28 January, 2020

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Preparing For Elections With Carrot And Stick

By Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

During the Uva provincial council election last month the President Rajapaksa thanked the visiting Chinese President for having bestowed economic assistance on the country and reduced the price of petrol and electricity.  This time there was no Chinese President to share the credit with.  But President Mahinda Rajapaksa directed that the price of cooking gas should be reduced.  The government is aware that economic considerations loom large in the minds of the majority of the electorate.  During his ongoing visit to Jaffna and the Northern Province, the President is making major offerings to the people, of land, jobs and subsidized motor cycles, to mention but a few.  Despite the high level of economic growth reported by the government, economic hardship badly affects the life of the masses of the people. If the economic concessions at the Uva elections were a precedent, the package of economic benefits to the electorate at this time points to imminent elections.

It is said that astrologers have warned the President that his star is on the wane and will wane faster after March of next year. This is not a particularly stellar prediction.  Most political commentators in media and general life are in agreement that the government’s popularity is on the decline, which is not surprising as the Rajapaksa-led government has been in office for nearly ten years. The results of the Uva Provincial Council election were a confirmation of the fall in popularity.  Whether it is written in the stars or not, the sooner a presidential election is held the better it will be for the government.  This makes early January, which is the earliest in which an election can be held, the most likely time.  However, there is one serious problem that arises, and that is the pre-planned and agreed upon visit by Pope Francis to Sri Lanka for which the Catholic Church has been making preparations.

Mahinda KarunaIt would be a major disappointment to the Catholic community if the visit does not go ahead due to the government’s electoral compulsions, and this can be politically disadvantageous to the government. There is reportedly a one month window before and after elections that the Vatican wants, so that a papal visit does not figure in national political discourse. If the government is mindful of this concern then the next earliest it can have the elections are in March. While any delay in holding the elections would tend to be unfavorable to the government on account of its declining popularity, there is an important factor that can come into play to boost the government’s electoral prospects. This is the March session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva at which the report of the UN investigative team into war crimes in Sri Lanka will be taken up.

Nationalistic Mobilisation

The holding of a presidential election in the looming shadow of the UNHRC meeting in Geneva can become a plus point of electoral mobilization to the government. The UN investigation has been described by the government as an international conspiracy against itself and the unity of the country. Many if not most of the majority Sinhalese population will subscribe to this notion.  Therefore it a presidential election campaign is held just before the outcome of the UNHRC meeting in Geneva is finalized, and with an axe threatening to fall upon the government, it will be able to mobilize the nationalism of the people to its electoral advantage. The question once again, as it has been in all of the post-war elections, is whether nationalism will get priority over those other issues at which the government is at a disadvantage.

The close electoral contest that the government experienced at the Uva elections would alert it to the fact that economic concessions by themselves will not suffice to address the concerns of the electorate. It may therefore be more than a mere coincidence that the President’s announcement of a reduction in the price of cooking gas came parallel with an anti-NGO poster campaign. On the same day that the President’s concession to the economic problems faced by the people was announced, posters appeared on the streets of major towns asking “Why is the NGO Gang afraid of the President?”  As the answer was not provided for in the posters, it can reasonably be surmised that these posters will be followed in the succeeding days by others which will provide answers.

The attack on NGOs reflects the concerns of the government leadership. With the passage of more than five years since the end of the war the government is finding it increasingly difficult to justify the government’s approach to governance on the basis of national security.  One of the few sectors in society willing to challenge the government has been the NGO sector.  Many of the top leaders of the government have had close associations with the NGOs. Some were members of NGOs, either as volunteers or as staff.  Others worked alongside NGOs in campaigning against previous governments. President Rajapaksa is well known for his abortive bid as an opposition parliamentarian to carry files of human rights cases to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva which was foiled by alert immigration officials. As in the past, with previous governments, the NGO sector continues to be willing to challenge the government.

Two Tracks

The government appears to be following a two track strategy in dealing with the NGOs.  Many if not most NGOs do positive work at the community level which has given them credibility with the people and made them into opinion formers who can influence the way the people vote.  In fact these community level NGO leaders have more credibility than the government’s own agents at the community level, such as Samurdhi coordinators, who act in politically partisan and non-transparent ways. The government’s first track, and the more constructive one, is to commence engaging in dialogue with the NGOs.  The dialogue so far has been with a small group of NGOs and has led to a positive interaction which is still in its incipient stage. They have already raised issues of having to get prior approval from government authorities to do their work and also of government surveillance of their activities, which intimidates civil society participants and stymies the discussion of issues of governance and human rights.

On the other hand, the media has reported that the government is planning to amend the Voluntary Social Service Organisations (Registration and Supervision) Act under which most NGOs are registered. A final copy has now been passed by the Legal Draftsman and will shortly be submitted to Cabinet.  It is reported that under the amendments, NGOs will have to register annually with the Secretariat or lose the right to receive foreign funds and conduct local monetary transactions. They will also have to submit reports and sign Memorandums of Understanding with the Government. According to the government’s NGO Secretariat, the government will allow two weeks for public observations once other routine procedures were completed. The draft has been discussed with relevant officials including those from the Ministries of Justice and Social Services, State Intelligence and the Central Bank.  But it has not been discussed with the NGO sector. The NGO Secretariat is quoted as saying that “There is no need to ask the NGOs because this is a law that is being enacted in the interests of the country.”

