What the General Election meant for us as a nation…

What the General Election meant for us as a nation…

It is The Day After.

It’s the day after the General Election. Just a few months ago, I remember waking up on the morning of the 09th January, with a feeling that would always stay etched in my mind. I was free, my family was free, my country was free. From dictatorship and a mad man’s grip. But the nightmare wasn’t really over , bits and pieces kept wanting to take Sri Lanka back by force, if necessary, to those stifling times.

All of which finally ended yesterday. At the ballot box. When millions of Sri Lankans chose to go the polls to elect the best among them, the most deserving, not in terms of adoration and popularity but in terms of making Sri Lanka the kind of place we want to live and thrive in ; one in which our children can live well and be content. I think the word is content – if you are content with your life, you have little to grumble about. Oh, yes, we had a lot to grumble about – not the beautifully paved roads and the gleaming shopping malls where most were window shoppers but the quagmire underneath those facades – one that was rotting with nepotism, vulgarity, mass murder and big time financial misconduct.

So what did it all mean, the election, in which the rogues went on parade once again, seeking votes from the poor and the vulnerable and surprisingly, even from the so called learned who could sadly be labelled the ‘educated but unlearned’. The few good men, if they could be thus called, found the manape pore a tough one but they persisted. I can honestly be glad that I voted for three honest men who contested. In the end, as they say, it is between you and God – you must be honest to your own self not only because you can then sleep well at night but also because it feels right to do so.

This election was unique because it involved the people. From a high octane social media overdrive that saw some of us virtually engaged round the clock, to one to one election campaigning, the people relished the role they played. As never before, Sri Lankans engaged the politicians with questions, queries and lagging doubts. Admittedly, as in the Presidential Election, social media played a key role in giving us voters that platform. Some of the contestants forgot that the ship of voter amnesia had sailed. In the era of smart phones and internet, every word uttered and every promise given, every insult to public intelligence, has been captured and could be plastered all over the web in a matter of minutes. Those who understood the power of voter capacity, did well to play it wise.

So where are we now? We are facing the prospects of a new Sri Lanka not just on economic terms. We face a new Sri Lanka on new terms of engagement. The government will be watched by a populace who are no longer afraid nor incapable of questioning those who are not doing their job. The rogues will be noted and called out. For the first time perhaps in the history of Sri Lankan politics, we have accountability as a key factor present in the new parliament. They will need to keep their promises because we will be monitoring them as the people who voted them in.

We need to stay connected the way we have done during the election – keep playing the role of the engaged active citizen..the citizen journalist…the vigilant..because we are dealing after all, with professional politicians to whom cat and mouse games are easy…our task as citizens is not done..will not be done until this country becomes the kind of place all of us can thrive in..

It is an exciting time to live in – these are indeed life changing times. Someday, we can tell our children and grand children, we remember the great change. The change that heralded in the new Sri Lanka…

Are you a woman voting for a female politician? Ask her what her plans for you are..

Are you a woman voting for a female politician? Ask her what her plans for you are..

As a woman who believes in empowering of all women, it is always wonderful to see so many women contesting the General Election this time. All parties have women on their ranks – the UNP is fielding some old and some new faces and so does the JVP. The UPFA too has women on board. As in other countries, women seeking the vote of other women, must be ideally be able to answer the questions we female voters would have.

Other than seeing their faces smiling down on cut outs, ads and leaflets, it would be wonderful to hear these ladies spell out specific plans they have formulated for the women of Sri Lanka. They do play a key role in the national political stage – but I as a woman need specifics and I’m sure so do other women. Can they address those issues and assure us of the kind of change they can bring?

Just addressing women’s issues would amount to lip service – can they go beyond it and promise change for women when they do get elected? Or they, as before, would put women’s issues on the back burner once elected, as we have seen many a time before, and let them be there?

Sri Lankan women have burning issues. From reliable child care to domestic violence, from supporting entrepreneurship at home so that they can bring in an additional income while taking care of the children and the home front to ensuring adequate support for Middle East returnees, women have to deal with these issues on a day to day basis. They struggle with economic and social issues. When all the political ha hoo has died down after the 17th, these issues will still exist for millions of Sri Lankan women. Are they going to be able to deal with those better because of the women who would have been elected to parliament by then?

The women in parliament can start with a major issue before going any further. They can attempt to make an attitude change towards women. They can start in the parliament itself – initiate change in how women are perceived in society. Take a bus ride and educate the commuters on why sexual molestation in buses is rampant and must be stopped because it violates the rights of women travelers. Encourage women to come out with their stories of abuse and rape so that the perpetrators can be dealt with. Ensure the gaps are closed in gender discrimination and abuse. Close the doors to the powerful politicos who abuse the system for their own ends. The list is endless but we can start somewhere.

Or will these women who are now seeking our vote forget the female voter once they are in? What all those seeking re-entry or first time entry to parliament must understand is that the voter of today is one who is very different from the one whom they faced at the previous general election. January 08th heralded in a new age for the Sri Lankan voter ; today, we know what is going on. Thanks to new technology and social media, voters cannot be duped anymore with fancy stories and promises from the skies. The facts cannot be concealed anymore – citizen journalists are empowered with their camera phones and nothing goes unrecorded. The politicians seeking the votes must understand this fact – unless and until they do, they are not likely to win. On the brighter side, they can now engage more efficiently almost one to one with the voters on social media. They can truly make a change that we can take note of.

The women contesting on behalf of all political parties must include women on their agenda – they will not have my vote until they do and I’m sure they should not have yours. We no longer believe nor trust in empty promises that sound wonderful but lacks the credibility of a plan that backs it up.

So, let me know – what plans have you, female politician, for us women?