09 December 2013

Susil Premajayantha nominates a Nominations Committee


Next year there will be elections.  That’s not news. Hardly a year passes without election, what with local government polls, provincial council elections, general elections and of course the all-important presidential election.  It is not just the fact of elections but their (politically expedient) staggered nature that makes every year an election year. 

Now some people think that this makes for election fatigue and they may be right.  On the other hand, no one is more fatigued than I.  As the General Secretary of the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA), I have a tough job on my hands.  It’s not about the drudgery of designing election campaigns and implementing them. That’s relatively easy. My problem is about vetting potential candidates. 

There are so many factors to be considered.  There are incumbents.  There are ‘comeback kids’, those who’ve won and lost elections, downgrading from parliament to provincial council to pradeshiya sabha as the case may be.  There are the up-n-coming, those who can say ‘been there, done that’ and now want to move up. 

Then there are the constituent parties of the coalition.  They submit names.  We can’t really say ‘This is the SLFP and you people are just add-ons’; that’s not polite, you see.  It’s got worse over the years.  If it was the odd UNPer crossing over, that’s manageable.  We’ve had entire parties move in with us.  Sure it helps slant parliamentary arithmetic in our favor but there are times I wonder whether His Excellency knows how to differentiate between blessing and curse, or, in the very least, whether he has any sense of the relevant magnitudes of these two things. Blessing and curse, that is.  It seems to me that I get saddled with the curse part even as he is blessed. 

In the case of what are called ‘punchi chanda’ or minor elections, we have to work out other math problems, ensuring that such and such a percentage are ‘young’ while trying to show our gender sensitivity by inserting an appropriate number of women into the various lists. 
Think all this is tough?  Think again!
The real challenge is to make sure that we get a decent number of decent people into the lists without offending our political associates and of course the bigger men above me.  Each time a politician elected on the UPFA ticket screws up, I cringe.  That buck tends to stop with me and not with His Excellency.  After all, as UPFA Secretary it’s my signature and not his that goes on nomination papers. 
Enough is enough; enough of me being in charge of nomination committees, enough of signing nomination papers of known and potential wrong-doers.  If it is party policy to fill its elected ranks with riffraff then let it be stated in policy statement.  If the party chooses to look the other way, let that too be stated as ideological preference.  I’ve had enough of holding the ugly baby of political skullduggery. 
I think it is better to keep things transparent.  That way no one can say that the UPFA hoodwinked them.  The voter can’t say ‘we didn’t know that we were voting for a thug, a rapist, a drug-trafficker, a murder etc., etc.’   All we need to do in the event anyone cries foul is to wave the names of the nominations committee.  
Here goes. 

I hereby respectively, in full control of my faculties and with utmost fidelity to the highest principles of democracy, recommend that the following be appointed to the UPFA Nominations Committee. 
Sampath Vidanapathirana.  That’s our hero from the Tangalle Pradeshiya Sabha Khurram.  He’s a suspected murderer.  Then there’s Kamal Indika, recently elected to the Wayamba Provincial Council.  A thug if ever there was one.  Bindu Weerasinghe went from zero to hero (in his mind) when he assaulted well-known singer Saman De Silva.  Perhaps it is his agriculturist strokes that saw him being given that portfolio in the Southern Provincial Council. We have to keep the constituent parties happy.  K.Kamalendran, Northern Provincial Council Opposition Leader has taken a leaf out of Vidanapathirana’s book, it seems.  They will work well together. 

That’s for starters.  If anyone wants to add any more names, be my guest.  You could send in your nominees to The Nation.  We should put together as exhaustive a list as possible so President Mahinda Rajapaksa can pick the worst of the bad lot.  And while you are at it, recommend a Chairperson too.