19 November, 2019

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Uva: The Slap And The Signal

By Tisaranee Gunasekara

“Now near enough.” – Shakespeare (Macbeth)

Uva is an electoral slap in the face for the Ruling Family, a clear sign that the Rajapaksa magic has begun to wane.

The Rajapaksas scraped through in Uva, with an unflattering, uncharacteristic 51.2%.

This lacklustre performance is post-18th Amendment which created a lopsided electoral playing field; it is with an inept elections commissioner whose forte is buffoonery and a subjugated police force which could neither prevent election violence nor arrest a single lawbreaker; it is despite a campaign waged like a mini-war by the regime.

There is no doubt that Harin Fernando’s candidacy had a huge impact on the election outcome. In previous provincial elections, a key problem faced by the UNP was its inability to field suitable chief ministerial candidates. The UNP’s other chief ministerial candidates may have been popular in their own areas but none of them had a national profile. In the eyes of the electorate, they lacked gravitas. By deciding to give up his parliamentary seat and contest Uva, Harin Fernando filled this important gap. Mr. Fernando did what Sajith Premadasa should have done in Southern Province, Ravi Karunanayake or Harsha de Silva should have done in Western Province and Dayasiri Jayasekera should have done in North-Western Province – should have done but did not.

There is no doubt that Harin Fernando’s candidacy had a huge impact on the election outcome. In previous provincial elections, a key problem faced by the UNP was its inability to field suitable chief ministerial candidates. The UNP’s other chief ministerial candidates may have been popular in their own areas but none of them had a national profile. In the eyes of the electorate, they lacked gravitas. By deciding to give up his parliamentary seat and contest Uva, Harin Fernando filled this important gap. Mr. Fernando did what Sajith Premadasa should have done in Southern Province, Ravi Karunanayake or Harsha de Silva should have done in Western Province and Dayasiri Jayasekera should have done in North-Western Province – should have done but did not.

The Rajapaksas did not make it to the 50% mark in Badulla. The UPFA got 47.37% while the combined UNP, JVP, DA vote was 50.6%.

Even in the Moneragala district, which suffered through an extremely violent election campaign, the Rajapaksas vote base and their margin of victory decreased drastically, from an all time high of 81% at the 2009 provincial election. (It will be interesting to see how Shashindra Rajapaksa has fared personally, both vis-à-vis his performance in 2009 and Harin Fernando’s performance this time.)

Uva election was marred by overwhelming violence, overwhelming abuse and overwhelming bribery. Had the election been less unfree and unfair, and had the Opposition been united, the Rajapaksas could have been defeated in Uva.

Uva has always been good to the Rajapaksas – in the past. In Uva, the UPFA scored 72.39% at the 2009 provincial council election, 58.6% at the 2010 presidential election, 63.6% at the 2010 parliamentary election and 55.87% at the 2011 local government election.

Given this past performance Uva should have been a cakewalk for the Rajapaksas.

It was anything but. In Uva, the Rajapaksa performance was worse than in any other province, barring the North and the East.

There is no doubt that Harin Fernando’s candidacy had a huge impact on the election outcome. In previous provincial elections, a key problem faced by the UNP was its inability to field suitable chief ministerial candidates. The UNP’s other chief ministerial candidates may have been popular in their own areas but none of them had a national profile. In the eyes of the electorate, they lacked gravitas. By deciding to give up his parliamentary seat and contest Uva, Harin Fernando filled this important gap. Mr. Fernando did what Sajith Premadasa should have done in Southern Province, Ravi Karunanayake or Harsha de Silva should have done in Western Province and Dayasiri Jayasekera should have done in North-Western Province – should have done but did not. Whatever happens in the future, Mr. Fernando deserves praise for his courageous decision which obviously gave the UNP a much needed boost in the arm. (Incidentally, the UNP’s remarkable performance was not due to the supposed Sajith Factor, Sajith Premadasa appeared only in a handful of election rallies and reportedly spent the crucial final week not in Uva but in Hambantota.)

A Path to the Future

Uva election proves beyond reasonable doubt that a united opposition fielding a strong candidate can mount a very serious challenge to Mahinda Rajapaksa. Such an opposition will have an excellent chance of preventing an outright Rajapaksa victory and pushing the election into a second round.

