Saturday 13th November, 2021
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa made a gem of a statement, while speaking at an event to mark the World Science Day, at Temple Trees, on Wednesday, but it did not receive adequate media attention. It was not about science and technology, though. Instead, it was about Sri Lankans’ inability to make rational choices when they elect their representatives.
The President wanted to know why the people re-elected the politicians they had voted out for failure to live up to their expectations, and urged them to reject such elements once and for all, and elect a new set of representatives. (If the people had done so in 2015, when they ousted the Mahinda Rajapaksa government, neither the President, who was part of that administration, nor any of the SLPP politicians would have been in power today!) The President added that he and his administration should be given the same treatment if the public was not satisfied with their performance. The SLPP will be in deep trouble if the people take the President’s advice seriously and vote accordingly at the next election!
One can argue that President Rajapaksa has sought to lay the blame for what has befallen the country under successive governments, at the feet of the people, but the fact remains that he has made a valid point. The blame for the unholy mess the country has got into over the decades should be apportioned to the people. It is said that the people deserve the governments they elect.
Sri Lankans are gluttons for punishment. They keep rejecting and electing the same set of politicians while lamenting that the country has not achieved any progress since Independence. You cannot make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, can you? Insanity has been defined as doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results. Politicians in this country are lucky that the people are not capable of making rational decisions. That is why they elect drug dealers, rapists, killers, chain snatchers, cattle rustlers, bootleggers and other semiliterate political dregs as their representatives. Most of the current MPs and local government members would have been in the political wilderness or in prison if the people had voted wisely and rejected them at the past elections.
Desperation or fear drives people to worship false messiahs or even rocks and trees. How they, desperate to save their lives, jostled and shoved to buy the Dhammika peniya, which was touted as a cure for Covid-19, may serve as an example. Following the Easter Sunday terror attacks (2019), people feared for their lives, and the SLPP offered hope to them, just like the carpenter turned native healer, Dhammika Bandara, who claimed to be able to cure the people of Covid-19. Today, the public has realised the SLPP’s election manifesto is the political version of the Dhammika peniya, and hence their disillusionment with the incumbent regime.
Some Sri Lankans are sure to look for an alternative to both the government and the Opposition come the next election, but it is doubtful whether they will be able to make a significant difference in Sri Lanka’s rotten electoral politics, given the sheer number of voters blinded by their allegiances to political parties.
It may be recalled that in 2004, the JVP became the choice of the people who were fed up with the two main parties at the time, the SLFP and the UNP. It fielded 41 candidates from the SLFP-led UPFA at the general election in that year and secured 39 seats in Parliament. It, however, did not manage its electoral gains properly and is now left with only three seats.
The people voted the SLPP into office for want of a better alternative; they thought its big guns had learnt their lessons, following their ignominious defeat in 2015 and would act differently, if elected again. The voting public may also have thought that the SLPP politicians had made enough money while they were in power previously, and, therefore, had no need to steal any more public funds or put corrupt deals through at the expense of the country, again. How mistaken they were! Old habits die hard, and the SLPP politicians are doing more of what they did previously as can be seen from the various rackets under the current dispensation.
So, the time has come for us to go about during the daytime, carrying lighted lanterns, in search of some good politicians a la Diogenes.