28 May, 2024


How to Steal the Presidency and Get Away With It

By Uvindu Kurukulasuriya –

If a ‘scoop’ is the true measure of a reporter, then Greg Palast is one of the best, wrote John Pilger in his book Tell Me No Lies. It was the indefatigable Palast who exposed the theft of voting rights from more than 50,000 people in Florida during the US presidential election in 2000. This enabled George W. Bush to ‘win’ Florida by 537 votes and helped him ‘defeat’ Al Gore for the presidency. So close was national vote that the Supreme Court, stacked with conservatives, handed the election to Bush. How this happened is no less than amazing.

How to steal the Presidency and get away with it?

Palast discovered that the Republicans had spent almost their entire budget for Florida conducting a computer hunt for black voters, so they could be de–registered. Letters were sent direct from the office of Governor Bush, instructing country supervisors not to register ex felons if they had been given clemency by other states and were entitled to vote under Florida law.

Palast, who often work from London, broke the story in The Observer. His scoop was published in the United States only in the small–circulation weekly The Nation the following February, after Bush had been declared the winner. It took the Washington Post, scourge of Watergate, seven months to report it. The New York Times finally reported it on 16 February 2004.

The following is an extract from Greg Palast’s subsequent book, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy (2003).

“In days following the 2000 presidential election, there were so many stories of African–American erased from voter rolls you might think they were targeted by some kind of racial computer program. They were.

I have a copy of it: two silvery CD–Rom disks right out of the office computers of Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris. Once decoded and flowed in to a database, they make for interesting, if chilling, reading. They tell us how our president was elected – and it wasn’t by the voters.

Here’s how it worked: mostly, the discs contain data on Florida citizens – 57,700 of them. In the months leading up to the November 2000 balloting, Florida Secretary of State Harris, in coordination with Governor Jeb Bush, ordered local elections supervisors to purge these 57,700 from voter registries. In Harris’s computers, they are named as felons who have no right to vote in Florida.

Thomas Cooper is on the list: criminal scum, bad guy, felon, attempted voter. The Harris hit list says Cooper was convicted of a felony on 30 January 2007. 2007? You may suspect something’s wrong with the list. You’d be right. At least 90.2 per cent of those on this ‘scrub list’, targeted to lose their civil rights, are innocent. Notably over half – about 54 per cent – are Black and Hispanic voters. Overwhelmingly, it is a list of Democrats.

Secretary of State Harris declared George W. Bush winner of Florida, and thereby president, by a plurality of 537 votes over Al Gore. Now do the arithmetic. Over 50,000 voters wrongly targeted by the purge, mostly blacks.”

In the Sri Lankan presidential election of 2010, the final turnout was 74.5%, with 10,495,451 voting out of the 14,088,500 voters registered. Of these, 10,393,613 were ruled valid votes, with 101,838 rejected. According to the end result, Rajapaksa was elected to a second term of office with 6,015,934 votes, or 57.88% of the vote. Fonseka finished second with 4,173,185 votes, or 40.15%. Fonseka announced that he did not accept the results, and that legal action would be taken. The biggest question was how President Rajapaksa was re-elected by a victory margin of over 1,842,749 votes? The opposition camp claimed the government had pulled off a massive, high-tech fraud operation involving the intimidation of opposition vote-count observers, coupled with computer-based fraud at District Secretariat level and at the Election Commissioner’s office.

But where is the Sri Lankan Greg Palast? Everybody forgets and moves on from election to election. The election monitors are also the same. They monitor an election, publish a report at the end, and then forget about the underlying issues. The public cannot see any attempts to investigate what really has happened in elections. At least for presidential election there should more detailed investigation into the underlying issues.

In the 2010 presidential election it seems even the President’s close friends, advisors and pollsters did not quite believe the result. For instance, a leaked US Embassy cable shows what Rajapaksa’s chief pollster and close advisor Dr. Sunimal Fernando thought less than a week before the presidential election. Sunimal Fernando said to US Ambassador Patricia A. Butenis that their polling figures less than a week before the presidential election indicated the race statistically was a dead heat. He said the race was neck and neck. So, how did Rajapaksa win the election by such a huge margin? That is the question that should be investigated. Such an investigation will help to prevent future election frauds.

Senior Deputy Inspector General Gamini Nawaratne, Elmore Perera, Dayananda Dissanayake, Sunimal Fernando and Mahinda Rajapaksa

As I wrote two weeks before, another leaked cable says, “The president’s campaign had ordered eight GA’s including those in Ampara, Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and Batticaloa to send election results directly to the president’s house for his review before sending them to the Election Commissioner.” The government ordered Swiss Journalist Karin Wenger to leave the country, although after heavy criticism from the international community, the government reversed its decision and allowed Ms. Wenger to stay. It was widely suspected that the government was unhappy with her because she asked questions at a government news conference about the location and status of the Election Commissioner on 27th January 2010. Wenger reportedly asked Education Minister Susil Premajayantha why Basil Rajapaksa, the president’s brother, had gone to see the Election Commissioner shortly before the latter announced the results. Wenger reportedly said she saw Basil leave the Election Commissioner’s office just after the announcement of the result. Opposition sympathizers claimed Basil in fact had gone to force the Commissioner to certify the falsified results, and that the Commissioner’s bizarre speech at the results release was clear evidence he was under extreme coercion.

