29 September, 2020

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August Elections: A Display Of Electoral Maturity?

By C. Narayanasuwami

C. Narayanasuwami

C. Narayanasuwami

Some of the distinguishing features of the recently concluded parliamentary elections are worthy of review. We have witnessed a democratic revolution wherein the Sri Lankan citizens have exercised their right to vote in a cautious but optimistic and mature manner as never seen before. Both in the South and in the North people have overwhelmingly supported democratic reforms and good governance. However, the level of support obtained by UPFA signals that it is not a spent force and that it will survive to ‘fight’ another day. It is here that the new government, both in form and structure, will have to prove its capabilities to deliver development, peace, tranquillity and above all reconciliation and good governance.

An analysis of election results shows that there was more than ordinary interest in voting, judging by the large turnout estimated at over 70%-something that has happened sparingly in electoral history. Substantial increase in the vote base for UNP suggests that a larger turnout was in its favour while UPFA retained its vote base of over 4.8 million (2010) with only a marginal reduction of around 100,000 votes in 2015. A significant increase in the UNP vote base from 2.3 million in 2010 to 5.1 million, more than double that of 2010, signifies that the younger generation opted for change and that there was interest among the rich and the poor to create a stable government that would offer durable peace and economic development.

RanilUPFA’s retention of its vote base, particularly in the southern and north central electoral districts, suggests that a key section of the Sri Lankan population continue to support pseudo nationalistic and divisive policies. There is a danger that this may be used as a rallying point to stir up discontent and communal disharmony at the slightest efforts towards devolution, reconciliation and development. Some statements made after election victory by elected representatives suggest that a watchful eye would be kept to portray benign attempts to devolve as separatist endeavours. There is therefore a need to watch out for breakdown of law and order and legislate against hate mongering and racism. There should be adequate recognition that Sri Lanka is wedded to pluralistic democracy respecting the sovereign rights of all communities. Using the communal bandwagon for achieving success in elections would most likely disappear in the future if the right policies and legislative measures are adopted to ensure that fair play, justice and equality in treatment remain as essential ingredients for nation building.

Notwithstanding the above reservations, an interesting feature of the August 2015 elections, besides the high turnout, is the beating taken in several constituencies by ultra-nationalistic, racist and divisive elements in both the South and the North. The maturity displayed by many electorates in this regard is a silver lining in the cloud.

The elections of January 8 and August 17 of this year have clearly proven two things, first, Sri Lanka’s indivisibility is a foregone conclusion, and second, minority support is a crucial element for the success and sustainability of democratic processes and good governance. The lesson here is that people have begun to realise the fundamentals of the Sri Lankan pluralistic society and have accepted that there should be peace and harmony among communities for rule of law, good governance and economic development to prevail.

Another significant achievement of the August 17 election is that for the first time in decades an election free of violence, fear and anxiety was conducted within the existing framework of democratic institutions which took the lead in providing voters a safe, peaceful and secure environment – the army was not anywhere in the picture as in the past. It is to the credit of the President and the Prime Minister that the principles of good governance were implemented in good faith to the satisfaction of both the victors and the vanquished. The commendable performance of the Elections Commissioner in this regard has been unprecedented and deserves special mention.

The people have spoken. What is next is in the minds of all citizens! The results of the election provide an opportunity for the formation of a national government which would, among others, forge unity, establish common development goals that would ensure the systematic development of all areas in the country, irrespective of race or geographic location, and push through a program of action that meets the priority needs of the population in terms of economic development, employment generation, education, health and infrastructure expansion. Sri Lanka is in the threshold of a new beginning where new political alliances, dynamic shifts in socio-economic policies and enlightened foreign policy alignments would play a crucial role in determining its future development options.

*The writer-Member of the Former Ceylon Civil Service and retired Asian Development Bank Senior Professional

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Latest comments

  • 3
    0

    No, sir. The nationalists have hardly taken a beating when you look at the voting pattern in the South and the North/East.

    • 1
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      I think we the lankens should learn it from Germans.