The average national vote of the UPFA at 2012/13/14 provincial elections was an unimpressive 54%. Different dynamics operate at national and non-national elections; it is also possible that Mahinda Rajapaksa is more popular than many of the UPFA provincial politicians. Even so one conclusion is logically possible – the popularity of the Rajapaksas has dropped quite substantially compared to the 2010 peak levels.

After unexpectedly losing the 1988 Plebiscite, Chile’s Augusto Pinochet had no intention of leaving power and was planning to stage another coup. Former air force general and member of the then ruling Junta Fernando Matthei revealed in his memoirs that he and other Junta members opposed Gen. Pinochet’s plan to ignore the popular verdict[i]. If Mahinda Rajapaksa fails to win outright and the presidential election goes into a second round, the Rajapaksas may find key elements of the state not so willing to do their bidding. Such a situation may also embolden closet SLFP dissidents to come out and declare themselves against Rajapaksa power.

But for any of that to happen there must be oppositional unity.

The JVP is necessary in Lankan politics. And when it comes to propaganda and organisation, the JVP has unmatched capacities. But for better or for worse, Sri Lanka is still a two party electorate. Nationally the third party is not the JVP but the TNA. The JVP needs to understand this reality. If it refuses to do so, its false consciousness will prevent it from doing its part in defeating Rajapaksas rule.

The UNP too must understand that though the JVP is not a major vote-getter, it can still make the difference between victory and defeat in a closely contested national election.

The JVP and General Fonseka need to be realistic and the UNP needs to be generous and accommodating. All three parties will lose much if the Rajapaksas win again.

Opposition unity needs to happen along ethno-religious lines as well. If the Rajapaksas win the next election, they will use that victory to disembowel the 13th Amendment still further and to create game-changing facts on the ground in the North and the East. In a Rajapaksa third term, the demographic reengineering of North/East will accelerate phenomenally. And once that transformative project is completed, the politico-electoral bargaining power of the minorities will be drastically reduced. That is why the minorities need to back an Oppositional alliance, because they can afford another Rajapaksa term even less than the Sinhalese.

According to the latest public opinion survey by the CPA, 43.4% of Uva respondents think their economic condition got a little worse in the last two years while 31.9% think their economic condition got a lot worse. 28.6% of Uva households had to go without medicine or medical treatment in the last year while 43% had to make cutbacks in the quality of food purchased[ii].

Obviously economics played a significant role in Uva vote. Abolishing the Presidency (a necessary task given its malevolent potential) might be the platform on which the opposition can unite. But the opposition cannot de-prioritise popular economic concerns and win elections.

Perhaps a good place to start would be to oppose the UDA’s wanton and illegal destruction of lower-middle class houses in 34 Watta in Wanatamulla. The demolition commenced even as the Uva campaign came to an end. This is an injustice which can and must be resisted by both the UNP and the JVP; a joint protest can even become the first step in a future oppositional alliance.

The Rajapaksas have been forewarned in Uva; they will spend the next several months arming themselves with every possible weapon. Already plans are afoot to amend elections laws so that certain unfair electoral-practices will cease being illegal[iii].

The Presidential election will be infinitely more violent, unfree and unfair than Uva. The Opposition’s only chance in prevailing against the resultant juggernaut lies in unity. If that essential precondition is fulfilled, the country and the people might yet be spared of another Rajapaksa term and the horrors it will beget.

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Latest comments

  • 0
    2

    [Edited out] We are sorry, the comment language is English – CT

    • 4
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      @ senaka de Z

      I notice that you don’t abide by CT’s comment language! Time for you to attend English Language classes??

  • 12
    1

    well thought out an written article with facts and figures. !!! as always a piece of article worth spending time reading. YES !!! all parties MUST UNITE for SL to breathe again or will die a gruesome death… All parties should shed their petty differences and get together, pick a strong Common candidate who can win the election then quit being president and call for a parliamentary election abolishing the EXECUTIVE presidency.. THEN and ONLY then will we be able to come along and with UNITY bring up a country for the better of generations to come.. or all better buckle up and educate the children in Cantonese and Mandarin.. pretty soon kids from grade 2 might have one of the 2 languages as a compulsory language…

    • 11
      2

      Opposition must unite. No excuses. A braod based coalition is the need of the hour. Personal ambitions of politicians must take the backseat.

