19 October, 2019

Blog

Presidential Election: Don’t Just Sit There – Do Something!

By Ruvan Weerasinghe

Dr. Ruvan Weerasinghe

As has been written by many in the past, Sri Lankans get all excited during the election period, and once they elect their representatives, look on helplessly until they get the next chance to vote. If there is ONE factor that has allowed the elected to do their own bidding without care for those who voted them in, it is this: that they are assured of a 5 year stay in parliament and then to a pension for life, so that they can forget about you!

Are we serious?

We need to change that this time. Many have waxed eloquent about ‘chasing away the whole lot’ from parliament using phrases such as ‘unuth ekai, munuth ekai’ in disgust at the way 3 or 4 families from the two main parties have ruled this country in its entire post-independence history, running the country down by cultivating a destructive partisan politics based on patronage. If we remain just armchair critics and never do anything about our lot, we’d be guilty of belonging to the same class as our politicians who rarely really mean what they say. However, there’s one thing these political parties have been successful at doing: getting the citizens all excited nearing an election period and forcing a false dilemma on them – as if they necessarily HAVE to select one of them (the ‘greens’ or the ‘blues’) – as the others are irrelevant. And sadly, we have largely been dancing to their tune.

How do they manage to do that? They campaign. For which they need massive funds. And which then breeds a bunch of hangers on who feed like parasites on the politicians. No one else really has any election campaign, except the two main parties, and to a much lesser extent the smaller parties. The stakes at a Presidential election are unbelievably enormous (despite the much less powerful position it is after 19th Amendment) and has been estimated to be anything up to Rs. 1 billion for a realistic chance to win! What a colossal waste of money, which returns to haunt us voters when those who funded it come back to claim their return-on-investment.

Doing something about it

So, how can we change that? In short: campaign ourselves! Crowdsourced campaigning. I can almost hear your scepticism – it’s impossible, and we don’t want to get down to that level anyway. But that’s what it’d take if we really mean business. If we’re serious about what we ‘wax eloquent about’, that what this country needs is indeed a complete change in its political culture, we should be willing to walk our talk to make it happen. We have all heard how much more effective word-of-mouth is in marketing, compared to high-spending ad campaigns. There’s nothing more effective than personal endorsement when it comes to authenticity and believability. Today, we find ourselves in a context of fake news and disinformation that is so rampant that it is hard to tell apart fact from fiction, promise from the possible. As such, personal credibility becomes a powerful tool in our hands to influence those around us.

This is where each of us comes in. We can certainly make a dent in the massive propaganda campaigns of the two big parties, by deciding to get into the act of personal campaigning for the election. We need to spend a little time to develop a strategy and a message. Our strategy must be a mix of online and social media use AND face to face persuasion. Our message must be clear and well-articulated.

How do we set about it?

For instance, my strategy would be to make sure I use the social media platforms I operate in to make a post or respond significantly to at least 3 times each day for the next 39 days. In addition, I will seek to persuade at least 3 people I interact with each day over the same period. In particular barbers, tuk tuk drivers, fellow commuters, hospital queues, office canteens, work interactions, neighbours and gym break chats are all active ground for even the most introverted of us to begin conversations around our message if we’re focused over this short period.

My message, which may be different from yours, would be to stay true to what many have been ‘threatening to do’ and vote for someone who can usher in an ‘alternate political culture’: NPM and NPPM are two such groups that have already clearly articulated their core values and policies that are consistent with such change. I am also a pragmatist however. Judging by how slow our population has been at moving towards such change, and the fact that they were badly let down by such a promise in 2015, the chances are that the two ‘big’ parties will still take the first two positions, though hopefully NOT 50% of the vote. For that reason, I would also educate those in my sphere of influence, on the importance and intricacies of the second preference by which the ‘greater evil’ among the two could be prevented from ruling us. It is crucial to convince those we seek to influence, that giving the 2nd preference to any other candidate than the two ‘front runners’ is meaningless, as it won’t be counted. 

Devil in the detail

For effective communication we need to have multiple formats of our message so that we can use the appropriate form in the appropriate context: the long engagement version and an elevator pitch version for short interactions, for instance. The main purpose is to be deliberate in our message and not vague – which is why we would need some planning to develop a written down (and memorized?) version of what we’d say in each such situation.

