After a month long campaigning, people of Sri Lanka will go to polls on Thursday to elect their ruler for the next six years, according to the present Constitution. This is their right, and not anything offered by any politician on a platter. After the hectic campaign assorted with promises - practical as well as impractical, unimaginable lies, veiled intimidations and fear psychosis voters have got two lull days- today and tomorrow- to ponder on and assess the situation before they make their final decision that would decisively affect their lives for the next few years or sometimes the destiny of the nation.
For the politicians, politics is a big-time money-making venture despite the hollow utterances they make, such as patriotism and motherland. Hence they would resort to any crime or deception in order to grab the political power that would give them a free hand to plunder during the next six years, the country’s wealth and that of the generations to come. It is up to the people to be wise enough to choose a comparatively cleaner party or the candidate or the lesser devil, since it is they who are going to face the consequence of their choice which would be irreversible for another term or forever.
The campaign that ended yesterday by the 19 candidates contesting Thursday’s Presidential election was definitely not an intellectual discourse which would have guided the voter for an informed and free choice. It had been tainted with lies, invectives, insults, threats and all other vices under the sun. Therefore voters have to assess, during these two lull days what had been told and done by the politicians during the past in a prudent manner before making their final decisions.
No politician has the right to influence the voter by way of deception, intimidation or for that matter by muscle power. But they will definitely resort to them, since both main groups might fear that they are going to lose the avenues of plunder. The responsibility to protect the voter from these deceptions and intimidations lies on the law enforcing authorities - the police and the Elections Secretariat.
They must be having a plethora of past experience in this regard. For instance, there had been instances in the past where voters of the north who have the bitter experience of war were prevented from voting by creating tense situations, since they had apparently opted to vote for a certain party or candidate. Sri Lanka had been a unique country where ballot boxes had been found with several ballot papers folded together in them. Also six ballot boxes that had gone missing since the District Development Council (DDC) election in 1981 have not been found to date.
Polling booth agents and counting agents of Opposition parties of the day had been chased away and ballot boxes had been stuffed by the goons of the ruling parties, right under the nose of the police at so many elections. It has been a practice in Sri Lanka where politicians unofficially visit the voters and offer various induces, bribes and spread various rumours, such as about purported resignation of certain candidates during the two days that are specified to be silent. All these are meant to distort the real manifestation of people’s will.
It is the responsibility of all political parties, law enforcement authorities and the election observers, local as well as international, to prevent recurrence of such malpractices and create a conducive atmosphere for a free and fair election. If the people take the wrong decision due to the deceptive propaganda by the politicians or if their decision is distorted by way of rigging, intimidation, state power or muscle power of political parties, the whole country will have to suffer and people will have to wait for another six years to rectify the wrong they did.
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