The government has promised a pay hike for the public sector employees. Elections Commissioner (EC) Dayananda Dissanayake, we believe, deserves a special allowance at least ten times his salary for risking his sanity. He is being held in that position against his will and made to preside over a complete mess aka elections.
How torturous life has become for the EC because of the unsavoury political potentates he has to deal with became evident on Wednesday when he vented his spleen on politicians whom he rightly called the bane of the country. One cannot but agree with him. A vast majority of those elected to Parliament after 1977, he said, could not be compared with their predecessors. He twisted the knife when he said, `There aren`t gentlemen in politics today.` The EC has spoken for all of us! And there is no reason to doubt his prognosis that politicians will not behave at the forthcoming general election. The situation is sure to take a turn for the worse with so many unruly characters jousting for power.
How could there be gentlemanly politics in a society where the main parties field cattle rustlers, chain snatchers, pickpockets, killers, rapists, robbers, drug barons, fraudsters et al at elections? The problem with these unsavoury elements is that some of them get elected. The blame for this sorry state of affairs must be apportioned to the voting public who, blinded by their allegiance to one party or another, usually prefer the scum of the earth in the fray to decent human beings. The National List is also abused by political leaders to accommodate their blue-eyed undesirables in Parliament. So, we are where we are!
Even political party leaders given to tub thumping do not act with responsibility. Their reaction to the outcome of last week`s presidential election is a case in point. They have every right to disagree with the EC but the onus is on them to cite valid reasons for their dissent and to challenge his decision legally. Instead of taking recourse to the law, they are seeking relief from religious dignitaries and the international community. Worse, they are making irresponsible and vacuous utterances in public at the expense of the reputation and professional integrity of key public officials like the EC and his staff. At Wednesday`s press briefing, the EC, scotching rumours, said that he had been neither held at gunpoint nor placed under house arrest when the final results were announced contrary to claims by some Opposition politicians to that effect. But, within hours of his press briefing, JVP leader Somawansa Amarasinghe audaciously claimed at a public rally in Colombo that the EC had been held incommunicado at Temple Trees while results were being released! Somawansa may be trying to avoid a whitewash at the next parliamentary polls but such diabolical lies will not help him with that task.
It is being argued in some quarters that the 17th Amendment, if fully implemented, has the potential to be a panacea for all political ills this country is afflicted with. Constitutional safeguards are no doubt essential for ensuring independence of vital institutions but they alone are not sufficient. On the other hand, the inordinate hurry on the part of political parties represented in Parliament to ratify the 17th A left it riddled with big holes just like the Constitution itself which came into being at the whims and fancies of one man called JRJ, whose motive was nothing but self-aggrandisement. The EC has faulted the political parties for having rushed the 17th A through Parliament without a proper study thereof. In this country, Constitutions are made the way hoppers are baked and therefore it is not surprising that the basic law has the trappings of a periodical.
We Sri Lankans find ourselves in a peculiar position. We are surrounded by good-for-nothing politicians feathering their nests at our expense but we seek from them remedies for the very ills they themselves cause. Never does it seem to occur to us that using our vote wisely for decent candidates in the fray is half the battle in cleaning the unholy mess we are in.