It is evident that the Maithri’s camp is fully confident that Mr. Maithripala Sirisena will emerge the winner at the Presidential Election scheduled to be held on January 08, 2015. According to a statement made by Mr. Rajitha Senaratne, former Minister , recently, Maithri will win the Presidency with a majority over 55 per cent. There is no reason for me not to believe in his statement because the majority of the people from different walks of life I talked to during the last two weeks said they would vote for Maithri for different reasons. I would like to list the responses of the people I talked to in connection with the Presidential candidates. The readers are free to draw their own conclusions.
A friend of my son who comes from a SLFP family. He is from the Kalutara district.
“ My wife and I will vote for Maithri because one family robs the country. My father is for Mahinda and he told us not to return home after voting for Maithri. One of my aunts who has never voted for any party in the past said she would vote for Maithri.”
A software engineer in Matara who spoke to me on phone said,
“I will vote for Maithri because of the rampant corruption in the government.” He further said that according to her sister who works in Colombo in an office where around 50 employees work ,there are less than 10 who are ready to vote for Mahinda.
An English In Service advisor who lives some 40 kilometres away from my village said,
“ We are from a SLFP family. We voted for Mahinda in 2005 and 2010 but at the next election we will vote Maithri because one family is running the whole country.”
A motor mechanic who lives a few mile away from my home said,“ I will vote for Mahinda. It is because of him we live without fear”.
An owner of several businesses who benefited from this government said,“ I will vote Mahinda. This freedom and expressways are enough for us to vote for him. I am not concerned about the other allegations against the President.”
Another motor mechanic who lives around 25 kilometers away from my home said the following when I asked him who he was going to vote at the Presidential election.
“ We have never voted for the UNP. We have never got any benefit from the government and we don’t expect anything in future too. I hate the cutouts and posters of the President. I don’t know why. My mother also is going to vote for Maithri. My wife and I will vote for Maithri. My father is for Mahinda. Therefore I will not take him to the polling station.”
The following is what a family that runs a wayside eating house in a nearby town said to me when I went there for lunch recently. First they wanted to know who I was going to vote for. Without responding to their question I asked them who they were going to vote for. They promptly said “To Maithri” and asked “ Sir ! What about you ? I said “To Maithri”. Their immediate response to my answer was “ kiyana kiyana dena kiyanne maithrita denawa kiyalane. Den beluwama janadhipathi thumata dena kenek nehene.” ( A rough translation of what they said in Sinhala is “ Everybody says they will vote Maithri. It seems that there is nobody who is going to vote for the incumbent President.”)
Next I met a person who had visited Hambantota a few days ago to attend a funeral. I quote what he told me regarding the Presidential election.
“ There is less support for Mahinda in Hambantota because people’s lives have not improved under Mahinda’s government there. Instead of giving lands to the poor, lands have been given to the rich and family friends of those who are in power. The carpeted roads have not benefited the poor there”.
Then next person I talked to was a 25 year old youth from Bulathsinghala in the Kalutara district. He said,“ I have talked to around 15 persons. All of them are for Maithri except my father. People are angry because the cost of living is unbearable”.
A three wheeler driver I interviewed said ,“ They say Ranil will be appointed as the Prime Minister by Maithri. Therefore I will not vote Maithri”.
An agriculture instructress who went to Kalpitiya, Trincomalee, and Seruwavila on a field trip a few days ago with her colleagues had met some farmers and officers in those areas. She said that the majority of the farmers and a lot of agriculture officers preferred Maithri to Mahinda. The farmers at Seruwavila had told her it was thanks to Mahinda that they live without the war but as the cost of living is unbearable they would vote for Maithri.
A Samurdhi officer of the Divi Neguma Department expressed her view said,“I work in an office situated in the premises of to a Divisional Secretariat. 90% of the employees there say they will vote for Maithri because they have not been given motorbikes by Mahinda”. Some of the Samurdhi officers are campaigning for Mahinda but some are silent. I will vote Maithri because I want see a change. We are with Chandrika. It is she who appointed us as Samurdhi officers”.
The last interviewer before I started to pen this article was a bus driver attached to the Aluthgama SLTB depot. He said,“ The President will lose this time. People were transported to the President’s rally at Panadura from Aluthgama by our buses. People had to sign in attendance sheets at the meeting”. That is how they show they have a big crowd for their rallies”.
The above discussions I had with people prove that there is an overwhelming support for Maithri at least in some parts of the country. According to many online opinion polls Maithri is most likely to win the election with a comfortable majority. The decision taken by the Opposition not to display Maithri’s cutouts and deface walls, parapets, trees and lamp posts with propaganda posters seems to have won the hearts of the public. Is this not a new situation in the country? Has Sri Lanka’s population come of age? Have the voters given a new message to the politicians? Have they said that they could no longer be duped by giving concessions and reduction of prices on the eve of the elections? Do people hate those who harm the beauty of the environment by sticking posters in every nook and corner? If it is so, Mahinda’s excessive cutout and poster campaign has boomeranged against him. It is not wrong to conclude that many thousands of cutouts and millions of posters of Mahinda have done an irrecoverable harm to Mahinda’s re-lection bid.
Though all the signs show that Maithri will win, Mahinda, his family and his government will fight until the last minute to defeat the common candidate. His lackeys are doing everything in their power to obstruct Maithri’s march to victory. A number of venues reserved for Maithri’s meetings have been cancelled by pro Mahinda chairmen of local government councils. There is no doubt that more violence will be unleashed until the evening of January 8th. They may do whatever possible to scare away the anti Mahinda voters on the polling day. On several occasions in the past anti UNP thugs went to estates that are surrounded by Sinhala villages at night and grabbed poll cards from Up-country Tamils and threatened them not to come out on the election day to vote. We can expect the repetition of the past again on the eve of the Presidential election to prevent Up-country Tamils from voting Maithri.
Another challenge for the Maithri’s camp is how to garner the votes of the Tamils and the Muslims in the Northern and the Eastern Provinces. The government is well aware that the majority of the Tamils and the Muslims will not vote for Mahinda. If Maithri expects an overwhelming support from them he has to tell the people in the North and the East of his solutions to their urgent problems. It is true that he said that he would implement all the recommendations in the LLRC report. Yet I doubt that the Tamils are aware of it as he has mentioned it only once. However there is a possibility that transport services would be disrupted on the election day by organized groups in the North and East in order to prevent the voters from coming to polling stations as every vote that is not cast would be advantageous to the incumbent.
Therefore while taking steps to prevent sabotage in the North and East, Maithri’s camp must have a mechanism to garner every anti -government vote in the other seven Provinces. So far Maithri’s camp has failed to launch house to house campaign probably due to the delay in releasing his election manifesto. The house to house campaign has to be particularly carried out in the remotest parts of the country. For example there are very remote villages in the Monaragala district where there is no electricity . They are unaware what is going on in the rest of the country as most of them do not possess radios and TV sets. At the last Uva provincial Council elections they were threatened not to vote for the Opposition . Unless the Opposition takes remedial actions government thugs may threaten the innocent rural voters to vote for Mahinda.
There is little doubt that January 8 2015 will be the day that decides the fate of Sri Lanka. IF the incumbent wins, he will be in power at least for another 8 years. The UNP most probably will split into several factions and some will join Mahinda’ government. A referendum to lengthen the life of present Parliament can be expected. Neither Ranil nor Sajith will be able to resurrect the UNP for decades. The Tamils will be subjugated further and the organizations such as the BBS will declare war against the Muslims and non Buddhists. Sri Lanka will be a fertile land for insurrections and Al Khaida type terrorism.