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What next for Rajapaksa regime, after the Southern Polls Victory ?

By Kusal Perera

It was Velupillai Prabhakaran the late Tamil Tiger leader who once said the Sinhala people have only a short memory. Perhaps it is so and it seems quite in order at this elections, where the war against the Tamil Tigers with Prabhakaran projected as the icon of "terrorism" was turned into a glorifying victorious vote puller.

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Men move past election posters of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa in Galle, 116km (72 miles) south of Colombo, October 10, 2009.-pic: REUTERS/Andrew Caballero-Reynolds

While the war was being waged with only State witnesses to the battle allowed to get on the dock, the Rajapaksa regime started screwing the opposition with provincial council elections, beginning with the bifurcated Eastern province in 2008 May. The going was good for the Rajapaksas, with the main opposition UNP stuck with a fear psychosis of loosing Sinhala votes, but unable to compete with the ruling UPFA headed by the Rajapaksas to be the owners of the Sinhala psyche. The JVP was also left in a dilemma, the Rajapaksas stealing their shares of the war and leaving them with no clear path to campaign at elections.

The ruling UPFA that began with a 55.3% and 56.4% vote popularity in Sabaragamuwa and NCP respectively when elections were held in August 2008 and the war was being hyped as a winning war, moved to 59.5% and 69.4% in Central and NWP (Wayamba) when elections were held in February 2009, after the military moved into Kilinochchi on January 02nd and the capture of Paranthan and Elephant pass. The decline of the UNP was evident without any clear idea as to how they should position themselves against the war and the JVP was drained out of their patriotism with 4.9% reduced to a meagre 2.1%.

Rajapaksas kept Uva and Southern Province elections till the last, on the premise that Uva and South would play as their bastion in elections. The early August 2009 Uva PC elections held in less than a month after the war was declared over and the LTTE accepted as decimated, left the main opposition UNP and the JVP flabbergasted. The Rajapaksas, projecting their family image through Sasheendra Rajapaksa as the would be Chief Minister, rode home with a stunning 74.6% and in Moneragala district where young Rajapaksa contested, the popular vote was unbelievably high as 81.3%, reminding one of the old Soviet day elections in Russia.

The UNP reeking with internal squabbles, defeats at every PC elections and with no idea as to how they should face the Rajapaksa steam roller, slumped to a pauperish 21%. Meanwhile the JVP, which avoided "talk the war" and took the Rajapaksas on high handed corruption and an economy that was going haywire, managed to improve, gaining 4.2% this time.

The indications were clear. Within one month and with all the hype of a glorious war victory that was wholly accrued with the Rajapaksa brothers leaving even the Army Commander Fonseka out, the Uva Sinhala majority paid their gratitude as asked for with a resounding 74% and the young Rajapaksa made Chief Minister. Yet with economic hardships snaking out of the ant hill, the JVP got credited with an improved per centage. The UNP that was neither here nor there, could not gain anything from any platform and thus declined further.

The Southern PC election was thus brought in to crown their glory, but 04 months and 20 days after the war was declared won, it wasn't turning out that easy and that popular. That was too long a period for the Sinhala South to hold on to the memory of a war victory. Human societies perhaps can not live in the past. They have to move on. They would, or they probably would keep a margin for past achievements, if that pays enough for the future. What has the war victory provided for the Sinhala South ?

Despite a massive war victory exhibition held at the BMICH that was given prime time publicity by not only State media channels but by some private channels as well and the whole of the media still made to go hard and bang with glorifying the war victory, the people who live on the ground still has not received any "peace dividend". Not even the peace in moving about, with the same high security barriers clamped every where.

Worst was, the election campaign in the South brought home for the first time an avalanche of security boulders that wasn't there even during the war. With high profile ministers and other personalities including some UPFA candidates going round electoral districts, every kerb and corner of villages and towns were plastered with security personnel.

Those who came to buy their grocery, the 3wheeler that went for refuelling, the youth who stayed at bus stands going or coming from school or afternoon classes were all treated as "possible" security threats and checked, when the President was on a special campaign trail in Sooriyaweva in Hambantota.