      Uva proves this despotic regime can be changed. It is within our grasp.

      However, brace yourselves for unprecedented electoral violence, abuse, vote rigging & malpractices at the Presidential election campaign. It will be the mother of all “Gil Marts”.

      Gota might even refuse to vacate his post even after defeat.

      Scared to death at the jaws of defeat, I expect the corrupt UPFA clowns to seek refuge in irrational, bizzare behaviour patterns.

      Cheers!

      • 7
        0

        This message is to JVP.
        They should change their mind and join hand with UNP and other parties to build up a coalition. JVP to plan not to support common opposition can bring ONLY chaos in the months to come. My only wish is them to grasp the gravity of the problem that we are fallen in today just because of their naive support given to Rajapakshes to come to the levles that they have been to this day.
        SF to agree with for any kind of common opposition build will be welcome by anyone with a little brain. I hope JVP would come realize this soon. Longer they wait, the impact could destroy the hopes of the people – in the same time, they will leave away from JVP but sure those will leave JVP will support SF party and UNP.

  • 13
    2

    This is the beginning of the end of MaRa regime. ThankYou Harin Fernando for your commitment. A great column by TisaraneeG and CT

    • 8
      5

      Mohamed Fazaal

      “This is the beginning of the end of MaRa regime.”

      Nopes, Ranil must have rigged ballots. May be the new Election Commissioner was unable to deliver it to the clan.

      There should be elections one after another until UPFA wins it with more than 65% of the votes.

      Advice sought from

      Abhaya, Banda, mechanic, wathie, sarojini, Ramu, Nuisance, thesha, sach, Dawn Dale, …… K A Sumana

      • 3
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        @ N.V.

        …. I am sure you must have had Eluwa (a.k.a. Elu Kolla) in mind for advice!

        • 5
          1

          mike

          “…. I am sure you must have had Eluwa (a.k.a. Elu Kolla) in mind for advice!”

          You bet, I did.

      • 2
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        NV,

        “Advice sought from Abhaya, Banda, mechanic, wathie, sarojini, Ramu, Nuisance, thesha, sach, Dawn Dale, …… K A Sumana “

        What nonsense are you talking? They would never turn up! They all have run to the village godaweda to stitch their split holes! Uva people have spanked and split ’em!

        • 1
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          they are the same person,
          [may be hired hand by looting jarapassas] Vulture type, writing for the governing NO SHAMES.

        • 2
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          someone

          “They all have run to the village godaweda to stitch their split holes! Uva people have spanked and split ‘em!”

          Yet UPFA is going to form Provincial Council.

          • 1
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            ““They all have run to the village godaweda to stitch their split holes! Uva people have spanked and split ‘em!””

            “Yet UPFA is going to form Provincial Council.”

            Split holes are very looooose! And they wont thrill the poker very long. Before long cattle will park inside! That’s the day dogs raise their hide leg over Rajapakshas face.

  • 9
    1

    Spot on Tisaranee…

  • 8
    2

    A Great analysis. TG. Thanks very much.
    We the peace loving – unbiased, awaiting uncorrupted Rajapakshe free state will always respect you at this critical juncture of lanken politics.

  • 9
    2

    “The Slap And The Signal”

    Next, kick in the back and chase out.

  • 8
    3

    Ranil is so sure of winning that he has immediately gone to UK for the Conservative party convention ! He is the biggest curse to have fallen on this country and of course the UNP !

  • 4
    5

    Ranil haters are now in hiding.

    Whatever said and done it was Hon Ranil who achieved this. What some fools lack is patience.

    JR was 71 years old when he became president. What a marvelous president he was! Have patience.

    Hang in there faithful UNPers. We are coming back. The elephant is awake from vital slumber. Now it is revitalized.

    • 1
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      Fathima, You identifeid yourself as a male.Hooray, join Ranils group.

