By Vishwamithra1984 –
“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of those depths.” ~Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
In a very real sense, the voter of Sri Lanka is fortunate. He is fortunate because he did not have to endure two more years of disgraceful governance by the Rajapaksas; he is fortunate because he finds a common front along which the anti-Rajapaksa forces are lined up and he is fortunate because he has a credible and trustworthy candidate to vote for. The winds of anguish and pain that swept across the landscape of Sri Lanka over the last five weeks will eventually settle into a mild breeze, comforting many a heart and mind, hopefully.
The weeping thousands and grieving millions would breathe out a collective sigh of relief. Among those millions are Appuhamy of the Deep South, and Mudiyanse in the pleasant Hill Country, Murugesu in the Estate sector and Sivapalan in Nallur and Mohamed and Hanifa in the serene East and bustling Colombo. They don’t represent the upper middle-class of the power centers; nor do they originate from the well-to-do families in the rural petty bourgeoisie, they are not even half-baked professionals. They all emerge each morning from their ramshackle homes; at the wee hours of the day with sun rays falling on their haggard profiles, they begin another routine day; Appuhamy goes to the paddy field where he is working on ‘ande’ basis on his landlord’s field, Mudiyanse gets ready with his freshly sharpened knife to pluck the coconuts in the adjoining property; Murugesu goes to the morning roster of the estate and Sivapalan fetches water from the ‘aandi’ well to nourish the arid land on which he grows his onions and chilies.
Mohamed approaches the shore from the previous night’s journey into the high seas for a fresh catch of fish while Hanifa is getting ready with his whatnots arranged neatly on a cart to go from house to house selling cheap ornaments. They all work hard to keep their families fed, children schooled and neighbors away from scandalous gossip. Their earnings are an honest wage for sweat and true labor.
But during the last few weeks all of them had been inundated with political literature; they had received many a campaigner and canvasser at their doorsteps. Politicians who never ever visited these lads are trying to beat each other to call on them; they are stopping by the roadside and pleading with our ordinary folks and asking for their votes. It’s a terrible scene reminding one of the cynical shade of politics.
Appuhamy is being disturbed while he is ploughing his field and Mudiyanse is being offered king coconut by the owner of the property himself who is tirelessly campaigning for the incumbent. Both Appuhamy and Mudiyanse are ardent Buddhists; they go to the village temple each Poya Day and teach their children the value of good behavior and merits of following contented lifestyles. Yet their children have been caught in the web of the culture that was a by-product of the Rajapaksa regime. Occasional indulgences in narcotics and alcohol have taken toll of the studies of the sons of Appuhamy and Mudiyanse. The children of the seventies’ generation have become unpleasant victims of a dangerously corrupt set of politicians who think that a ‘war-victory’ could justify the commission of any sin and crime. That is the saddest chapter and meanest element of this sad saga.
But all these reasonable men know that the hour of decision is fast approaching. Their families are despaired. Declining incomes coupled with escalating living costs have formed the proverbial vicious cycle of poverty, creating a dependency syndrome among this fraternity spread around the four corners in Sri Lanka, sparing no community, be it religious, ethnic or caste. Traditionally, Sri Lankans as a nation have been gripped by ‘free this and free that’ mentality; successive governments have been feeding a nation at the cost of long-term investments in the commanding spheres of the economy. But no government has resorted to such blatant giveaways as the current regime led by the Rajapaksas. To make a sad story of dependence even sadder, the Rajapaksas have created mass-scale alms-centers (Dan Sala) all over the country; each Presidential Mansion has become an alms-center and varied segments of the population are treated to lavish lunches and dinners, making the giver look like a benevolent ruler although it is the exact opposite which is true. A shameless ruler has reduced an impoverished people into one waiting for free alms.
The culturally rich and socially proud nation is dwarfed into a feeble people bereft of all decent values and this propensity on the part of our people has been continuing; maybe because it was the main Parliamentary Opposition that was responsible for the laid-back approach adopted by its leaders at the time. Maithripala Sirisena has given our friends, Appuhamy, Mudiyanse, Murugesu, Sivapalan, Mohamed and Hanifa new hope; he has injected new life and fresh energy into their otherwise settled-to-fate life style.
They could not have found a commoner candidate than Maithripala Sirisena. A stroke of genius on the part of some politically savvy mind seems to be working. The mighty intelligence apparatus of the Rajapaksas was taken by surprise. The machinery that showered merciless suppression upon the innocent Rathupaswela denizens couldn’t anticipate the defection of the de facto second-in-command (Maithripala Sirisena) from their own ranks. So much for the competence of the so-called Defense Establishment!
The commoner can relate to the commonest of all common candidates, Maithripala Sirisena. He is no Colombo-educated pundit; he is not a pretender like the incumbent. His patriotism is genuine and his honesty is unquestioned. Sinhalese Buddhists are for him, Tamils and Muslims are for him; the rich and the poor are for him and the urban dwellers and rural folks are for him. Fighting against the most corrupt and deceitful ruling clan in the history of Sri Lanka, Maithripala Sirisena took an enormous risk when he decided to decamp the Rajapaksas. The stakes were too high not to risk all. Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru once said that the policy of being too cautious is the greatest risk of all.
Mark Elliot Zuckerberg, one of five co-founders of the social networking website Facebook said: “In a world that is changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.” From the sublime wisdom of Kashmir, North India to the down-to-earth craftiness of the West, those who showed willingness to take risks had a very reasonable chance of being triumphant at the end of it all.
A common man is taking all possible risks. Come to think of it, from the various reports reaching us, it is could be a comfortable passage for Maithripala Sirisena.
Appuhamy would continue to plough his field; Mudiyanse keeps plucking coconuts; Murugesu would attend to his estate work and Sivapalan will fetch water to his home-garden plot; Mohamed is looking afar to the sea and getting ready for his usual nightly journey to the deep seas with the setting sun and Hanifa is busy with his vending cart. They are all commoners and they have all made up their minds and persuaded their respective families to do so as well.
They are all hoping for a change and “compassionate governance”.