Friday, April 27, 2012

New to Politics – Part 1 of 2 – How to balance? – People

I have been exposed to the ways of politics now for over a year. This was because I was forced to sideline my farming vocation, by a serious injury sustained as a result of my vehicle being completely crushed 15months ago. My life completely turned upside down with nowhere to go, and unable to walk when the Police Escort Jeep of the convoy carrying the Cabinet Minister of Justice, Hakeem on his way to Batticaloa skidded and bashed me on the driver’s side of my pick up in Minneriya, while I was carrying my weekly produce from Hingurakgoda to Colombo.

So I was fortunate to be able to work as a Coordinating Secretary in the Colombo office of a notable opposition politician representing the Gampaha District, the most populous of the Country’s Districts. In this essay I wish to point out the issues of balancing our program in the District without upsetting existing politicians of the same party in the District. This is due to the electoral politics due to the Proportional Representation system in place today. It is in short the fight for preferences.

I am currently not seeking political office, so I do not have a personal agenda and am just trying to do my job, one of which is to provide my input into resurrecting the dormant National Youth Front a youth organization that has representation in every Electorate in the Country. This is a unique chance of having active members male and female between the ages of 15 and 35 in every nook and cranny in Sri Lanka.

It gives me an amazing insight into the issues of the young people in different parts of the country and their ability or lack of in gaining access to the opportunities in the labor market. We are in the midst of creating a program that gives each and every one of our members to participate in life skills, leadership training, sports clubs, and social service in addition to the main task of orienting them in our political philosophy which we strongly believe in to enable them and the citizens of this country to live in comfort and content, without concern and prejudice in our paradise land.

I am in the process of contacting all the Electoral Organizers in the Country to give us the names of young people in their area, we can include in our program to enable us to complete the task of setting up youth groups in every polling station, all 15,000 in the Island. Their fear is if they give us these names we will hijack their people to our leaders, in lieu of them as some of them are not as organized as we are and who may pose a threat to their political future and aspirations for higher office.

I observe the biggest challenge is with people in our fold, who feel that giving us help is like taking their votes from them. They are simply unable to see the big picture in that they will benefit in the long run, as we are setting the foundation to permanently increase the following to our party, by carrying out a program of attracting youth to join us, as compared with the others in the land. We believe when we get the young person who has never voted in the past into our cause it is a better than even chance that they may stay life-long within the party and some be committed to the cause the Political Party espouses.

It is not the place here to explain the PR voting system where preferences count. In simple terms, for anyone in a particular party to be elected, he or she has to obtain as many preferences. So he is likely to picture himself as better than one of his rivals in the same party as he is attempting to get as many preferences to him to be elected. What they fail to realize is that when more people vote the party in irrespective of preferences, the number of elected representatives from the party also increase, thereby ensuring more down the line of preferences also gets in.

The added issue with regard to youth, is if we are to do our job well, the young leader we have created will pose a threat to the older member and he feels his vote may diminish at the expense of the youth, or that the youth will have more preferences in the order of priority where he may become subservient to someone much younger. This threat is something we appear to face on a daily basis, as there is always some reason why other local government representatives are reluctant to help us in our work.

The fine art of being able to achieve your objective with the least threat created from the others on your side is the winner in this system of electoral reform. There are many who desperately wish this to end, as it often dislodges senior party figures due to the presence of more active youth to elected office.

In our circumstance we have one who is a senior seeking office in Gampaha District, who does not like to assist a junior who currently is NOT seeking higher office, but whose threat of one day seeking the similar (provincial council) means that he does what he can to belittle the NYF member who is less experienced and does not help him to get ahead with bringing him contacts that can help our overall goals of the NYF of attracting as many young people to our cause.

This straight up 'setting up barriers' to our overall goal, to satisfy 'personal goals' is what we have inherited from a system that purports to be fairer than the first past the post system, where a party simply selects a nominee to seek office to compete with others in other political parties. I do not want to feel my ‘loves labors lost!!’ for all the effort I am currently putting into making the task ahead a success.

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