    • 1
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      Fathima Fukushima:
      Too late for a “Dinum Paththata Hoiyya,” you unmentionable. I’d try to describe your parentage, but it wouldn’t be fair to my canine friends and besides that they are not traitors like you!

    • 2
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      Fathima:

      Hunny you are right I am coming back.

      • 2
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        Eluwa

        Were you trying to say “Honey” or “Cunny”. Better stay where you currently are!

  • 2
    9

    Thisaranee gives me all the reasons why the Sinhala nation should back Rajapaksha to the hilt at this juncture.
    This write-up should be available in Sinhala for the Sinhalese to understand the great minority+UNP allignment being hatched against the Sinhalese. A sinhalese should ask himself ” If Ranil were at the helm in the year 2009 where we would be today? ” The greatest lesson in the history of Sinhala nation is even after the RW-VP pact which writes off one-third of the land Tamils went on for the ultimate prize of Tamil Ealam. TG, please make this article available for the Sinhala public.

    • 5
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      saman,

      What fucking nonsense are you coughing?

      • 1
        2

        Dear someone
        Tell us your opinion on what would have been the situation today if Ranil W were the president in the year 2009?

        • 3
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          In wartime MR, in peacetime Ranil.

        • 0
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          saman,

          Ask Graham Gooooochi!

  • 5
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    The regime is now bound to create more fissures within the UNP to gain a
    stronger foothold in future elections – the UNP has to manoeuvre more
    carefully to keep the winning trend. No amount of promises of economic benefits will sway the rural SB Voters as Uva revealed.

  • 3
    1

    SLMC HAKEEM AND ACMC BADIUDEEN HAVING CONTESTED TOGETHER HAVE KEPT AND DELIVERED THEIR PROMISE TO RAJAPAKSE.IF THEY HAVE NOT CONTESTED THE NAJORITY MUSLIM VOTES WOULD HAVE GONE TO THE UNP TO ENABLE THEM TO GET ONE MORE SEAT IN BADULLA.NOW NOT A SINGLE MUSLIM IS ELECTED FROM BOTH PARTIES.WHERE IS ASSWAR HAS GONE.ALLA HOO AKBAR APPE RAJAPASE ASLAMU ALAIKUM-JAYAWEWA.

  • 3
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    Harin should be made the Deputy Leader and Sajith should be made only a member of a seniors committee. Harin has proved beyond doubt that Sajith is a spent force and a trouble maker in UNP. Sajith can now join Rajapakse without protecting Rajapakse interest from being a trouble maker.

  • 2
    0

    It is a good “slogan” to say: “OPPOSITION MUST UNITE”. But how do we do that? All Opposition political parties have not yet realized; What the country needs at this moment and beyond. WE have suffered immensely under various regimes since Independence and the worst of it is felt at this vary present day. That must be an eye opener to all political parties to formulate a common programe to establish “good governance” in all spheres of the Administrative set up. It must start with a “Brand New Constitution” that would embrace to address and do away with emerging trends of “despotic” and “dictatorial” shadows in the entire machinery of governance. The Legislature and Executive machinery must be clearly defined and protected and everyone irrespective of his/her position must be made accountable for all actions in the discharge of peoples’ affairs. These are some of the features that the Opposition must at this juncture agree and formulate a programme to come to the forefront to protect our country and the nation.

    • 0
      1

      Mr douglas
      Good governance from UNP?
      Your target audience is 18yr old first time voters? I am 68 years old.

      • 1
        0

        saman,

        “Your target audience is 18yr old first time voters? I am 68 years old.”

        Buy a suitable box to pack the jewels!

  • 4
    0

    “commeth the hour, cometh the man” Well, done Ranil Wickremasinghe. Help us rid the country of the scoundrels.

    Okay you might include the retrograde Sajith Premadasa.

    But prop up the Harins in the party.

    The people are coming to their bloody senses at long last

  • 0
    3

    What a contrast ?…..

    I mean between the two camps which are trying to prop up the UNP Christian Faction,so that they can rule the 70 % Sinhala Buddhist population according to the wishes of the West and their mates..

    Kumar David , the ex Lefty who is supposed to talk on behalf of the poor says UNP young Turk Harin has smashed the President.

