One clear message from the elections to the Western and Southern Provincial Councils last Saturday is that a large number of people are looking for a credible alternative or an effective opposition that would restore good governance, accountability and democratic values. This was evident in the response to the third forces – war hero Sarath Fonseka’s Democratic Party and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna now headed by the dynamic young Anura Kumara Dissanayake.
In Hambantota, the home-base and bastion of the Rajapaksa family, the results were significant. During the past nine years, the Hambantota district has got a new international port, a new international airport, a massive international stadium, an international entertainment centre, carpeted highways, flyovers and all sorts of other modern facilities. Only the Dalada Maligawa and the Ruwanweli Seya are not there. Yet the ruling People’s Freedom Alliance did not increase its vote base by much.
Political leaders and other politicians, even religious leaders and their congregations need to focus much more attention now on issues such as poverty alleviation, not just by doling out inducements as most politicians did during recent elections.
The political, religious and other leaders here could take some inspiring lessons from the famous book by the widely respected French author Dominic Lapierre. The book titled “City of Joy” is surprisingly about Kolkata, earlier known as Calcutta, where millions of people languish in slums or leper colonies in varying degrees of desolation, destitution and degradation. The French author speaks of the brave personalities, including himself, who left their comfort zones and came to Kolkata in a bid to give those people freedom from slavery. They clung to the hope that beyond the clouds there were a thousand suns and worked on the conviction that all that is not given is lost.
Then there is the horror of Syria where up to 150,000 people have been massacred during the past three years of the civil war with more than three million people, including two million children, surviving in refugee camps with little or no food, clean drinking water or toilet facilities. For the children especially, it is a ghostly or ghastly nightmare of growing up with the loss of their precious childhood. While politicians in Syria and the international community shrug, wait and watch a generation being lost, it was heartening to see international film star Angelina Jolie going there to unite with those children in their fears and despair. Her vision is to make the world aware that major geopolitical strategies and the euphoria of huge religious ceremonies are of little value unless and until they are ready to get involved in stopping the unholy massacre of the innocents.
The suffering Sri Lankan people – though their tragedy may not be as grim as that of Syria or Kolkata need to be aware that beyond the clouds of corruption there is a sun of righteousness and justice with caring and compassionate leaders who will sincerely serve to bring about a more equitable distribution of wealth and resources. Many are the politicians who think they can see, but they are blind. They are blind to their own selfishness, self-centredness and the desire for personal gain or glory, power, prestige or popularity. These are the hypocrites and self-righteous humbugs who are blind to the plight of the down-trodden people. They wallow in extravagance and luxury-living while millions of people struggle for their daily rice. That is why some political leaders who scream about patriotism and preach socialism live in mansions where not only the bedrooms but even the toilets are air conditioned.
Saturday’s elections are a writing on the ballot paper that the people are now aware that democracy prevails when the Government fears the people.