The government is conducting a no-holds-barred polls campaign to bag the Uva Provincial Council while its opponents are crying foul. The UPFA wants more than a mere victory in that province. A member of the ruling clan is in the fray seeking reelection as Chief Minister. If there happens to be a drop in the number of the UPFA’s seats or votes that will be made out to be a sign of the Rajapaksas’ popularity being on the wane. This is the last thing the UPFA wants at a time it is planning to go for a presidential election early next year. Hence, the government is moving full steam ahead on its Uva polls campaign.
The Election Secretariat and the police are said to be inundated with complaints against the ruling party politicians and their supporters. The police stand accused of inaction and pressure is being ratcheted up on the Polls Chief to get cracking. Besides, some politicians have resorted to slander and character assassination in a bid to entertain their supporters and demoralise their opponents. The media is also responsible for this sorry state of affairs to a certain extent. A section of the electronic media carries daily mud segments, as it were, to give publicity to politicians’ claptrap and, as a result, all windbags who dish out balderdash full of vicious calumnies hog the limelight. These media institutions vying with one another for higher ratings only encourage cantankerous nitwits to come out with loads and loads of rubbish replete with risqué.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa, during a recent UPFA meeting in Uva, had to interrupt Minister Mervyn Silva in the middle of a fiery speech and ask him to refrain from insulting the JVP leader, according to media reports. If only such action had been taken years ago!
Many are the politicians who dig their political graves with their dirty tongues. Whenever they open their foul mouths decent electors run miles, so to speak. Those who invite them to make public speeches, too, should be faulted. In 2007, Minister Silva, got into trouble at the Rupavahini Corporation when he stormed it in high dudgeon, kicked up a row and collared a producer, demanding to know why a speech he had made slandering Mangala Samaraweera in Matara the previous day had not been telecast. Rupavahini workers, in a rare moment of unity, fought back with might and main. The minister made a tail-between-the-legs exit, looking the worse for wear.
It is not only on campaign trails that some politicians misbehave and carry out vituperative attacks against their political opponents. They do so in Parliament, Provincial Councils and local government institutions as well. A recent television debate ended with two politicians, one from the government and the other from the Opposition, shamelessly coming to blows. Parliamentarians liberally trade abuse in the House and slanging matches pass for debates. Gone are the days of cut-and-thrust parliamentary debates with intellectual heavyweights thrusting and parrying elegantly. Even their barbs that were many were couched in parliamentary language. Today, besides raw filth and fisticuffs one hears words like ‘gigolo’ and ‘pimp’ being freely used so much so that teachers are wary of taking students on educational tours to Parliament when it is in session.
There is no guarantee that Minister Silva and others of his ilk will refrain from insulting the JVP leader et al when the President is not around. He is one of the government politicians who have become a law unto themselves. Whether the SLFP will make a serious effort to keep them on a tight leash remains to be seen. The government can do itself a big favour by making such politicians keep their traps shut without insulting others and polluting the air.