My stand on the second preference may sound defeatist. It is not. If enough of our citizenry take this call seriously and get involved in personal campaigning, I do believe that we can make a serious dent in the campaigns of the two main parties. However, owing to the lack of time to get such a movement into full swing in the remaining time, it is also necessary to be realistic and have such a backup plan. In the end, there are at least two important goals of ensuring our alternate candidate gets a significant percentage of the first preference vote: (a) so that neither of the two front-runners get 50% (a crucial requirement for the second preference to be counted) and (b) to give ourselves a good indication of how and with whom to form alliances on time for the parliamentary election, so that we can get at least 25 statesmen and women into the next parliament. This way, we can change the culture of parliamentary debate and decision making, which in turn would lead to the beginning of the new political culture that we want to see in this country.

Finally, it is absolutely mandatory for all those groups that have come forward with the intention of changing our political culture to get their act together and decide to back a single candidate as the champion against the two parties that have repeatedly let us down. That is of course if they are serious about saving this country more than coming into power. Let this be a litmus test of your intentions – if you can’t compromise and collaborate in order to make a true change before the election, what chance do you have to work together after elections?

So what?

After reading this, we can either say ‘hey that’d be a great thing to do’ OR we can get down to business by drafting our message and planning our strategy THIS DAY, giving ourselves 5 weeks to do something significant for our country. If you do that, be sure to share your strategy and message with those in your social circles and ask them to do the same. Imagine the effect it would have if just a hundred of you reading this convince ten others to do it and do likewise – just four waves would take us to 1 million campaigners for changing Sri Lanka’s political culture!

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Latest comments

  • 8
    4

    Of the lot, AKD seems to be a credible one with clear vision and intent to make a positive change in lives of the citizenry! If youth of this country can be mobilised using social media with persuasive messages of positive change, then there is every chance that this approach would work, as they would in turn carry the message and spread the word far and wide amongst the voting populace! Message for change must be based on ‘catchy’ phrase that voters will easily remember, recall and identify with the candidate and what he ( AKD ) stands for! All campaign communication of the candidate should be reinforcing this message and the candidate should do the same at every electioneering platform he is on. If this can be properly organised and put in motion, a mass movement can be built within this short space of time, just as Emmanuel Macron did! All the best!!!

    • 1
      3

      vithura ,

      You may be right in wanting to make AKD as the EP (I have no say on that as this is a Sinhala Buddhists election). If so, then what the 2nd preference is doing here? Campaign for AKD and make him to win!

      You are not with author Vitura, as author claiming he is pragmatic so he would like Vaalaiththodam to win. This is a pretentious, trade off position. His position is AKD best, Vaalaiththodam is not bad, Old Brother Prince is bad. But as in his perception, only latter two can win, so the pragmatist wants to work with Vaalaiththodam. Not a bad idea!
      You need to understand the truth behind this. The advantage Old Brother Prince having over Vaalaiththodam is his standing on “Security and sovereignty”. Security means controlling minorities, especially Tamils. Ekiya Rajya with Savageindra’s Rapist Army is the solution for that. Sovereignty is about borrowing from China and getting out of the Western association. The best way to make Vaalaiththodam is bridging the gap of Old Brother’ superiority on those is proving to Sinhala Mahajan (or the Modayas)” that two are fake and not really existing”, with solid arguments. But that would water out the war victory sooner or later. As Sinhala Intellectual, the author doesn’t want to touch on that subject and he too wants to consolidate on the Rapist Army victory. On the other side, he didn’t like Vaalaiththodam Jr hardening his standing on those issues and match with Old Brother Prince, because as soon as Vaalaiththodam wins the election, Green Van would swamp to pick educationists, journalists, political opponents, Lawyers and Judges, , minorities…. So he is pretending as he is pragmatic and wants to steal the 2nd preference from AKD and give it to Vaalaiththodam Jr. By this approach, he is establishing that Vaalaiththodam is nice guy, unlike Old Brother Prince.

    • 1
      0

      Vithura,
      During the bomb-making days of JVP, Dr NM Perera warned youths who were joining the JVP duped by emotional speeches of Wijeweera. The term he used then was “DADI BIDI VIPLAVA KAARAYO”. I don’t know what apology they have for the two generations (71 & 88) of youths sacrificed for wrong JVP promises. Are you guys suggesting us to follow the same group again, this time with new tactics but with the same Marxist utopia?

