Elections and lessons from the past

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The last local government elections held in our country in 2018, saw the then newly-formed Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) winning a majority of the seats – 40% of the votes.
The current round of local elections is scheduled to be held in March this year. Judging by the state of the country’s economy – our coffers are empty and we are unable to repay international creditors – our country is in simple 
language, bankrupt.

We do not have the means to import essential food stuffs, fuel and gas and essential medicines. Our Minister of Health is calling on the medical fraternity to limit surgeries to do only essential ones. What that worthy means by this, it is hard to understand, as doctors perform surgeries only when all other options run out.
The basic salary of an ordinary worker in the country is less than Rs. 35,000/-, providing two square meals for a family of four costs around the same price. This leaves no funds for medicines education, travel, clothing etc.

The Global Nutrition Report 2022 shows wasting among Lankan children under 5 years of age standing at 15.1%, which is higher than the Asian region which stands at 8.9% and among the highest in the world.
The rupee which stood at less than Rs.185/- to a US$ in 2019, now costs over Rs. 360/- to a US$. As at February 21 ‘Economy Next’ showed national inflation at 59.2%. Studies have also shown that in families with more than one child, one of the children have been forced to skip school due to poverty.

Not unexpectedly the governing party, which won over 40% of the vote at the 2018 local government election, is deeply unpopular among the masses today. Many families have been forced to cut down on at least one meal per day.
Opposition parties are demanding the election be held in a timely manner. A majority of the public too are demanding the election be held, to vent their anger on the ruling party for the burdens heaped on them. But hustings at this point, is anathema to the ruling party, which foresees a drubbing at the polls.

A variety of reasons are being put forward to postpone the upcoming election, one of them being the country does not have the money to hold an election.
In face of the present economic meltdown, this may well be true. Yet, to a people seething under the burdens placed on them by government, polls are a way for them (people) to vent their anger against the powers that be.
Also, polls are an essential part of the democratic process. A postponement or cancellation of elections under false pretenses, will not only shake the very foundations of democracy itself, it will bring frustration among the people to a bursting point.

Taking away a people’s right to teach their elected representatives a lesson constitutionally and in a timely manner, could easily lead to extra-parliamentary politics. This country has seen the fallout of similar attempts to usurp the 
franchise before.
In 1972, Sirimavo Bandaranaike oversaw the drafting of a new constitution and extended her parliamentary period until 1977. The people’s anger saw them vote JR Jayawardene’s UNP into power with a 5/6th majority. Unfortunately, JR Jayawardene himself held a flawed referendum to cancel the general elections of 1982.

The cancellation of the election led to the JVP going underground in 1983 after being falsely charged with involvement in the 1983 ethnic riots. In turn it led to a full-blown insurgency and blood bath between 1987 and 1989. Our present leaders need to learn the lessons of history not repeat 
the same.
We are already in an economic mess created by politicians who were in power when the country was bankrupted. Now these self-same personages give the appearance of not wanting to hear the verdict of a hungry and angered populace.

By any stretch of imagination, this country does not need a descent into extra parliamentary politics once again. It was barely 14 years ago we came out of a bloody ethnic war which killed thousands of our own citizens.
There is a wise old adage which says, ‘you can fool some of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time. But you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.’
It is time our politicians take these lessons to heart, if they have even a pinch of love for 
their country.courtesy Daily Mirror

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