Thursday, November 19, 2009

Sri Lanka at a crossroad: Voters hold the key

By Shenali Waduge
The trouble with this country is that there are too many politicians who believe, with a conviction based on experience, that they can fool all of the people all of the time. This more or less sums up the state of affairs in Sri Lanka & begs to question the contributing factors that have waned Sri Lanka’s growth over the years.
We are well aware that the scrooge of terrorism existed for almost three decades. Leaving aside the foreign connections & influences that contributed to the prevalence of terror over the years, we need to at best applaud the will that it took the present Government to withstand these external pressures & provide the leadership & backing to the armed forces to completely annihilate LTTE terror. To this effort it cannot be stressed enough that no single person can take credit for the downfall & extermination of the LTTE. Therefore, in post-victory it is hypocritical for individuals who served as part of that victory TEAM to deny that it took a very concerted TEAM effort to achieve the objective. Therefore, the nation must be alert to this fact & be intelligent enough to disregard any & all public statements that project individual glory & personal accolades for winning the war. It is also prudent to all the while recall the fallen heroes who silently fade away from & end up being used as empty rhetoric by those who seek personal glory only.

Sri Lanka is at an important crossroad of its future. Sri Lanka was unfortunate not to enjoy post-independence due to a well architectured “ethnic” issue which was implanted to divide the races & delay & deny a country’s growth while paving way for external interferences to descend upon the country on the guise of peace promoters & ethnic solvers. All it required was proper political leadership to counter these moves similar to the present leadership that did in no small measure manage to not only counter but forge ties that would extinguish or hold at bay any moves to actually take detrimental actions upon Sri Lanka by these hostile nations. The country cannot or will not know the extent to which the political leadership actually countered these pressures dealing with them diplomatically as well as head on. To this end the efforts of expatriates & other patriots cannot be denied or forgotten. This does in no way deny that despite these efforts it was the men on the ground that sacrificed their lives & limbs for the ultimate victory.
The two main political parties in Sri Lanka have each taken turns to govern the country…how far that governance has been devoid of corruption, thuggery & mismanagement is best left for the public to review & decide. So when election times near & the usual slogans of eliminating corruption, eliminating the executive presidency etc are relayed energetically over political stages the public by now should be immune & not emotionally attach themselves to these half truths & election gimmicks meant to merely fool the voter into winning their vote.
The voter today holds a very important role in steering Sri Lanka’s future. Leaders have come & gone…most of them have done little pittance to deliver on their promises & pledges. It is within this reality that we must weigh the single most achievement by any political leadership thus far – that is & will remain the ultimate defeat of the LTTE within three years of coming into power. Sri Lanka’s armed forces had been at the receiving end of some severe thrusts by the LTTE over the years…its politically appointed commanders lacking the will or the courage to actually strategize an end to the existing terror – this is how the state of affairs had been through the 80s until the present leadership came into power. Therefore, much as many may like to disagree, rightful credit must be given to the President who “re-energized” the same military that was at the receiving end of LTTE attacks & changed appointments, assembled the winning team & gave them the fullest backing with a clear mission & goal to vanquish terrorism in Sri Lanka forever. The role of the Defense Secretary needs to be repeatedly reiterated at this point in time. This will & should go down in the annals of history as a very important & not to be forgotten achievement.
What should have been a concerted effort with all political parties joining in the Government & providing the backing to counter the massive diplomatic onslaughts to stop the war ended up with opposition parties joining foreign forces to actually stall the collapse of the LTTE & even humiliated the army commander & the achievements of the military, going so far as to link the former commander with the death of a prominent journalist as well – the very opposition that helped annihilate the team of military intelligence officers by exposing their names to the LTTE. Now months later the same opposition members are now attempting to win the former commander over and attempting to use his weaknesses to rope him in as a common candidate not so much due to any liking for him or for any late appreciation of his heroics but purely to piggybank on him & come into power or was it purely to forge a divide between the political leadership & an important team member? However, as humans we are all susceptible to desires & cravings for bigger glory…bigger accolades which ultimately lead towards thinking nothing other than about one’s own importance. Is this what the general is ailing from we wonder? Little hometruths & what lies beneath the “gentleman in uniform” were evident in the letter of resignation & certain remarks being subtley added. The forthcoming days are likely to see more goody bags coming out & likely to be uglier than anything appreciative. This however should not nullify or negate the insurmountable ground leadership & strategy given to the military by the general towards the ultimate defeat of the LTTE. But, the general must not forget that the war is now over…respect & appreciation will remain so long as that respect is kept by actions. It is best left to see how far the general can wish to garner the same respect joining with the cohorts that ridiculed him…that ridiculed the military & did their very best to ensure the menace of LTTE prevailed. For a perceived hero to be associated with such company will in deed make a hero into a zero amongst the eyes of many. Surely, these ground realities must be factored in & taken due note of before committing to become a candidate of convenience & break up the Sinhala vote.