  • 13
    0

    I was under the impression that if a candidate scores 50% or over, he will automatically have won the election for Prez. On the contrary, if neither major candidate manages the 50%, then the second preference will be counted, until such time that an aggregate of 50% is reached by either contender. In this scenario, it would be important that voters NEVER tick the main opponent as a second preference as it will be directly used to establish a winner from the two main contenders. I agree that SL needs new directions, a new political system that favours the people rather than the players, a new political class that respects citizens’ wishes and a whole new approach that completely defeats the utterly contemptuous attitude of established politicians.

    • 7
      1

      Dear Dr L.P.,
      .
      I think that you’ve got it wrong. Never mind; nothing like learning after making a mistake. Please give me time to work this out. It stays in the mind better when one is first puzzled!
      .
      These same points are getting discussed in relation to Prof. Kumar David’s article.
      .
      Incidentally, what a wonderful article and what a wonderful young guy the author seems to be!

    • 1
      0

      Dr Lasantha P.,
      .
      Here it is, an excerpt from a 48-minute video where this bit begins at 28 minutes.
      .
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mrz6RpzDaa4
      .
      This also may help, because nobody had got 50% after the FIRST round of voting in all five elections described here:
      .
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/London_mayoral_elections
      .
      I totalled the valid votes in 2000, and found that the winner had got below 45% of valid votes. I rummaged the web about six months ago, and found that there is no “perfect system”. It’s upto us to understand the system, and strategise our responses. In those London elections, there were no “upsets”. The winner after the First Count always prevailed. This is the only election in the world that is similar to ours – correction welcome, if I’m wrong.
      .
      I know that far too many of our voters follow family traditions, and they all turn up for voting. Is low turn out in “Developed Countries” more satisfactory? I can’t answer that one.
      .
      It is important to note, that once counting of Preferences starts, all Second and Third Preferences will be counted.
      .
      Also, the winner could well end up with considerably fewer than 50%. Deshapriya makes that clear.
      .
      I think that I must migrate down to the bottom to comment on the article and the author more holistically.

      • 1
        0

        The way I started that comment you may think that the video is 48 minutes! No, the link that I have given you lasts less than five minutes.
        .
        Mahinda Deshapriya is a great showman, but he had started life as a teacher, and he certainly knows how to get his point across.

  • 11
    1

    Sri Lanka is not any western country to vote with logic and wisdom.
    People have no heads to use their votes with wisdom.

    Personal interest over take national interest .

    • 1
      0

      All who are contesting the EP election are seeking personal glory which goes with the Presidency. Gota wants to set himself and his family free of all litigation .
      Sajith s campaign is horrible tagging his wife Jalani along they are mesmerized with the power that comes with presidency.
      Sajith must put more vigor to his campaign and keep his wife at home and go along with the masses , Jalani tagging on will lose a considerable number of votes for Sajith. He should tone down his arrogant speech and actions if he wants to win.
      So all in all the deciding votes will go to AKD

  • 1
    1

    There is no difference between this essay and Prof. KD’s essays. I know readers not ready to read this. Nevertheless, unlike Prof. Kumar testing Tuk Tuk drivers or barbers for their mathematical ability to offer them a PhD in Electrical engineering, this is at much lower level, testing the readers only for BSc mathematics to use them for election campaign. Yet if this is not interpreted to layman languages and mixed with Biryani Arrack gifts, it may not bring any change. Buy your listener a chewing gum or Beeda and ask him/her whom did that one voted in for past few previous elections and what benefits came out by it. Tell them:
    “Save the nation by saving the men and women living in; save the sovereignty by saving the nation;
    Save the democracy by devolving the country; make deployment viable by devolving the power;
    Our new advocates (calling them as activists) claiming that JVP doesn’t have past history so they want it; but UNP and SLFP have past history so they are rejecting them.
    The candidates who available this time are: 1).Batalanda Fame, Vaalaiththodam family rule, 2). UNHRC War Criminal’s Gang family and 3). Wijayaweera’s clan. Surprisingly none of them want to isolate them from their past sins but justifying and indemnifying back into, to do more of it. Specifically Vaalaiththodam Jr has said that he will follow Sirimavo’s Socialism, that is, he will do everything to protect the Sinhala Buddhism.

