Today, as Sri Lanka prepares for its seventh Presidential Election, with the number of candidates contesting blown up twelve-fold to that when the system was introduced in 1982. The main reason for this was the absence of any checks and balance in the first republican constitution, whose architect was the first Executive President. This constitution amended nineteen times is today commonly referred as a ‘Draconian Constitution’ as it destroyed the state structure and has disintegrated the republican politics with formation of many ethnic and religious biased political parties. The state structure evolved earlier as per the first constitution from the time the country gained independence in 1948 included a proper system of checks and balances to provide a holistic rule to the country that was then called ‘Ceylon’ that was a multi ethnic and multi religious.
Under a true democracy the language and religion of the majority community would have gained prominence without the rulers having to prop it up and the minorities would have assimilated it with their basic rights already guaranteed by the constitution. But the power hungry elite rulers had other ideas and their means did not justify the end with the introduction of the ‘Sinhala Only’ language policy and giving prominence to Buddhism when the country was made a republic. Unfortunately, the rulers in haste first ignored the constitution and then replaced it altogether that antagonize the minorities. It caused several uprisings and finally led the country to a bloody and cruel civil-war that lasted several decades. As the result the island nation that was a paradise in seven decades became heavily riddled country in foreign debts; worse still the civil strife cost the country many valuable lives and faced heavy destruction that pushed the country back by five decades in terms of development. Because there was a heavy brain drain with loss of human resources to many developed nations and today these countries is the home for many thousands of Sri Lankan diaspora that includes over thousand refugees in India. Then in 2009 the civil-war was brought to finish and the absence of war has not brought real peace and the country made republic is spinning in corruption prevailing countrywide; with many civil-war related issues left resolved and the root cause of it all discrimination of minorities left unattended by the state.
In this backdrop, the out of the box decision by United National Party (UNP), known as the ‘Grand Old Party’ to nominate a hardworking youth to get elected by all communities as the next Head of State, has raised hopes to the minorities who have taken the blunt of all forms of discrimination. For this clean politician, who respect and follows the Buddha Dharma and a firm believer of co-existence has made it known to the people among other things, that as President would within an all-inclusive unitary state give maximum devolution of power to all provinces to make a holistic rule a reality. This has inspired other forerunners, that includes a dictatorial, a third force and an alternate force candidates to promote the same concept. While many others will end up as ‘also ran’ contesting the election knowing well that they would split the votes to deny any of the said four leading candidates from getting over 50% of the votes on the first count needed to win the election.
Bitter truth is no matter who wins they will have a full house parliament functioning for at least to the middle of next year to complete their full term in parliament and includes many with poor track records to say the least, representatives of all the communities countrywide who will looking for avenues to retain their positions and the seats in parliament. The New President if wise should use them to implement his plan of action, before dissolving the parliament for the next General Election due in 2020.
Sri Lankans eligible to vote at this election must realize that only at election time they are important and therefore use their vote wisely, knowing well the dirty games politicians play at election time; be alert and not fall prey to the trap set by the ‘also ran’ small minded candidates. In particular voters among the minority communities should select the right man to vote from the leading candidates to make him to win the election on the first count.
The new President will get a supportive team of ministers to work on his objectives to provide social justice and economic welfare to reduce the gap between the haves and have not. Yet, those objectives cannot be achieved simply by redistributing existing limited wealth; but possible only by profitably increasing the quantum of national wealth itself with a sustained and robust economic growth; given the continuing global economic uncertainties and the cancer of systemic corruption. The President must therefore introduce within six month much needed structural changes to the economy; but above all first solve the ‘national problem’ as peace and prosperity of Sri Lanka depends fundamentally and crucially in finding solution to the last issue. The voters must remember that the Grand Old Party has given a candidate for them to vote, who is capable of shaping his cabinet to take the nation undivided under a holistic rule for to benefit all Sri Lankans.