The Tamil media has recently quoted Deputy Elections Commissioner M.M. Mohamed as saying that the voters who do not use their franchise should be fined as in some other countries. Justifying his suggestion Mr. Mohamed has stated that the State spends through the Election Commission a huge amount of money at elections on the premise that all eligible voters would vote and that a part of it is wasted as many voters do not vote.
No doubt, it would be an utter waste if less people tend to vote at an election as the Elections Commission cannot make arrangements for a less number of voters to vote. They have to assign polling booths, returning officers and other election officials for all voting centres where the election is being held. Ballot boxes have to be provided to them, vehicles have to be arranged to transport them and the personnel while the police have to be deployed to protect the polling centres, ballot boxes and the personnel. And there are so many other requirements that would need a colossal amount of money.
The expenses may vary when the elections are held at the national level and local level or whether when they are being held on the same day or on a staggered basis. But the Election Commission cannot make arrangements with an inference that a less number of voters would vote at a certain election.
But why do people resort to ignore elections is the question that naturally arises. We have witnessed some elections in this country where 80 per cent of voters of certain districts had used their franchise. Sri Lanka is a country full of political enthusiasts, despite the fact that they invariably or repeatedly elect rogues, robbers, rapists, etc. in many areas. If there is a plummeting trend of voting at elections that had prompted Mr. Mohamed to suggest imposing a fine on the voters, it has to be looked into in the light of the recent experience of the people.
If the voters are frustrated about politics that shows they have not achieved what they expected from politics or in other words, they had been taken for a ride by the very politicians they had elected to power at the national and local level. It is a well-known fact that the politics in many countries, including Sri Lanka is a money making business for a section of the society, especially those who are well to do in their localities. People, except for a few leftists enter politics with slogans of public interests but also with personal goals.
There are billionaire politicians who had first came to the Parliament on motorbikes. Drivers of other politicians have become elephant owners after themselves becoming politicians. Refugees who entered politics spend millions at subsequent elections. Sons of politicians who have never done a job suddenly invest billions in business ventures. Revolutionaries who lived on the donations of the party cadre suddenly turn tables and build palaces. Politicians who vowed to eradicate corruption turn to be defenders of multi-billion high profile corruption. Therefore the frustration of any right-thinking voter is comprehensible.
We had Mervyn Silvas who tied public officers to trees with impunity. Even Prince Charles had to intervene to get a politician who had publicly killed a British national and his Russian fiancée gang raped, arrested. We still have politicians who challenge the law of the land by claiming that the government and the police are on their side. The list of events that had frustrated the masses would go into volumes.
People occasionally have cast away the politicians who had robbed them, but replace them with another set of the same breed. They replace Greek bond scammers with Sri Lankan bond scammers. The frustration is justifiable. But people have to blame themselves for the situation as it was they who always elect the rogues as their representatives. Yes, it is they who have to be fined for their own frustration.