01 September 2011

So will you vote for a polluter?

Mohanlal Grero, it is reported, was upset about the impending elections for the Dehiwala-Galkissa Municipal Council.  He wanted the United National Party to keep the issue of who would be mayor open in the event of the party emerging victorious.  In other words, he was opposed to the idea of a ‘Mayor/Mayoress Designate’.   He had threatened to quit as Party Organizer if his demands were not met.  Now he says that four out of five demands have been met and the quit-threat would not be revisited until after the election was over.

Richard Pathirana and Amarasiri Dodangoda are no more, but the polluting culture they like thousands of others helped perpetuate lives on

Notably, the party leadership had not backed down on the key contention, merely assuring the aggrieved Ratmalana Organizer of the party that the Mayor Designate, if elected, would not harm the interests of the Ratmalana voters.   It is reported that this ‘successful’ conclusion of discussions was met with wild cheering and firecrackers. 
Meanwhile, most of the good ladies and gentlemen of all parties contesting the election, have demonstrated their commitment to the city whose operations they hope to oversee.  They’ve plastered the walls of private and public properties with posters.  The electorate wakes to a set of faces and a few hours later gets to see another bunch of mug shots.  Come evening, these are duly replaced by yet another bunch of Good Samaritans who believe the citizens owe them something. 
This is not new.  Elections are made of posters.  Thousands upon thousands of trees have to be cut to make the paper that is used for posters.  Some of the candidates even have the gumption to promise the voter a clean environment in the event they get elected.  Not just in Dehiwala-Galkissa, of course. 
These are local government elections.  The key word is ‘local’.  Only those who are resident in the relevant geography can contest.  If a resident needs a poster to tell his neighbours that he/she is contesting, then he/she must have been pretty much absent from the community and therefore cannot claim to know what the issues are or have solutions for the problems requiring immediate attention.  If a candidate must necessarily indulge in pollution to win some votes so that he/she can arrest pollution (for example), then that candidate is not deserving of your vote.  Also, if that candidate wins, then the voters should not complain if they find that their waste disposal problem remains unaddressed, if their children die of Dengue and other diseases that pollution and squalor help spread. 
The Colombo Municipal area has been spared all that.  So far.  Perhaps this is because the ongoing city beautification process has made people see that a clean city is not as Utopian as was thought to be and politicians, consequently, don’t want to rub the voter the wrong way with posters, cut-outs and other campaign paraphernalia.  They don’t want, perhaps, to be identified as eye-sore producers and promoters.
If this is possible in Colombo, then it is not impossible elsewhere.  It is easy to blame the candidates, but we must understand that there is a demand-supply principle in operation in the matter of electioneering.  Champika Ranawaka and Udaya Gammanpila ran effective poster-free campaigns at the General Election and Provincial Council Election respectively and were among those who polled the most preferential votes.  They were exceptions, however.    Duminda Silva won handsomely in Colombo at the General Election, even though it seemed he would not spare a single wall or lamppost.  Wimal Weerawansa was as poster-fixated.  They finished on top.  Those who finished first in all districts were similarly poster inclined.  Polluters all, yes, but we must not forget that they were rewarded nevertheless. 
It would be nice if residents came out and said, ‘poster boys and girls will not get my vote’, but people are risk-averse (as they ought to be!).   You don’t have to shout about it though.  There’s generally one or two people who either out of choice or circumstances (lack of campaign cash, for example) leave walls alone.  Every party has a few I-shall-not-pollute candidates.   If the party of choice has no one like that then it is probably time to question the worth of supporting that particular party.  It is far better to spoil your vote or at least stay at home on election day. 
As for Mohanlal Grero and the UNP, they seem to have missed the bus. It’s not about whether Sunethra Ranasinghe is good or bad.  Well, I suppose it’s important for them.  There are more pressing issues and they are all pasted on the walls.  Strange they didn’t have the eyes to see.



Bimal said...

There have been somany elections in the last 5 years, I have lost interest in who comes or goes - infact, I don't see anything different despite changes in office. However, for the last few elections, I have always avoided "polluters" and candidates with obvious false promises.