By P.Bertie Ranaweerage –
All good hearted people were longing to see an emergence of a powerful common candidate acceptable to all the ethnic groups who can defeat the incumbent President at the next Presidential election. It is tragic that all their hopes are fading away because of Mr. Ranil Wicramasinghe’s desire to sit in President’s chair. The UNP has unofficially confirmed that Ranil would contest the next Presidential election.
The UNP was boasting many a time that it was ready to face any election at any time. But as we are aware it miserably failed at every election held during the last few years. The only occasion they were able to win was the Badulla district largely thanks to the sky rocketing cost of living. My conclusion is the unbearable price of rice made people to vote for the UNP. It is true that Harin Fernando’s charisma made a difference but the price of rice was the decisive factor.
Though Mr. Harin Fernando was able to translate voters’ anger into UNP votes due to his hard work and charismatic leadersahip now the million dollar question is will Ranil be able to do at the Presidential election what Harin managed to do in Badulla.
If we carefully look at what Mahinda did and Ranil did or what the SLFP did and theUNP did during the last week or so it is not difficult to guess who is going to win in the propaganda campaign in the coming weeks if not in the coming couple of months.
Mahinda began his campaign in earnest by going to Jaffna and giving land deeds and gold to the Tamils. As he did during the last Presidential elections he has begun to summon state employees to the Temple Trees. He talked to the employees of the Health sector in the morning and in the afternoon he held a meeting for the employees of the Agriculture sector last week. As he knows the path to the mind lies through the stomach he never hesitates to treat those who are invited to the temple Trees with food together with propaganda material. Now don’t ask me whether he spends his own money or your tax money to fill the invitees’ stomachs in order to pocket their votes.
While government owned electronic media and print media are carrying on an incessant anti Ranil vicious campaign Mahinda supporters have launched an island wide mud slinging poster campaign against Ranil probably throughout the country. In the meantime we can see full page advertisements heaping praise on Mahinda in the newspapers daily.
Twenty four stages of which some are as wide as fifty metres and stands for large TV screens were being constructed at a facility of Sri Lanka Ports Authority by its employees when some UNP MPs made an unannounced visit to that facility according to one of the MPs who joined the’ raid’.
Yesterday the JVP said that all the printing shops in Colombo have been given orders to print election related material of Mahinda and as a result they have refused to accept orders from others.
In the meantime what has the UNP or Ranil been doing? At a small gathering this week, somewhere in Colombo Ranil announced some election promises that he would do when he came to power. After that we heard that all of a sudden he flew to Singapore. There was another news from the UNP that its Committee of Twenty gathered for the third time. And of course there were a few press conferences summoned by the UNP too.
Is this the way the UNP is going to fight mighty Mahinda?
If we go back to the pre-election period in 1994 we can recall that dozens of anti-government tabloids and news letters were published weekly and they were very popular among the people. They played a major role to tilt the balance in Chandrika’s favour.
Another instance the UNP used posters in its favour was the pre-presidential period in 1988. Notwithstanding the threat of the JVP, Mr. R. Premadasa sent people from Colombo to every nook and corner of the country to paste his poster ‘ME KAUDA ? MOKADA KARANNE’ ( Who is this ? What is he doing? ) Premadas probably hoped to go on a second round of poster campaign with his name, intention and picture but he had to limit it to newspaper advertisements due to possible threats from armed JVPers to Premadasa’s men.
During the 1977 pre-election period tens of thousands of posters with cartoons on Bandaranaike family bandyism were pasted across the country which made a huge impact in shifting the public opinion against the SLFP.
Today’s UNP is a far cry from the JR’s UNP and Premadasa’s UNP. One of the reasons is able UNPers are now in Mahinda’s cabinet.
Ranil’s UNP has failed to paste even a single poster on an island –wide scale so for announcing its candidate or condemning Rajapaksa family bandyism.
Has it been able to publish even a single anti-government tabloid so far? It seems it has failed even to publish their official organ ‘Siyarata’ as far as I know. Though it has a media unit, it has done little to spread its message to the public
While Mahinda has launched a propaganda blitzkrieg in preparation of the election Ranil’s propaganda campaign, if there is one, is nothing but a snailkreig.
If the UNP hopes to beat Mahinda it has to launch an earth shattering propaganda campaign to begin with. It is true that a powerful campaign alone cannot beat the opponent but a propaganda campaign that reverberates in every home in the country, a campaign that stuns the opponents goes a long way.
It is better for Ranil, for the UNP and for the country if Ranil abstains from contesting and support a candidate with a better personality who has a mass appeal as the common candidate at the forthcoming Presidential election for it is not easy to defeat Mahinda as he still enjoys the support of the majority of the Sinhalese. And don’t forget that Thondaman has promised his support to Mahinda which means a good number of upcountry Tamils will vote for the incumbent President. In case Ranil contests and loses it will be the end of Ranil’s political life.