Filed under politics

Elections & Prosperity

Election times are upon us…. well, not that there weren’t enough in the past few years, but only that an election which people care at least a dime is nearby and thus some changes to the Sri Lankan social behaviour.

Larger than life political faces materialising in every nook and corner of the country. Roads that were meant to be built in years are built in days. Living cost that was said to be impossible to come down even by godly interventions are coming down like melting butter. Roads that were closed due to terrible security hazards are being opened. Rulers’ godly status has been threatened and thus travelling alongside us – the mere mortals, in the road. Common mortals whom were lethargic due to the lack of gossip matters have again got something to shout about. Oh, almost forgot about free comedies and the entertainment…who needs Mr. Bean ? Considering all this, one might say that we should hold elections every month to see some positive developments in the country.

This is what I call the election prosperity.

But with such a polarised and biased grounds, is there any meaning to all this hype ? That’s another story for another time.

Sri Lanka, a new future ?

Last week was a very memorable one for all Sri Lankans, in whatever way you look at it. End of a 30 year old conflict is not something you forget that easily IMO. Younger generation today (me included) hadn’t seen a day without a war. Each month (some times every week) there were bomb blasts going on…people dying here and there… so it’s not a great wonder to feel relief after such a devastating conflict.

But I can’t really enjoy it either.

The cost of ending this brutal war has been massive. The war has brought so much grief to most families in members dead .. closer to 300,000 displaced in camps…more than 6000 army soldiers have sacrificed their lives (in last 3 years of war alone, according to recent stats)…most people have lost whatever they it’s not a party time either.

At most it’s bitter sweet.

But due to all these sacrifices from Sri Lankans, it has brought a new chance to look at the future in a new light. But it should be remembered specially the tri-forces who had put their life at risk and some who have laid lives, secretary of defence for his unwavering goal to finish the war and president for supporting it. They have done what four Sri Lankan presidents, eight governments, and 6 cease-fires could not. No matter whatever blunders the government has done, I don’t think any one can really blame government for going at active war…because they have tried everything possible through peace processes to come to a solution. Specially previous government through its MoU and even President Chandrika Bandaranayaka earlier with her willingness to give north to LTTE for 10 years without an election shows the desperation Sri Lanka wanted to have a peaceful solution. It’s no wonder because with the ongoing war country was basically at a stalemate when it came to the economy and growth. Prabhakaran never gave a compromise (even backing down a notch) from what he wanted and there was a limit the government could promise, which was a federal solution..which he despised. So when one party is not willing for a compromise, it’s a fact that there’s a conflict or a war in this case whether you like it or not.

But here we are…so what should be done ?

To where ?

First and foremost, there are about 300,000 displaced people in the north that are in very hard conditions. Also according to stats, it takes around Rs 3 crore per day and around 1 billion Rs per month to maintain these camps. Without a doubt they have to be resettled back asap and hopefully within 6 months as suggested by the government. But not only resettling them, rest of the country have to provide all the help they can to bring back these destroyed cities and villages to normalcy as much as they can be. Also it’s required to have a rapid development plan in these areas to bring them to the level of rest of the country.

But the real rock and hard place will be to bring peace through some political solution that’s acceptable to everyone.

Peace and a new future ?

As many believe Prabhakaran may have been a very skilful military leader…but that’s the only thing that can be said about him. If he had an iota of political sense most of this destruction could have been avoided through any of 6 peace processes underwent. Then what about all lives he took of intellectuals (specially that of Tamil leaders that didn’t go well with his ideology, or terror) ? That will take many years to fill that gap.

Through terror he shut down most of powerful moderate Tamil voices and except for a handful all were fearful of raising their voices. Personally, I feel there’s a lot of resemblance between the character Lord Voldemort of Harry Potter series and Prabhakaran in many ways. Both were megalomaniacs who thought they were like deities and made people even fearful of uttering their names much less voicing different opinions.

So now with the end of the war, the bottleneck is gone and Tamils have the freedom to express their opinions without a hindrance.  Also it’s government’s responsibility to let the freedom go to people.

People should use this to send representatives (preferably not idiots like some of those who are now in Parliament) who really care about them. Then use them to bring their grievances to discussion table and resolve it politically and peacefully.

The responsibility of the government is to use this golden opportunity provided by sacrificing thousands of lives by soldiers to bring all parties together (mainly UNP, as they have suggested their agreement to support the government in a political solution to get necessary votes in the parliament) instead of watering its self image (it may be justifiable to a certain extent because this is politics after all, but extreme is always ugly).