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All election data – source - election department website

I for one, did not take all that as factors that could play negative on the ruling UPFA, especially with all the State resources, power play, media blitzkriegs and the mega cabinet, all taking the South by almost force. Deducting a reasonable percentage for the economic fall, projections showed, the UPFA would not do as well as in Uva, but would still hover close to 70% in the province, starting with 65% in Galle, and improving through Matara with 70% and doing the best in Hambantota with 72% as it is after all the birth place of both the war heroes and the modern day public monarch. That was based on the assumption that Rajapaksa's performance at his 2005 presidential elections at 63.3%, would improve with the war victory, though not to the extent of the most poor and ignorant district Moneragala.

Voting in the South nevertheless point in a different direction. With all the fire power used in Hambantota, with numerous projects earmarked as "development" of Hambantota, people had not been convinced enough to vote for the UPFA in Hambantota the best, even in the presence of President Rajapaksa, coming at the bottom of the popular list with only 66.9%. Galle did the best again with a 68.3% vote, while Matara came in between with 67.9%. The government could not come any where near their targeted 75 – 80%. The war glamour and its hope of a more promising future as projected by the Rajapaksa regime and its media have not been taken by the people as true or possible under this regime.

The vote gained by the JVP, considered the underdog or the "nonentity" with the war victory totally hijacked by the Rajapaksas, proved their campaign on economic issues, was what the people understood best. They have improved tremendously with 5.5% in Matara and over 11% in Hambantota, where they were bashed and bumped.

The failure of the Rajapaksa regime in delivering any substantial hope for the economic life of the people is evident in how it plays up over their war victory hype at this Southern elections. There is apparently a drop in consumer buying by about 20% which speaks of a reducing buying power in semi urbanised South, than in the peasant Moneragala. But would it remain outside rural life ?

Clearly the war frenzy can not be hyped beyond what it was hyped to. On the war front, the Rajapaksas can not show anything more bigger and more glorious than this defeat of the LTTE and the death of Prabhakaran. Four months and 3 weeks gone and with nothing else seen down the line for a fair living, the government is now being challenged on its economic performance.

The inability of the Rajapaksa regime to even plan on how they would get their money to spend on the estimated expenses, became quite evident before the close of elections, when the government had to announce they would only have a 04 month "vote on account" expenditure plan presented to parliament instead of the usual 2010 budget, without any indication as to how the revenue would be planned and budgeted. What ever the government's argument is on such escapism and the next parliament that would have to be elected by April this year, the fact remains this government which argues it would continue with more elected power, is unable to put forward its development plan with a budget for 2010.

Can it then survive another few months with high security, threats on opposition voices and media hype on the war victory alone, to win another election? Within an economy that is fast crumbling and the people willing to forget the war to focus on their day to day living, the Rajapaksa strategy seems to be giving way to more opposition.

The brutal campaign against the JVP in Hambantota gave it a new life with 11% votes. Everywhere in this region, extreme repression has given way to more opposition and more stronger voices. It happened during the 30 year war when the LTTE grew with every repressive measure adopted by successive governments that had no answers for the conflict. It is happening in Afghanistan, in the N-E provinces in India and in places like Jammu & Kashmir, Chattisgarh and Lalgarh, in the absence of answers for the conflicts and core issues of their societies.

Here the Rajapaksa regime is also slipping into a similar relapse, after a short, freak popularity. Here the Rajapaksa regime is being rejected by the same people who came on the streets 04 months and 03 weeks ago to crown them as glorious victors. There could be only one other option for this regime now. Go for a quicker elections before it could be too late. One they could still manipulate, when the popularity is a waning 60% plus for now. Unfortunately for them, the fall seems far worse if delayed than Humpty's fall, with no king's soldiers any more to put them together.

12 Comments

VERY WELL ANALYZED THE SPC ELECTION.KEEP IT UP . HISTORY IS REPEATING. WHAT UNP DID FOR JVP IN LATE 90'S WAS SOON FORGOTTEN, FROM NOWHERE CHANDRIKA BECAME THE CHIEF MINISTER OF WESTERN PROVINCE AND PRESIDENT.UNP ERRADICATED SOUTHERN TERRORISTS BUT COULDNT CLING ON TO POWER FOR LONG TIME. WE SRI LANKAN VOTERS FORGET THE PAST VERY FAST. SAMETHING WILL HAPPEN TO MR MAHINDA RAJAPAKSA IF HE DONT ADDRESS THE GRIEVENCES OF TAMILS WITHOUT BOASTING HIS BROTHERS ACHIEVEMENTS.RAPID ACTIONS NEEDED NOT WORDS OTHERWISE VOTERS WILL CAST THEIR VOTE WITH A CROSS IN COMING ELECTIONS.

