Written by a female member of the CGC
An article in the Colombo Telegraph provides an interesting account of a seasoned campaigner’s interactions about the forthcoming Presidential elections with Colombo’s businessmen and what he also calls the ‘Cinnamon Garden Crowd’ especially the women. He finds that these Colombo society women have not taken the trouble to register themselves as voters and that the businessmen are unabashedly supporting Mahinda Rajapakse’s re-election. Over Christmas I too have had an overdose of interactions with a section of the ‘Cinnamon Garden Crowd’ – women and men, doctors, lawyers and professionals mainly – interactions that were more than slightly annoying on three counts.
The first is their unconditional support to the Common Candidate Project based mainly on their blind faith in the goodness of Ranil Wickremesinghe (undoubtedly a member of their crowd) and his ability to deliver good governance – a vote for Maithree is a vote for Ranil. Collective amnesia about Ranil’s complicity in all the violence of the Premadasa Regime which included the extra judiciary execution of a person of their ilk, Richard de Zoysa, or of Ranil’s complete ineffectiveness as a Leader of the Opposition. Two, their complete disdain for the ‘ordinary voter’ who does not care for democracy, the rule of law or for the eradication of corruption and is only concerned about her ‘buth packet’ (their words paraphrased, not mine). Quite a rich criticism coming from individuals whose lack of concern for the cost of their own rice packet is a factor of their affluence, but who have not themselves shown any evidence of advocating for democracy, rule of law or the eradication of corruption. They are happy not to rock the boat as long as they can carry on business as usual. And three, (and this is perhaps the most scary) their expectation that if there wasn’t a new President elected, the challenge would at least create a change of heart in the incumbent, who would then proceed to govern this country more democratically. I have a different scenario playing out in my head. I think it would be very likely that if the incumbent wins this election and continues in power, he will, either of his own accord or under pressure from his family (or both), reduce whatever democratic space we still have to ensure that such a challenge will not take place ever again. I believe there is a strong possibility of military rule. What worked for the Slave Island evictions, could well be upscaled for the whole island.
A vote for Maithree is a vote for freedom and democracy, in as much as a vote for Chandrika was a vote for freedom and democracy two decades ago. But, as Jeevanie Kariyawasam said in one of her speeches, we cannot just rely on Maithree and Ranil Wickremesinghe to deliver freedom and democracy. Complacency and sycophantism need to be eradicated along with corruption. We must ensure that after Maithree wins the election, his motley team and he keep their promises. And as citizens, we need to work continuously to hold Maithree and his team accountable. It is only if we make this effort post elections that we have a chance of getting the governments we, and our children, deserve.