Sri Lanka’s day of reckoning or the day of destiny as it were, is only a touching distance away. The fever-pitch and keenly-contested, presidential election campaign which began in earnest soon after the close of nominations on October 7 will culminate on Election Day, November 16.
A 48-hour ‘cooling down’ period is being observed from midnight yesterday to midnight tomorrow after which out of Sri Lanka’s population of 21 million, nearly 16 million voters, including several thousands of first-timers, will be eligible to cast their votes to the candidate of their choice.
We hope that every single eligible voter will be civic conscious enough to use his or her franchise so as to determine Sri Lanka’s path into the unknown future navigated by the candidate being elected as the seventh Executive President of this Island Nation on receiving 50% plus one of the valid votes polled.
The nearly 2-foot-long ballot paper for the 2019 presidential election will contain the names and symbols of 35 candidates, the largest number ever to contest an election of this nature, when compared with previous such elections since the introduction of the executive presidential system in the late 1970s.
Incidentally, there were only 19 contestants, who vied for the presidency for the election on January 8, 2015, at which the then common opposition candidate Maithripala Sirisena – mainly backed by the Ranil Wickremesinghe-led United National Party (UNP), the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), the Janatha Vimukthi Peramua (JVP) the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC), the All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC) and several Civil Society groups – was elected President securing 6.2 million votes and in the process defeating his main rival, the then incumbent president Mahinda Rajapaksa. What happened or did not happen during the Sirisena presidency is now history, which we should not forget to remember if only for the purpose of learning how, when and where it all went wrong and to prevent such a scenario from repeating itself.
Be that as it may, voters who make their way to the polling booth on Saturday are bound to find the voting per se a little more complicated than on previous occasions given the fact that he or she needs to peruse the unusually-long ballot paper to spot the candidate and the symbol of their choice before casting the vote. Let us be well-informed and thinking voters when it comes to casting our valuable vote and make every vote count to strengthen the judiciary, the freedom to live without fear, the freedom of expression, the rule of law, human rights, transparency and accountability, which are cornerstones and hallmarks of a vibrant democracy while abhorring and rejecting nepotism, fraud and corruption.
Meanwhile, a notable factor at this election when compared with previous elections is the low level of election law violations and of election-related violence with no killings or vandalism being reported. Another positive factor that needs be mentioned is the near total absence of decorations, cut-outs or posters or the use of polythene polluting the environment.
At a time such as this when our dear Motherland is at the crossroads, we thought it best to close this editorial by quoting these verses from Rev. W.S. Senior’s ‘The Call of Lanka’:
“But most shall we sing of Lanka in the brave new days that come; When the races all have blended and the voice of strife is dumb; When we leap to a single bugle, march to single drum;
March to a mighty purpose, one Man from shore to shore; The stranger becomes a brother, the task of the tutor o’er; When the ruined city rises and the Palace gleams once more;
Hark! Bard of the fateful Future, Hark! Bard of the bright To-Be, A Voice on the verdant mountains,a Voice on the golden sea; Rise, Child of Lanka, and answer! Thy Mother hath called to Thee.”
No matter who is elected as Sri Lanka’s new executive president, with these poignant verses ringing in our ears and stirring our hearts, let us together help build a great and united Sri Lanka where all Sri Lankans, irrespective of caste, creed and social status would be proud to call this our, ‘Island in the Sun, where our people have toiled since time begun’ and live without fear while being fully aware and fully convinced that ‘when the races all have blended and the voice of strife is dumb’ we can without doubt make tomorrow better than today.
There is no gainsaying that none can usurp our freedom and our right to make choices but determining the consequences is way beyond us. Our plea yet again is that you make your way to the polling booth as early as possible and vote wisely.