11 August, 2020

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The Siren Call Of Postponing Elections Yet Again 

By Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

The containment of Covid spread in Sri Lanka relative to other countries, including its immediate neigbours, had put the government on a strong footing to face the general elections on August 5. Since the curfew and lockdowns ended in mid-May there has been a major relaxation of tension within the country regarding the Covid virus. Even government leaders began to take the matter lightly, as evidenced in the funeral arrangements for a former minister which saw tens of thousands of his party supporters jostling at the funeral which was attended by the most senior government leaders. More recently President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was seen mingling with crowds of supporters at election rallies.

In this context, the identification of a new cluster of Covid infection centering around a rehabilitation centre in Polonnaruwa has caused much public agitation. The discovery of a similar Covid cluster amongst navy personnel who were part of the security forces effort in leading the anti-Covid campaign was dealt with effectively without causing panic. The decision of the ruling party to halt its bigger election campaign activities for three days can be viewed positively as a message of care given by government leaders that there is a serious health crisis and they are giving priority to the people’s health over their electoral activities. The government’s decision to close all schools this week is a similar message of care in view of reports that young schoolchildren are amongst those infected.

Adding to the sense of crisis is the call by the two main opposition parties for elections to be postponed yet again. The UNP and its breakaway SJB have shown themselves to be likeminded in seeking this postponement for a third time. One factor that might be motivating them is the crippling division that took place within the UNP which will cost both factions a significant number of parliamentary seats at the forthcoming elections. Perhaps they feel that time will be the great healer and that if the elections are postponed for a sufficiently long period they will be able to overcome their differences and reunite. Another hope might be to utilize a period of postponement to seek the resurrection of the last parliament in which they together held a majority. This is unlikely to be possible in view of the Supreme Court decision in June regarding the postponement of elections.

Under Pressure 

At a time when rumours with political motivations can take the centre stage it is important that the government shares the true situation with the people. The recent news report that a national university decided to stop its Covid testing as its positive cases were not being counted, and been rejected, needs to be investigated and clarified by independent authorities. There has been an undercurrent of suspicion that the full spread of the Covid virus was not being disclosed for political reasons. The elevated status recently given by Russia to Sri Lanka as only one of 13 countries that is successful in managing Covid spread and to which Russian airlines could fly to is an exception. Neither has the EU or UK given Sri Lanka such a positive assessment nor has Sri Lanka been acknowledged as a success in managing Covid by international agencies.

The sudden spike in Covid infection can be politically damaging to the government. Its ability to contain the virus formed the basis of its election campaign to demonstrate success in governance. The success of Sri Lanka in keeping its Covid casualty figures extraordinarily low in comparison both to its neighbours and to more developed countries has been greatly appreciated by the electorate who have been witnessing the ongoing tragedies unfold in other parts of the world. The government will need to win back the confidence of the people with regard to its success in Covid management in order to reach its ambitious target of parliamentary seats at the forthcoming general elections.

In recent weeks the government has come under pressure due to a number of factors that could have electoral implications. One is its position on the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) grant of USD 480 million from the United States. This grant became a major campaign issue at the presidential election. The present government leaders bitterly opposed it and claimed that it would be to the detriment of the country’s unity and national sovereignty. However, after the US ambassador stated that a decision on the agreement will be taken after the Parliamentary election in August the issue of the government’s actual position on this grant has surfaced again. The issue over Japanese and Indian investments in Colombo Port, and in relation to the already existing Chinese role, needs also to be resolved.

Fresh Mandate

A wide swathe of supporters of the government have also been disconcerted by the government’s unwillingness to take action against former LTTE commander Karuna who is now a political leader and campaigning for the government. He recently claimed to have killed 2-3,000 soldiers during the war in attempting to boost his credentials with the constituencies in the Eastern province which was formerly a war zone. This has generated a major controversy with many government supporters demanding his arrest and punishment. International human rights organisations, including the UNHRC, have issued calls for an investigation into his claims which fall into the category of war crimes. It must also be remembered that he was deported from the UK citing human rights abuses, including the recruitment of children into combat.

However, even more significant than these ideology and emotion-ridden issues is the continuing deterioration of the living standards of people due to the Covid-induced crisis. Many thousands of businesses are in jeopardy and tens of thousands of workers have been either laid off or are in danger of losing their jobs. This is coupled with the problem of the expatriate Sri Lankan workforce wanting to return to the country due to inhospitable conditions abroad. Many have lost their jobs and are at risk of Covid infection and are pleading to get back to their country, and the slowness of the repatriation process is a matter of humanitarian concern. Hundreds of Sri Lankans living overseas flocked into the country to cast their votes at the Presidential Elections and would be feeling betrayed at their country’s reluctance to take them back when they so desperately need its refuge.

