The MOU signed by the joint opposition was largely about abolishing the presidency, bringing in good governance and not much more. The theme of their latest campaign video – ‘a leader to bring back disappearing human values or මැකෙනා මිනිස්කම් රකිනා නායකයා” — is much more  promising. What are these disappearing human values and what structural changes, beyond the abolishing of the presidency, can we expect to see in a new government? We eagerly await details.

A major theme of the Mahinda Chinthana manifesto of 2010 too was “a disciplined, law abiding and value-based society  or විනය ගරුක, නීති ගරුක, සදාචාර සමාජයක්”. In a recent rally, the President made the rare admission that all is not well in society. That is a good sign.   Hopefully, we shall hear more from the president’s new manifesto in response to the opposition’s thrust on values.

Whatever the outcome of the elections, a focus on values is a win for the country.

There is no question that the ending of the war and infrastructure improvements have done good. Cost of living is high, but, our even small towns are bustling with economic activity and people are going about looking smart. Religious activities too seem to be at an all-time high. White clad children on their way to Sunday schools are a sight to behold on Sundays.  But, are our children any better than the brooding youngsters of the west or Gangnam style Korean youth?  Is out society any better? I doubt it.

If anything, values of our society seem worse than the much deplored ‘foreign’ values. The most indicative is the statistic on reported cases of child abuse. For example, one third of the cases in our high courts concern a child victim. This election there has to be broader discussion on ills of our society. Finger pointing can go so far. We need to talk about structural changes.

My favorite structural change concerns education.  We need to reorient our education system to focus on personality development and citizenship that goes beyond current façades of obedience and respect inculcated our youth. I say, reorient, because our education plans are great, only our institutions are lacking.  More on that later.