It has been confirmed now that a presidential election is to be held early next year, either in January or March and the people are to be given an opportunity to elect a person to take over their destiny for the next six years or at least four years.
However, the basis on which the people are going to elect their next President is not clear because potential candidates are not prepared to present their credentials for the job. Rather they are poised to discredit their rivals largely on utterly frivolous, absurd, or malicious grounds.
The ruling United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) will certainly put forward the incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa as their candidate for the fray, but the contestants from other political parties are yet to be decided on. However, the UPFA seems to have already chosen UNP National Leader and Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe as their main adversary and has started to malign him. They have already taken their decade-old weapon-the “Ali-Koti haula”or the alleged UNP-LTTE nexus out of the trash bin using it to discredit the UNP leader.
The Government leaders have insulted the intelligence of the people, who are their own voters by blaming Wickremesinghe for the de-proscription of the LTTE in Europe this month by the General Court of the European Union. They hilariously link the UNP leader’s recent visit to Europe to the lifting of sanctions on the LTTE in Europe by the Court. The verdict was an outcome of a case filed in 2011 and not after Mr. Wickremesinghe’s recent visit.
This is not a new strategy but the same one that was used by UPFA leaders during the presidential election campaign in 2005 as well. They then accused Wickremesinghe of attempting to give into the separatist demands of the Tigers by way of the ceasefire agreement of 2002 and the peace talks between the Wickremesinghe Government and the LTTE in the same year. Ironically Mahinda Rajapaksa’s victory at the 2005 election was sealed, according to many observers, by the election boycott enforced on the Tamil people in the North and the East by the LTTE.
Another irony is that almost all three peace negotiators of the Wickremesinghe Government which initiated the peace talks with the LTTE and one of the LTTE negotiators, Karuna Amman are with the UPFA Government now. It is impossible even to infer whether the three negotiators of the Wickremesinghe Government -- G.L. Peiris, Milinda Moragoda and Rauff Hakeem could now truthfully attest that they were used by the then UNP Government in an alleged attempt to betray the country. But instead the UPFA Government embraced them into its fold without any repentance or recriminations.
This electoral strategy of the UPFA is nothing other than to ride on the communal feelings of the people to win the election at any cost. Unfortunately the upshot of this strategy in the long-run would be instilling of mutual fear and suspicion in the minds of the Sinhalese and the Tamil people, which would definitely run counter to the much needed reconciliation and harmony.
Campaigns by political parties prior to any election should be to hold a public discourse on the policies of the parties in the fray so that voters would be able to choose one of the parties as their representatives. What the country needs from the political parties during an election is not a dog fight but an exposition of their strategies on creating employment, increasing the income of individual families, the economic assurance for a secure future and good governance that would contain corruption while ensuring the rule of law which enhances amity among communities.
The proposals that have been presented by the Jathika Hela Urumaya and the Pivithuru Hetak National Council could be good documents on which a healthy discourse could be developed in this regard.