  • 1
    1

    To come to our point, on the Sinhala Buddhist Wildlife Sanctuary Lankawe election, nobody is demanding the political parties to correct their mottos (policies). May 12th’s conference was only to white washing and protecting candidates from each other’s reasonable political attack. So, by not attending to this gimmick show, Old Brother Prince has drawn more from others. Nobody is asking them to uplift their policies to match with UN FR & conventions or to match with Human rights and international Humanitarian laws. While the ship is sinking continuously for 70 years, the Sinhala Intellectuals are insisting them as pragmatic and they will not talk about steering the Wildlife Sanctuary SinhaLE Lankawe to Human Civilization, i.e to humanitarian concern. That is because of their secret swearing of saving the War Criminals against minorities’ resent. The narrow focused Sinhala intellectuals, who could not recuse the ship sinking in front of their eyes, but now proposing a scheme to change the ship captains by duping the Sinhala mahajan, to stop the ship sinking. Comedy Thamai!
    The narrow focus is not accidental, but naturally coming out of every Sinhala Intellectuals, who are programed to propagate “Save the Buddhism, Save the SinhaLE lions” mottos. TNA has been asking the candidates to tell Sinhala Mahajan that what the solution they are proposing to Tamils. Basically this is about Vaalaiththodam Jr and devolution of power. But he has said he will do everything to protect the Sinhala Buddhism.
    Candidates are campaigning a propaganda that because of Lankawe’s strategic location Lankawe is losing its sovereignty. Especially Sirimavo, JR, CBK and Old Royals invited foreign countries to help them, lend them and supply free arms to fight $400B war so they would give foreign Countries free access to Lankawe’s resources. Now they are playing the record on the reverse track. But not like Banda-Chelva Pact, they are not able to repudiate the promises given to foreign countries by Walking to Kandy Ayatollah’s Palace.

  • 6
    1

    Hi friends, among the evils one of them should get elected to serve us, and take good care of us and the nation, instead of wasting our votes, elect the one who should be a lesser and good evil who has the best chance and possibility of winning. The winning Maths and the formula is majority Sinhalese votes + minorities votes = the winner. Hence, Gota never ever would get minorities votes, only some stooges, The one who is going to get highest Sinhalese + minorities votes going to be Sajith. Same maths was working at last election, in spit of all predictions that MR would win, I for one said he would loose and it happened. At that time they used the full might of the state machineries plus money and muscle power but lost. So don’t wast your votes, vote for Sajith, and make him the winner for the good of all for there wouldn’t be any chance for any others to win. The Sinhalese votes going to be distributed among 35 candidates, and the one who gets the minorities votes wins the race.

    • 1
      1

      Sajiths campaign is only fit for his family they too are greedy for power the way Sajiths wife tags along he must appeal and work with the masses and show he is a son of the poor not of the rich the way Jalani behaves

  • 3
    1

    In my view voting for Gota or Sajith is not going to do anything to Tamil’s long outstanding issues, as it is about sinhala-buddhist-govi election. For Gota it is national security, I dont know the security against who? Sajith, sitting on the fence without any clear position other than building houses. The other candidate of any significance is Anura Dissanayake (ADK). His past as a minister was of no concern about Tamils. Voting for Sajith or ADK or refraining from voting is a clear path for victory of Gota. I know the “senile Sampanthan” and “Colombo Tamilan Sumanthiran” dont care about the Tamils’ issues, their only concenrt is to live in Colombo without and harassment by Sinhala mob. Heart to heart these two will support Sajith to safeguard their well to do class struggle and for their existence in Colombo. So, the Tamils are left with a blank.

    • 3
      1

      So, what’s your preference? Stay at home, and do nothing or care about who wins? This is a sure recipe for a Gota win. This brilliant article is all about NOT being complacent out of a frustration that neither of the two leading candidates are good enough. We, the non-aligned, non Singhala Buddhist minorities, have no option but to hope that the lesser evil would win and work towards that end. In this respect, the strategy proposed by Ruwan W is excellent. One more thing…..those who are determined to keep Gota out should take a serious look at who in their respective communities are supporting Gota. It is quite obvious that the likes of Douglas Devananda, Karuna and Pillaian are sticking their necks out for Gota in order to ensure their personal gain (despite knowing that this would be a disaster for the Tamils – because Gota is strongly backed by saffron clad thugs and would be expected to deliver) and definitely not in the interest of any relief for the problems faced by the Tamils. Similarly, the Muslims in the East in particular should neutralize the Sainthamarutha Mosque factor (read somewhere that the clerics are strongly against a Sajith Presidency) and ensure that there would never ever be another Dr. Safi…… or a Ampara……. or a Digana….or an Aluthgama incident.

