3 March, 2024


Will Sri Lanka Elect A President By Default ?

 By Shreen Abdul Saroor –

Shreen Saroor

“We see only Muslim villages have been developed, but not the Tamil villages. The only way for Catholic and Hindu villages to get developed is to vote for Gota.” Namal Rajapaksa in Mannar.

“We have to act against Muslims. We Tamil youth have to think and act.” – leaflet by Kiran youth front for SLPP.

If Muslims do not vote for Gota they will get it properly – Ali Sabri, PC 

Mannar voters who are living in Puttalam are banned to come in hired private buses to cast their vote – Assistant Election Commissioner, Mannar. 

Whatever the reason given, in 2005 the vast majority of the Tamils from the North and East and even in Colombo did not go to the polling booths to exercise their franchise. The result, as they say, is history. Yet it is imperative for that history to now be reflected upon seriously. The President who got elected partly due to Tamils’ decision not to exercise their franchise ruled over the entire country for the next 10 years, with grave effects for all. On the eve of another Presidential election, where some are calling for new boycotts or putting up candidates deliberately to draw votes from the main contenders, the lessons of the 2005 boycott are particularly worth considering.

We have only five more days before we know, what fate lies ahead for minorities in this country. In every campaign platform in the north and east, what I see is racism and hatemongering centered around minorities. Divide and rule has been the norm of Sinhala governments since independence, but in this election it has reached to a level we have never seen before. 

The frontline campaigners of SLPP, especially in the north and east, are collecting voters for Gota through outright hate mongering. Their campaigns are all about asking people to not support Sajith because Muslims are with them, or to support Gota because he will put the Muslims in their place. In areas where Karuna, Pillaiyan et al are campaigning, venom is being spit against the Muslims, with appeals to Tamils to vote for Gota if they want to keep the Muslims under control. The irony is that the very same pro-SLPP forces have successfully gotten Hisbullah to use the same language to woo the extremist Muslims against the Tamils and even Sinhalese!  

Such tactics are made possible this time in large part because the “yahapalanaya” government failed to deliver the reforms it promised and left so many in desperate plight as a result.  In the north and east, war-affected communities are being urged not to cast their vote, being told by TNPF and Sivajilingam kinds that whether it is Sajith or Gota, neither is going to solve their issues. 

On another front, the Muslims are either ridiculed or threatened about the negative consequences of voting for Sajith and the NDF – warnings often given by their own community’s scare mongers.  One of the ongoing scare tactics, to keep voters away, is the confusion created around Muslim women’s dress code. There was a request apparently from the police that the Muslim women wearing burkha and nikkab can create panic at the booths thus banning it is vital for peaceful election. One wonders why this is an issue to begin with, because Muslim women before Easter suicide bombing did go to the polling stations, stood in lines and removed their face cover to reveal their identity before voting. They did so in every election without any issues. Given the recent harassment they faced based on their attire in places like government buildings and public transportation these women, especially those Muslim women living in the areas that were attacked by mobs after the Easter bombing are really frightened and may not turn up in the same numbers as before.   

The October 26th 2018 coup was a nerve-wracking reminder – especially to the 6,217,162 voters who rejected MR – that the Rajapaksas are willing to bulldoze our most basic democratic institutions to regain what they unexpectedly lost in 2015. Defeating that backdoor entry of MR was possible only because the minority parties – TNA, SLMC, ACMC, and TPA – stuck together and defended democracy. Now the SLPP is trying proactively to break that minority grouping from helping get Sajith elected, by pitching the Tamils against Muslims. Knowing well that the war-affected minorities will never deliberately wish to bring back to power those whom they blame most for the large-scale atrocities they endured, their tactic seems to be to prevent anti-Gota voters from going to the polling booth by persuading minorities voters that there is no use in electing any Sinhala leader. 