In these circumstances there is the call for the postponement of elections. However, this would lead to a continuation of the status quo in which the caretaker government is making decisions on huge economic investments and loans that are morally and legally beyond the scope of a caretaker government. In addition, difficult decisions are not being made because all parties are thinking about the elections to come. At the present time only President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has the mandate from the people. He has been using this to govern with the help of the security forces who are taking over the role of the civilian administration. A government formed out of a parliament with a fresh mandate from the people will have the legitimacy and be adequately representative of the present balance of forces to take the considered and difficult decisions to cope with the manifold problems that beset the country.

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Latest comments

  • 11
    3

    Jehan, Rajapaksas are hell bent in having an election ASAP. More the delay they fear the Covid and Economy eroding into their vote base (the poor which is matters ,not the rich). Like Trump they too tried reopening schools just to get public confidence back, but Covid seems to have its own plan.After stringent measures when relaxed prematurely, even a day or two is good enough for the Virus to regain control. By that the Govt is putting the school going children (most vulnerable) at risk and also giving the chance for the Virus to mutate. Right now on Trumps advise Education Secy (De Vos or is it divorce) is trying to pressure schools to reopen..A colleague of her in congress replied ” I do not trust you with taking care of a living plant let alone my kids”.Last time Rajapaksas marketed Easter Tragedy and racial hatred successfully but this time they only had Covid control and still trying to create some security threats here and there. But Karuna and STF (specialized in dealing illegal drugs and arms) have created lot of doubts in people mind. Still the hand picked people are working hard like Munasinghe giving daily press not to panic and Kamal . G has vowed to “wipe them off the face of mother Lanka” and promised to write a book “How we did it”.

    • 4
      0

      Blood thirsty politicians are common in entire developing world with no exception to srilanka. iF THEIR genes are close to that of most abusive man that mother land ever produced -none other than MAHINDA JARAPAKSHE:
      No matter over 40% of the populations fight for their daily survivals, Rajakshes continue their barbaric political agendas to grab more power and turn the country to an another Sudan or Somalia.

      Those poor housemaids and various kind of labourers being stranded in MIDDLE east today, not having something to eat for their survival – have been struggling for thier life today. But not the least care is given to them today though those living and stranded in UK or other rich soils,… rulers make everything possible to get them back home… … see what criteria are being considered here ?
      :
      And We perfectly know for what purpose Rajapakshe returned to power. So called investigative Journalists dont question as to how internatinally black listed – Udayayanga WEERATHUNGA – Mahinda Rajaakshe s Nephew exonerated from his crime charges. He is on the public stage of MAFIA boss Mahinda Rajakshe today ?

      The reasons are public secret to anyone with a bird brain. But poor folks who are the majority and gaping ones would not think twice but let them manipulated easily.

  • 6
    1

    Having an election at a time the second CORONA 19 wave has started is risking the lives of people. Gota and Mahinda re more interested in getting the power and do not care for the life of the people. Election meetings are with restricted people. No one knows s who is the voter who has Conona19, They can be the carriers for voters and election staff. The hungry for power can affect the lives of people. It can be predicted that the percentage of voting will be well below 55 % as people will not risk the life to go to the polling stations If the voting is low it amounts to no proper freedom prevails in electing democratically the government. Millions of rupees re-spent in conducting the elections at a time the economy is at a low ebb This is vital lections that will decide whether democracy will continue or not. Each politician make statements without thinking of the outcome of the elections. GOTA is having his own way. His aim was to ensure the lotus bud to bloom at a time when there is a rift ion the UNP. There are issues within the parties of minority communities worse among the Tamil community. Thousand dollar question is will there be a two-third majority for Mahinda dynasty. Another question is rigging cannot be ruled out

  • 5
    0

    Jehan Perera,

    Thanks for sober thoughts!

    Although, the President is duly elected, the government is only a caretaker government and therefore could not take any far-reaching decisions.

    There is an impasse that should not be allowed to continue. Postponement again and again is an unreasonable option

    The court had taken their own decision and now there is no alternative but t conduct the elections and allow the elected government to govern.