      As the author insists Don’t Just Sit there – Do Something…. anything to ensure that there is maximum voting in and around where you are and canvas to keep Gota out at all costs. I hope anyone reading this article and the comments that follow who reside in the north and east would mobilize all resources to spread this word around with great enthusiasm.

  • 2
    0

    Do you mean that we should do a ”Hong Kong” to make the govt undestand our frustration?

  • 5
    0

    Going by past results, it’s inevitable one of the two main contenders will be the ultimate winner. Depending on whether one person will get more than 50% on the 1st count or not, 2nd preference will become a factor (It’s likely AKD will get the 3rd place on the 1st count and therefore 2nd preferences of those who vote for him may become a crucial factor in determining the ultimate winner). So those who plan to vote for AKD (and other candidates), please consider indicating your 2nd preference on the ballot paper.
    Ultimately the voters will get a President they ‘deserve’. If the majority wish for a ‘Democrat’ it will be SP and if the majority wish for an autocratic, dictatorial, imperious, tyrannical family rule (much like the period from from 2010 – 2014), it will be NGR. As the Author suggests, it’s upto us to convince others (our associates) of what may be good for SL in the long run, based on our own thinking. Both SP and NGR are well known to the general public as both have been in ‘Public life’ for sometime (although NGR is more reclusive and not forthright).
    The “President” should have certain attributes to become a ‘Leader’ and ‘Statesman’. That person will represent SL in many ways and international forums and we should have some pride in him doing that. Having heard the now famous BBC interview of NGR and his demeanor where he asked “who is Lasantha?” (and his other alleged crimes for which he has been indicted), it is sufficient proof for me to conclude that he is not Presidential material. Afterall he has no formal education or background in Politics (some say he was a petrol station attendant in USA?). Furthermore, he carries a lot of ‘baggage’ which should sound warning bells to a rational thinker / voter. NGR, please clear your name (and do not avoid the Courts) before seeking the highest Office in SL.

    • 2
      0

      I am reminded of slogan from a US election in the early 80s. The parallel her would be ” Sri Lanka needs AKD….Sri Lanka wants Sajith….Sri Lanka will get Gota,” Sad isn’t it?

  • 0
    4

    Siri
    As you are going to depend on en bloc minority voting do everything thing possible to to set up minority against the majority. Remember your government will be a all minority hook up against the majority of the majority.
    A word of advice to my Muslim brothers and sisters: At this juncture of your history after what your Wahabi brothers have done you need the goodwill of ALL the Sinhalese to move forward. Do not swallow the poisonous UNP propaganda that Rajapaksas are anti Muslim.

    Soma

    • 2
      2

      The UNP has failed. if it is voted in again it will be a bigger failiure.
      My advise is vote 1st and 2nd preference to any political party other than UNP led
      UNF.

      Do Muslims and Tamils want to live in a country like Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Tamil Nadu
      Siriya , Iran?

      If not please refrain from voting UNF

  • 4
    2

    Ruvan,

    Can you suggest what can be done when a Tsunami( Gotha , MR) is abut to hit. KIlling people all minorties ( even Tsunami can identify Tamils because they were ” Thirunuru “) flattening houses , overturning cars , dashing hopes. Frankly nothing

  • 1
    0

    Spot on! We as a people NEED to start thinking and acting differently, if we are ever to break this cycle of “i-scratch-your-back-you-scratch-mine” deal making and CORRUPT. and mafia-style “governance” that’s prevailed ever since independence. Having said thst, if the word doesn’t get out fast enough and we are stuck with the rotters, it is THEN that the people such as the writer Ruvan need to keep an eagle eye on these elected publ8c servants conduct AND HOLD THEM ACCOUNTABLE, to abide by the LAW OF THE LAND and NOT their mafia-style lawlessness.

