14 October, 2019

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Presidential Candidates & Major Concern Of The Citizen 

By Amila Muthukutti

Amila Muthukutti

It is needless to note that the entire nation is getting ready for a presidential election, even though an election is not yet officially declared. People have started talking about who should be the next president of the country. It is with October constitutional coup and most importantly April attack that people feel the necessity of a leader without political biases, but a clear vision. Accordingly, many high profile people in the country have fielded themselves as candidates for presidency, while rumors are going around concerning potential candidates in main political parties. Conflicts over candidacy can also be observed in the same party. For now, there are about ten or more names in the circulation. In a nutshell, this is a cross section of politics in Sri Lanka. 

Plight 

The fact that the country has been economically as well as politically going from bad to worse for past few years, can be accepted without any debate. In 2018, government securities market lost Rs. 160 billion, while net foreign outflow from the Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE) was Rs. 22.8 billion. Net foreign outflow from the CSE so far this year is Rs. 7.24 billion. Rupee depreciated by 19% in 2018. However, it appreciated by nearly 3.25% so far this year. Moreover, according to a recently issued police report, suicides due to economic reasons have gone up in the country. It is 238 in 2018, 195 in 2017 and 156 in 2016. Statistics clearly indicate that how the nation has economically reversed. 

By all accounts, Easter Sunday attack entirely changed the economic and political direction of the country. There are still allegations that people in power were in the dark about the attack that claimed almost 250 lives. Few days ago, another casualty died. No one in power has taken the responsibility over their duties, although the case is still going on. This situation resulted in public disappointment over politicians in an unprecedented manner, especially paving the way for the tendency of a candidate from non-political background. The fact that traditional politicians can no longer deliver their promises, took firm roots in the hearts of people. 

Marketing 

Politicians are very good marketers in every sense of the word, who nicely and strategically select marketable things for the election from time to time. Last time, it was about corruption, abductions and killings so and so forth. This time, it seems to be the division among ethnicities, especially Sinhala and Muslim, rise of terrorism, sale of public properties and many more. Over patriotism too is a very good marketing tool, but very dangerous in the current context. As media are owned by few wealthy people closely attached to different political parties, this marketing campaign can easily be done. This is actually not in public interests, but in personal interests. 

As this marketing strategy works out beyond expectations, a system has been created, in which two main parties come into power from time to time, thanks to short memory of the citizens. If cheap things can be marketed in any market, it is always identified as a cheap market. Hence, cheap politicians are also a reflection of the people in the country. Nevertheless, what can now be observed is that people have started questioning validity of those strategies and marketers, preparing the ground where old bottles can no longer be filled with new wine. 

Concern 

Economic prosperity can resolve a lot of problems. In other words, poverty can create a lot of problems. Consequently, all that politicians are expected to do is to properly manage the economy. It is true that country’s development has been held back by welfare programs which were put into action for raising the vote base. Every poverty alleviation program implemented thus far has prioritized welfare over empowerment. That is why; we are, as a country, still poor. Accordingly, major concern of the citizen must be to elect a leader who has clear and practical vision on the economy. Even if people can be happy over welfarism in the short-run, they will have to pay a bigger price in the long-run. By extension, constructing housing schemes, increasing Samurdhi beneficiaries and giving more and more subsidies cannot be considered the way a leader should address the poverty. Poverty alleviation through empowerment ought to be the top priority for the next president. 

Alternatives 

Even though any political party has not yet declared their candidates for the presidential election, the image of the next leader is being drawn in minds of the public. A segment of the population, especially a majority of the youth need a 100% change of the overall political system by replacing all the 225 politicians with new ones. Furthermore, they expect a person from non-political background to be elected as the president of the country at the next election. 

Dr. Ajith Colonne, by analyzing the current political trends, frankly and fearlessly stated that a person without any affiliation to a political party will be the next president of the country, as the contest will be between political camp and non-political camp. His prediction makes sense, as a majority of the public who are now disillusioned and disappointed at this disgusting political system, seem to have arrived at a conclusion that all are same. Moreover, as both political parties have proved that they cannot deliver public expectations, people may tend to find a new leader. On the other hand, it is too early to make any judgment over this prediction in a country where political ideologies come from generation to generation. 