Today there is uncertainty regarding the mandate civil society has in Sri Lanka. The government recently issued a circular which is ambiguously worded and is potentially highly restrictive.  This circular appeared to be targeted at the advocacy and human rights NGOs, which work with high profile groups such as the media and the international community.  There are currently two opinions within the NGO community.  Some believe that NGOs need to engage with the government in order to create space for themselves to do their work. They also hold to the position that civil society organisations should not affiliate themselves to political parties, or the government of the day, and that they must remain independent.   However, others believe that civil society needs to work together with the opposition and stand up against the government to achieve political change.  It is this latter position that is serving to strengthen the government’s second track, which appears to be one of discrediting NGOs and driving them out of the public sphere during the election campaign period to begin with.

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Latest comments

  • 6
    2

    One single thing that th epeople have to get before voting this man for his next greedy term would who are these men on the picture.

    People should ignore many things depending on sitution but to make a high criminal as the substitute of the SLFP – is beyong all ethics and morals.

    Whether or not nation is healthy one will be come out in next election.

    Pictures worth thousand words.

    Anyway, if the nation would not be fed with facts and figures nothing will change but MR and thugs will further deceive the very same nation.

    • 6
      2

      The diabolical clown Mahinda Jarapassa thinks that all Sinhalas are Modaya!

      Now he says that it is because he is such a PATRIOT and because the TNA will divide Lanka that he needs to be the Corrupt executive President with his corrupt brothers and sons and nephews and in-laws looting the country.

      The logic is true Sinhala Modaya logic – destroy democracy in Sri Lanka to save it!

      • 3
        1

        What Mahinda Rajapakse THINKS nobody knows. What we KNOW is that every single day there are commentators on this forum referring to the Sinhala as modayas and worse. There is NO doubt that the TNA aspirations and intentions are any different from those of the terrorist LTTE. Beware, unless you only pose here as a Sinhala.

      • 0
        0

        EXECUTIVE PRESIDENCY OFF IF SEPERATISM DROPPED
        ———————————————-

        Read the above headlines in one of the Local
        News Papers, supposed to have been said by the President in the
        North recently. The Tamils of North East are the only people who does not talk of Separation but they now talk more about their bread and butter. The people who talk about it is not TNA but the ruling party and not even the majority people. The Tamil diaspora in other countries may talk of separationunder sheer frustration but TNA does not take advice from them. Ltte talk is over as the cadre is dead and gone and people are not buying that story and the new election winning story is separation. The TNA has even gone to the extend to Supreme court to swear allegiance to the
        state that they, the Tamils are for a United Sri lanka. What more the govt. expects the Tamils to do. The govt. must be under a phobia of the word separation. Why fool the people this way, just to win an election.Divide and rule is not the solution
        here.

    • 1
      2

      Samuel Samarasinghe

      You say: “Anyway, if the nation would not be fed with facts and figures nothing will change but MR and thugs will further deceive the very same nation.”

      Yes, Rajapaksa and the politicians and have exploited Sinhala just the same way the Tamil politicians exploited the Tamils.

      The Rajapaksas have a reasonable chance to succeed, because the average
      I.Q. of the Tamil and Sinhala masses is around 79.

      Rajapaksas are counting on the low I.Q. of the Sinhala. They know there are a lot of Sinhala Modayas, in addition to the Tamil Modayas or Madus.So the Rajapaksas may succeed.

      So the Modayas and Madus need to be informed and “educated”. Somebody need to write Common Sense like what Thomas Paine did in 1776 for the American Revolution.

      Let’s look at the Masses and Electorates I.Q.

      http://www.photius.com/rankings/national_iq_scores_country_ranks.html

      National IQ Scores – Country Rankings Rank ——– Country ———————– % ————-

      1 Singapore 108
      2 South Korea 106
      3 Japan 105
      4 Italy 102

      28 Guatemala 79
      28 Sri Lanka 79
      8 Zambia 79

      • 1
        0

        Amarasiri,

        IQ tests have been shown to be culturally biased. Especially against Africans, as this list you keep posting shows. IQ measures success in the Western educational system at most, it is not a true measure of broader intelligence. IQ tests also have a long history of being used by racists to justify their prejudices (since the 1800s when they were first developed).

  • 4
    2

    How did Dr Jehan miss the most important issue at the next Election which is Separatism.

    As the Prez pointed out clearly in Kilinochchi. EP helped him liberate the land from Prabakaran.

    EP must stay to prevent Separation again.

    If the TNA ditches separatism, the current Prex himself is willing to abolish the EP.

    And he has the two thirds majority to do that.

    All those parading as potential CC who promise to abolish the EP are either naive novices or shrewd politicians who are being manipulated by the West to give TNA separate Homeland,and make their Diaspora citizens happy.

    Can any of those CCs convince the great majority that they can abolish the EP and still keep Srilanka as one country?.