The third tactic is to hoodwink the voters who will never mark 1 or X to Gota by getting them to spoil their vote. One group allied to Gotabaya’s campaign in Batticaloa has told a group of Tamil women to put three Xs to fully exercise their preferential votes knowing that these women will never vote for their candidate.  To begin with almost 2 feet long ballot paper and 35 candidates itself is creating confusion and then the preferential vote of marking 1 to 3 and the option of using X or 1 to 3 is compounding the confusion. 

The minorities; Tamils and Muslims are not really convinced by what the candidates are promising and have little enthusiasm to go to the polling station. However, they should drag themselves to the polling booths on Nov 16th to exercise their right of franchise. They might not want to elect any candidate. But they must vote to prevent the worst candidate from being elected. If they don’t vote for the lesser evil, the greater evil will win. Abstaining is as bad as helping the greater evil win. 

It’s almost a cliché now that ‘the people get the government (President in this instance) they deserve’. Juxtapose another; ‘that the masses are never wrong.’ Abstention dents the ‘masses’. Abstention helps the adversary. Further, it is of paramount importance that diabolical lies, misinformation, intimidation and distortions propagated by mischievous and self-serving elements be exposed and debunked. Each citizen must ensure by voting that they play their role in shaping their own destiny. 

*Shreen Abdul Saroor is a human rights activist and founder member of Women’s Action Network. 

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Latest comments

  • 11

    why Muslims village look developed?
    tell Sinhalese and Tamils to consume more and more alcohol, engage in taking more and more interest from bank, engage in more and more in gambling , then you will see more and more poor villages, Go and see some villages in Batticaloa or some other parts of Sinhalese areas, people are full in bar waiting to buy alcohol, then what do you expect? they need more and more money for drugs, alcohol, tell them save all that money and make their houses more beautiful and their wives more happy. That is one of the reasons why Muslims are doing well. They live by divine guidance that makes a difference. despite of all facts that Sri Lankan government to some extent has been discriminating in employments too. How many percentage Muslims are in Police, Army, Airforce, and Navy. less than 1%. Still Muslims are doing little bit better in trade and business sectors. that is why their areas of enlightened little bit.

    • 4

      Mr. Lankan,
      Cant understand that “divine guidance” part. You mean 72 virgins…????

    • 5


      “Go and see some villages in Batticaloa or some other parts of Sinhalese areas” – If you’re a Muslim, please don’t act as if you don’t see Muslim areas where these greedy Muslims have built their fences taking parts of public road. As a result, vehicles can’t move smoothly or bigger vehicles can’t reach there. Probably these greedy Muslims think roads are good enough as long as a tuk-tuk can move?

  • 20

    Dear Shreen,

    Hats off to you! I completely agree.

    The Jaffna University Students are now calling on Tamils not to vote for Sajith because he has not accepted the principle of federalism and Tamil homelands. The All Ceylon Tamil Congress is even calling for a boycott. This would mean a Gotabaya victory. I wonder whether they are in his pay.

    The consequences would be devastating for the northern province with even more colonization schemes, resumed white vans and disappearances, more rabid Buddhist monks like Gnanasara running amok etc.

    We Tamils are not intelligent when it comes to voting. Well unless the Tamils turn out in large numbers to vote, we will get the fate we deserve. There won’t be another vote till kingdom come.

    • 0

      Veerasingham, Jaffna University Students and Tamils in Sri Lanka should understand that under no circumstance will the majority of Sri Lankans accept federalism. There are no Tamil Homelands! The land belongs to all Sri Lankans. The only colonisation in Sri Lanka has been by the Thousands of Tamils living and working in Colombo. Tamils can live and work peacefully with the majority anywhere in Sri Lanka but any separatists and segregationists will be dealt the same fate of LTTE terrorist murderers.

      • 5

        Lanka Peiris

        “The land belongs to all Sri Lankans.”

        Who are these Sri Lankans?
        Could you define Sri Lankans?
        Where did you get the name or who named them Sri Lankans?
        What is the meaning of the words Sri Lankans?

        “The only colonisation in Sri Lanka has been by the Thousands of Tamils living and working in Colombo.”

        The colonisation you seemed to miss is the biggest colonisers the Tamils and their brethren Sinhala/Buddhist kallathonie descendants from South India.

