27 June, 2022


We Must Not Allow Post-Result Or Inter-Counting Violence

By Kumar David

Prof. Kumar David

Post-election violence is not uncommon in many countries – including Sri Lanka – when there is a change of government or incumbent President. The worst in our case was 1977.  Often those who have been out of power and reckon they have been suppressed feel a spontaneous burst of energy and a desire to teach “those buggers who have kept us down” a lesson. Apart from this there is organised thuggery by insider black-hands of the winning side. These two motivators add up. 

If Gota wins there could be some spontaneous “pay back” activity (less if Sajith wins because there is government continuity and therefore less need to “pay back”). Don’t get me wrong, I am not alleging Gota or his lieutenants are planning anything; such things happen spontaneously when there is regime change. Or semi-regime change; if Gota wins, only presidency, not government changes. 

Political leaders on both sides must take a firm line with their organisers and cadres well before election day to prevent this. With less than a week to go, that’s right now! “No violence!” instructions must go out from both high-commands NOW. The police must be given instructions to firmly put down trouble makers, arsonists and looters. Let’s not repeat JR’s abominable collusion in rioting in 1977 and 1983.

There is another unusual problem that may arise for the first time. It is simple to explain with an example. Imagine Gota wins a little over 45% of first preferences, Sajith a little less than 45% (together 90%); Anura plus Mahesh 9% and all the other jokers and midgets 1%. This is not my prediction or expectation; it’s an example for the purposes of illustration. (I am aware Gota is the front runner as of now but it is also said that he won’t clear 50% on first count). If first preference voting turns out like this, by mid-morning on 17 November tallying of second preferences will begin. Then I fear trouble. 

The point is this. It is no secret that, to the extent that Anura’s and Mahesh’s voters cast a second preference, it is likely to be for Sajith not Gota. Imagine that of the 10% I have allocated to A+M+Jokers in this example, just half (5%) chose Sajith as second preference and Gota’s share is negligible. Assume the remaining 5% don’t mark a second preference at all. (Given a three-foot-long ballot paper, finding one’s first preference, leave alone a second is problematic enough!). Remember, if it goes to second preference counting anyone who does not cast a second preference does not exist! It’s as if he/she did not come to the polling booth. This means, to press on with my illustration, whoever gets just over half of the final valid 95% wins. I want to rub this in. If Gota’s vote is 47.5% first-preferences but negligible seconds, and Sajith’s 42.5% firsts and 5%+ seconds, hey presto Sajith is home and dry! Reminder: Though this is only an example it is not an unrealistic one. You can play with other number combinations and have fun.

The purpose of my example is not to annoy you with inanities. There is a point I want to make about inter-counting violence if it gets to that stage. The moment it is known (the news cannot be stopped from leaking out) that it has become necessary to count second preferences it will be a red-alert for Gota’s people. There will be agitation at street corners and at SLPP gatherings. The grassroots will be motivated to demonstrate and disrupt or influence counting. Allegations of fraud will fly like embers in a California wildfire. Plots are possible – recall poor Dayananda Dissanayake’s jillmart and rumours of his sojourn at Temple Trees! 

Inter-counting disruption is more troubling than post-election violence because it could distort the result and the violence can become open-ended. On Sunday 3 November I listed trouble spots around the world where mass protests are out of control and a return to stability, in any form, seems improbable. In Bolivia, Morales’s victory though by a huge margin has not dampened unrest. Sri Lanka is quiet now because an election is pending and everybody thinks his/her side will win. If it seems things are going the other way, midway in the counting process, you know as well as I do what could happen. The public and the authorities can minimise violence and disruption by being vigilant and by preparing ahead. 

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Latest comments

  • 1

    This is a strange concern about violence at any stage of this presidential election.
    Things have been completely free of violence so far, and why should anyone speculate about the possibility of violence ‘after” the voting?
    The EC and the Police are doing a fantastic job and there is no basis for this kind of speculation UNLESS the UNP and the NGOs are planning something sinister, like after the 2010 Fonseka debacle.

    • 5

      Asela: Things are always quiet just before elections. It is only when the results are being counted or after the results are announced that trouble starts. It is strange you are not aware of this simple fact.

