21 July, 2024


“Colombo Society” And “Colombo Businessmen” And Presidential Election

By Vishwamithra1984

“I always believe that ultimately, if people are paying attention, then we get good government and good leadership. And when we get lazy, as a democracy and civically start taking shortcuts, then it results in bad government and politics.” ~Barak Obama,

In this week’s column, this columnist decided to share with readers the views of a very experienced political campaigner about how “Colombo Society” (what he likes to call the “Cinnamon Garden Crowd”) and the big wig Colombo businessmen, view the current presidential campaign and their vote.

Ranil Maithri SirisenaThe seasoned campaigner expressing these views has, since the 1970s, seen many elections. He has worked at a senior level for both the government in power and the Opposition. The account he related was both interesting and in my view, important.

He said that many Colombo ladies ask him at social functions and parties about the campaign. They ask who will win and why. Some also express their own views about the main candidates. In the current contest, many of these “Colombo people” know about President Rajapaksa. Some of them have met him at many social functions and events in the past few years and refer to him as “Mahinda”. On the other hand, the joint opposition candidate Maithripala Sirisena is comparatively unknown to many of them and they ask about his origins and career. They know Mahinda’s election symbol but not Maithripala’s.

Amusingly, before trying to explain what is currently happening in the political arena, my friend, the seasoned campaigner, poses one introductory question which is: “how many of you ladies who are asking me questions about the current campaign or even your husband’s (or partner’s), have the vote? In other words “are you registered voters? Are you eligible to vote on 8th January 2015?” The usual answer is “we are adult citizens and we should have the vote”.

My friend, the seasoned campaigner, is not satisfied. He says, “my question was not whether you are a citizen or not but have you registered as a voter? Also this election is based on the September 2014 voters list. So did you register as a voter in 2014?” Many are not certain of the answer to this question. Some say “even if we have not registered we will go with our National Identity cards or passports to prove who we are and then ask for ballot papers to cast our vote”. The seasoned campaigner says that regrettably, this is not possible. That may be permissible in western countries but not in Asian countries like in Sri Lanka. If your name is not on the current registered voters’ list (which was finalized in September 2014), then you are not an eligible voter and you cannot vote. According to my friend – the seasoned campaigner – this is the sad situation with many “Colombo Seven” or “Cinnamon Garden”-type people. They have not taken the trouble to ensure that they are in the voters’ list of the area in which they live. They may have voted earlier but each year the electoral list is revised and unless your name is included in the current voters’ list you cannot vote. The fact that you voted earlier (even in the 2010 Presidential election) does not mean that you can vote on 8th January 2015 unless your name is on the current list.

Next, my friend the seasoned campaigner, outlined his views about the bigwig businessmen of Colombo. He was not referring to the owners or senior managers of small and medium term enterprises but rather to the bigger private sector companies – especially the listed companies. He knows quite a few of the chairmen, directors and senior managers of the big-time Colombo based companies. He had organized a sample survey of the voting preference of these individuals. At a very personal level, for the sake of confidentiality, he had asked them for whom they intend voting. Is it for Mahinda or Maithripala?

On a sample of three hundred (300) businessmen personally interviewed and spoken to by this seasoned campaigner, the answer was clear. Seventy percent (70%) of them were voting for Mahinda, the incumbent President and only 30% wanted a change and were voting for Maithripala.

The seasoned campaigner was a little puzzled. These businessmen were all educated people. They were fully aware of the corruption and nepotism of the current regime. They even identified the corrupt ones! They admitted to nepotism and family bandyism, the wastage of public funds and the attacks on the free media and the interference with the judiciary. Then why did the majority of them (70%) opt to vote for Mahinda?

The following is the reason they had given: These businessmen who opted to go with the current incumbent had explained as follows. “We are all in the private sector. Although politicians say the private sector is the vehicle of growth, without the help of the state sector and public officials, we the private sector cannot function successfully. We need the Ministers and Ministries”.

One “Colombo businessmen” has elaborated on his decision to vote for Mahinda as follows. He had said: “for a long time, for over three to four years we expended a lot of time and effort and even money to get contacts and obtain access to the right people in the Government; the right people in the Presidential Secretariat and the right people who can even speak to the President on our behalf. Similarly, we took a long time to get to know the relevant Ministers and the key staff of the Ministries. We have even got very friendly with some of the Ministers and their key officers. We invite them over for functions and we have even funded their holidays both within Sri Lanka and abroad and sometimes even helped with the higher education of politician’s children and children of key Ministry officials. In fact, we are on first name terms with most of the Ministers and their key staff. With one telephone call we can overcome a lot of problems. We have also given them money. Now, if new men like Maithripala as President and Ranil as Prime Minister get elected, we have to start all over again. We will have to get to know the new Ministers and also their key officials. This will take a lot of time and effort and during such a process our business and profits will get badly affected. So, for all these reasons, we prefer the present system to remain”.