The personal lawyer of the Election Commissioner, Elmore Perera challenged him, Dayananda Dissanayake, just after the presidential election to appear live on TV and truthfully divulge to the country where, and with whom, Disanayake and his wife were between 3.30 p.m. on 26th January 2010 and 4.45 p.m. on January 27th 2010. He wrote an open letter to Elections Commissioner Dayananda Dissanayake under the title “A Free and Fair Election – An Impossible Dream?”

This week the Colombo Telegraph revealed another confidential leaked US Embassy cable, which details reasons behind the transfers of police and senior Army personnel just after the presidential election. According to the cable, US Embassy’s local-hire security investigator spoke on 2nd February with Senior Deputy Inspector General of Police Gamini Nawaratne, who was assigned to the Elections Commission. Ambassador Butenis wrote, “Nawaratne confirmed media reports that 150 police officers were being transferred because they had ‘showed bias’ during the elections, which Nawaratne interpreted to mean they either had failed to provide support to the government’s campaign or they had tried to prevent election fraud by the government. Nawaratne implied that the government was putting the transferred officers into positions where they could have less of an impact on the upcoming general elections. Elections law in Sri Lanka prohibits transfers or promotions of military or government officials during an election campaign.”

So, what does this imply? Today lying to media saying the election was free and fair, and next day saying something completely different to the US Ambassador. This is the man who is going to be next Inspector General of Police in this country!

How did the Rajapaksa’s game play at the ballot box? Was it an elaborate rigging operation conducted with the assistance of computer technology? Was this rigging the work of the Rajapaksas or the state election chief, or both? It is unlikely we will ever discover the truth, but we can see the consequences. The American press and the civil society managed to investigate and expose Bush’s hi-tech computer based election fraud even at some point after the election. Would we be able to do the same in Sri Lanka?

courtesy; http://www.thesundayleader.lk/2011/10/23/how-to-steal-the-presidency-and-get-away-with-it/

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Latest comments

  • 0

    I wonder about the poll samples, seems like they conduct the polls only in Colombo, which is not a good sample to get a fairly reasonable result. Did anybody try to analyze the methods, and the samples they employed in conducting those polls. For many decades Colombo overwhelmingly supported UNP. Looking at the demography, anyone can agree with the results coming from Colombo. But rural is a completely different story. The people in the rural areas look at the election from a different point of view. Their value system is quite different to the more UNP leaning folks in Colombo. Sunday leader which is a widely known paper in Colombo has no readership in the rural. President Rajapakse won the elections mostly in the rural areas. During the election time every three wheel driver in Colombo predicted Fonseka as the winner. It was a completely different story when you go to the rural areas. People in the rural areas overwhelmingly supported and predicted President Rajapakse as the winner. So I don’t agree with all these conspiracy theories. I hope the journalist will look at the situation with an open mind and without any biases so people will have a better respect for them. If you use the polls with the same criteria you will get the same results next time. I hope someone will analyze it and correct it to develop a more meaningful sample so they will get more accurate result.

  • 0

    Just because Dr. Sunimal did the poll that does not mean it is correct. His predictions were wrong, because the samples were wrong. My argument is, we need to evaluate the samples that we used. If there were any cheating, what happened in Colombo and North? What prevents the so called culprits from not using the same tactics in those areas? Obviously the opposition won Colombo and north, but not the rural areas. It is not a matter of taking a side but analyzing the facts rather than creating conspiracy theories. After thirty years of suffering, President Rajapakse brought peace and freedom back to the Sri Lankan people. Obviously people respond to his achievement with lot of gratitude. That is the nature of the average people in Sri Lanka. This human nature is embedded in the Sri Lankan psyche by its culture molded thru Buddhist teaching. It is the duty of the President to make sure he understand and respect it. Otherwise these are the same people who will reject him if he tolerates injustice, corruption and disrespect for law.

    • 0

      Nandaguptha< did you see this part in the cable?

      "The campaign had hired a small Indian firm that
      specializes in high-tech paperless surveys. Surveyors were
      sent to selected respondees with cell-phone-based electronic
      devices, which also had GPS components. The latter allowed
      the pollsters to track where the surveyors were at any given
      time and to ensure that the surveys were, in fact, being done
      properly. For example, each survey should take 18 minutes.
      If a surveyor was in a house for 12 minutes or less, he was
      not paid and that household was removed from the sample."

  • 0

    LTTE advisers installed Rajapakse in power in 2005. US citizens gave US dollars by the millions via Emilkanthan to the LTTE. Basil and Gota were US citizens.

  • 0

    Fonseka won the Facebook polls in landslides. This he won the real election. Hikz.

  • 0

    In Sri lanka very few people know or want to do a accurate poll also Sri lankan people son usually reveal the truth at all times – when under pressure or blind by duty they will tell whatever thatbconesnto their mind.

    Few weeks ago, there was a petitioned sighed in pettah I had a opportunity to talk to few of them one of grand daughters being in the petition campaign. On speaking to few of them try told me they have no idea hat they were signing for or against and they signed mere out if duty and to get away from that location.

    Also people specially in rrual areas are afraid to reveal their preference because of any sort of social dichromatic nor harassment .

    If these guys knew any workable rigging techniques they would have definittely won unp seats and Colombo municipal. Council and of course would be relactzbt to have election in the north.

    Yes we have to agree it must have been a surprise for mara when he bolstered 58% !

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