The manifestos of the three front runners are now out with hardly any serious discussion on the substance of these electoral junk papers. Public meetings are held by the two lead players at locations that obstruct traffic, and show the cheering crowds, with purple or green flags in flutter, and the Swan and Pohottuva symbols paraded for cheers. The third man with his compass symbol must surely take readings from it as to where he would be at the finish.
The many pages, sections and paragraphs of the manifestos make a whole lot of political promises from free fertilizer to digital advances from one, to free meals, uniforms and sanitary pads from the other. One area hugely ignored by the two lead players is that of corruption. It is the stuff that saw the fall from power of the two brothers included, in 2015, and remains the stuff of deceit and unpopularity of the current government – Sirisena- Wickremesinghe – Premadasa.
How much of corruption will there be in the issue and distribution of free fertilizer or in the giving of free meals, uniforms and sanitary pads? Moving away from all the dirt of corruption that has plagued our governments and society in the past seven decades, and much more since 1978, the promise-talk keeps moving on to the War Heroes. There is now a huge race building up on how the War Heroes, their wives, widows and families would be looked after with the best of favours, grants and facilities, making one wonder why there must be any talk of free fertilizer or sanitary pads.
With corruption in sway in governance and the polls campaigns of the key players, it is useful to think of what the peoples’ anger on corruption could do in many countries. This week saw the resignation of two prime ministers – in Lebanon and Iraq – on the issue of corruption and dirty governance. The Lebanese prime minister resigned after two weeks of massive protests by the people, calling for an end to corruption, and a complete change of the governing system. The Iraqi prime minister also offered to resign after huge protests against corruption that saw at least 120 killed. Both these prime ministers had been elected just one year ago. More importantly, the protests in both countries, with their own styles of democracy, were leaderless – the people came out on their own, and pushed the organized political forces into the background.
If that is the situation in the Middle East, where there are strong links between religion and politics, the people in Chile in South America, have also been carrying huge protests, leading to many deaths, against corruption in government and the state. This was so in Ecuador, too, where the government did give some concessions to the people. In Bolivia too, the people are rising in protest against the fourth time elected national leader, raising issues of corruption in his election.
The protesters in these countries are largely Shia and Sunni Muslims, and Catholics and other Christians. This majority Buddhist country has also seen major uprisings with violence in 1972 and 1988/89, and the terrorism of the largely Hindu Tamils for nearly 30 years. It is clearly not religion that causes or prevents mass protests and uprisings. In fact religion could even pave the way for such mass action with its own calls for honesty and commitment to service to the people.
The two major candidates in this election, Gotabaya and Sajith, should take note of these realities of public anger, protest and uprisings. Their manifestos are clearly not the stuff of political reality. This is a society saddled and almost crippled by corruption. It is a menace and threat to the people, and the pattern of crooked governance – whether Blue, Green or Purple. We are clearly moving away from any political leadership that has the ability, courage or commitment to fight corruption. Reading the two key manifestos show a rising trend of moving away from any fight against corruption, to a goal of keeping Systemic Corruption alive in the country, with huge promises based on the massive costs to the people. This is certainly not the Stuff of Democracy; winning an election is one thing, keeping democracy alive is another.
The continuance and strengthening of Democracy does not come from the strength of a particular family, or the memories of paternity. What we are left with in democracy is only the elections. Once the polls are over, we see the rise of the forces of corruption – this is true whether the winning forces are from the Green, Blue, or Purple, or as we have seen recently whether it is Green and Blue. Our politics is a record of Broken Promises! From the Rajapaksas to the Sirisena- Wickremesinghe – Premadasa teams – the political goal is that of the Broken Promise!
Broken Promise – Kadavaunu Poronduva – was the first Sinhala film to be released. Since then the film makers moved away from that style and trend to give us ’Rekava” and many other pieces of good entertainment. But the politics of Broken Promises can have much more harsh outcomes. Both Gotabaya and Sajith must look more seriously at the past – their own and their parties and political alignments. One must stop always asking the brother for guidance and answers; the other must remember his father, but give the people the solutions for today.
Are they ready to give a pledge to wipe out corruption; how will they do it, how far can they move away from family politics and catcher-politics? This is what the people need, especially the young voters – who actually led those protests in Lebanon. Iraq and Chile. The youth on the rise need a message of clean governance, away from the corruption their parents were largely tolerant over seven decades.
It is time to stop the Age of Broken Promise and move to Days of Dedication to the Clean!