The outcome of last Saturday’s local government elections has naturally prompted the ruling United National Party (UNP) and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) to look back and ponder about what went wrong. Already President Maithripala Sirisena and UNP’s General Secretary Kabir Hashim have publicly accepted that something had gone badly wrong. The President said he would take full responsibility for the humiliating defeat suffered by the SLFP and the UPFA while the UNP General Secretary said his party accepted the people’s verdict.
However, the election results also sends a message to the winning party, the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP). That is to see what had happened to the two ruling parties and learn a lesson, in case it had forgotten the defeat three years ago.
An official deciding to take the responsibility for defeat or deciding to accept the people’s verdict might signify only the person’s or his party’s magnanimity or humility, but certainly does not indicate that the person of his party is prepared to rectify the situation that led to the defeat. The defeated parties have to genuinely and sincerely turn the searchlight inwards to find out what went wrong and what needed to be corrected.
The Opposition parties may say that last Saturday’s defeat, one of the worst election defeats any party have ever suffered in the Sri Lankan history, clearly indicated a breach of the people’s trust in the ruling parties because of their inability or unwillingness to fulfil the election promises had led to the last Saturday’s defeat of the two ruling parties. They might even attribute the defeat of the UNP and the SLFP to the recently exposed Central Bank bond scam where the UNP was accused of covering up the fraud and defending the culprits or to the recent price hike of certain essential items.
On the other hand the two ruling parties might argue that it was the adverse media behaviour which have not properly highlighted the freedom in various spheres heralded after this assumed office in 2015 and the concessions such as the price reduction on LP gas and medicine that led to their downfall.
Yes, these factors might have contributed to the defeat of the ruling parties, to some extent. But what is the meaning of taking responsibility for the defeat or accepting the verdict of the people? It must not merely be a ritualistic declaration to cover up their humiliation. It should be trailed by a genuine effort to correct their behaviour.
This applies to the joint opposition as well. The JO which contested the elections as the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna was accusing the government during the past two years for delaying the LG elections. And now that they had won majority of local councils it is their responsibility to run those councils in an effective manner fulfilling the needs of the people. The JO or the SLPP or whatever the name they might be called by, it was the same Mahinda Rajapaksa loyalists who had been running the majority of local councils before their term ended some two years ago.
It was the highhanded and corrupt actions of the chairmen of these councils which had been one of the major causes for the defeat of Mahinda Rajapaksa at the 2015 presidential election. Though we do not want to disturb the celebrations of LG poll victory by the SLPP we would like to urge them to recall the infamous incidents involving the Chairmen of the local bodies of Akuressa and Tangalle, as two examples. Hence, it is appropriate for them as well to learn a lesson from history and act accordingly. If the SLPP leaders fail to rein in these local councillors in the coming months or years, they would definitely regret it at the next presidential election and the parliamentary elections in 2020. History is not only meant to boast about or wail over, but also to learn lessons.