    Ms T from the Elite and the Intelligentsia camp , here says it is only slap and Economics matter most.

    Has Ms T become more pragmatic or Dr Kumar has joined the ITAk and become a Vellala?….

  • 0
    3

    It is amusing to see the number of Ranil admirers!
    On behalf of this gentleman can someone enlighten the readers , being a powerful minister in the JRJ govt, his would be comments on:
    -Establishment of presidential system
    _perpetuation of power through referendums
    -bringing the crimnals to justice who burnt down the Jafna library in 1982, who killed innocent Tamils in 1983.
    Let us leave aside RW-VP pact for the moment.

  • 1
    0

    saman,

    “It is amusing to see the number of Ranil admirers! On behalf of this gentleman can someone enlighten the readers , being a powerful minister in the JRJ govt, his would be comments on: –

    Establishment of presidential system _perpetuation of power through referendums -bringing the crimnals to justice who burnt down the Jafna library in 1982, who killed innocent Tamils in 1983. Let us leave aside RW-VP pact for the moment”

    It appauling to see a lonely admirer of Jarapassa hora still holding hora muttiya in his corrupt hand.

    Before we go any further can this Mutti Juggler explain to us:

    Deforming and undermining presidential system, perpetuation of power by holding innumerable number of elections, buring the Colombo Land Registry and destroying the records to plunder valuable lands in Colombo and not brining the Rajapaksha arsoner to book, white vanning thousands of innocents and killing them yet not bring the Gotha goon to the book. Let us leave aside the China-Mara hora pack that gave away the ownership of the country to the new imperialist!

    • 0
      1

      Dear someone
      Burning down the Jafna Library
      Innocent Tamils in 1983 and JVP suppression in 1989 (“bheeshanaya” in which more than 50,000 youth = every one of them caught and totured to death, some burnt alive including Wijeweera) are still giving me the creeps.
      Can you help?
      Another gentleman is hoping for a regime of “good goverance” by a UNP-JVP combine! How do you like that for a change?

      • 1
        0

        saman,

        Burning down:

        Colombo Land Registry

        BMICH Innovators’ stall

        Colombo Customs building

        Pettah Fruit sellers’ stalls

        No… line of houses in Colombo

        Aluthgama, Beruwala, Fashion House….. and arson all over and more and more arons!

        arson No…. burning of …..

        arson No…. burning of …..

        …….

        Who donit?

        Genocide of innocent Tamils in 2009

        Rape, gang rape, forced impregnation and systematic torcher and suppression thereafter in the North,

        Around 5000 people have been whitevanned and everybody knows their whereabouts except saman.

        Please tell me whereabouts of Pradeep Eknaligoda.

        Also tell me who broke the limbs of Poddala Jayantha.

        Was it Obama who killed Lasantha?

        Who converted Buddhism to a terrorist religion which is now controlled by Kasippu Kata Galauda Renna?

        “(“bheeshanaya” in which more than 50,000 youth = every one of them caught and totured to death, some burnt alive including Wijeweera) are still giving me the creeps. Can you help?”

        In 1983 most of the bheeshanaya was carried out by UPFA/SLFP/Rajapaksha thugs comingled with the unruly mobs.

        In 1983 and around Gota was in charge of Matale army camp and it is under his personal supervision victims were tortured and burnt alive and then he gave the list of names of those he killed to his brother who went to Geneva to complain against the country! It is the mass grave of those who were tortured and murdered by Gotha that has been uncovered at Matale. Go and dig it for more bones and bodies! You deserve those trophies!

        “Another gentleman is hoping for a regime of “good goverance” by a UNP-JVP combine! How do you like that for a change?”

        Your dream-world hero Baya Gotha fled the army and the war in North obtaining a medical certificate condemning him as mad! That mad person is now controlling half of the country’s budget and the cream of the country’s key establishments! Please help me to define and redefine “good governance”!!!!!!!

  • 2
    1

    TG:

    Uva is an electoral slap in the face for the Ruling Family, a clear sign that the Rajapaksa magic has begun to wane.