Posted by: LANKASON | October 11, 2009 02:44 PM

Rajapakse! we tamils will rise again!!!! dont keep fooling the sinhalese for any longer they will come to know the truth... Sinhala people are good honest people you have cheated them by hiding the truth from the ORDINARY SINHALA PEOPLE... majority educated Sinhalese knows the truth... the rest will know your true colours FAST...

Posted by: A TRUE TAMILIAN | October 11, 2009 05:34 PM

If President Rajapakse to deliver a peace dividend then, he needs 2/3 in parliament. Without such majority, there is no point of bringing any sort of political solution to the parliament. UNP will oppose any solution brought forward. Remember, this happened during Chandirikka era too.

Posted by: nSathees | October 11, 2009 08:59 PM

So what? People do have short memories. Politicians do not deliver. Country remains backward as ever. How many times political power changed hands during last 60 years? And who said Rajapaksha will be there for ever? But considering the rate of decline of memory of our people still I will bet all my wealth Rajapakshe and UPFA will get a minimum of 51% in the coming elections. You can celebrate that it has declined from 67% to 51%. Rajapaksha/UPFA can celebrate for getting the govt into their hands.

Posted by: Daya | October 11, 2009 09:20 PM

Daya, as you say if they ever celebrate the govt in their hands and we as sri lankans will have to be ashamed of our sri lankans fellow citizens for giving this country to a group of goons, thugs, cheap people. they will ruin this country for a few more years if we ever give the power to them again. so its time to think now. sri lanka and sri lankans deserve a better future.. please vote for the best and you know what the best is. this is my humble request on behalf of my people. we cannot afford to waste our lives and waste our country anymore...

Posted by: Shihan | October 12, 2009 02:27 AM

Where all this hype about winning the war and patriotism is getting us is a very good question. In the first place why did we fight the war? To get rid of LTTE tyranny isnt it. Then what is the point in having a government which imposes state tyranny on its own people.

People want to be free, to live a decent and comfortable life, to educate our children, to be free to practice politics, religon etc. Instead we have a new cult called Mahinda Chinthana,new Royal extended family taking over Politics and Economy, huge cut outs and banners staring at us, we are forced to listen to politicians lying their teeth out, we are reeling under an intolerable cost of living and taxes, our children cant get a decent education. Is this why we fought a war and sacrificed so many lives? People should ask these questions from themselves and decide.

Posted by: Gamarala | October 12, 2009 09:07 AM

Shihan,

Looking back at last 60 years with changing governments and two Maxist uprisings + one ethnic uprising and country remaining as backward as ever, I honestly do not know who the best are to vote for. What do you mean "if they ever celebrate ...." I repeat that I am prepared to bet all my wealth the next government again will be Rajapaksha/UPFA by 51% knowing the Sri Lankan electorate. My dear Shihan, to prefer one side is one thing to judge who will win is another. Then again how are you sure that you have voted for a particular set of policies and people? How do you know where your rep will end up in 6 months - ask the people who voted for those 18 who crossed over with Karu Jayasuriya. There is a large number in both sides who were earlier in the opposite side. In this mix which group could be considered as consisting of the goons,thugs, cheap people I am confused.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 12, 2009 06:22 PM


Looks like the country is condemned to live under the Rajapakse regime for another term starting 2010. As to Ranil, Sirisena Cooray said it best not long ago "Ranil inflicted the greatest blow to the UNP in its entire history when the leadership went to his incapable hands" It is also possible MR may achieve yet another impossibility. He may repair our relations with Tamilnadu and India - and who knows we may have the peace we want sooner than we think. Though not OxCam, the man is street smart in politics and has that grin, smile and looks to melt the enemy. If the Tamilnadu MPs delegation send in a good report to Delhi, Mahinda will get his 2/3rd no matter if Sarath Fonseka is persuaded to contest against him. Mahinda is going about the right way in dealing with the Tamil issue and is strengthening the diaspora Tamils to neutralise the local Tamil polity, which most Sinhalese suspect is still influenced by the LTTE. That can find a chord with most Tamils here.If he cuts down the corruption, get rid of the vermin type around him, bring down the CoL and give a thallu-start to the economy who cares if who rules is blue, red, green or orange?

