This is a repub of last weeks Sunday Leader article titled Vote For Yourself”. The Provincial Council elections are tomorrow (Saturday). I’m going to vote and I think you should to. It’s important.
I’ve never voted. This is pretty hypocritical so I registered and anxiously await my ballot card. I’m actually quite excited about the whole thing. The Western Provincial Council isn’t that powerful and my candidate will probably lose, but that’s not really the point. I’m not voting for the politicians anyways. I’m voting for myself.
A Political Solution
People say that politicians are the problem. Having identified the problem, however, many seem to give up, saying that politicians are irredeemable, they’re exploiting people, etc. I hear that they’re all the same or it’s not worth it or my vote won’t count. Well, I don’t know, but I do know that one vote is more than zero. I do know that it’s one less good person allowing evil to triumph. It’s a start.
Why The Provincial Councils Matter
Provincial Councils don’t have that much political power. However, they can improve people’s lives. Provincial Councilors can initiate projects with their limited budgets and supplement that with grants and loans. Proper investment in basic services and small business via things like micro-credit can actually make a difference in people’s lives. Those people can go on to help their neighbors, and the nation.
Provincial Councils are also a good thing in themselves. Devolution to the province is the most sensible political solution to our conflict, and it finally seems to have its own momentum. Perhaps all the postering and campaigning is just grandstanding, but it still draws attention to the Provincial Councils. It is strengthening the unit of devolution, and that’s a good thing.
Reasons To Be Cynical
Of course, the most attention-getting candidates are also the least qualified. Thilanga Sumathipala was convicted of obtaining a false passport for a known murderer. Dumindha Silva was charged with the rape of an underaged girl and is documented as threatening Anarkali. These men are blanketing the Western Province with posters and campaign materials and look quite likely to win. In any civilized country they wouldn’t even be able to run.
However, the response to this shamelessness is not for good people to do nothing. Even if it’s a losing battle, it’s important to vote against men like this and for half-decent politicians. But who?
Reasons To Hope
Personally, I’m voting for Shiral Lakthilaka. He’s not implicated in any murders, rapes or extortion and he seems like a decent man with ideas. I know it’s a low bar, but he passes it. I heard about Shiral when he publicly disclosed his assets and I was curious. So I called him up and managed to get a 15 minute interview. This is available on YouTube if you search for his name.
He’s well-spoken, thoughtful and he wants change. He’s disclosed his assets, he’s documented his policies and thoughts and if he messes up in office I feel comfortable calling him up and yelling at him. So that’s who I’m voting for.
I won’t necessarily endorse him cause you really need to look around for yourself. He’s contesting under number 39 for the UNP. He has a website at www.shiral.net and a Facebook page. My only point is that all politicians aren’t bad. Once you get past the posters there are real people trying to do good things the right way. They deserve our support, and they deserve our vote.
Reasons To Persevere
Of course, victory seems unlikely against well-armed candidates with undisclosed assets. Even if my candidate wins, the Provincial Council won’t do much to change the national situation. But you have to start somewhere, and here and now is all we’ve got.
Personally, I’ve spent long enough discussing precisely what’s wrong with Sri Lanka and how we’re doomed. I’ve heard enough about the historical mistakes and where they lead. I mean, I get it. I wake up in the morning and I can see poverty, war and abuse of power.
I get it. Now what? As a Sri Lankan citizen, I don’t have the power to implement coffee table resolutions, but I can vote. It may not be much, but it’s better than the zero input I had before. So I’m going to try this out, and if they mess up my ballot card I’m going to raise a fuss. I may not win or really change anything, but at least it’s a change in me. There comes a time when democracy has to go from a big word to a little bit of action. This election I’m going to get in line with everybody else and vote.