Unlike other elections held in the past, this will provide people with more options, because political as well as non-political candidates will be presented for the contest. It is the right time for voters to take the right decision for sending traditional political parties home that have made this nation economically and socially stagnant since the independence. United States of America (USA) did it. France did it. Pakistan did it. Most recently, Ukraine did it. Why not Sri Lanka? 

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Latest comments

  • 1
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    “As the contest will be between political camp and non-political camp” as stated by author, sounds good, but is it practicable?, since the 19th amendment made by purely keeping mind what has happened to PM in 2004 and current b…..sena. Unless new and genuine parliamentarian elected ( again the MPs are reflection of his people as Author said-so obviously the people must be genuine) the power struggle between parliament and Executive is imminent. So the probability for failure in this model, seems higher. Meanwhile keep remember that the Rule of Law in our dear motherland already exited.

  • 4
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    “Dr. … by analyzing the current political trends, frankly and fearlessly stated that a person without any affiliation to a political party will be the next president of the country, as the contest will be between political camp and non-political camp.”
    *
    Frankly and fearlessly perhaps. But not correctly.
    A candidate without party affiliation could only be from another Galaxy.
    *
    To put it bluntly, in politics there is no non-political camp.

  • 0
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    PART ONE
    .
    Dear Amila Muthukutti,
    .
    I agree.
    The time is ripe to send both political parties packing, and Sinhala_Man will do his best to make this come true. However, our problem is that each of us has such a dislike of one of the parties. Most Sri Lankans will want to vote in such a way as to keep the less liked party out. I know that it is not for parties but for individuals that we vote, but neither side has announced its “common candidate” yet. This is an insult to us. They think that we will mechanically vote for the guy whom they impose on us. As for me, I want to keep the barbarous SLPP fellows out, but the UNP seems able to think only of old men whom we are tired of. Why do so many Sri Lankans dodge the need to say what they mean? I myself am old, and I’d like to leave this world having ushered in a fresh face, even if it is not young. How to do it?
    .
    Given your rather uncommon surname, Sinhala_Man is uncertain whether Amila is Sinhalese or Tamil speaking. To most Sri Lankans, this seems to be a very important consideration; despite my handle, not to me. I feel that a guy with no political experience cannot actually govern this country. The problem is finding a decent guy with experience.
    .
    There are such people, and we must fearlessly vote for them. Imtiaz Bakeer Markar is one such. Let me explain. Each of us has THREE Preferences, and I normally use them. Sometimes I make a mistake in voting, and , in my enthusiasm, use only one. In 2015, I voted only for Maithripala Sirisena.
    .
    tbc

    • 1
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      PART TWO
      .
      Had two hundred thousand of us picked up the courage and voted, half of us for Siritunga Jayasuriya of the United Socialist Party, and the other half for Sundaram Mahendran of the Nava Sama Samaja Party, the result would have been the same, provided we all gave a SECOND or a THIRD Preference to My3 Sirisena. Although Mahinda Rajapaksa would have topped the first count, he would have had fewer than 50% of the total votes polled. Preferences would have been counted for the first time in seven elections since 1982. A chastened Sirisena would have won, but not imagined that he was hugely popular. When we ensured that Rajapaksa’s 52 day Premiership was ended, Ranil made the same mistake. He imagined that we liked him personally.
      .
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2015_Sri_Lankan_presidential_election
      .
      The figures are all there. Almost 5.8 million to Second Placed Mahinda Rajapaksa. How many for the third, and how many for the fourth?
      .
      Ratnayake Arachchige Sirisena of the Patriotic National Front third with 18,174 votes. Contrast with 5,768,090 votes for Mahinda Rajapaksa.
      .
      And who came fourth? Why, Namal Ajith Rajapaksa of Our National Front with 15,726 votes.
      .
      By the way, I expect all readers to be intelligent enough to work out the significance of the names of those who came third and fourth.

      • 1
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        S_man,
        Any fool can win elections but fools can’t govern a country. In other words, Election has to be thought of selecting a talented team with visionary leadership to govern the country for next five years. I don’t see such a thought is anywhere near in your “dream”.
        I personally don’t see a need to change the Gvt anytime soon for the simple reason that there is no better alternative visible in the political horizon. It is true that the current Gvt has not succeeded in fulfilling all the promises offered during the last election but we must also understand the fact that turning existing a negative economic trend to positive trend withing a mere four year period itself is big achievement. All in all, the country has achieved so much positive changes in various areas, results of which won’t show up at family level immediately. One is the education reforms; independence of judiciary; improvements in public health care system; minimizing police brutality, political intervention in school entrance to job promotion & transfer etc., etc.
        Most difficulties we are experiencing today has four main reasons: 1. Efforts to recover from debt crisis; 2. Rising $ value; 3. the experiment of national Gvt & compounded by MY 3’s stupidity; and 4. various interest groups enjoying new democracy by coming forward to win their demands.

