By Malinda Seneviratne –
Elections in Sri Lanka are often about default options. This is why we hear people talk about ‘the known devil’ and ‘lesser evils’. Spoilt votes and votes that don’t get cast also indicate a certain dissatisfaction with the options available.
It’s the same this time too. It would be a brave person indeed who can stand up and say such and such a party or so and so has an unblemished record in serving the people. The truth is, none of the major parties have squeaky clean histories. Neither do the candidates they’ve put forward. All major parties in the fray, the United National Party (UNP), United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) are guilt of excesses they would like the voter to forget on August 17, 2015.
Which of these parties are not home to crooks and murderers, double-crossers, back-room deal-makers and common thugs? The two major parties have at various times played footsie with the LTTE. They’ve at various times violated the fundamental rights of citizens. They have fired upon protestors. We know of Rathupaswala. We also know of the 88-89. On the day the Indo-Lanka Accord was signed itself 21 people were killed at a demonstration near the Pettah bo tree. We know about the July 83 riots and the role of the Jathika Sevaka Sangamaya. Both parties have gagged the media, one way or the other, the UNP with censorship, threat, abduction and murder and the UPFA with ‘ownership’ added to that heady mix.
Although the UNP tried to shift blame on that party for the bheeshanaya by calling it ‘JVP time’, the UNP was THE First Respondent in that particular slew of crimes against humanity. The JVP is not innocent either. Students, lecturers, government servants, political opponents, bhikkus and trade union leaders fell in their hundreds to the JVP’s galkatas brand of ‘democracy’ back then. Banks were robbed, public property destroyed. They were no saints then and if you are inclined to vote for the JVP, check what the rathu sahodarayas do to those who oppose them in universities these days. You will think again.
We need not elaborate. It’s all about devils, known and unknown. It’s all about degrees of evil. People know all this and yet vote overwhelmingly for these parties. They play relative merits. They talk about the requirements of the political moment. No, it’s not that they are stupid. They are rational. They have their reasons. On the other hand if the evil and the devils stump you, if you are confused or are finding it really hard to shed embarrassment and vote for these known confidence tricksters, what do you do? I submit that if you don’t want to stay at home or don’t want to spoil your vote, you could vote for your future.
What is your future? Think about it this way. There’s one thing that you can bet on. Death. And the longer you live, there’s another thing you can count on. Wear and tear. We all grow old. We become hard of hearing. Our eyesight gets weak. The organs start playing up. We lost the spring in our step. We start forgetting things.
The truth is we don’t have to be old for us to become less than who we are. We all fall sick. That’s a given. Each time we fall ill we are less able than when we are healthy. Just think of the last time you had a bad cold, were down with fever or simply suffered a headache. You just can’t function as you would have had you not been unwell, right? At any given moment in time a considerable portion of the population, therefore, are less-abled than the rest. That’s 20% of the population, folks.
To put some perspective on the matter, consider that a group claiming to represent a minority made of less than 10% o the population wanted to carve out a separate state that would have cut Sri Lanka’s land mass in half and led to the loss of two-thirds of the coastline. Other extreme groups make similar demands. All major parties not only listen to these voices but accommodate representatives in national lists and if it comes to that cabinets.
They have no ear for those with limitations in ability, temporary or permanent. That’s for the Ministry of Social Services, they say. That’s for NGOs. But they don’t understand that sooner or later they too will slip, fall and be subject to the natural laws of decay. They will have to deal with diabetes, arthritis, sore joints, vertigo and such. Well, not just them. YOU too will have to deal with it. That’s your future.
Be assured ladies and gentlemen, the temporarily weak you will not be noticed by the parties mentioned above. The weak you who will not recover strength will not be heard either. Today, there’s no legislation that takes into account this community to which we’ve all belonged off and on and which will be our final ‘resting place’ one day. The entire public service is blissfully ignorant of the needs of those with limited abilities, temporary or permanent. Those responsible act as though they’ve never been sick or that they’ll never suffer debilitating illnesses. They are men and women who do not see the future. They are like the politicians they’ve voted for.
You can be different. So, if you are confused, if you want to feel good about exercising your franchise and if you want true value to accrue to your vote, dump all the ‘options’ that glare at your from TV screens, newspaper ads, hoardings and posters. If you are in the Colombo and Gampaha Districts you can vote for your future. Independent Group No 12. That’s the ‘Desktop Computer’ symbol. Check them out. No devils there. Nothing evil. All wholesome.