Unlike at previous national and provincial elections since 1948, the counting of votes cast at the August 5 general election will only begin today at 7.00 a.m. with the final results at party level being declared towards dusk. The results of the preferential votes cast in favour of various candidates will be known a day later. As in the past, with the declaration of the results, the voters would once again be consigned to the role of being bystanders having little or no part to play in governance while those elected to administer the country would be prancing around imagining the country and its resources are now theirs to do as they wish and the sovereignty of the people well and truly forgotten till another election is on the cards with the same old merry-go-round doing its rounds, bamboozling and wooing the voters with empty rhetoric and freshly packaged promises that expire on election day.
If one happens to read the slogans or catchphrases on advertisements published by some of the candidates in the electronic and print media, the readers would undoubtedly wonder where the so-called ‘servants of the people’ and the pseudo-patriots were hiding all these years to pop out at election time begging to be given another chance to avoid doing what they avoided doing during their previous tenure.
By tomorrow we will know whether those elected are the same old faces or whether the electors were bold enough and wise enough to vote for a change and a break from the past. Now that we have made our choices, what is left for us the people to do is not to cry over split milk but to suffer the consequences for better or for worse, at least for the next five years or longer if the 19th Amendment to the Constitution is revised, which given the political crosscurrents appears to be at most only a remote possibility.
There is no gainsaying the fact, 72 years since independence is time enough to grow into mature voters who would base their choices on a candidate’s past performances in and outside Parliament, his or her sacrificial and selfless service to the people and the country at large.
Another notable feature at yesterday’s crucial election was the absence of international observers from the European Union (EU) and Asian countries. One of the sticking points for their absence was the government’s quarantine policy. In addition to the difficulties involved in arranging flights with the airport still closed, the foreign observers had requested that they be quarantined at a Colombo hotel which was not one of those designated for such purposes.
We conclude this column by focusing on the plight of Sri Lankan expatriates who were recently tear-gassed by the Jordanian Police to quell tensions that erupted after the unsuccessful talks between Sri Lankan Embassy officials and Sri Lankan migrant workers whose only plea to the government is that they be brought home as soon as possible.
This unfortunate incident sparked protests opposite the Sri Lankan Bureau of Foreign Employment on Wednesday with calls by the Women for Rights Organisation and a plea to the Sri Lankan government to intervene.
Meanwhile, according to media reports Sri Lanka, which suspended the repatriation of citizens in mid-June amid a sudden surge in coronavirus infections, is expected to resume
This is another humanitarian issue that needs to be resolved without further delay. While the authorities fall over each other to praise our migrant workers -- mainly in Middle-Eastern countries -- whose foreign remittances help boost our foreign reserves, these very same officials are nowhere to be found when it comes to resolving the burning issues such as what the destitute migrant workers are currently facing.
Be that as it may, while government politicians project Sri Lanka as one of the countries to have successfully curbed the spread of the deadly coronavirus by limiting the number of deaths to 11 and with only some 500 active cases under treatment at hospitals; Sri Lanka is surprisingly one of the countries from which travellers were barred from entering Kuwait.
Kuwait’s Centre for Government Communication said in a tweet that citizens and residents of Kuwait would be able to travel to and from the country starting Saturday but people coming from Sri Lanka, India, the Philippines, Pakistan, Iran, Bangladesh and Nepal would not be allowed to enter Kuwait. How and why Sri Lanka has been lumped with these countries is difficult to understand.