By Muhammed Fazl –
With three days to go for the Uva PC elections and dubbed as a ‘measurement of the pulse of the people’ by all sides, I wonder if the outcome would make any difference, especially to whom it matters the most – the poor. Whilst the ominous signs are written all over the camps of the ruling types, in the event of an opposition victory, would it also set the balls rolling for a change of direction this country so badly seems to be in need of?
Think so I do not, not when the opposition forces are divided, not when their members have individual and personal agendas and interests, and most certainly not when they forget who their common enemy is. While I make my observations, as usual and once again, I share my thoughts towards giving an impetus to the ‘just-woken-from-deep-slumber’ opposition parties.
1 – In an age where they invade your living rooms and directly influences your decisions as to what you should or shouldn’t do, or how you should think or think not, it would be plain stupidity on the part of members playing in the big leagues to underestimate the make or break abilities of media houses. As Mr. Winston Churchill once said, “there are no permanent friends but only permanent interests”, I suggest members in the opposition ranks to refrain from pointing accusing fingers at media men/women, especially at privately owned ones, and however strong the dished out antagonism is. Hope Mr. Mangala Samaraweera takes serious note.
2 – Muslim votes are divided and so are the Muslim politicians. While I am very much against communal politics, for the sake of bringing about a change and in defence of rights of the Muslims, it is essential for all Muslim politicians, voters and activists to represent one united bloc. It is not late for Mr. Faizer Musthapha, Mr. Rauff Hakeem, Mr. Rishard Bathiudeen, and Mr. Fowzi and for the rest of the Muslim politicians who are aligned with President Rajapaksa to walk away from the government in power. And it is not as if they have done a yeoman service to the Muslim community while holding ministerial portfolios. It must be mentioned that this country can also do without politicians doing favors for constituents based on ethnicity and or religion.
The same Muslim legislators appearing afterwards at the sites of racist attacks directed at the Muslim population and speaking of remedial measures is also NOT needed. If not for their sustaining and support of the current despotic and the racist regime, Muslims of this country wouldn’t be in this predicament as seen today and in the first place.
While a united Muslim and or a united Tamil bloc could swing the balance most certainly in a major election, it is imperative that under NO circumstances they should contest in alliance with the ruling political party. Once bitten, should be twice shy they say. Living in my utopia, defeating the ruling types in an election can happen ONLY if there is ONE COALITION of opposition parties, consisting of the UNP, JVP, a united Muslim alliance, a united coalition of Tamil parties, etc. While allocation of seats and ministerial portfolios can be discussed and agreed upon beforehand, should a Tamil or a Muslim chooses to contest independently or aligned with the ruling party, he/she should be ‘dealt with’ severely by his/her own kind for creating disunity in their communities. My suggestion may not reflect the idea of a vibrant democracy…, but then again, when the future of this country is at stake, for greater good, I believe it would be alright to circumvent the rules a bit. Let this article also be a mild warning to the likes of Mr. Faizer Musthapha, Mr. Hakeem , Mr. Fowzi , and Mr. Azath Salley etc.
3 – Might is not right and popularity is not competence either. Hence, it is important for the masses to identify and ‘neutralize’ the evil kind and to ‘prevent’ the likes of Mr. Abdul Cader of Kandy, the pet canine of the President, Mr. Azwer, Mr. Muzammil of NFF, Mr. Douglas Devananda, Mr. Karuna Amman, Mr. Sri Ranga and Mr. Pillayan among others from infringing and distorting the ‘democratic process’.
The Tamil community and politicians representing them should also form ONE UNITED BLOC led by the TNA on the same lines as Muslims would.
4 – Infighting amongst the opposition ranks will only result in losing the plot and their contrasting opinions need not be public knowledge either. Mischief makers and Trojan horses did exist from time immemorial and as seen not long ago with personalities in the calibre of Mr. S.B Dissanayake, Mr. Johnston Fernando, Mr. Lakshman Senevirathne, Mr. W.J.M. Lokubandara, Mr. Manusha Nanayakkara and Miss. Upeksha Swarnamali among others. I also hope Mr. Ravi Karunanayake reads the Colombo Telegraph.
5 – Bringing down a despotic regime need not be the sole domain of selected political parties or only during times of elections. Taking into consideration public protests taking place elsewhere against tyranny and nepotism, it is unfortunate that we are known as a nation of cowards for our stoical silence. And we certainly should hang our heads in shame for our egomaniacal attitudes as well. As much as I appreciate the energy of the opposition activists in Uva, I am also saddened knowing its temporary nature and its absence when elections are not held.
If the masses cannot be educated and informed about the true state of affairs in the country, immaterial of their voting patterns, it is nothing but a failure on the part of the opposition parties. Taking stock and licking their wounds they do after every defeat… and the momentum returns back afterwards to the same levels when it all started. Attempts to lay down new strategies or to forge a united alliance in toppling the biggest ‘enemy of state’ seems to have lost steam in the immediate aftermath of every election, and solely due to a lack of inspirational leadership in the opposition camps. Veterans they may be, but it is high time for the seniors in the opposition camps to give a reasonable audience to the young blood and to the sensible. Besides, their seniority or their tenure has brought nothing but defeat after defeat. Elections or no, mobilizing the ordinary masses to rise up and speak up should be on the horizon. Hence, the paramountcy in the appointment of motivational and competent speakers and leaders, at least at district levels.
Failures of the law enforcement departments to maintain law and order should be considered a weakness and taken advantage too. This could be an added impetus to the brave dissenting voices, and ‘harnessing’ it amongst the university students and members of labor unions would also set the stage for a ‘season of spring’ and that which could be the need of the hour.
6 – Money talks… and certainly they do in this isle of ours. A system should be in place to raise finances and sustain a campaign long before the date of an election is announced.
7 – Research teams should be established from each party and should work collectively in unearthing instances of corrupt government practices, abuse of power and pervasion of justice. Documenting it and identifying the perpetrators should be equally essential in the event of a possible accountability mechanism taking shape in a future government.
8 – Current heads of armed forces may or may not be totally politicized, but it would be advisable for the opposition parties to maintain a working relationship at least with the lower rung in the armed forces and who are patriotic not just in words. This becomes important when securing the exit points of all ports, air and sea on the eve of counting electoral votes.
9 – Third time presidency should be disputed in a court of law (impartial or not). People voted for crossed-over legislators in the last elections with the understanding that they will oppose the regime of President Rajapaksa and his policies. The voters were MADE TO BELIEVE and FOOLED in to thinking that their views and aspirations would be represented in the parliament accordingly. Speeches of those respective candidates and their individual manifestos at the time of election campaigning are testament to their deception. I am no lawyer, but my sixth sense tells me that this reason alone would suffice in discarding the votes and nullifying the extension of the presidential term, connivingly adopted with the assistance of ‘rogue’ members of parliament who crossed over to the government.
10 – If the government of Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa does not play by the rules, which is habitual now, I question the wisdom of opposition parties in doing it any different. If blatant abuse of power, rampant corruption, politicization of the judiciary and the armed forces is the norm in present times, and in times of elections, if abuse of state resources and state media, causing murder and mayhem by the government in power becomes an accepted practice in the land of Buddha, I guess we all have to adjust to that state of lawlessness.
Oh, and the last rule… there are NO RULES!
*The writer is an independent social/political activist and can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org and through FB Fazl Muhammed Nizar.