    Of course,we have to live with Covid 19.

    Since we prefer democratic governance our own preferences should not blind us in taking a democratic decision.

    It is true that all necessary action taken to mitigate any health issues because life is more precious than even democracy.

    We should extend our full support to the long maligned election commission to conduct a fair and free election whatever the result maybe.

  • 5
    5

    Dead bodies should be cremated becasue dead body buried can generate virus , Mingling with crowds of supporters at election rallies is gloves used wash the wash basin placed hands can transmit Respiratory viruses get into your body through your eyes, nose or throat. Most often, this happens through your hands. Hands are also one of the most common ways that the virus spreads from one person to the next.
    the identification of a new cluster is seen

    • 3
      3

      RBH59: This is a slippery slope. The possibilities available to those who wish harm on their opponents are limitless under this mandatory cremation scenario. Hopefully you can grasp that?

      There is no evidence that the Covid-19 virus can spread from corpses into soil or water with consequent infiltration that can infect humans. The risks you speak of are the same whether the corpse is cremated or buried, and due safety precautions can and must be taken.

      The WHO supports this position, and so should the Sri Lanka government. So should you.

  • 11
    1

    Although the writer appears to be soft-pedalling his critiques and takes care not to tread on anyone’s toes too hard, the fact remains that Sri Lanka has developed a value system that is quite low, where corruption is endemic, self-interest always trumps common good, doctoring data and statistics is acceptable if it results in “our” side winning, spectators don’t cheer when the opposite side scores a goal or hits a six (literally this time), arguments in public are settled primarily by the use of force and brutal violence (such as during road traffic accidents) and gentlemen are regarded as fools. In such a context, the prediction should be that the most aggressive contender would win (not one which has most merit or inherently noble values).

  • 6
    0

    “The attitude-to-CORONA-dilemma
    .
    All seem to be playing politics.
    Who will see through this? We keep saying that people are not fools any more, but there is no evidence to suggest that this is true. Actually, the opposite seems to be true. Examine the voting at the Presidential Election 2019.
    .
    We were given a choice of candidates as never before. Thirty-five of them. Don’t imagine that it is only the Sinhala-only speaking villager who was spouting rubbish. How many times did we see the complaint that we were faced with “Hobson’s Choice”, by people who prided themselves on being “English-speaking-Elite”, so much more intelligent than the Swabasha-only villager. They didn’t even know the meaning of the expression! The opposite was the reality. Hobson was a stable-owner who insisted that the nag placed in first-position was the only one who could be hired. We were allowed to vote first for the person who was “honestest”, and then strategically for two more so as to rule out the worse miscreants.
    .
    That, in itself, was a pessimistic approach! The assumption was that anybody with a realistic chance of winning was an odious individual. Yet, so few cast votes for any except those who came First and Second.

  • 2
    0

    This time the clusters appear from around the island.

  • 5
    4

    it is not the siren that matters but the uncontrollable crying howling and wailing of the criminal uncouth rajapuk rajapuka clan.
    =
    They had gleefully set up this upcoming poll to obtain the much-needed 2/3rd needed majority to play a bandu pandu of havoc for which they are well known for.
    =
    Before the situation of the coronavirus could get any worse they want to bulldoze their bullying ways to conduct the election come what may.?
    If by any chance of good fortune get the thrashing of their lives to become sore losers, I can boldly state that the aiya malli paiya trio will complete the takeover by the military to form a dictatorship.
    =
    The already suffering in absolute poverty NO monies to purchase their bare daily needs for living and if this trend continues they will be dropping dead by the minute due to abject starvation.?
    All these are the work of the amudes I mean the thug Buddhist Monks who were primarily instrumental in cajoling fooling and using bullying methods to get 6.9 million Sinhala kawun Kanne modayas to cast their holy precious sacred vote for this always been kallathoni war criminal infidel of a mongrel to sit on the royal latrine.

  • 5
    1

    Although I am not a political pundit, one thing is clear. The government is caught up in a catch 22 situation. They can neither afford to postpone the elections due to very realistic possibility of their current high ride of popularity decaying exponentially nor can the government decide to hold the elections on the 5th of Aug since the EC has the ultimate authority to make that judgemental decision.

    With revelations of finding covid+’s in all corners of the country, we as citizens need to worry the most, since the government does not seem to care this time around. It has bee reported that there are three covid+ cases identified in the area where I live, and these are ONLY the reported cases.

