By Amila Muthukutti –
It is needless to note that the entire nation is getting ready for a presidential election, even though an election is not yet officially declared. People have started talking about who should be the next president of the country. It is with October constitutional coup and most importantly April attack that people feel the necessity of a leader without political biases, but a clear vision. Accordingly, many high profile people in the country have fielded themselves as candidates for presidency, while rumors are going around concerning potential candidates in main political parties. Conflicts over candidacy can also be observed in the same party. For now, there are about ten or more names in the circulation. In a nutshell, this is a cross section of politics in Sri Lanka.
The fact that the country has been economically as well as politically going from bad to worse for past few years, can be accepted without any debate. In 2018, government securities market lost Rs. 160 billion, while net foreign outflow from the Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE) was Rs. 22.8 billion. Net foreign outflow from the CSE so far this year is Rs. 7.24 billion. Rupee depreciated by 19% in 2018. However, it appreciated by nearly 3.25% so far this year. Moreover, according to a recently issued police report, suicides due to economic reasons have gone up in the country. It is 238 in 2018, 195 in 2017 and 156 in 2016. Statistics clearly indicate that how the nation has economically reversed.
By all accounts, Easter Sunday attack entirely changed the economic and political direction of the country. There are still allegations that people in power were in the dark about the attack that claimed almost 250 lives. Few days ago, another casualty died. No one in power has taken the responsibility over their duties, although the case is still going on. This situation resulted in public disappointment over politicians in an unprecedented manner, especially paving the way for the tendency of a candidate from non-political background. The fact that traditional politicians can no longer deliver their promises, took firm roots in the hearts of people.
Politicians are very good marketers in every sense of the word, who nicely and strategically select marketable things for the election from time to time. Last time, it was about corruption, abductions and killings so and so forth. This time, it seems to be the division among ethnicities, especially Sinhala and Muslim, rise of terrorism, sale of public properties and many more. Over patriotism too is a very good marketing tool, but very dangerous in the current context. As media are owned by few wealthy people closely attached to different political parties, this marketing campaign can easily be done. This is actually not in public interests, but in personal interests.
As this marketing strategy works out beyond expectations, a system has been created, in which two main parties come into power from time to time, thanks to short memory of the citizens. If cheap things can be marketed in any market, it is always identified as a cheap market. Hence, cheap politicians are also a reflection of the people in the country. Nevertheless, what can now be observed is that people have started questioning validity of those strategies and marketers, preparing the ground where old bottles can no longer be filled with new wine.
Economic prosperity can resolve a lot of problems. In other words, poverty can create a lot of problems. Consequently, all that politicians are expected to do is to properly manage the economy. It is true that country’s development has been held back by welfare programs which were put into action for raising the vote base. Every poverty alleviation program implemented thus far has prioritized welfare over empowerment. That is why; we are, as a country, still poor. Accordingly, major concern of the citizen must be to elect a leader who has clear and practical vision on the economy. Even if people can be happy over welfarism in the short-run, they will have to pay a bigger price in the long-run. By extension, constructing housing schemes, increasing Samurdhi beneficiaries and giving more and more subsidies cannot be considered the way a leader should address the poverty. Poverty alleviation through empowerment ought to be the top priority for the next president.
Even though any political party has not yet declared their candidates for the presidential election, the image of the next leader is being drawn in minds of the public. A segment of the population, especially a majority of the youth need a 100% change of the overall political system by replacing all the 225 politicians with new ones. Furthermore, they expect a person from non-political background to be elected as the president of the country at the next election.
Dr. Ajith Colonne, by analyzing the current political trends, frankly and fearlessly stated that a person without any affiliation to a political party will be the next president of the country, as the contest will be between political camp and non-political camp. His prediction makes sense, as a majority of the public who are now disillusioned and disappointed at this disgusting political system, seem to have arrived at a conclusion that all are same. Moreover, as both political parties have proved that they cannot deliver public expectations, people may tend to find a new leader. On the other hand, it is too early to make any judgment over this prediction in a country where political ideologies come from generation to generation.
Unlike other elections held in the past, this will provide people with more options, because political as well as non-political candidates will be presented for the contest. It is the right time for voters to take the right decision for sending traditional political parties home that have made this nation economically and socially stagnant since the independence. United States of America (USA) did it. France did it. Pakistan did it. Most recently, Ukraine did it. Why not Sri Lanka?