  • 5
    0

    Contd. /

    I am well aware there is strong support for both main contenders, depending on the thinking of each voter. In a ‘Democracy’, it’s a right of each voter to vote unhindered for the candidate of his / her choosing. It is fair to say that MR&Co. have successfully brainwashed / convinced a section of the populace into thinking they are patriotic and saved the nation from the wrath of LTTE whereas the truth is that many forces (including FM Sarath Fonseka who was unfairly pursued by a kangaroo court and incarcerated at the behest of MR&Co.) contributed, one way or another to achieve that result and so no one person can take the credit for that outcome.

    It is certain that the election in November will be mostly free and fair and the final outcome will be a good indicator of the will of ALL the Voters of Sri Lanka. Therefore we must all accept that result and move on like in most other western democracies. There is no likelihood of there being a ‘jilmart’ to change the overall result. On the other hand the 52 day saga in late 2018 may have been conceived to engineer a poll (General Election) with the aim to color and manipulate the result to favour one group while they were holding the strings of the ‘Public’ Institutions?

    Voters – please use your franchise sensibly putting the country before self!

  • 1
    0

    Dr. Ruvan Weerasinghe,
    .
    this is a great article, and you’ll be glad to hear that I’ve been doing my share of wakening people to the possibilities held out by the Presidential Elections.
    .
    For many months now I’ve been asking Socratic questions about the elections from total strangers, making sure that I don’t sound like somebody who has irons in the fire myself. That is made easy by the fact that I genuinely don’t mind who emerges on top. I’m too old and it’s good to see guys like you who are at your prime acting boldly.
    .
    Everybody is fed up with the politicians. Hitherto, what I’ve been doing is explaining the system of Preference voting and asking my interlocutors in buses and Supermarket queues to work out who the genuine Alternatives are. I used to say that there are honest people contesting, but now, with 35 in the fray, and so many of them interlopers, I’m getting discouraged. The latest news is that Dr Ajantha Perera of your University and the admirable Nagananda are getting together. However, what worries is the fact that there are too many groups of “Alternatives”.
    .
    Within two weeks we ought to persuade these groups to name one of these candidates – I think that it should be AKD, to be the principle vote-gatherer.

  • 1
    0

    Oh….very well written! thank you Dr. Ruvan Weerasinghe.

    Did anyone see the terrible story about the young university student who killed himself due to ragging?
    http://www.sundayobserver.lk/2019/04/07/news-features/diyagama-campus-suicide-justice-shanilka-demanded?fbclid=IwAR2cROJd8J4VuqFw1anDafF-ySAZNdTjJNfiy1yIkdjx7QtllPPlfrRAE_Y

    Poor poor boy. May he rest in peace. My prayers and love go to his parents and sister.

    Sometimes I wonder if what these Sinhala students do isn’t typical of what their society is all about – the grinding need to lie and put down others in every disgusting way possible, and then howl as if they are the offended ones. You will see it within many Sinhala family. Like someone said, our Sinhalese take low-level intelligence for a high-level one. Other races have no time to go creeping after people to trap them to demean them at an opportune time. Other people use their intelligence for higher-level concept thinking.

    Yes, this is about ragging in the Lankan universities by the Marxists – class and race discrimination. Marxists in other countries have a far higher view to getting their societies together.

    But our Sinhala Marxist leaders are into feathering their nests with government scholarships to major universities around the world for themselves and their children – Yale, Harvard, Russia, Czechoslovakia, and important governmental postings around the world…..become a Marxist, and that is a sure way to rise up the social ladder (and look humble on merit of being Marxism at the same time).

    And then the fellows create a Marxist cultural society that sit around in buddy-buddy groups quoting Karl Marx and things, and smoking Cuban cigars, with Russian looks on their faces. And they will let the Masses they represent go on rampages in abject frustration.

    • 1
      0

      We hope AKD and will truly rise this time, and the NPM and NPPM leaders will not pander to the controlling Oligarchic forces. What the struggling Lankan Masses need is respect, dignity, and caring by from the leaders who purport to represent them.

  • 0
    0

    We hope AKD and will truly rise this time, and the NPM and NPPM leaders will not pander to the controlling Oligarchic forces. What the struggling Lankan Masses need is respect, dignity, and caring by from the leaders who purport to represent them.

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