By Malinda Seneviratne –
‘We are not in the business of issuing character certificates to those who cross,’ JVP Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake said. The past few weeks have seen a lot of politicians crossing party lines. These moves have been received with jeers and cheers, depending on whether the person left or arrived, respectively. Interestingly, if you took names of the ‘movers’ and the names of those who either praised or vilified the move out, it would be as though people are using the same script.
If rhetoric and self-righteous chest beating is all that these crossovers are about, it would be silly to take them too seriously. They do matter, however. They keep contenders and campaigns in the news. They are used to portray ‘sway’ even if they don’t exactly translate into the numbers that movers and backers toss around. On the other hand if people do get swayed by those who are up for sale what does it say about the voter? Not much, unfortunately.
It is in this context that Anura Kumara Dissanayake’s wry observation has to be viewed. Our political culture was never really great, what with rogues, murderers, drug traffickers and common thugs seeking office and getting elected and re-elected, even when they switch loyalties. It seems to have hit rock bottom if the somersaults, pole-vaults and other gymnastic moves by people of all hues are considered. If anything is worse than the rubbish uttered at post-crossing press conferences it is the wild cheers of the fans who believe the candidate they support have gained. Even as they argue that theirs is the moral choice, they refuse to see the immorality of eleventh-hour ‘jumps’. There’s a question that’s not being asked: ‘were these people sleeping all these years?’
In all this, there’s a character being taken for a big time ride by politicians. The voter. That’s you. That’s all of us. What happened to ‘Good vs. Evil’? What happened to ‘Honesty vs. Dishonesty’? What happens to notions such as law and order, good governance, the need to eradicate corruption, when you get the evil, the dishonest, the lawless and disorderly, wreckers of good governance and the corrupt on both sides of the principal political divide? What does it say about the political maturity of a country when all that matters is liking or disliking someone in the particular political camp? It is as though people have already decided (for whatever reason) and then say whatever is necessary to justify decision.
When this is the political culture that governs important elections, one cannot blame the JVP for keeping out of it, except of course that party arguably has not-so-noble reasons such as not wanting to be embarrassed by having their true support base revealed. One has to keep in mind, also, that the JVP is playing a ‘For-Maithripla’ game where the thahanam vachanaya (taboo word/name) is ‘Maithripala’.
So if it’s about principles (which it is not for the vast majority, obviously and unfortunately), then the voter is fixed in mid-air, he/she is floating or has to support one of the many no-chance-in-hell candidates. At best, people have to tell themselves (if they are honest, and the jury is out on that too!) ‘lesser evil,’ although it is tough to pick, considering all the riff-raff that the front-runners have surrounded themselves with. Right now, though, the entire election is nothing more than a charade, where the vast majority of the country is happily engaged in a monumental exercise of self-delusion.
Perhaps that’s consolation and the best we can come up with right now. Sadly.