By Malinda Seneviratne –
A few days from now the country will go to the polls to elect a president. The 8th day of January in the year 2015 will arrive after several weeks of intense political campaigning. Exciting though electioneering is, if one steps back from a place called ‘Preference’ and reviews the past few weeks, it would be hard to say that we, as a people, made of leaders and followers of course, deserve any back-patting.
There have been hard fought elections, where rivalry and power-thirst have been so intense that they have been marked by extreme violence. People were killed by the dozens. Voters were not only asked to boycott but the boycott-plan included threatening with death the first person to cast his/her vote at each and every polling station. There have been election days when hundreds were killed. This is not such an election and that’s something to celebrate.
There has been violence, though. Not the JVP-UNP kind of 1988-89 and not the SLFP/PA kind of 1999, but nevertheless ugly and a blemish on the country as a whole. We have seen much name-calling and insult, mudslinging and vilification, and of course lies, damned lies and statistics. Sad to say, this is ‘normal’. We are yet to have leaders who are enlightened about the responsibilities of leadership and the crucial role that humility has to play in these kinds of contests. Unfortunately humility is seen as a weakness or at least there’s fear that it will be read as such by the opposition.
The opposition, for its part, is not exactly a refuge for the ‘more enlightened’. Even a cursory glance would show that the champion of the opposition is surrounded by many decent individuals. They rub shoulders, however, with crooks, thugs, supporters of terrorism, liars, the uncouth and hate-filled, some political refugees in reduced circumstances and many licking their chops at what is perceived as an opportunity to sink hands into the Treasury (one way or another). The same could be said of the other camp. This perhaps is why we can’t call ourselves a happy people (politically speaking, that is). It is not a good headache to have.
Anyway, it will all be done a few days from now. A winner and a loser will emerge. There will be cheers, but let there be no jeers. There will be a triumph but let the triumphalism be tempered with humility. There will be re-assertion of promises made, but let there also be a sober assessment of the challenges ahead. A lot will be said in the name of the people but let what follows reflect those sentiments less in word than in action.
There will be disappointment, but just as victor should show humility in victory, may the defeated show grace. Let there be no finger-pointing. May the winner acknowledge that his team is not perfect. May he admit that there are decent people on the other side and that indeed he has indulged and accepted/enlisted the support of indecent and even despicable people. May he realize that he represents those who voted for him but more than this is the president to all, even those who opposed him.
On January 9, 2015, let Sri Lanka resolve to become a better nation and let everyone resolve to see error in self before indulging in the easier and in the final instance less-productive exercise of finger-pointing. Let us congratulate the victor but assure him that he was not given a blank-check. Let us also commiserate with the defeated and, in full recognition of our own flaws, acknowledge that whatever blemish that contributed to loss does not warrant insult or humiliation.
We are a nation that smiles through adversity. A resilient nation. Regardless of outcome preferences, let us smile. And let us remember that a සුභ අනාගතය (a happy future) and a මෛත්රී පාලනය (compassionate rule) are not contradictions but complement one another. Regardless of outcome preferences, let us resolve to smile. As we always have.
*Malinda Seneviratne is the Chief Editor of ‘The Nation’ and his articles can be found at www.malindawords.blogspot.com