By Kusal Perera –
“Let them win in Geneva. We will win here.” – President Rajapaksa, addressing a campaign rally
True there were not much progress in terms of votes received for the US sponsored Resolution adopted at the 25 Sessions of the UN Human Rights Council just 03 days ago. The most striking and surprising move was India backtracking on the Resolution this time. President Rajapaksa immediately thanked the Congress led government in New Delhi, by ordering the release of all South Indian fishermen, who were detained in Colombo for trespassing on Sri Lankan waters.
Prof G.L. Peiris, commenting on the adoption of the Resolution was quoted in the Daily News arguing the US in fact had lost at the UNHRC. “Prof. Peiris stressed that the US resolution was voted for with a majority of 25 last year and it has dropped to 23. The number of countries that do not support the resolution are greater than those supporting it”, he had argued. His formula is that those who did not vote and voted against it making a total of 24, are all who opposed the Resolution. Such was the satisfaction the regime had in its post UNHRC analysis.
They had to take that public stand, for it was the UNHRC Resolution the regime projected as their main campaign theme, spearheaded by President Rajapaksa himself, at the Western and Southern Provincial Council elections just concluded. They appealed to the people to cast their vote for the UPFA, to prove the people are against the “Geneva Resolution”. Protests and pickets against the US, against the “Geneva Resolution” were regular entertainment on Colombo streets, patronised by the regime. In the provinces, the regime organised public petitions against the “Geneva Resolution” as part of their election campaign at the Western and Southern Provincial Council elections. There were the Weerawansas and the JHU, talking big as usual, for a “patriotic vote”.
What “GL Formula” Says
Despite the presidential call for a patriotic vote, only 64.3 per cent in the South had polled in total, less 04 per cent this time from a total of 70.2 per cent at the previous PC elections. If there was any positive response for the “patriotic” call to vote in protest on the Geneva Resolution, the people should have voted more than the earlier 70.2 per cent. Opposite is the case. And, this leaves as argued by G.L, 26 per cent voters who opposed the regime and would go with the “Geneva Resolution”. If the rejects that’s almost 04 per cent is also added, the total against the regime goes up to 30 per cent. All 41.2 per cent who actually voted against the regime and with the UNP, JVP and the DP in the whole of Southern Province when added, a percentage of 71.2 per cent is against the regime and would not oppose the Geneva Resolution, as called for by the President and the regime campaigners.
Opposition in Hambantota
That “GL Formula” apart, most unfortunately for the regime, this time round the people had not taken this “patriotic call” seriously. If they did, they would have heeded the “Rajapaksa call” at least in their own backyard like district, Hambantota. People of Hambantota did not go to vote as they did the previous time, even with massive constructions that stand conspicuously overwhelming like the Magampura sea port, the international airport in Mattala, the international cricket stadium in Sooriyaweva, the State of the art cinema production house at Ranminitenna and a network of modern highways given to them. This time the percentage dropped to 66.3 per cent votes polled from 71.6 per cent before. For the Rajapaksas, they could not even retain the total 192,961 polled the previous time, with 25,801 of their voters opting to keep away, reducing their total to 167,160 votes.
Sajith’s political Impotence & DP
On the flip side, what the Rajapaksas lost in Hambantota was not gained by Sajith Premadasa for the UNP. Having pitched tent in Hambantota during the entire campaign period and vowing he would sign against the Geneva Resolution even with blood, Sajith managed only 26.4 per cent, while the J.V.P and the D.P gained 12.9 and 3.1 per cent respectively. What they gained, actually should have gone to the UNP. Especially what went to DP should have remained with the UNP, if as argued by Sajith, he could make the party win. But he proved he is as impotent a leader as any other in the UNP.
The total vote the DP of Sarath Fonseka gained both in Southern and Western Provinces, is clearly a pro UNP vote. That layer of Sinhala Buddhist UNP vote the chauvinist Sinhala leaders in the UNP think they can retain by projecting a Sinhala face, is what went the DP way. Traditionally a semi urban, pro business UNP vote that isn’t willing to go with the J.V.P, they would not have left the UNP, had the UNP leadership proved they are a strong challenge to this regime. UNP leadership’s inability to prove they are serious and committed and their inability to challenge this government with a pragmatic “democratic and development programme”, has left the UNP a looser to the DP and the JVP. The dissenting UNP voters turning out as “protest voters”, both against them and the Rajapaksa regime as well.
Post-war 05 year ethnic polarising
This election also proves, politics of this Rajapaksa regime has in fact during the post war 05 years led to polarising of society along ethno religious lines. The usually “UNP voting” Colombo Tamil residents, have this time almost en bloc gone with Mano Ganesan and his DPF. At the previous elections in 2009, the DPF was within the UNP list. Battling it out alone this time and officially endorsed by the TNA, the DPF has galvanised an independent Tamil identity outside the two mainstream political parties, in the Colombo district. This time the DPF poll of 6.4 per cent with many large and traditionally Sinhala Buddhist electorates like Kaduwela, Kesbewa, Homagama and even Maharagama providing almost nothing to the DPF, proves the tendency now with the Tamil people is to project themselves as an independent entity that would talk politics for them and not politics of the two mainstream parties.
The SLMC’s not so effective results in Colombo electorates also show Rauf Hakeem theatrics can not keep them on the periphery of the Rajapaksa regime. Displaced from their hereditary homes in Salve Island area and the violent racist attacks they were subjected to by BBS and the like, created a binding psyche among the Muslim people that required political representation, outside the Rajapaksa regime. Its perhaps this disgruntled Muslim vote that would not want to have Fonseka’s DP and the Sinhala JVP as their alternative to the Rajapaksa regime, that brought the UNP some respect, winning Colombo North (28.03%), Colombo Central (45.9%), Borella (41.8%), Colombo East (32.7%), Colombo West (32.9%) and then collecting 34% in Dehiwala.
Both in Colombo district and in Gampaha too, the Rajapaksas have not fared too well. In fact they have lost on the votes they received previously. At the 2009 PC elections, the regime polled 69.1 per cent in Gampaha, now sliding down to 57.9, a loss of almost 12 per cent. So is it in Colombo, loosing almost 12 per cent again and sliding down to 45.3 per cent.
What this in fact says is, not only has the Rajapaksa regime lost its credibility among minorities and have helped polarise this post war society, it has in actual political life, lost the patriotic glitter and the Sinhala support it had, 05 years ago. A sure indication, the electoral slide had begun too. For the people, the unfortunate sign is, there is no sensible and proper Opposition to take over. To exploit that advantage. But, what Bertold Brecht said in Caucasian Chalk Circle, “A very long time is not, time eternal” may become true for this regime, despite the absence of that Opposition.