        “Tamils can live and work peacefully with the majority anywhere in Sri Lanka but any separatists and segregationists will be dealt the same fate of LTTE terrorist murderers.”

        Can they really?
        Given their bitter experience in 1958, 1977, 1983 and during the reign of the clan, do you still believe people are going to trust you moron?

        “under no circumstance will the majority of Sri Lankans accept federalism.”

        Did you ever think Tamil would be given equal legal status in par with Sinhala? However the constitution was amended in 1987 after 31 years due to outside pressure. The structure of Sri Lankan state can change or remain the same depending on what the Hinidans want, Unitary state, Federalism or two Separate states.

        If I were you I would keep my big mouth closed.

  • 12

    “Mannar voters who are living in Puttalam are banned to come in hired private buses to cast their vote – Assistant Election Commissioner, Mannar.”
    This is really shocking! And it adds to the worrying news of the dubious behaviour of govt servants elsewhere in the country, like that of the GA, Colombo who will be the Returning Officer for the Colombo District.

    • 1

      A lawyer friend has corrected me about this apparent “ban” on voters on transport for the voters in Puttalam. I quote:
      “The law does not permit voters to come by private transport. Exception is if due to illness or disability they can’t walk or use public transport to get to the polling station (I am paraphrasing & quoting from memory).  In such cases there is a procedure to get a permit. That’s why we got those medical certs! And that would explain the Asst Commissioner’s position – I doubt it was expressed as a ban.

      “Long ago – but within my memory – this provision ws not there & rich candidates & parties wd transport their voters en masse & the less affluent couldn’t compete.”

  • 5

    My question is who is the Donkey who was foolish enough to allow the minorities to Vote? It’s something that should have never happened.

    If I was the President of Sri Lanka I would have made sure not a single minority person was given the privillege to vote.

    Universal Franchise my foot.

    • 12

      That’s why you are retired and not president … Hope you understand your position and keep your words to yourselves.

    • 6

      You are an idiot. If Sri Lanka was only Sinhalese, you think we will get any aid. It will be like apartheid, discriminating the minorities. How much aid have we got from Muslim countries. Our highest foreign exchange earners are our women working in Muslim countries. You want to put a stop to all that?

      With a person like you (leading the country) we the majority will perish due to hunger.

      • 2

        You are no Sinhalese. Stop pretending like one.

        All you have done in your comment is talk about Muslim countries. With that we can tell who you are.

        PS: there are more SL Muslims working in Muslim countries than any other group. One such Muslim called Razana Rafeek killed a baby and got her head chopped off.

        • 2

          Lieutenant Perera, one doesnt have to be a Muslim to defend/stand up for Muslims, or any other group that is being unfairly attacked or condemned for the sins of one of its fellows.
          You + I bear Portuguese surnames but have been absorbed into the anonymity of the majority community here. Should we be condemned for what some of our ancestors did here centuries ago?
          Until people like u stop having this majority mindset this country will never see peace.
          What, I wonder, happened, to mould a civilised being like Mahesh Senanayake, a Sinhala soldier like you, & a chauvinist, short-sighted one like yourself?
          Let’s hope there are more like him among the forces than like you.

    • 6

      Rtd. Lt. Reginald Shamal Perera – You’re lucky that Intelligent Sinhalese plus, minorities are there to save the country time to time. Otherwise those with selfish agendas would have BBQ “Modayas” like you while you’re smiling…

      • 2


        No one but the Armed forces are the SAVIOURS of this country. Be it when the LTTE was running around bombarding or when you fellas bombed the Christian Churches this year.

        Each time, it is only the ARMY that came to the rescue. And even in the future it will be the same.

        • 1

          Rtd. Lt. Reginald Shamal Perera – The purpose and the reason, a country having forces is to fight terrorists and give protection to the people. We too respect the armed forces, but unlike you, we will not agree a politician making that respected armed forces to sell lunch packets, using them to unclog a public drainage, or making them murder public protesting for water..