    I hate to disagree with you and MRs magic hasn’t begun to wane. UVA is the least populated and income is less than half that of Western Province . Also it has an ethnic mix made up of Muslims Plantation Tamils , Sinhalese and Tamils. So it is not a Typical electorate compared to other Sinhalese provinces and therefore the factor weighed heavily is the Bread and Butter issue. But other provinces are different and the deciding factor is the race issue and I am not convinced that the electorate are going to swap horses when MR is half way through Colonisation.

  • 1
    0

    Both the government and opposition have cause to celebrate the Uva election. The government won albeit barely. The opposition sprung many suprises. The nation is still a two party democracy with the JVP being the “signficant other”.

    The government won the council but has been put on the notice list for future elections.

    The most amazing result was the massive number of preferential votes won by Harin Fernando a dynamic tri-lingual leader who did the honorable thing by resigning his seat to contest. This should put Sajith Premedasa on notice because he makes a lot of noise but so far has failed to make any impact on the electoral outcome in his own neighborhood.

    People are getting tired of the government using the “we won the war” rhetoric simply because without General Fonseka at the helm the war would have continued for a longer time. Kudos to the President and his brother for selecting General Fonseka, standing up to international forces and also giving all the resources to win the war.

    However, people in the poorer lesser developed regions are beginning to wonder if all the mega development projects are leading to corruption and increasingly overt arrogant family bandyism. This was a vote against family bandyism. Young Harin beat out the chosen one of the Rajapakse family. How did it happen? it happened because of complacency and arrogance despite the regime putting all its resources to play and intimidating the opposition.

    Loser General Fonseka should realize that while he was the best Army commander Sri Lanka has had, he is not a politician. He engages in too much “sour grapes” talks. If he really wants to defeat the family regime, he needs to back off and support one solitary candidate from the largest opposition party at Presidential elections.

    When there is a Lamborghini, racing car, Louis Vuitton economy for the elite and the ruling family and starvation and drought for the masses, no matter how loud one cries “We are patriotic we are the ones who ended the war” people tire of it. . When a Presidential child brags about his shoes and shows indifference there is something wrong with the entitlement system prevalent in the ruling hierarchy. Rugby, night races, designer shoes, clubs and partying will not fool the people struggling to make ends meet and suffer from droughts.

    Yet, the government won and that probably says a lot about the personal popularity of the President, the most charismatic leader in Sri Lanka since CBK. He has not lost touch with his “kurakkan and medamulane” past but it seems the anointed ones of the family have failed to learn their lessons from him.

    The government can be defeated in fair and free elections without military interference. However, it will not be easy. There has to be a single united opposition candidate and it cannot be from the JVP. JVP will only play spoiler in a Presidential election. The government will not be able to win too many votes from the minorities in the North and East and in Colombo. A Presidential election is held nationally and mathematically it is quite probable that a dynamic man or woman with no chequered past and with a vision and a track record for being honest can win. Mega projects means mega commissions.

    The UNP needs effective national campaign similar to the very powerful cartoon book they distributed in 1977 about the Bandaranaike family bandyism. In fact that news book was full of factual falsehoods but it struck a chord. As an electical worker from Badulla whose wife is a nurse, and a close friend of mine said a campaign should list and bare all the Rajapakse-Wickremesooriya-Wickremesinghe family appointees in all sorts of important position from national airlines, to embassies to cabinet positions.

    In his words “Rajapaksalaata Lamborghini, mahajanthaawata badagini”. He said he voted for the UNP for the first time in his adult life. So did his wife who came from 3 generations of SLFPer

  • 1
    0

    If at least 80% of registered voters had voted,the result may have been more in favour of the opposition candidates.
    Most peaceful voters had obviously not voted.
    This has happened due to fear instilled in them by the thuggery and intimidation – no self-respecting voter who felt threatened would have voted.
    The post election violence has confirmed the fear of peaceful voters.

  • 1
    0

    Well said “it is with an inept elections commissioner whose forte is buffoonery and a subjugated police force which could neither prevent election violence nor arrest a single lawbreaker; it is despite a campaign waged like a mini-war by the regime”. One would wonder whether he was covering up his ineptitude with his buffoonery and /or whether it is other way about. Either way, he survives under the Rajapaksas. Bensen

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