    Whilst I do not endorse a total lock-down with round-the-clock curfew (or hours), I would like to see some proactive action by the authorities to ensure a proper management regime of the 2nd wave. It cannot be anyway otherwise.

    • 0
      0

      DharshanaW ,

      For many years now , I had a strong feeling that we should go back to
      our old days that’s been our golden days ! Days of not super markets
      but weekly or week-end Markets where people carried vegetables in
      “Pan Malla , ” made out of some kind of straw , local product ! And also
      kind of bag made out of coconut leaves ! People had no bag problems at
      all and many people were making them from home for an income .
      Today majority of Europeans carry their own bags to super markets .
      If copying is what we know best , Covid-19 and Environment issues ,
      and how the Europeans face them has lessons for us ! Long story short ,
      now is the time to return back from the tired journey of FALSE
      DEVELOPMENT and into a reality check ! You won’t lose .

  • 6
    2

    Mahinda Family wanted to get full advantage of Corona to their personal advantage. That is why they rejected the offer from the opposition and minorities to work together towards facing the corona challenge. The emergence of second wave of Corana is the failure of the government and they have to take the responsibility for that failure. When LTTE was in a strong position than military and the UNP government brought LTTE into talks and weakened the LTTE by dividing Karuna from LTTE. It is now Mahinda Family accepts the fact Karuna is the main factor in defeating the weakened LTTE. The LTTE ban by western countries and India and their support also contributed to that as well. But Mahinda family claimed that it is only they who eradicated LTTE. But still they use LTTE as a propaganda to create a Family dictatorship.
    They will hold this election even the Corana spread throughout the country because this will have more opportunity to get two third majority. If there is corona, the supporters (people) of opposition or minorities will not go for voting. There will be massive military presence and a high potential for fraud and no one can question that happening.

  • 5
    0

    Jehan, it is not accurate to refer to a “decision” of the Supreme Court. The Court merely refused leave to proceed in respect of several FR applications filed in relation to the general election. The Court did not state why it refused leave to proceed. It could well have been on the ground that the petitioners were seeking the wrong remedy in the wrong court.

    It is also not accurate to refer to “the resurrection of the last Parliament”. The Parliament elected in 2015 is entitled to function for five years unless sooner dissolved. If validly dissolved, the law requires the successor Parliament to meet within a period of three months of the dissolution. Assuming that the relevant issues were raised by the several petitioners (and I am not sure that they were), it is unfortunate that notwithstanding 12 days of argument, the Court chose not to state why it refused leave to proceed. Therefore, there is as yet no “decision” of the Supreme Court on any of these vital constitutional issues.

    It is interesting to note that the Constitution explicitly states that “the conclusion of the general election” occurs only when the poll is taken “on the date specified by the President in the Proclamation made under Article 70(5)”.

    • 0
      0

      ” It is interesting to note that the Constitution explicitly states that “the conclusion of the general election” occurs only when the poll is taken “on the date specified by the President in the Proclamation made under Article 70(5)”.
      It was argued that time by lawyers that EC had no authority to decide election date, which is president’s absolute authority and not delegable to one under him on the line. But PBJ wrote to EC to decide on date &.EC decided. 70(3) was applying only if the emergency strike to a region and EC delay that. Court refused to give reason for dismissal of the case seems to be in line of revenging the petitioners; that is frustrating them without knowing what could be their next step. The problem here there is requirement anywhere to president to conduct an elections and install a parliament. So if president feel not conducting the election is advantageous, he will not have an election until his term ends in another four years. To think beyond the law, Aiya wants 2/3 to balance with Malli. Malli may not like Aiya come with 2/3. In that case, he would delay the election, until UNP & SJB gains ground.

  • 4
    0

    Deal Ranil is trying to get the election postponed for two reasons. 1) He knows UNP is going to get lesser number of votes than SJB. 2) Ranil has a deal with Mahinda and Mahinda and Ranil know that UNP and SLPP are getting weaker day by day and the support for SJB is increasing. All the crooks in the country are either with SLPP or UNP. Only SJB and JVP has clean guys other than 2 in SJB. For these reasons Deal Ranil and Mahinda are trying their best to get this election postponed.

  • 0
    0

    Easton Scott

    The WHO supports this position cremation but it has not banned burial If you get the senses of world which higher cremation or burial , Images have emerged of coffins being buried in a mass grave in New York City, as the death toll from the coronavirus continues to rise

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