was locked up
again, this time for having professed his ‘love’ for the
young actress. For the Sri Lanka Police it seems there
is little distinction between love and hate these days.
Anarkali murmuring sweet nothings about the angry man
threatening her wasn’t all that helpful either and only
added to the load of excreta that hit the oscillator in
that usually laid back southern city.
a no holds barred, all out campaign among the UPFA
candidates to get ahead of the other according to a
seasoned campaigner and parliamentarian from the south.
According to him both the actress and the thug will make
it to the top ten “with ease.” This begs the question,
how will they get there? The answer surely lies with
their bosses, no not the party hierarchy, but the
ordinary man and woman in the Southern Province, the
voters, who wield the executive power to either sack or
engage their ‘servants.’
far the political rot should prevail is essentially in
the hands of the people. It is time they blinked hard
and realised the carnage they have caused themselves by
the careless use of their ballot. They must insist,
whatever the party, that their intelligence must not be
insulted by the choice of candidate put before them.
the country’s biggest liabilities are its incompetent
politicians big-mouthed as they may be – it is they who
create the problems that the country is forced to face,
be it locally or internationally or economically – and
it is time that these liabilities are turned in to
assets. The shareholders of Sri Lanka, its people, must
decide who their directors are going to be. After all
what are ‘Golden’ lessons for?