          How can you respect the armed forces, at the same time support the ones who insulted them?

    • 0

      You are the donkey to utter such stupid statements.

  • 2

    Not a word about the effects of the Easter carnage on this election , although the Party of the Canadidate which this HR person seems to barrack for, has not not provided reasonable explanations of how that carnage could take place under their watch.

    For example Minister Harin who is a Catholic himself bragged how he saved his dear Life on Easter Sunday from a Tip Off from his sick Dad.

    Did the UNP appointed PSC at least tell us how Minister Harin Fernanado’s Dad got the Tip. ?.

    Did the PSC find out who gave the Tip off to the Minister’s Dad of Zaharan coming to bomb, Catholic Churches?…

    But what surprised me was to see Minister Mr Bathudeen and the UNP Candidate Keselwatta Kid in cheerful conversation with the all powerful Bishop of Mannar , and receiving his Blessings for the up coming contest…

    I don’t know where a Default President can from?.

    • 1

      My Dear Gon Semane, ask Mahinda nakiya and his companions got the news.. Ask Lakshaman Yapa Abey about that.

  • 5

    Isn’t this scaremongering (of the worse kind)? She comes only second to Rajitha Senaratna…………

    • 3


      A lot of sane people are scared s**t of the prospect of a paranoid with Schizophrenia suffering from hallucinations and grandiose delusions …………… being elected the next president of this island. This madman has a tract record of mindless killing, internment, torture, targeted killing, collusion with kidnappings for ransom, ………….. If people are not scared they must belonged to Fascist cult of Gota.

      • 0

        I remember you.wrote the same thing about those who were commemorating the Sun God.


  • 6

    Desperate times call for desperate measures. This criminal mob is so desperate to capture power to fulfil their own selfish desires that they will resort to anything. Intelligent voters need to be wary of this deceiving and outrageous propaganda and do what is right to defeat this criminal, despotic, immoral and corrupt mob.

  • 5

    A well balanced rationalized article indeed.
    After the presidential elections of 2015, we were complacent and hoped that a new era had dawned for Sri Lanka where people are free of prejudices and sectarianism. Corruption, Nepotism, Cronyism, Thuggery, Intimidation and above all exclusionary policies targeting mainly the Tamil people that were the norm before the elections of 2015, were thought to vanish by the day, but all such hopes got shattered as days went by because of the egomaniac actions within the ruling hierarchy.

    I would like to recall from memory a news item via mass media of a public meeting held in Jaffna somewhere during the latter part of 2016 or early 2017 which I am not sure, patronized by the President. The President in his address made the following remarks, which I will put below with my poor knowledge in Sinhala hoping I will be excused for any errors..

    “Lankawe desapalana idhihasaye, siyalu desapalana pakshaye Raja Nayakayo ekka samaga waadivela inna awasthawak labune adhamai.
    Aegana mama bhoma aadambara wenawa.”.
    “Jaathiwatha sattampatha nethwa palanaya geniyama mage prathipathiya”.

    “Thani Sinhala Baudha pakshaya palanaya Lankawatta awabhodhayai”.

    Listening to such sentiments for the first time from a Head of the State gave us overwhelming satisfaction and confidence that we are treading into a new era where we can live as equal citizens with pride and glory and the country on the threshold of a glorious future.
    All such hopes got devastated.
    Therefore we will at least hope and pray the forthcoming elections will usher in Peace, Happiness and Prosperity to all.
    Thank you.

  • 3

    The Sinhala entrepreneurial might became reality in the 19th century.
    Why did the Sinhala majority destroy them, pseudo-nationalism and gotra ideology..
    Local companies and estates were taken over 3 years prior to European !!
    Drastic reforms instead of gradual diffusion, dynastic ambitions and the those mentioned above empowered another entrepreneurial community,
    Dynastic politics, pseudo-nationalism and gotra ideology is still mighty

  • 1

    When a mighty storm accompanied by strong winds approaches, the affected people who do not possess the resources to flee have just two choices.
    Either they could build a wind-shelter
    Or, they could build a windmill
    The writer should attempt to guide her community to make what in her opinion is the better choice for them collectively, wind-shelter or windmill, rather than making futile attempts to change the direction of the wind.