        • 0
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          Thanks for your observations D.P.
          .
          What I was doing was drawing attention to the system of voting, in a three-part comment, which I had worked at carefully, and saved on my HDD. My focus was on facts and objectivity, but I have not hidden what my desires and likings are.
          .
          Is my Maths all right? I hope one of the Hooles or Prof. Kumar David shows up any deficiencies there. This system gives the same value (in a close election) to the First and the Second Preference. Is that fair? You see how scrupulous we are in our thinking – but the man-in-the-street doesn’t think at all!
          .
          After I had submitted it all, I noticed that Rajan Philips’ new article had come on. I was tired, but made some changes to the first part of what you see here, and put it on. That posting needs some explaining, but not this.
          .
          Your observations have not really challenged the conclusions that I had drawn from the figures – which are obviously correct. I’m afraid that I see some fallacies in your reasoning, but I’m tired now – and let’s see what other observations come on. I’ll say something more in a couple of days, but put them below my “PART THREE”.
          .
          I know that I’m not great when it comes to analysing the Economy, but I don’t think that I see the advances in social services that you do. It may help you to know that I’m a retired teacher with experience mostly in rural areas; but well, I have some idea of what is happening elsewhere.
          .
          Please give me two days more to work out a proper response.

    • 0
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      PART THREE
      .
      You see what I mean? People vote only for the representatives of the two main parties, forgetting that ours is a Preferential Voting system. Will the JVP and Nagananda Kodituwakku’s Organisation be able to get this message across to more than a million voters? In their different ways, they are very well organised. If they get this message across, the numbers voting for them will definitely be many folds more. Some Third Preferences will certainly go to the SLPP candidate. Let the SLPP also have a chance of winning, if that is indeed what the people want.
      .
      But let us hope for the miracle: let us hope that an individual from an a-political organisation actually gets into SECOND place. If half the electorate has got the message to use Preferences, we’d have won! Mahinda Rajapaksa is adored by his supporters. The rest loathe him. There will be few Preferences for him!
      .
      What appalls me is the extent of ignorance displayed by our voters. Very high turn out; almost no strategic voting. Compare with the five results obtained in the only election which vaguely resembles ours. The London Mayoral Election:
      .
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/London_mayoral_elections
      .
      What is the predicted line-up for London 2020?. Here it is:
      .
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2020_London_mayoral_election
      .
      There are criticisms that one can make. Average turn-out is well below 50% of registered voters. But at least some important issues get addressed. More than 70% of our voters trek to polling booths (mind, another 10% are working abroad as slaves.)
      .
      Yes, Amila. Let a sizeable number of us vote courageously this year.

    • 0
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      Sinhala_man
      You want to keep the barbarous SLPP out and I want to keep the traitorous UNP out. Minorities will decide who will carry the day – you or me. There is a difference between you and me, however. I want to face a free, fair and democratic election while you want to keep the SLPP candidate out of contesting by some juglarry or the other. Your success depends on ensuring en block voting of minorities and propaganda to keep their minds poisoned with Sinhala only and Aluthgama. My success depends on how much people remember or attach positive or negative values to 1978 Constitution, abolition of Sirima-Sastri pact, Indo Lanka accord with Provincial Councils, Jaffna library, 83 black July, 89 Bheesanaya, RW-VP pact, war vitory and Yahapalana racket.
      Cheers.

