Written by Lahiru Fernando
07 Jul, 2016 | 8:15 pm
Politicians – they are just normal people, elected to run the country by the people they promised to serve and support. They are selected by the public with trust and hopes of a better future for their lives and the lives of their children. To ensure a better future of the country by steering it towards success. The public look to them to give them a better life, to represent them in forums and institutions both locally and internationally.
Sadly though, it is a complete different story not just in Sri Lanka, but in many countries across the world. Yes, the people elect their respective public representative with much trust and hopes of a better life. However, the general public are left instead, with broken promises and an unsure future. which is the complete opposite of what they hoped for when they elected their representative.
These voices are none other than the ones of those who voted their representative to the parliament with much hope of a better, brighter future….
“We feel like killing ourselves. We have been hungry for four harvest seasons – without a single grain of rice.”
“Politics is a lie. We don’t receive anything while they earn and feed themselves.”
“They sprout lies but not a single government has done anything for us.”
Given the situation of the country, News 1st took on the responsibility to ensure a secure future for Sri Lanka and its democracy. We launched a campaign called “Think Before You Vote” prior to the August 17 General Elections, urging the public to elect clean candidates as their public representative instead of the corrupt politicians.
The campaign was jointly organised by News 1st, Sirasa and Shakthi, together with the election monitoring organisation CAFFE (Campaign for Free and Fair Elections)
Last August’s Think Campaign was a mission undertaken to empower the Sri Lankan voter, to remind them how important and valuable their vote is in ensuring a brighter future for Sri Lanka.
Come the August Elections, the campaign proved a major success and impact, bringing the end to many and more so- called “public representatives” who were engaged in thuggery, corruption, drug smuggling and bribery in the Sri Lankan political arena.
[quote]“Loyalty to country, always. Loyalty to government, when it deserves it.”
― Mark Twain[/quote]
Almost one year after the initial “Think Before You Vote” campaign, we began another journey, keeping our creed of “Your Life, Our News” close to our hearts…
News 1st took on the task of doing a country-wide survey to determine if the public representatives the general public voted in the year before have given value to their vote and forge a path towards a bigger, better, brighter future for Sri Lanka and its people. We gave the people an opportunity to reflect and express their views on their choice of public representatives…
Equipped with Electronic data gathering devices to record the public’s responses, We walked the streets mile after mile going from door-to-door, village to village, town to town, from one province to another, across the country, talking to people asking five main questions….
Is your public representative living up to your expectations?
Do you have the opportunity to meet your public representatives at his/her office?
Has your public representative toured the streets, looking into the issues the public face after the elections concluded?
Has the public representative you elected introduced new projects for the betterment of the respective area?
Do your public representative raise the people’s problems and issues at the parliament, Municipal Council or Provincial Council?
Yes, the campaign we carried out ended the political career of drug smugglers, thugs and many other corrupt politicians. However, as we walked the streets talking to people we met, going from one house to another, we realised that the situation is, though better, not much different in terms of keeping to the promises given prior to the elections…
Below are a few examples of what our News 1st journalists experienced during the Think Again campaign…
Many people from the Polonnaruwa area faced with difficulties. They did not have proper drinking water. They manage to use a water purification unit which was donated to them by a monk from a reputed temple. The water is thereafter sold at one rupee per litre. They use 6 kilograms of salt for the purification process. The normal PH value of water should be six: but in their city it is over 100.
The people of Matale experienced difficulties in cultivating onions due to invasion by elephants during evening hours. Farmers stay the night to chase elephants away and risk their lives. The electric fence which is located around their farms does not have electricity.
Residents of Kurunegala face the lack of proper roads to travel into their city. The road is severely damaged and dilapidated to and extent where a vehicle would take approximately two to three hours merely to travel four kilometers. Moreover, the state of the road also takes a toll on the vehicles and their maintenance costs.
Many of those living on the banks of the Nilwala River were keen to elect a public representative in order to resolve their primary issue of obtaining water for irrigation.
And here are some of the comments given by the residents in the area:
“…They are worthless. On the other bank lies a paddy field. The MPs come here during the elections. After the election, they don’t even sight this place…”
The News 1st team reached areas such as Pudukudirippu, Maligethivu , Wattuwahal , Keppapilaw and Nayaru. The residents exclaimed thus:
“… A foundation stone was placed for a bus stand, twice. We have no mode of travel. Is this what we voted for? …”
People of Pathalayagama, Hambanthota have been battered by the human – elephant conflict for many years. People in the village have continuously suffered disappointment as their requests have been overlooked for years on end by public representatives.
Although Rs. 1.9 million had been allocated for the construction of a computer laboratory at the Pallekanda Maha Vidyalaya in Balangoda, the only time the students see a computer is via television.
The people of Minneriya boast of a proud heritage that dates back to the era of the kings. Today, they seek assistance from their public representatives to resurrect the waterways that feed their lands.
The story of a boy in the Thiramanalankulam area which is located between Mannar and Vavunia, with his arm extended in desperation to the vehicle, bears testament to the unfulfilled promises made by public representatives of the nation.
He wanted a bottle of glue to make a small tractor which was a hand-work project from school, but to buy this bottle of glue this boy had to travel 10 kilometers.
This example provides ample proof that children all across the country suffer similar hardships without access to basic needs to reap the full benefits of the free education system…
Enough said? We think so…
Come an election, politicians walk from house to house with their arms raised above their heads, kissing children and promising the world to them with the “People’s Man”act just to beg for the people’s vote. Asking the people to vote them into the parliament or other institution in the coming election.
The stories we have heard across the country is proof that the “Public representatives do not set their sights on those people again until another election is announced.
Following is what a voter expressed during the final rally of the “Think Again”campaign in Weligama
In Kegalle, we visited a village where its people elected one of their own as the area representative to the Municipal Council. According to them, the elected person is a “Good Man” who wanted to do good to his community. However, the people say his efforts to create a better future for his people fell apart as he had little to no support from his superior politicians in allocating funds and resources.
Above is a story of one community trying to change the political culture of the country. Ironically, the story also answers the question perfectly…
[quote]“Those who refuse to learn from history are condemned to repeat it.”
– George Santayana[/quote]
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