Sri Lanka has witnessed a big political change since President Gotabaya Rajapaksa swept the Presidential Polls in November last year, putting an end to five years of instability and political turmoil.
It cannot be denied that the downward trend the former UNP government pushed us into caused extensive damage as the nation did not receive any foreign investments, unemployment was high and unjust taxes squeezed the rich and poor alike. All this, while the Bond Scam which was the largest scam in Sri Lanka’s political history was conveniently swept under the carpet. For the new SLPP government to now recover from the mismanagaments and weak leadership of the former government, is undeniably a task ahead.
Within months since President Rajapaksa and his government was sworn in, on March 2, by the powers vested on him, the President dissolved Parliament to go in for a Parliamentary Election. It is not rocket science to figure out that following the election of a President, a parliamentary election must be held to have a government in place and a new Parliament which will carry on for the next 5 years. However, in March, just merely a week after the Parliament was dissolved, the COVID-19 virus hit us, eventually causing the country to go into a lockdown, bringing a halt to all economic activities and livelihoods. For President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, the first thing was to go into action mode to prevent a catastrophic transmission of the virus spreading among the public. The world was facing a calamity with the virus spreading at a speed, no one could control. Eventually with the pandemic pushing us all into a lockdown and with the advise of the Health officials, the election was further postponed to June 20, keeping the safety of the public in mind.
In the meantime, the opposition, which is still caught up in bitter political bickering and infighting, used the COVID-19 to delay the elections as much as possible trying to prevent a humiliating defeat. Their antics continued and reached the doorstep of the Supreme Court with FR petitions were filed, which was quashed for having no basis.
In this whole fiasco, another important thing that emerged is the crucial question on the independence of the Elections Commission. In an unsurprising turn of events, member of the EC, Ratnajeevan Hoole, in a recent interview to a northern based media station, ranting his political vengeance attempted to mislead voters by saying ‘not to vote for cheats’, later going on to say that if the ‘hat fits, the SLPP should wear it’.
First of all, this is not the first time that Hoole has ranted his vengeance against the SLPP government. He made several attempts during the Presidential Elections and has made it obvious that his aim is to show hatred against the Rajapaksas and their party members. This has always led to a vital question, with such members appointed to independent commissions, how independent do these commissions then remain?
The downfall of any democracy is when Independent Commissions, which people trust, emerge into vicious political tools working on hidden agendas. And in this instance, the Elections Commission which is one of the leading Commissions in ensuring that democracy is upheld in this country.
Members of the Commission, most certainly can have their own political preferences and can vote for any party they wish, but it is only ethical that when it comes to maintaining the standards of the Commission, they must be independent in allowing the voter to exercise their right. When members stoop down to misleading voters by lying and cheating, just before an election, is the new low they can stoop to.
Despite Hoole’s various attempts to tarnish the image of the SLPP, he has forgotten the very basis the Elections Commission was formed – the voter comes first, the voter is all powerful, the voter has the final say and the voter should have the feedom to vote for a party of his/her choice. If Hoole thinks that by his rants, he can mislead the voter, then he is taking for granted that voters are not foolish and should never be underestimated. Better Hoole resigns and becomes a politician instead, rather than doing bitter politics, under the guise of an independent commissioner of one of the most important, democratic and independent institutions in the country.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa have always respected the independence of the Commissions. Because that is a must in any democratic country. Despite all the hurdles this country faces, the President and Prime Minister and the SLPP government will continue to maintain the independence of these commissions. How the commission members then function, is something we leave to them.
This country has a long way more to go. This government is committed to hold an election soon, have a strong stable government in place so that we can get back on the global map. Just as Sri Lanka adapted one of the best strategies in the world to beat the COVID-19, we call upon the public to have faith in the President, Prime Minister and the SLPP. No amount of lies and deceit by so called ‘independent members’ can make us disappoint the citizens of this nation.