The Sunday Leader

Nonsensical Election Debating

The physical effects of the sun being directly overhead in Sri Lanka last week, cannot not be the reason for the heated, sterile and illogical arguments that are ensuing over the Uva Provincial Council election. Our politicians, by tradition, admit that all planets in the solar system and even beyond tend to affect their behavior even though the most influential, the lunar movements is not admitted.

TV debates going late into the nights reveal this and even solemn contributions made by some regular serious stars reveal not their lunacy but their Machiavellian ploys of singing for their supper. Ranil Wickremesinghe, Chandrika Kumaratunga and to a lesser extent General Fonseka are safe targets but nary a word against the powers that be.

Pre- election debates or analyses in democracies should generally result in a fair exchange of punches not making an absent opposition a punching bag.


Opening Gambit

The usual opening gambit for a debate is what did your party do in the last five years? And the prompt reply is: What did you do in your time? The second stage is: We were supposed to be thrown out because of our faults but what did you do? You are doing the same thing.

This hackneyed debate continues and we have heard it for the umpteenth time. Obviously the political debaters take the audience the voters for dumb jackasses. Are our voters polarised to the extent that all what they want to hear is their opponents being pilloried over and over again by the same old arguments? Is political debate in Lanka a masochistic exercise, one devoid of facts, logic and reason?  Are our political audiences mere cheer squads who cannot discern the blatant lie from the truth and want only one result, their side to win? We do not think so because Sri Lanka has changed governments through elections many times since Independence, unless of course Prabakaran successfully eliminated a generation that could have provided an effective opposition.

Yet we are tempted draw in parallels with the Nazis even though those propaganda chiefs some of them ‘Information Generals’ in our parties and government institutions are unlikely to have delved into the writings of Nazis.

We quote Hitler’s Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels: ‘If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it people will eventually come to believe it’. He had also held: ‘The receptivity of the masses is so very limited, their intelligence small but the forgetting power is enormous’.


Minimal Opposition

One big regrettable fact in recent Sri Lankan politics is that the Opposition propaganda clout is minimal.

The UNP, only now, in the current Uva campaign, appears to be getting on its feet while the Tamil parties are still maintaining a stoic silence. The only hard hitting criticism is made by the JVP despite its small representation in parliament and PCs. In the pre-’77 days the biting sarcasm and humour in politics were provided by the Communist and Samasamaja  parties even while being in the ruling coalition.

The usually staid and conservative UNP in their pre- election ’77 campaign came out with catchy slogans like: Sirima Seedevi, Seeni Nathiva Thae Devee (Sirima the beautiful, gives tea without sugar) or Seeni Nathiwa thae bonnam, Hal Natuwa buth kannam (We shall drink tea sans sugar and eat rice even if there is no rice grain).

Today, the Opposition has no reply to the propaganda barrage of the Rajapaksa government. Claims of tremendous economic growth and development go without being challenged save for some Hambantota projects. But the political tempo seems to be picking up particularly in social conversations.

We heard claims made by the Treasury and Central Bank dismissed by a cynic at a social gathering. GDP and GNP rising above seven per cent? Nonsense.

GDP stands for Going Down the Pallang and GNP for Gedera Nea Paang! Such witty and catty comments have gone up to make Sri Lanka’s democracy in the past.

Mere statements of the need for an effective Opposition is per se are insufficient. For a thriving democracy, an active, virile and effective Opposition is an absolute necessity.


1 Comment for “Nonsensical Election Debating”

  1. Trevor Jayetileke

    The opposition has been out of office for almost 20 years and has lost its clout to lead the country and the whole lot are yesterday’s Men and Women., which leaves Mahinda to stay as long as he likes.

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