As regards lack of media freedom, many of the businessmen who preferred the current incumbent said that they saw no lack of media freedom and with the Internet and Mobile Technology, global news was readily available.

As regards the judiciary, the majority agreed that when it came to a Presidential issue, the judiciary was not independent and could be compromised but not in other matters like business transactions and there were enough senior lawyers in Sri Lanka to look after their interests.

Now I turn to the current campaign itself. Despite the above views expressed by some of the Colombo bigwig businessmen, the meeting organized by the Private Sector at the Cinnamon Lakeside Hotel had been a major success with an unprecedented attendance. Both Maithripala Sirisena and Ranil Wickremesinghe spoke to great reception and applause and if that meeting is any evidence of the “Colombo business” vote, then the survey of my friend, the seasoned campaigner, referred to above, may have to be re-examined and the 70% vote for Mahinda is acutely doubtful.

Three other issues are also being highlighted against the incumbent. Firstly, his non-declaration of assets as required by Election Law. Maithripala Sirisena has already done it and repeatedly reminded the President that he has not made a declaration.

Secondly, the Public Debate between the two candidates seems very unlikely. The President has bowed out.

Thirdly, to add to the woes, Minister S B Dissanayake’s crude gaffe about stripping Mrs. Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaranatunge naked and making her run down a public road is creating a huge uproar from all the women in the Island. It is a gaffe that S B Dissanayake will live to regret. It may be worse than when the former Chief Justice punished him with the loss of civic rights for over two years for referring to a Supreme Court judgment as a “Balu Theenduwak” (judgment fit for a dog).

Colombo businessmen may eventually open their eyes and ears. They may even realize that the so-called ‘stability’ they are enjoying is indeed a mirage. The sooner it dawns on them the better for themselves and indeed much better for the country’s business environment.

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Latest comments

  • 1

    To the best of my knowledge, there is no official polls in SL. The poll that matters will be on the 8th. A poll, if there is one, needs to stand the test of being statistically accurate subject to an acceptable margin of error. Such polls are routinely carried out by private polling agencies in advanced democracies.

    The leading businessmen are a different kettle of fish and their values are different. Their focus is the bottom lne and how they can get the best return for their shareholders. That is how their performance is measured. So they will dance with the devil, if that is what they have to do to achieve their objectives. The ‘connections’ they have to have to get things done tells us to the low levels to which this regime has fallen.

    Their voting pattern and intentions are of no consequence to the overall result. So to that extent, this article is irrelevant.

    • 2

      Election Commissioner Has announced that all 19 Candidates at the 2015 Presidential Elections has declared their assets. This article needs to be corrected.

    • 1

      This article is probably a plant by the administration. Most senior businessman and movers/shakers of private enterprise live in fear.

      (1)Look at what happened to Lalith K of the Ceylinco Empire. When his Credit Card company collapsed taking an amount said to be over Rs.28 billion of funds trusted to the Kotelawala name by an unsuspecting public, a well known gangster-drug trafficker-politician had burst into Lalith K’s office his private Chambers threatening the security staff around.

      (2) Another drug-dealer, politician to boot, filed a bogus
      auto Insurance claim for Rs.40 million and personally threatened to kill the head of the organisation unless his “claim” was fully settled.

      (3) Thugs, under the command of a Govt. politician in the Wattala area entered the lorries carrying tea for export of a century old company and demanded “kappan” of a specified amount per lorry. The line Minister had to get the President to intervene and save the situation.

      (4) A foreigner had invested billions of rupees over the years on a tourist-related project in the Galle area – that he gradually built with his overseas influence also enabling Galle to hold an important international literary festival that saw many world-famous academics attending. A woman politician laid coveted eyes on the lucrative property – and using a minor incident – blackmailed the foreigner to part with the property.

      These are only a few of the incidents the private sector is doomed to face today. There are hundreds of such cases. How will such a sector vote for the President, even if he is not involved with any of these cases?


  • 1

    Interesting! Sadly my long held beliefs are confirmed. Business people cannot be trusted to care for the country which gives one’s identity, health care, education, security and sustenance. They will even sell the country in exchange for some personal benefit.

