By Kumar David –
The Island newspaper of 12 October carried a report titled “ULF reviewing its decision to back JVP; likely to support Sajith” by Shamindra Ferdinando. The Sunday Observer of 13 October followed up with “United Left Front poised to change course and back Sajith?” This report said: “Speaking to the Sunday Observer, UNF Parliamentarian and United Left Front member Dr Jayampathy Wickremaratne confirmed that there had been calls for the party to change its decision. “That request is being seriously considered and in accordance with Sama Samaja tradition, we will discuss the issue and make a decision internally” Dr Wickremaratne added”.
Comrade JW is referring to Thunkorale; the Ruanwella-Yatiyantota NM heartland. When I delivered a one hour talk at the NM Commemoration seminar in Yatiyantota on 6 October 2019 and explained the Party position – (a) and (b) below – in much detail I did not encounter one word of dissent but rather much support from the 200 or so mostly Party members present. I am confident there will be no change in the ULF’s position and that Thunkorale comrades will endorse it.
Let me summarise the official Party position in a few words; (a) and (b) form an indivisible package.
a) We call upon voters to give their first preference to Anura Kumara Dissanayake because a strong showing by the People’s Power movement which is putting him forward will pave the way for building an alternative to the two-big-party corrupt and rotten political arrangement. If PP does well enough it will signal the launch of an important left and progressive alternative.
b) Nevertheless, being sensitive to immediate threats, we call upon voters to give their second preference to Sajith Premadasa because it is imperative to stop Gotabhaya Rajapaksa from becoming president. We see in Gota a militaristic threat to democracy with fascistic tendencies.
The rationale for the formula “One to Anura, two to Sajith” is this: In Anura’s case only first preferences will be counted. Second preferences are counted only for the two leading candidates if neither gets 50%+ first preferences. Hence to show a formidable vote for an alternative candidate (that is to ensure that Anura’s votes are counted and reported) it is essential that voters mark him as first preference.
If neither Sajith or Gota obtains 50%+ first preferences, which is likely, second preferences are counted. Hence it is as important to cast a second preference against Gota. If second preferences are counted every second preference vote is of the same value as a first preference vote; if counted they have the same worth. (If either Sajith or Gota secures 50%+ first preferences that’s the end of the matter).
If Gota gets 47% first preferences, Sajith 44% and Anura 9% (ignore other candidates) and if a shade over one-third (3%+) of Anura’s voters give Sajith a second preference it pushes sajith to victory over Gota. Nothing is lost as far as Sajith is concerned by the “One to Anura, two to Sajith” formula but there is a huge political gain in that 9% of the electorate has an opportunity to indicate its desire for an alternative to the two rotten contraptions. It is the UNP that should be hammering home the “second preference for Sajith” campaign at Anura’s voters just in case second preferences are counted.
A fear has been expressed that some sectarians may not cast a second preference for Sajith. Well if you tell such people to cast their first preference for Sajith, is there any chance under heaven or earth that they will do so? You may be able to persuade many of them to accept the “First to Anura, second to Sajith” formula if they see the good sense in the ULF’s (a) and (b) strategy. It seems to me that the people who should be trying hardest to sell this formula to disenchanted UNP voters (there are millions) is the UNP itself. People who are fed up with yahapalana may grudgingly accept the formula since it allows them to show their disgust with erstwhile leaders while still stopping Gota.