Sunday, February 14, 2010


When Sri Lanka recently went for Presidential election, many people around the world thought that the country’s democratic system has matured and Sri Lanka will be able to overcome its problems before long. While the election debate was acrimonious when several personal allegations were made, the observers did not mind it , terming such exchanges between the political parties as part of normal electoral process in a democracy.

Unfortunately, after the elections were over, the successful candidate has gone to the extent of arresting the defeated candidate, and in the process spreading cancerous animosity and distrust around the country. Certainly, this development should have been avoided.

The President of Sri Lanka would have done well if he had shown magnanimity and treated his opponent with respect and good will. This should be the condition in a healthy democratic society.

We have heard several times this kind of stories in under developed and developing countries of the government accusing the political opponents of indulging in anti national activities and putting them behind bars. One should not forget that even Nelson Mandela was accused of treason and put behind bars in South Africa for several years and the world admires Nelson Mandela today. Even in India , during the national emergency a few decades back, great stalwarts like Jayaprakash Narain were put behind bars for what the then government said as “anti national activity”.

In all such cases in the past, we have found that the governments which arrested the opponent political leader were found to be at the fault later on and lost reputation. One wonders as to why the Sri Lankan government has not learnt from such historical development. Is personal animosity clouding the vision ? Is it not a fact that great statesman have always acted in a dispassionate manner and did not allow personal feelings against anyone to come into political decisions ?

Even if the Sri Lankan government would genuinely feel that the opponent Presidential candidate had ulterior designs, it could have taken steps to prove it in a court of law, instead of arresting him which gives an impression of vindictiveness. How to believe that a man who was the Chief of Army and worked closely with the same person as the head of the state and fought the war together would all of a sudden become an anti national person ?

The people of Sri Lanka has suffered enormously during the last several years. The Sri Lankan Tamils underwent miseries and are desperately looking for better days. Because of the prolonged internal war, all the citizens of Sri Lanka had to sacrifice, as development projects got delayed and several opportunities for growth were lost. Such people fervently hoped that after the Presidential elections ,there would be better times, more healthy public debate and both the ruling and opposition parties would work keeping the interests of the country in view. Certainly, they would not have expected that one candidate would arrest another candidate and put the country’s political system into chaos and turbulence.

Certainly, the world thought both the main political candidates in the election fought for Sri Lanka together during the ethnic war and would compete with each other in directing Sri Lanka in the path of progress in the post ethnic war period. Unfortunately, this is not happening.

Those in the positions of power and authority and guiding the destiny of the nation should know history and should be able to think beyond themselves and beyond the immediate time. The opportunity to lead the country come to very few people and when they would fail to create an atmosphere of amity and goodwill, the citizens, both at present and in future, will feel cheated.

Article by:
N. S. Venkataraman

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