Let’s get on with our lives; A piece by a UNP supporter.
I voted for Sajith. I’m not ashamed to say that. I don’t regret it either. Despite its colossal failings, the YP government introduced and fostered the essential trappings of democracy that had been absent from SL for a long time. Things like an independent judiciary, a free media, independent commissions, the RTI legislation. The most free and fair elections in living memory took place under this regime. In Sajith I saw a leader with minimum baggage. Unproven, but enthusiastic. And blessed with something few of the present crop of leaders have - youth. Besides, he had and has good people around him. He lost because of multiple factors, not least because he was dealt a rotten hand by his leader, RW. And also because the failings of the YP government were too big to ignore.
To our new President, congratulations and best wishes. Despite my misgivings about you and your family’s conduct pre 2015, I do sincerely hope that you will prove me wrong and be the president that this country needs. Though my opinion counts for nothing, I hope that you will keep in mind the following:
- Remember that the Muslims, Tamils and Christians who did not vote for you are not your enemies. You are their president as well. Unlike some of your supporters, I hope that, instead of alienating them further, you will reach out to them and ascertain why they did not vote for you. What are their fears and concerns? Every concession or attempt by the YP government to address minority grievances, every engagement with the minorities, was seen by the majority Sinhalese as a betrayal. You, however, are uniquely placed in that you have come to power on a sea of Sinhala Buddhist votes and those voters are not going to view your actions, whatever those actions may be, as a betrayal. Make use of this to promote genuine reconciliation with the Tamils in the north and Muslims. Give them the assurance that they are equal partners in the journey forward. Do this, and may be come 5 years, you won’t have to rely on Sinhala Buddhist voters alone.
- Acknowledge that amongst your ranks are the vilest and most despicable of racists. The sort that would like to see Tamils destroyed and churches bombed as punishment for not voting for you. You need to keep these rabid deplorable voices out of government; deny them a platform; more than anything else, you need to show that their views are not shared by you or your government.
- Resist the urge to rely on your family. You campaigned on a promise of professionalism in government. Rely then on the professionals.
- Your manifesto prioritized security over all else. I beg to differ. Respecting and upholding the Constitution and the Rule of Law comes first. The Constitution and the Rule of Law cannot be subservient to security. This is not to say that security is not a priority. It’s just that security measures must always be subject to the constitution and the law.
- You and your campaign benefited immensely from a free media and an independent judiciary. Protect and foster these two hallowed institutions of democracy. And allow voices of dissent. Dissent is essential in a functioning democracy. Do not suppress it.
- Finally, tell your brother to keep his sons, your nephews, in check. They did immeasurable damage to your brother’s regime. Left unchecked, they’ll do the same to yours.
To the UNP, it is time to clean the stables. RW, if there ever was a opportune time to go, now would be it. Go quietly into the night lest the hounds come after you. You failed the country, you failed the GOP, you failed your electorate. In the likes of Sajith, Harsha, Eran, Harin, Kabir and others of the younger ilk, the UNP has a foundation upon which to rebuild. For this, the old guard, the despicables, must go. If they don’t go, they must be thrown out. Every democracy needs a strong opposition. The UNP must step up for the sake of the country.
To civil society, do not let up; do not fear. The democratic institutions put in place are, hopefully, still strong. They are the last, best hope against excess of the executive.
And finally to the voters. The elections are over. Get over it. Get on with your lives. Get back to bitching about the cricket. About the smog and AQI. About demon bus drivers and maniac tuk tuks.
Over and out.