      Soma

      • 0
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        Dear Soma,
        .
        What I have tried to do above is to educate our people about the system of voting for the Presidency that we have in this country. It is a system that looks rational but is unlikely to be understood by the less caring voters. Its architect, J.R. Jayawardena, probably realised that it would be like that. The UNP are not a nice lot, but somewhat different from the out and out racist Rajapaksas, of whom Gota is the worst.
        .
        And since he is such a barbaric racist, yes, he is the favourite to win the Presidency. See the fears expressed here:
        .
        http://country.eiu.com/article.aspx?articleid=1818220365&Country=Sri%20Lanka&topic=Politics
        .
        That is, of course, a foreign newspaper and it doesn’t seem to give what you call my “jugglery” much chance of succeeding.
        .
        Why not examine that “jugglery” more closely. Who asked Gota to migrate to the United States? Most people in Sri Lanka believe that Gota was involved in many murders. It may be that we are wrong, but is it not true that those murders were never properly investigated? Now he’s been charged with them in America. Yes, some people have devoted years just to ensure that he is brought to justice in America, but our common fear is that Donald Trump, as much a racist as Gota, will help him. This is Trump news of today:
        .
        https://edition.cnn.com/2019/07/15/politics/andy-harris-donald-trump-race/index.html
        .
        Appeals to uneducated white people in America. A similar constituency to Gota’s in Sri Lanka. There are multiple ironies here. In general terms, Gota is probably one of those whom Trump would like to see leaving America. However, it may be that Trump has some use for a guy like Gota if he is elected President of our Failed State.

        • 0
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          Dear Sinhala_man
          If I am asked which is the top in my priority of incidents to be properly investigated (Gota’s murders, Ranil’s Batalanda tortures, Lasantha Wickramatunga, Richard de Zoysa …) I would say the Jaffna library. I believe if Ranil W was in power in 2009 and Prabhakaran is still alive we would be swimming in blood. Your political affiliations have blinded you to the fact that we owe our freedom to those involved in eliminating the LTTE.

          Soma

      • 0
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        PART B
        .
        I’ve never been to America, never been out of Asia. Am I an embarrassment to you, Soma? I’m from Uva. Worked 29 years for the Department of Education. Only five of them (on study leave) in the Western and Central Provinces of Sri Lanka.
        .
        Yet I know that there are two Americas – so do all those Sri Lankans who yearn to migrate there (including the Rajapaksas), but many would now settle for Australia. Why do we Sinhalese want to go to those “white” countries? I don’t have that desire, although I know that part of America is good – and the Donald Trump part of it as bad as it can possibly be. American foreign policy we all have reservations about, even with a POTUS like Obama who is essentially a good man.

      • 0
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        PART C
        .
        I perceive the complexities; I know my Uva people. I try to educate them. But also, the laws of the land must apply to the Rajapaksas so that they don’t dupe the gullible Uva voters, before they can be educated. A foreign national cannot contest the Presidency of our country. It doesn’t seem to trouble Nagananda Kodituwakku. There are no serious charges against him; he can renounce British Citizenship. The charges against Gota are serious. The Law in Sri Lanka doesn’t allow a criminal to contest the Presidency? What is the intention of the law? The intention cannot be implemented by the State without Proven Guilt.
        .
        Yet I, as an individual, am certain of his guilt. Am I wrong to do my best to argue against his election? The decision made, I try to educate people, but not by coming up with specious arguments. You often say, don’t you that you support Eelam, only every Tamil must leave the South? I don’t spout such easy rhetoric. I don’t get mad at Eelamists, but I do try to show them a United Sri Lanka as an alternative. I want to see inclusive societies both South and North. But not State Sponsored Colonization of the East, which is what we have attempted since Independence, starting with UNP governments..
        .
        I know that my reasoning will not immediately appeal to many Sinhalese, but I have been consistent for the past fifty years. I know that I’m an embarrassment to you, Soma, because the minorities cannot elect a President. A considerable number of peace-loving Sinhalese must support them.
        .
        Please point out the propaganda in what I originally wrote. I was drawing attention to facts. Please refute them, if you can.

  • 1
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  • 0
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    President of SL should not hold office as a Party Leader. He should be President to all Sri Lankans !!

    A person from a political party should give up Party Membership on assumption as the President. & not hold office as Party President to avoid messing up like in the current situation.

    Why cannot parliamentarians adopt that principle and why was it not included in 19A?

    • 0
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      Will it apply to the Presidents of the US and France.
      It is fair to expect it of the President of India, or for that matter, the Queen of England.