ISS

Posted by: Ilaya Seran Senguttuvan | October 13, 2009 09:42 PM

Is Mahinda Rajapakse the Enemy here? Looks like it? I love to come here and smell the Resentment of BITTER TAMILS and UNPers... The Stench is intoxicating! While the rest of the country basks in the c=glory of a Sweet Sweet Victory over the LTTE ... I can always count on this little Nest of Negativity to root for the demise of Sri Lanka now that they have lost their BELOVED TAMIL TERRORISTS in this war.

Posted by: Devinda Fernando | October 13, 2009 11:24 PM

Well said Seran!! The need of the hour is a person who is capable of dragging the economy on the correct path. MR has all the qualifications for that and I can't see any other person near enough to challenge him. As someone earlier pointed out, it is not important whether UPFA got reduced number of votes than in 1994 or any other comparison. With the continuing positive stock market in Colombo and the positive Indian/Tamilnadu factor, this seems the best oopportunity for SriLanka to pull through the ruins towards the prosperity levels of other Asian nations such as Malaysia, Thailand etc. It will take longer for us to become a Singapore. However, we all have no alternative other than MR at this juncture. Hope he will not disappoint us as Chandi Akka did!!!!!

Posted by: Dutugemunu | October 14, 2009 03:26 AM


Mahinda is not the enemy. But the manner in which the economy is run, public thievery grows, the virtual collapse of the law and order machinery, impunity is encouraged are some of the negative features that has resulted in our country being described as a Fractured State. And that many people - and I mean by that decent Sinhala people, are opposed to and want a change. As to the Tamil people, whose very name seems to be giving some demented minds bad dreams every night, and perhaps in the day, Mahinda does not think they are all Tigers. If I am to believe him and his powerful Brothers - who are the only Govt we can see around - they all call them "our people" and pledge they want to rehabilitate them. That is how Statesmen go about. I am personally aware Mahinda is not communal or anti-Tamil. He has many close Tamil friends here and more in India - as now it appears. His latest strategy in handling Tamilnadu - and, therefore, India - is on the right path. But some, who have their thinking faculties in the lower part of their anatomy - will not agree. That's not our problem. I think I speak for all Tamils when I say we wish - as we have always done - Sri Lanka well. We have a heavy stake there. We want our country to gain meaningful unity, economic success and proceed towards prosperity. As we have been earlier, we want to be partners in this endeavour, assured of our rights, protection to our persons and property; the historic reality of our ancient presence in this land of ours. The contribution of Lankan Tamils from the time of the British arrival and to the securing of independence is considerable is something everyone knows. That the country burnt as a result of foolish, divisive politics starting around the 1950 is equally known. That it was done to bring the Tamils down economically, socially and politically by deception and falsehood is universal knowledge. That they resisted - as any people would - is granted. It is upto the Govt of the day to have the courage and the wisdom to bring in the necessary repairs and reform to historical wrongs and injustices. President Rajapakse appears to acknowledge that - from what we gather from his talks with the TN delegation - and we wish him well. We have suffered immensely but some of us have been forced to make mistakes in the process - that is inevitable. But we are not bitter. We want to leave past baggage down and move forward "to that glorious rainbow hand in hand" (Desmond Tutu) If you think there is something wrong there please suit yourself, my friends.

ISS

Posted by: Ilaya Seran Senguttuvan | October 14, 2009 08:34 AM

All local and foreign based Srilankans who are desperately trying to discredit the Government with the hope of resurrecting Ranil and his cohorts.please take note of the following.

According to the Reuters edition dated 13/10/2009,

Standard & Poor has raised its rating from negative to stable for Srilankan economy.

Colombo Stock Exchange is up 108%

IMF granted US$2600 Million

IMF approved another US$ bond raising of 500 Million to be arranged by J P Morgan, HSBC and BOC.

Fitch rating raised from B to B+

In addition, Tourists are flocking back and the remittances from expats amount to US$ 2300 -2400 Million per annum.

This indicates the excellent perception of the World Financial Institutions about Srilanka.

This is an A+ report for the Rajapaksa government.

These positive outcomes are all attributed to the peaceful environment after the defeat of the LTTE Terrorists.

Peace loving Srilankans who yearn for a prosperous and secure nation for their children , should consider these facts rather than getting duped by political opportunists in the opposition.

Posted by: Buddhadasa | October 14, 2009 04:49 PM

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