Also general public should think in terms of their contribution to the country. If a soldier can put their lives at risk and work 24 * 7 without a holiday, shouldn’t the rest at least work their 8 hour work load per day dutifully ? What right do we have to talk about soldiers if we can’t even do that ? [“Even after increasing it from 116,000 to 200,000, a soldier still cannot get seven days leave a month, he pointed out.”]

So we are at a cross road…I really hope it leads to somewhere better than past three decades.

Back to politics

It has been a very long time since I’ve had any interest in politics whether it’s local or world.

I was damn disappointed and angry with local politics because frankly there’s no party to support IMHO. There’s no one with a clear vision, all leaping from one party to other in a blink of an eye just for political or personal gains, democracy has become a joke with some ministers, Police has become just a tool of the government to control the opposition, people looking at television while live crimes being telecast…so the list goes on.

I was throughly fed up with international politics also mainly because of activities of Bush administration in US. Whether we like or not U.S. always had a say in where the world was heading in recent history and world seemed to be going on the wrong trail with Bush leading the way to the gates of hell. Invading other countries and later saying “Oops sorry, it was a mistake. Our evidences were bunch of lies“, hell-bent on trying to destroy the environment like it was Bin Laden, torture camps and secret prisons, possibility of a war with Iran..and this list also goes on.

So it was refreshing to see some new movements in politics and of course I’m talking about the intense US election that came to an end in last week. I was somewhat intrigued by this Obama guy when I heard about his ideas and his background at the beginning of this year. At that time he was in tough primaries with Sen. Hilary Clinton  who most believed is the de facto for 2008 nominations from Democratic party (of course I’m talking from what I saw from news), but that seemed the general consensus. So it was a great surprise to see him winning primaries and hearing him talking at Democratic convention in last August accepting the nomination.

But the bump in polling (I usually follow Gallup) that followed after the Democratic convention was soon ended with the Republican convention in the coming week and McCain seemed to be winning. I thought this will be a repetition of 2004 or 2000 where Democratics were ahead in days before the election and losing it at the end. Talking about McCain, he seemed to be a traditional politician, talking to people like children, going after slogans, changing positions all time, doing a rash choice for a running mate and continuing same Bush policies in almost every aspect, saying things like “bomb, bomb, bomb Iran”…which clearly didn’t give any good feeling about the guy (Btw, I had had enough of hearing the word ‘Maverick’ in last few weeks).

On the other hand the position Obama took clearly impressed me. First and foremost his ideology about Iraq war (he opposed it since its beginning), his idea for a more peaceful world, getting away from ‘Shoot first ask second” system, more understanding with Muslim countries…so IMO he was the better choice for the future of the world.

Also the way he ran his campaign really impressed me and gave a good indication that he can handle tough situations well (with the global economic crisis it certainly won’t be a walk in the park. Although I don’t believe Obama nor any other single person will be able to solve this mess). I have never seen a politician using the power of web to such an extreme level to get to the voters like done by Obama’s campaign.  Since he had been campaigning for nearly 2 years, he had a massive user base around his web site and he used that very effectively for almost everything ranging from organizing community activities, canvasing, fighting smears, carrying his message globally, GOTV campaigns and what not.  Also he had realized the importance of viral marketing and used all popular social networks and micro blogging services like Twitter to their fullest limits. According to recent numbers he had more than 100K followers in Twitter and about a million users in Facebook.

So finally when election results started coming in last Wednesday morning it seemed all projected Toss-up states like Virginia, Indiana and Florida which he had been leading in polls going the other way around. But within few minutes results of PA came and a bit after that Ohio came and the game was set. Then after some time I watched the historical acceptance speech by U.S. president-elect Barack Obama and it was truly a beautiful sight.

We have been reading about legends of Mahatma Gandhi and  Civil right movements of Martin Luther King, Jr in world history and how it changed the world. To me the last US election could be seen as another changing moment in the history after 100 years later or become just another lost chance. According to Arthur C. Clarke (I’m taking from his 3001-space odyssey) as human civilization evolves there should be less violence because of greater understanding and increased intelligence. I truly hope this new “Change” will be a turning point of the world in to a global peaceful environment even though at the moment it’s looking pretty gloomy.


Btw, I thought of writing how US election can relate to Sri Lankan context also (there are many similarities, differences and a thing or two that we can try to adapt) but it will be insanely long  if it added up to this already elongated post so I’ll post that later separately.

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