  • 0
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    The writer seems to have a good grip on the political and and economic
    situation of the country but some of his correct findings don’t seem to be
    rightly matching his predictions or expectations I suppose ! He knows
    that cheap politicians are a reflection of the people in the country but believe
    that such people will suddenly wake up and change the deep rooted set up !
    In my understanding , J V P is the only well organised party that truly stands
    for a change with a popular voice support that is not backed by action through
    ballots ! Civil organisations are still pressure groups and won’t challenge the
    age old set up at this moment . The case that political manipulations rather
    than voter intelligence wins ,has not changed in the country . As long as social
    injustice is the order of the day , fraud and corruption has popular acceptance
    as a part of life , in the name of the country, Monks are allowed to scream in
    public instead of polite preaching in spiritual voice etc, etc , the country has no
    ways to elect a patriotic statesman as its leader . True , frustration is
    everywhere in the country about everything but much of it due to the outcome
    of comparing a poor country with other rich and developed world ! What
    majority of people are being taught everyday by rivals is revenge politics which
    has nothing to do with country’s progress ! We had two common candidates in
    the last two president elections and one with a colour won , the other without
    colour, lost , being a successful commander and considered to be an honest man .
    Srilanka is not looking for anyone except a popular manipulator ! Rest assured .

  • 0
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    The Greens.Blues and the reds are actually birds of the same flock . See how easily they change colour and fly between the nests. They have alternately led this country to its present plight. The poor of this country have been fooled for the past seventy odd years. Are we going to be fooled again? Our salvation is in the hands of a patriotic.educated citizen with a policy to clean the Augean stables. It is not necessary that he should be experienced . Did the Hon Sirima Bandaranayaka have experience? It is the ‘experienced’ people who have led us to this situation. They have proved that they are well experienced to fool the people and amass immense wealth for themselves and their kith and kin.

    • 0
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      don anton ,

      There was a report that at a village called Ihala Kinniyama in the
      Kurunegala district , a U N P minister , one S L F P provincial
      councillor and an S L P P member arrived on a vehicle together
      and shook hands with the criminals who vandalised Mosques ,
      and shops and attacked the villagers ! The villagers have video
      footage ! Post Easter mob attacks unleashed on Muslims . Is it
      not clear what politics we are into ? Unity in public and division
      in private . Peace and Love in public , Blood and Flesh in private .
      Is it not foolish to think that Dogs choose a race to bite ? Didn’t
      we witness how it bit its masters three times in the past ? Our
      current politics address only their foolish masters with the
      exception of J V P ! They don’t promise freebies and highways !
      Ships and Planes for the Greedy Masters ! Yesterday the Tamils ,
      Today the Muslims and tomorrow ? There is a tomorrow and that
      will be among themselves !

  • 2
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    Elementary Dr Watson; if you are unhappy with any one of them , do not cast your vote. I am not sure whether it is compulsory voting in Sri Lanka. All eligible voters must forensically review what the party and the candidate’s stand for and go to the polling booth fully informed. Do not vote for sentimental and fanatical reasons. Think of the land and the poor mass who are still languishing in the yester years. What Sri Lanka needs a sensible, experience , educated and visionary leader who can take the country out of the ill fame and restore true democracy. If it to be Sinhala Buddhist country, so be it. But follow and practice the principles of Lord Buddha.

  • 0
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    Thank you, soam.
    .
    Don’t you think that we are saying the same thing? What I have done above is tried to show how, in the next Presidential Elections, we will be able to use the system now in place, to vote intelligently.
    .
    It can be self-defeating to trumpet the virtues of one candidate. Most Sri Lankans believe passionately (and blindly!) in the sanctity of their right to decide for themselves on whom to vote. Democracy has always been a messy system, but there is a case, I guess, for saying that we don’t have anything better. Certainly, we will all be the gainers if we have educated voters. I don’t think that there is much justification for the smug view that “speakers of English” have that they are more rational and intelligent voters than those who rely mainly on the “swabasha”, but the simple fact is that we are outnumbered. At a personal level, I don’t want labels put on me; I’d like to be classified as just a “human being”. However, taken as a whole, we all understand these classifications:
    .
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_Sri_Lanka
    .
    In terms of that, yes it is a person fluent in Sinhala and subscribing to Buddhism who will be the next President, although I would personally prefer a more secular approach. The day we have a society in which these claims to leadership are not obviously true, will be a happy one for us all.
    .
    Within my family and friends circles, I’m quite outspoken in my views of whom to vote for, but this is a Public Forum, and it would be best if we focussed on educating people on the system of voting. I don’t think this hypocritical. It is just that we recognise the right of others to think differently.

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