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A face-off that promises a surprise ending - EDITORIAL

05 Apr 2024 - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}      



Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa and his camp received a positive response from the National People’s Power (NPP) for a debate on the country’s economy. It’s a bit strange for the NPP to have agreed to a face-off with Premadasa because the JVP-led alliance prefers staging debates in an environment where experts speak on topics where analysis, statistics, reasoning and logic shape the direction of the ‘conversation’.

We all know that ‘conversation’ might not be the most appropriate word to use in the context of a debate. Debates where Sri Lankan lawmakers feature in are hostile and very seldom do parties at loggerheads accept shortcomings and agree on a compromise. But this time around things might be different, according to reports reaching us from reliable sources. 

These are days the three main candidates for the upcoming presidential election are engaging in conversations with members of the public. Some of these politicians have been presented with conundrums and on most such occasions the answers that were provided were classy. However, the same cannot be said on one such occasion when a Tamil youth in Canada asked NPP representatives how the alliance would resolve the ethnic conflict if its presidential candidate won the ‘race for presidency’. The NPP chose not to answer the question. The footage on the event shows the youth, who posed the question, being removed from the venue. How the NPP responded to the question demands a fair explanation because this is an era where most political parties affirm that they have the expertise to find solutions to any problem the society faces. Other than that the NPP scored well during its Canadian tour to muster votes for the upcoming polls. 

 The possible Sajith vs Anura Kumara Dissanayake (AKD) debate has generated much interest because people are eager to know about their election manifestos. Sajith has said that he will take on questions on social, political, economic and international issues. These are also strong areas of AKD when he addresses an audience. Sajith has maintained that socialism undermines people’s lives, livelihoods and both new and private businesses. He has said that countries professing socialism don’t implement it; which is a hint at China and a whack at the mainstay of the NPP which is the JVP. AKD has maintained that he is focused on establishing an economy that is driven by the country’s produce. 

The talk of the town in the political scene is this debate. At least two television stations have shown interest in creating the platform for the showdown between these two. Sajith has said that debates will help improve the quality of democracy. AKD not answering a vital question in Canada may suggest the ‘colour’ of his style of governing a country; given that he gets to sit on that all-powerful president’s chair. 

There have been calls for the economic committees of both the SJB and NPP to have a debate first. But then some of the members of the SJB economic committees were in past UNP-led regimes and that might not be a good idea, according to political analysts. 

If we turn the pages of time in our political diaries we can see that so many debates have taken place in the run-up to elections. If we go beyond that, this Buddhist- majority country has learned through religious literature that even Gautama Buddha encountered calls for debates by religious figures who opposed Buddhism. Once the ‘Enlightened One’ said to a disciple, “Don’t arrange that debate with the person who wants to be my adversary. Such a debate will make this individual, who is already confused, even more confused”. 

From the speeches he makes, it seems that Sajith reads a lot or is getting much advice on what points to stress during a debate. He is sure to rattle away with his notes made in his mind regardless of what the question is. And what if in the end, the Leader of the Opposition tells AKD, “Both of us have great ideas, so why not get together and develop this nation”.