    • 1
      4

      Sumane malli [Edited out]!

      “Current Prex himself is willing to abolish the EP”

      Do you really believe it? Are you naive? Or are you plain stupid? Or you blind?

      I believe you are none of the above.

      However you are trapped aren’t you? Your head is stuck and cannot get out. Your head is deep inside JaraPassa’s Passa. It is dark, smelly, and you really like it. Even if you see daylight you are unwilling to try and pull your head out because you prefer the JaraPassa’s plumbing works!

      Enjoy the dungeons.

    • 0
      0

      Sumanasekara, Machchang, it was the UNP that created the LTTE.JR wanted the support of the tamils to beat the SLFP. He promised to settle the Tamil problem.When he got 5/6 majority, he did not want the Tamils and from day the SLFP and the Tamils were attacked . Then Mrs Ghandhi disguisted with JR trained VP.

  • 1
    2

    Jehan, Civil society does not need a mandate from the Jarapassa regime to do its work.

    1. Civil society must EDUCATE the Sinhala Modayas on the need to ABOLISH the executive presidency before it is too late to undo the Mahinda Jarapassa military dictatoship.

    2. Civil society must educate Sinhala Modays on the regimes ECONOMIC TERRORISM against the poor, vulnerable and elderly. Nivard Cabraal has reduced interest rates based on FAKE inflation rates in order to BORROW from already DEBT ridden local banks and LOW interest rates to fund the illegal re-election bid of Mahinda Jarapassa. The elderly folk who live on their fixed deposit savings are suffering. At the same time that corrupt clown PB Jayasundere has told the elderly to put their life savings in the stock markets which is operated by the Rajapaksa regimes mafia – who pump and dump stocks to make money and defarud unsuspecting investors. This is criminal economic policy and financial terrorism against Sri Lankan masses…

    • 0
      0

      Dead right Dinuk!

      Sinhala masses who are suffering due to the Jarapassa looting of the national wealth MUST be EDUCATED by civil society since the opposition UNP under Ranil Wickramasinghe is sucking up to Jarapassa..

      UNP and its economists are failing to tell the people the true picture of the economy and the reason why people are suffering poverty with fictitious growth rates and galloping INEQUALITY because Jarapassa brothers, sons and inlaws and cronies are wallowing in a cesspool of CORRUPTION…

  • 0
    0

    Dinuk, I appreciate your comment and agree with you 100%!

  • 1
    0

    Jehan,
    In the latest, Global Hunger Index (GHI) of 120 developing (poor) countries, Sri Lanka is 39 the position well ahead of India (55), Bangladesh (57) and Pakistan (57), but behind Nepal (44). It further said that the undernourished in Sri Lanka decreased from a 33.4% in 1990-1992 period to 22.8% in the 2011-2013 period.

    You Dr.Jehan and all your fellow NGOs like Dr.Paikia’s CPA have got lots and lots of money from the former colonials to help Sri Lankans. Tell us, how much of that money you have used to help the hungry in Sri Lanka in all these years and in what projects?

  • 2
    1

    mechanic

    How many world renowned scientist, economists, Nobel Laureates, … have you produced in this Sinhala/Buddhists ghetto?

    Here is a list of some of the Indians you would have ignored:

    C.V. Raman

    Homi Bhabha

    Jagdish Chandra Bose

    Meghnad Saha

    M. Visvesvaraya

    Satyendra Nath Bose

    Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar

    Vikram Sarabhai

    Anil Kakodkar

    APJ Abdul Kalam

    Birbal Sahni

    Srinivasa Ramanujan

    Dr. Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar

    Har Gobind Khorana

    Raja Ramanna

    Ganapathi Thanikaimoni

    Harish-Chandra

    G. N. Ramachandran

    Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis

    Kotcherlakota Rangadhama Rao

    Salim Ali

    Yellapragada Subbarao

    Sam Pitroda

    Venkataraman Ramakrishnan

    Amatya Sen

    ….

    ….

    The list is not exhaustive

    In contrast see what the Sinhala/Buddhists have produced

    Anagarika Dharmapala (the homeless one)
    BBS Gnanasara
    V Prabhaharan
    Rohana Wijeyweera
    Somawansa
    Weerawansa
    Gota
    Mahinda
    Sajin
    Duminda
    Udagampola
    Premadasa
    Talduwe Ratugama Rallage Weris Singho
    Cyril Mathew
    JR
    Gamini
    Nalin de Silva
    …..
    …..
    mechanic

    & another 20 million racist stupid people

    The list is not exhaustive.

    • 0
      1

      Dear Native,

      How did you miss Ms Jetalalitha in your Hindian High Achievers List..

      One can’t be a just a nincompoop and become the Leader of 80 Million of your relatives not only once, but three times…. Right…

  • 0
    0

    A very good caption. Rajapaksa has fooled so many for his survival and that of his family to be in power. There should be an end to this. The ignorant Sinhala masses and the extremist Sinhala people will be his power base. He has had even the temerity to attempt to mislead the Pope. Hope the Holy father will see through this and be advised appropriately.Bensen

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