If you hire someone, they shouldn’t steal from you, or break the law. At a minimum. Why don’t we expect the same from our politicians? Why do we have the lowest standards for the highest positions?
Recently the March 12 Movement collected hundreds of thousands of signatures – including those of President Sirisena and all major party leaders – on a simple declaration of standards for nominees. They seem basic, but it’s a sea change for Sri Lankan politics. They said that nominees should be:
- Not criminals
- Free of bribery and corruption
- Free of anti-social trades
- Environment friendly
- Not abusing authority
- Free of abusive financial contracts
- Close to their electors
- Adequate opportunities for women and youth
Now, this is actually a lower bar than for most private sector jobs, but it’s a start. We should vote this way. We should really start voting for people of good character above all, the same way we look for people of character in any relationship. As the Buddha said,
Don’t go around with evil friends,
with rogues do not resort.
Spend your time with noble friends,
and worthy ones consort. (Chapter 6, The Wise)
In this election I’m looking at policy, but honestly the promises are quite similar. I’m also trying to look at the people. That’s why I lean towards Harsha (21), Eran (6) and Rosy (12). People (including my mother) have said I should vote for more representative candidates, but I guess I feel like these people represent me and I can talk to them. I feel like they’re smart and educated and they can manage a complicated job.
Parliamentary voting is a personal thing – you’re literally voting for your representative – and this time I actually know some of the people and I think they’re decent. Maybe you feel more connected to other people and that’s fine. I can personally vouch for Harsha and Eran and Rosy, to my ears, has a good reputation.
That’s also why I’m leaning away from candidates like Ravi Karunayake, who I think is a bit dodgy, and why I’m fleeing from Mahinda and the UPFA. Because, you know, if his crew goes on vacation they call it a Rogues Resort. Mahinda did a lot for this country, but associating with noble friends wasn’t one of them.
You should obviously vote how you like. I feel incredibly lucky to have been able to vote for a good and decent man like Maithripala Sirisena. Someone who actually gave up power from the Presidency and who genuinely tries to humbly serve. People say he’s weak or ineffectual, but I think it takes great strength to just be decent in a culture where we’ve gotten so used to making excuses for our leaders.
The war is over and I am thankful to Mahinda (and Gothabaya) for their service. Can’t say I agree with the methods, but I am not ungrateful. I just don’t think this is their time. You can’t brute force your way to lasting peace, an economy built around people, and a stronger democracy. Sri Lankans have felt like they needed bad people to get stuff done, but it doesn’t have to be like that.
If you’re hiring for any other job you wouldn’t be like, ‘well he’s stealing my money and his friends took over my house, but at least we have a new driveway’. You’d just be like, ‘you’re fired, someone else build me a driveway’.
We fired Mahinda, and I think Ranil and Maithripala can build us a better country. I can’t say that I feel warm and fuzzy about Ranil but I think him and Maithripala (who I love) can do a good job of developing the country. Ranil is undoubtably smart and, for a politician, doesn’t seem corrupt. I think they generally have decent people around them, and they’re subject to legal checks and balances, as well as public pressure. I am very disappointed in the Central Bank scam and I’d be happier if both Arjunan Mahendran and Ravi were tossed out, but at some point politics is about the best of bad choices.
So I am voting for Ranil as Prime Minister, and I’m also voting for Harsha as a dude I know and can yell at if things are not going well. I also think he understands and lives on the Internet and we need that in power. I’m voting for Eran as someone with experience in the private sector and as someone who is a decent and gentle man. Being from the Internet electorate I think these are people that would listen to our ideas and be afraid of our wrath, which is good. I’m voting for Rosy because I think we need more women in Parliament and because she has stood up for women’s rights and rights in general in a hostile Parliament that’s leered and jeered at her. She’s intelligent and she works hard and we need that.
You vote for who you like, but I do hope you vote. However, if you think we have to compromise and elect bad people because that’s the way it is, I urge you to reconsider. The ‘way it is’ is the way we vote, and we quite literally can choose. It doesn’t have to be UNP, there are good people in the SLFP, like Mohan Lal Grero for example. It could be JVP or TNA or whatever – all the ex-insurrectionists are in the democratic fold now, which is good. Just try to vote for decent people. That more than roads or flashy infrastructure is the foundation of a prosperous, healthy and happy country.