      • 0

        Estate Labourer
        I wish I cd agree with u that “things r always quiet before elections”.
        Two previous elections come to mind at once, in which the level of violence, intimidation & other negative features was severe — namely, the Referendum of 1982 & the Presidential election of 1988 (or was it a parliamentary election?)
        The Referendum is something I know quite a bit about as I experienced some of the campaign rather too closely — being threatened by a Govt MP with a gun. He had gone around Colombo turning opposition Observers out of polling stations & when he saw that I was photographing the goings-on, he came for me. I think an LSSP observer in Dompe was assaulted in order to stop him performing his job; he died soon after. Everything possible was resorted to in that pre-election period. If you read the 100-paged report I did on the Referendum you would have no illusions about non-violent election campaigns in SL.
        And, as far as I can recall, the 1988 or 1989 election was also violent. Perhaps it was the one in which a large number of candidates were killed — 12 or 13. I need to look these up.

  • 5

    The Government machinery is not at present controlled by MR&Co. If it did, then there may have been some cause for concern as they cannot be trusted to abide by the rules.

    The 52 day saga was initiated for this purpose i.e. to engineer a ‘General Election’ with levers of power and Government Control in their hands. We do recall the level of manipulation, coercion, intimidation and control exercised in 2015. Nevertheless, the sane and intelligent voters , won the day!

    Not sure how the writer determined the ‘front runner’?

    Voters, each one of you, please prepare a list o 5 matters that are most critical, important and dear to you. Then decide, which candidate is most likely to realise your desires. if it’s a candidate other than SP or NGR, then do vote for that candidate, but ensure a 2nd / 3rd preferences are also noted with at least one of them to SP or NGR, if you wish to have your vote to contribute in determining the ultimate winner. If the initial vote is either for SP or NGR, a 2nd & 3rd preference will be superfluous and not be necessary / counted (as it’s likely the two who will poll the highest will be those two).

    Voters, please use your franchise, judiciously, wisely and aptly.

  • 7

    Prof. Kum! Do you think that spontaneous violence take place all coming out of the cadres bordering to be fanatics? Oh! NO! We all know who orchestrated the 1983 Pogrom. Ministers of the day were involved as they gave the necessary orders. If all of us have a thing called a memory then back in 1977, the Police were given a holiday for the rabble rousers to create mayhem. Clearly someone must light a fire to a pyre full of fuel for it to inflame. In the examples cited it was the leaders of the government of the day was instrumental in it. When Papa Dick says “Raplh Buultjens is a pain in the neck”, it is a coded message for the smooth talking minister to organize a kidnap of the scholar preventing the Felix Dias Bandaranaike memorial lecture. Spontaneous violence in this country? NO Prof. It is organised violence.

  • 1

    Hey Prof……, is this a coded message?

  • 0

    ” Gota’s vote is 47.5% first-preferences but negligible seconds, and Sajith’s 42.5% firsts and 5%+ seconds, hey presto Sajith is home and dry! “
    Our Professor has found the ultimate formula to be happy!


  • 0

    “…such things happen spontaneously when there is regime change. “
    True, but only partly spontaneously.
    It happened in a big way in 1970 when the SLFP-LSSP-CP alliance won.
    Only the UNP protested as it was the victim
    It happened in a much much bigger way in 1977 when the UNP won.
    Only the SLFP protested as it was the victim.
    Since then, the society has got fully immunised.

  • 0

    In fact remain that predication of post-violence will be already planned by UNP +USA of that foreign forces . There is sufficient information has been created
    of that defeated of UNP candidature to be justified that so-called “victory Sajith”?
    Undoubtedly it was planned by UNP current leadership which that ongoing loosing positions of UNP-Sajith Premadasa been reflected of by new survey.
    Lost of election of Sajith P… 17th Nov 2019 will be that shifted to a’ victory ‘ by turn into unbelievable episode to masses !!@

    Eventually it was back and organized by that local and International news media.
    These joint combination of UNP and USA of that political power outlets are Not that ready to handed over victory to that real winning persons of Gotabaya.R..of SLPP by on that volunteer basis .
    That was happen in Venezuelan and Bolivia recent past !@
    Meanwhile leadership of Ranil and gang of that UNP seek post -election new form of vandalism,chaos and uncertainties are around island-wide after 17th of November 2019 .
    Which is an Aim of this chaos are nothing else remain in power-UNP by but that of hijack Sovereignty Right of citizens of Sri Lankan.

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