The game that all politicians play is to ultimately end up in the throne of power. Having accepted this reality it must be left to voters to decide & balance on achievements that best should decide who they actually vote for. To this end realistic achievements & not empty rhetoric must be taken into consideration. Unfortunately, we have only one promise that has been delivered so far…that was to end terrorism…what can the opposition say of their promises during times they were in governance? The present opposition cannot but deny its role in all but handing over part of Sri Lanka to the LTTE, allowing foreign forces to maneuver Sri Lanka as it saw fit - is this the party that should be entrusted with Sri Lanka moving forward especially in the light of the new sensitivity factor?
Can the general align himself with those that humiliated him? Can the general expect to be treated with the same respect that he deserves as a war hero if he actually walks into the arms of the very people who lavishly laughed at him? It certainly does question his “integrity of patriotism” All leaders including the present leadership must come to terms with the fact that the LTTE is now defeated…remnants of it may try to resurface but a team that was able to crush the LTTE militarily should not find this task any difficult to overcome. While this single incident is undoubtedly something we cannot forget easily it should not be the only aspect of assessment of the achievements by the present government. Into this analysis of achievements there are likely to be many faux pas & plenty of inconsistencies but the choice of the voter actually is to choose between the best out of the bad lot.
Unfortunately, in this theatrics of politics & the game of crossovers there is no party that does not have members who have been a member of either of the two main political parties. They have while in power articulated one line of thought & then in opposition articulated something totally opposite. These are the men that any new entrant into politics will end up having to team up with & begs to ask whether a country should have to experiment with the idea of a military man attempting to strike a military parallel into Sri Lanka’s politics using the same cronies who were at one time in government & opposition the next?
Therefore, it is perhaps now left to the religious dignitaries of the country to actually put aside allegiance with any particular political party or political thinking & attempt to see which leadership is able to actually think nationally & take the country forward. That all the political parties are not without weaknesses, elements of corruption & thuggery is only hometruths & we are unlikely to find any political party that fields candidates without any bad record. Given this scenario…it is perhaps the task of the religious heads to educate the masses to intelligently vote for the leaders & not follow the paramara allegiance, the traditional political color & individual win wins in bringing a particular party to power.
It is also prudent for political parties to bear in mind that a voter’s faith in them should not be violated. While what the rural voters desire may differ from the more urban vote base…it is safe to assume that everyone basically desires more or less the same thing…better infrastructure…systematic administrative system with limited hassles…better governance in the public sector…justice prevailing…proper accountability…lesser political interference…incentives to private sector…reduction of prices…on essential goods…etc..these are not very difficult areas for any government to actually strategize upon especially one that has been able to crush a terror outfit that was worth USD300million. Therefore, the present Government should not have to feel jittery about any challenge if it has been maintaining its pledges to the people..if at all it should take these challenges head on & leave it for the public to decide…& the public requires to intelligently use their vote– the voter needs to finally think nationally.
A final thought that cannot be ignored is that we are dealing with a very egocentric general, a man who was a one time green supporter but this factor was ignored & his talents merited his place as the man chosen by the present leadership to steer the military towards victory. The opposition alliance attempting to come out from the wilderness may not be too late to factor in that their “supposed” common candidate completely ignored their set of “conditions” which should perhaps ring alarm bells for them too that they are not likely to have a cake walk if by any chance the general is able to deliver. Obviously the opposition has not taken into account the inflated egoistical personality of the general & what power they will actually have over an “elected” general (which the present Government knew but managed to control & keep it aligned to the main objective of defeating the LTTE). It has however generated nationalist forces once more garnering together to ensure that the country does not go to the devil.
Let the people decide…. Intelligently!

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