Why Sajith got heavily defeated at the Presidential polls: Pampering the minorities at the expense of the majority | Sunday Observer

Why Sajith got heavily defeated at the Presidential polls: Pampering the minorities at the expense of the majority

“Every man, every woman who has to take up the service of government, must ask themselves two questions: ‘Do I love my people in order to serve them better? Am I humble and do I listen to everybody, to diverse opinions, in order to choose the best path?’ - If you don’t ask those questions, your governance will not be good.” (Pope Francis)

If one looks critically at some of the reasons for the UNP’s humiliating defeat at the Presidential elections, as to why President Gotabaya Rajapaksa reaped 6,924,225 votes (52.25%) of the votes and Sajith Premadasa, only 5,564,239 (41%) of the votes, one does not have to look far.

The election results map,which was published in all newspapers, says it all.

The Sri Lankan Presidential Election results Map 2019 , marked green, from Puttalam to the entirety of the Northern and Eastern Provinces and a little patch representing the Nuwara Eliya District, indicated the areas which now Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa won, while the rest of the country, marked in Maroon, - depicting the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna - voted for President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. That said something really decisive. This columnist could not help but chuckle that the UNP’s Presidential aspirant turned- incumbent Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa could do what even what LTTE’s slain ‘sun god’ Velupillai Prabhakaran could not do -Divide the country .

The analysis is quite simple. The areas that Sajith won were totally the minority areas because he agreed to the demands of the minorities. What he agreed to were akin to the forerunner of the creation of a separate State, with the 13 demands of the TNA. But President Gotabaya Rajapaksa flatly refused to swallow the bait!

It was not a reason of ethnicity. It was just that the minorities believed that they will get a better deal from Sajith than Gota. The 13 demands that incumbent Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa agreed to, were a prelude to what could be a separate State! That would be tantamount to a parallel of the famous quote by Shakespeare. Shakespeare in Romeo in Juliet, Act I Scene II, says “A rose by another name would smell as sweet” in which Juliet seems to argue that it does not matter that Romeo is from her family’s rival house of Montague. Juliet compares Romeo to a rose, saying that if he were not named Romeo he would still be handsome and be Juliet’s love. This means that if he were not Romeo, then he would not be a Montague, and she would therefore be able to get married with no problem.

The 13 demands of the TNA, 

as spelt out were:

1 The implementation of a new Constitution giving authority to the North and the East

2. Conduct an Inquiry and Merge the North and the East

3. Abolition of the Prevention of Terrorism Act.

4. Release of all Tamil political prisoners without conducting an inquiry.

5. Conduct an international inquiry about all those who disappeared

6. Release of all State and private lands belonging to the Tamil people.

7. Prevention of Sinhala Buddhist settlements in the North and the East in the Vanni and the immediate removal of all Sinhalese villages.

8. Halting Sinhala settlements in the North East according to the Mahaweli Development , and the removal of the established settlements.

9. Removal of the Sinhalese settlements in the Vanni for the Moragakanda Project

10. The immediate release of Tamils held under the Departments of Archaeology and Wild Life Conservation Act.

11. Elimination of youth unemployment in the North and the East.

12. Providing Public/ Private sector jobs in the North and East, giving priority to the youth.

13. Name the war affected areas in the in the North and the East and carry out development activities through a Committee of Representatives.

Only three demands of these 13, are within the comprehension of any rational thinking mortal. Whatever the reactions of Sajith Premadasa would have been to the rest, expecting President Rajapaksa to accede to those, would have been more optimistic than the penniless man who ordered oysters for dinner at a Five Star beach resort, hoping to settle the bill using the pearls !

Rajapaksa, being well aware of the would - be repercussions of the electorate, refused. In short, that was the reason for his landmark victory at the November 16 Presidential election.

The Sinhala majority were under the impression that the country would be divided if they voted for Sajith. The other reasons that propelled the voters to go against the UNP, were pending for a long time. The unbearable Cost of Living, and arbitrary taxes were coming from a long time back. People were oft contemplating that the then Government would impose a sewage tax also akin to other countries.

The rest of it happened over the four year tenure where the most significant event was the Bond Scam in which the VIP’s, Government of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and his other Ministers were implicated. The principal of these was Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake, who had been voted as ‘Asia’s best Finance Minister’. That was just a month after the Government came to power! These were clean Samaritans who rode to power, vowing to catch the rogues! But they were found with their hands in the till !

All the rest of it happened this year. In addition to the unbearable taxes, the power cuts during the Sinhala and Tamil New Year, where small traders lost volumes of their business, led to rancour and acrimony against the Government. The finale was the Easter Sunday carnage, which took its toll on the entire economy, tourism in particular and investor confidence.

In the run up to the economy, the devastating blow came with the cantankerous remarks made by former Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera about Sri Lanka not being a Sinhala Buddhist Nation when Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith and Sri Lankan Cricketing icon Muttiah Muralitheran, despite the differences in their religions and ethnic denominations, endorsed the concept that Sri Lanka was a Sinhala Buddhist nation! In addition to that former State Minister Ranjan Ramanayake’s speeches over the electronic media, relating to Buddhist Monks and homosexuality and claiming to have written proof of various allegations, also worsened the situation. Adding fuel to the fire was former Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne which antagonized the entire Sinhala – Buddhist community arising from which the entire South was disgusted with the UNP, fearing the worst reprisals.

So, it is high time that the UNP, once the Grand Old Party, should rethink its political strategies. So long as it ‘honeymoons’ with the minorities at the expense of the majority’s interest, it should realise that it would remain in the Opposition.

So, it is up to them to rethink political strategies. Former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe should gracefully step down after losing 30 odd elections. He should groom young Leaders such as Navin Dissanayake who has a rich political legacy.

Grandfather Andrew Dissanayake was Nuwara Eliya MP and a Deputy Minister in the Sirimavo Bandaranaike Government and father was Gamini Dissanayake whose political performance with the accelerated Mahaweli Program was epoch making. There is nothing new for him to achieve now. Wickremesinghe dare not contest a Presidential Poll ever again for the third time having lost to former Presidents Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga in 2001 and Mahinda Rajapaksa in 2005. With all credit to him, he has nothing more to achieve.

However, to his credit, he has two international political landmarks which both deserve Guinness Book of Records listings. He is, after all, the only five- times Prime Minister the world has seen, definitely the world’s longest serving Opposition Leader and a local record of being the only Sri Lankan Prime Minister who is a Graduate of a Sri Lankan University. (He graduated with a Bachelor of Laws Degree from the Colombo University). Whatever, his critics comment adversely, even they will raise their hats and tumblers to him just for that.

All well and fine. Despite all that, a villager in a television interview made some acrid comments, which summed up the entire situation in a nutshell.

He said: Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe does not understand our problems and grievances. His interest are centered round the Colombo’s rich and powerful, lounge attire donning, whisky-drinking and cheese-eating community.” That said it all.