      Just after world warII is over Germans worked like termites to rebuild the country and nation. There, they introduced constituions that contain almost everything when comes to take actions going against ones that would go against the law. Like for example – Germany s food policies had then been detailed what actions they would take if anyone break the laws. That has led the country to well disiplined and structured nation. All these they continued while getting new reforms passed in the consecutive govts. Most of them got elected to german parliament possess at least a basic degree. Today, germans lead european economy as no other country does. Dr Merkel would never take time opening LABS across the nation – just thinking about putting her name. Nor would other higher ministers anything similar to that. They only work on issues that lead the nation properly. There are social democrats, liberal democrats and other minor parties are in their current coalition. They maintain the best health system even americans would dream of the systems of germans. Today, while those developed rich nation struggle for better health systems europeans grand nations have that sfor such a long time.
      I hope Wickremasinghe and other senior politicians will introduce lanka a better system paving the way all to live enjoying equal rights. Nobody should be discriminated as srilankens. This we can make if we get together and work hard only. Leaving all the radical men such as Gomanpilla and Buruwanse aside, perhaps giving them due lessions on the consequences if they woudl continue to to doso.

  • 4
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    I’m glad Arjuna Ranatunga has spoken openly about racism stating how a group of such hate mongers have entered the parliament. Arjuna is a principled , civilised and patriotic SriLankan who believes in unity and fair play. That is why he left his former party and elected again by joining the right party under the current circumstances. Sri Lanka needs more of them to bring change to the political culture that has been there for the past 67 years.

    Narayanasuwami has reflected the sentiments of many youngesters who will agree with Arjuna.

    ” There is therefore a need to watch out for breakdown of law and order and legislate against hate mongering and racism. There should be adequate recognition that Sri Lanka is wedded to pluralistic democracy respecting the sovereign rights of all communities. Using the communal bandwagon for achieving success in elections would most likely disappear in the future if the right policies and legislative measures are adopted to ensure that fair play, justice and equality in treatment remain as essential ingredients for nation building.”

  • 6
    1

    I beg to differ ! The average, non urban, Sinhala Buddhist has shown an alarming racist tendency and total disregard for the welfare of their Country. Good governance, rule of law and democracy are obviously things they know nothing about !

    It is the urban dweller and the minorities that have saved the Country.

    The most important task for the next 5 years is to “educate” the Sinhala Buddhist Villager to THINK before he follows the herd.

    • 0
      1

      I don’t blame the average, non urban people as racists and or disregard for their welfare of the country. These people were fed with racism by the urban based high class western educated politicians like DS Senanayaka, SWRD, Srimavo, JRJ, Wijetunga, Chandrika including Ranil. The people were fed with lies, fear and emotions. The rural people did not have the opportunity to mix with other people. Basically they are innocents and they have been used by Politicians. They didn’t have much wealth to access the previlages that are available to urban people. Further, Buddhist priests who are supposed to teach love and humanity taught violent and hatredness.
      Rather than blaming them, it is important for those who lead on good governance go to the people and educate them and bring them out of the darkness surrounded them and liberate them from those who still try to exploite the innocence of rural people.

  • 3
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    “UPFA’s retention of its vote base, particularly in the southern and north central electoral districts, suggests that a key section of the Sri Lankan population continue to support pseudo nationalistic and divisive policies”

    One sign of a mature democracy I would think, if it exists, is to refrain from dictating to a sections of the voter base how to think. Consultation, Compromise and Consensus among differing groups, even ‘pseudo nationalistic’ ones is the better way than denying them their existence.

    There is the view that Sri Lanka should take a more cosmopolitan route, where citizens call themselves ‘Sri Lankan’ rather than “Sinhala” “Tamil” etc. However this is just one view, and it is not a neccesity for a united country: other issues must be adressed. In the United States, for example, people will still classify themselves as “African American” or “Hispanic”.

    I would rather prefer a Sri Lanka in which hearts and minds are free to express their ethnicity peacefully and apreciate (the West would say ‘celebrate’) each others ethnicity rather than subjugating their hearts and minds to groupthink. It is militancy, not enthnicity that causes division.

    It will require the best of our minds and the best of our intentions to achieve a satisfying arrangement that goes beyond ‘peace’. This present government needs to muster all available resources to this end, even if they in the opposing party.

  • 2
    1

    C. Narayanasuwami

    August Elections: A Display Of Electoral Maturity?

    1. “Both in the South and in the North people have overwhelmingly supported democratic reforms and good governance. However, the level of support obtained by UPFA signals that it is not a spent force and that it will survive to ‘fight’ another day. It is here that the new government, both in form and structure, will have to prove its capabilities to deliver development, peace, tranquillity and above all reconciliation and good governance.”

    2. “Substantial increase in the vote base for UNP suggests that a larger turnout was in its favour while UPFA retained its vote base of over 4.8 million (2010) with only a marginal reduction of around 100,000 votes in 2015. A significant increase in the UNP vote base from 2.3 million in 2010 to 5.1 million, more than double that of 2010, signifies that the younger generation opted for change and that there was interest among the rich and the poor to create a stable government that would offer durable peace and economic development.”