  • 3

    The answer is no:

    Why because electing by default means by the Tamils abstaining and the wiiining margin of Gothawas so small and had the Tamils voted he would have lost. But that is not a considration this time as Gotha appeals to the Racists and he will win hands ( or Pants ) down.

    I recently read an Article by Rhadakrsinan ( Colombo 7 Residents) and it was the most ill informed and ill thought out Article. Krishnan if you read this let me know and I will be happy to explain why.

  • 4

    Retired Gen. Reginald S Perera
    You live in Ice Age. Thank god you are retired. Minorties are not human beings, some kind of aliens or extra terrestrial! Is it? They comprise 30% of the population. We should all be Sri Lankans not brand ourselves, sinhala,tamil, muslims or burger.

    My appeal is, if you love your country, not to abstain, pull yourself together, go the polling stations and use your franchise wisely.

    • 2


      First of all let me tell you that I am not a Retired General. LOL. I wish I was but I am only a Retired Lieutenant.

      Now next thing is. Yesterday was Remembrance day. How many of you fellas here wore a Poppy? I bet not many. Perhaps you did because I find that you know how to respect veterans. But not many here does.

      Finally to our argument about Minorities voting. Do you agree with me that Minorities (Tamils and Muslims) have done irreparable damage to the country?
      For 30 odd years the Tamil hooligans destroyed everything in sight. Then on April 21st, Muslims not to be undone by their Tamil brethren unleashed terror on Sinhalese Christians. And more of that is to come. Stay tuned. Unless the country gets a good grasp of the Security situation more Muslims will blast themselves and destroy many Sinhalese lives. Don’t take chances with that.

      Now having said that, don’t you agree most of the Tamils and Muslims are responsible for this devastation? Don’t you agree with me that ordinary Tamils funded the terrorism in Sri Lanka? And given that, why do you think we are obliged to allow them to vote? So, that they can elect spinless leader and bomb us even more?

      Which country in the world allows Perpetrators of terrorism to vote?

      • 2

        Your surname name is Portugese. Perera is not a Sinhala name. To feel superior you say you are Sinhala.

        From that mindset you now say the minorities should not have the right to vote. What a joker.

        You further say “Don’t you agree with me that ordinary Tamils funded the terrorism in Sri Lanka?” You are trying also to imply that ordinary Muslims funded the Easter Sunday terrorists. It was ordinary Muslims who alerted the government about these terrorists. But the government did not do anything.

        Gota in fact funded the Easter Sunday terrorists and not the ordinary Muslims.

  • 0

    Reginauld S Perera

    First parliamentary election under Soulbury constitution was held between Aug-Sep. 1947. Two tamil political parties Tamil Congress, Ceylon Indian Congress contested and won 7 and 6 electorates respectively. Lacking overall majority then UNP leader, father of the nation, formed a coalition government with All Ceylon Tamil Congress. Do not forget Tamil Political Leaders fought along with Sinhalese leaders in independence struggle, late Mr GG Ponambalam served a prison sentence under British rule.

    Among Major Benefactors during construction of oldest University in SL, were Messieurs Ponambalam Ramanathan and Akbar. All residence halls are named in honour of major benefactors, Robert Mars, Baron Jayatilake. Arunachalam etc.

    I would agree that colosal damage to the country in terms of human cost, economy and infrastructure were done by Tamil tigers. That does not mean whole Tamil nation can be or should be disenfranchised on that ground. Then what about JVP with two insurrections. Should their families be disenfranchised! JVP is now a rehabilitated and respected political party. As a matter of fact only JVP MPs and leader are honest and making any sense in the parliament and in this election. Further more it is the only political party with all MPS who are University Graduates.

    To address you question Voting rights to minorities were not given by a president. They were born with that right. Easter Sunday bombing was the result of dereliction of duties by the Government and head of state.

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