    Worthwhile to recall that Hitler’s financial supporters were business people. The magnate did not care how many million humans got slaughtered or gassed, but he cared about the mink coat he was able to get for his wife or concubine, or found the money to make a donation to the church, and secure his passport to Paradise. We of course should know that those businessmen are burning in hell.

    So, woe be unto the Mudalali Class.

  • 1

    Mahinda came with the tsunami 10 years ago and he goes with the floods now affecting the country.

    De ja vu!

  • 1

    This article rings very true. The once somewhat ‘ethical’ chambers of commerce which took an interest in public affairs and good governance issues have been reduced to cosy back scratching clubs where contracts and money making have become the overriding concern. As for the chattering high living classes of Colombo, most of them very openly avow that they have never had it so good. Arcades galore to hang out and be seen hanging out at, upmarket eateries to pile up the calories and multiplying jogging tracks courtesy the Defence Ministry to keep the bulges down ! …… and all the vehicles for the fund loving to run round in, and impress the neighbours, Ferraris, Lambohginies, Porsches, .BMWs Audis……….. and the roads and highways to race them on !

    Ah we will soon rival Dubai and Singapore – we will even have our own artificial island in the sea !

  • 0

    I can not agree with the content of this article. My 3 will comfortably win Cp;ombo West, East, North, Central , Borella, Kotte, Maharagama, Dehiwala, Ratmalana and Kolonnawa.

  • 1

    I can not agree with the content of this article. My 3 will comfortably win Colombo West, East, North, Central , Borella, Kotte, Maharagama, Dehiwala, Ratmalana and Kolonnawa.

  • 0

    I bet this SB kanahila has no wife. If he has one, most likely she is making him run round the block regularly in his birthday suit. Uneducated and uncultured lout of a politician!

  • 0

    It does not matter what Colombians and Business giants think for themselves. The electorate is the much larger public, especially in the villages, farmers, teachers, the unemployed and all middle level people that have been heavily taxed by this government and struggling to maintain their standards. I just hope that they will be the one t decide unless their votes have been already cast or manipulated by the thgs and criminal vote cathcgers for MARA.

  • 0

    I think the opinions reported by the writer makes sense if one was to remove morality, principle and respect for the law as thought influencing criterea from human thinking.

    Unfortunately when it comes to individual preferences, the pocket becomes far more important than anything else.

    Fortunately the interviewees will not vote in significant numbers because they will have to stand in line in the sun, to vote! These conversations are common in clubs and social gatherings particularly with the glass in hand. Makes one feel important and appear even more so.

    The CC’s campaign have to get out the vote on the 8th, protect the vote on that day until counting time and verify the accuracy of the tally. The reported margin of 500,000 votes in favor of Maithripala in the SIS survey of Dec 20th is easily erased with the expected Jilmart by the Rajapakse brothers.

  • 0

    We have registered in the 2014 voters list, however, some members of our household have not received the polling cards while others have.

    What should I do?

  • 0

    Compared to other countries that show prosperity without going out of their way to show off individualistic superior-evolved minds in Western lands, Sri Lanka in-house just doesn’t have the collective brain-power to create structures to tackle the commercial side of the country-undertakings. Hell of a lot of lawyers to show off their patronizing acumen, but simple mundane tasks of channeling money in decent directions is left to politico prowess, so hopefully, in archaic feudal style, they will trickle down the necessities to the struggling masses. Typical Indian movie scene. How dumb is Sri Lankan society :( .

  • 0

    “Colombo Big Wig Business men gave the current Ministers, their Secretaries and spouses money, paid for overseas holidays, and even sent the children on scholarships with company funds.”

    “The Big Wigs are on extremely good mate ship with them , And even call them by first name. One phone call fixes any major issue”.

    ” How can we expect this sort of relationship and efficiency with this Opposition Coalition, when we don’t even know who they are “

    Obviously Colombo Big Wig Businessmen have a major problem.
    The Coalition Opposition dudes don’t take bribes,

    They won’t send their children or spouses overseas on private company funds.

    Opposition Coalition Ministers , their Secretaries don’t take money.

    No wonder the Big Business are facing big efficiency issues.

    Even if the new Ministers are clean as whistle , where are they going to get squeeky clean Secretaries, as all the current ones, over 100 of them are tainted according to the 300 Big Business Wigs?.

    Aren’t the current lot (there 100 Ministers according to my Elders)) going to get the boot on the 9th and locked up if we are to believe the designated PM Mr Ranil. who has put his promise in the Manifesto..

    Wonder whether Pigs will get Wings too after the 8Th…

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