    3. “An analysis of election results shows that there was more than ordinary interest in voting, judging by the large turnout estimated at over 70%-something that has happened sparingly in electoral history.”

    3.”An analysis of election results shows that there was more than ordinary interest in voting, judging by the large turnout estimated at over 70%-something that has happened sparingly in electoral history.”

    77.66% Voted, about 4% of the votes were rejected.

    Thanks. Yes, these are substantial democratic transformations.Possible because Sri Lanka has a literacy rate of over 96%, and an Illiterate rate of 4 %. Is that the reason why the % of rejected votes, 4.42%, 517,123 votes, out of Total Polled 11,684,098 went from a low of 2.5% in the South to 7% in the North and East, and did it follow the illiteracy rate for each district or electorate?These are a lot of votes to be rejected.

    TNF got 515,963 votes, less than the total number of rejected votes.

    So, how do you correct this problem of rejected votes and illiteracy?

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sri_Lankan_parliamentary_election,_2015

    • 2
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      Amarasiri,

      To add to what you have said, the UPFA vote mainly consisted of the nationalistic vote. Just before the election an SMS was circulated giving a count down of the ‘Sinhalayage Malagama’. To make matters worse some in the Tamil parties were speaking of Federalism. I believe these incidents helped the UPFA to swell their vote bank. Besides it is a clear indication of a lack of maturity among the UPFA vote, where Murder suspects, Thugs, Drug peddlers, Lose character Actresses and the Corrupt have been voted to Parliament at this election on the UPFA ticket, when there was a loud cry from the Civil society, let alone not to vote, but requesting the two main political parties not to give nominations. The conciliatory factor is with this dumb lot, there have been a larger number of mature voters to defeat evil. I trust the future under Good Governance will augur well to save Sri Lanka from these Protectors who profess to safeguard Sinhala Buddhism, when in fact they are the very destroyers of Sinhala Buddhism including the whole Sri Lankan society. As a Conservative Sinhala Buddhist, I believe we have to save Sinhala Buddhism from these Pseudo Patriots and I truly appreciate the support extended to us in this endeavour by the non Buddhists and the minorities of this country to usher Good Governance. ‘May all Beings be Happy’

  • 0
    1

    gamini

    “Just before the election an SMS was circulated giving a count down of the ‘Sinhalayage Malagama’.”

    “Good Governance will augur well to save Sri Lanka from these Protectors who profess to safeguard Sinhala Buddhism, when in fact they are the very destroyers of Sinhala Buddhism including the whole Sri Lankan society. As a Conservative Sinhala Buddhist, I believe we have to save Sinhala Buddhism from these Pseudo Patriots”

    All Sinhala Buddhists and Buddhists should sing the Jaya Mangala Gatha-Verses of Auspicious Victory (rare Pali version)-Buddhist Chants. victory over Mara, MaRa, the re-incarnation of MaRa.

    Send the following link with the Title, Mara,”Sil Redi Mara” MaRa reincarnation defeated!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_OH9kdeLEX4

    Based on the Book of Protection (Paritta Sutta) from the Pali canon, the Jaya Mangala Gatha is sung here in a rare recording by the Mahabodhi Society of India in original Pali. The Jaya Mangala Gatha is a chant recommended by the Buddha to destroy negativity and to generate auspiciousness. It proclaims the 8 major victories of the Buddha which are:

    1) Victory over Mara ( MarRa)
    2) Victory over the demon Alavaka (Wimal)
    3) Victory over the wild elephant Nalagiri (Udu Gamanpila)
    4) Victory over serial killer Angulimala (Gotabaya)
    5) Victory over the evil intentions of Cinca who sought to defame (Pavitra) 6) Victory over the haughty brahmin Saccaka (Vasudeva)
    7) Victory over the serpent king Nandopananda (Susil)
    8) Victory over the false views of Brahma Baka (Yapa)

  • 0
    0

    “Display of Electoral Maturity” – Yes, I saw it happening in Ratnapura District when even a person “incarcerated” for murder(of course pending the hearing of the case) receiving the highest number of “Preferential Votes”. Isn’t he a HERO in Sri Lankan standards? Well done and “CONGRATULATIONS” to UPLF who nominated him. Please continue the “GOOD WORK” but of curse, do not forget to PROTECT us.

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