Nanda Wanninayaka email@example.com
Jokers (and jerks – including Mr. Anura Dissanayaka) apart, there are two mainstream candidates in the run-up to the presidential election on November 16, 2019. Well, whether you like it or not, it is Mr. Gotabhaya Rajapaksa (GR) and Mr. Sajith Premadasa (SP) who are the frontrunners for the contest and the others are just vote spoilers.
In these few articles, I am comparing and contrasting the two persons in question in 10 areas of concerns in alphabetical order. This post deals with the MINORITY SUPPORT for the two candidates. Read Gota or Sajith? – The Agony of Choice – Part VI – LEGACY for the previous post. The next area, the NATIONAL SECURITY, would be dealt with the post Gota or Sajith? – The Agony of Choice – Part VIII – NATIONAL SECURITY.)
Sri Lanka being a multi-ethnic, multi-religious and a multicultural society, minority support plays a key role in a presidential election. This was well displayed during the 2015 presidential election to a great deal. So, if you want to become the president of Sri Lanka, you have to woo the ethnic minorities to you. Unfortunately, what keeps happening is the main two parties promise the things they cannot deliver and once a party wins, the minorities feel they are cheated because the winning party won’t be able to keep the promises due to the objection of the opposition, religious establishments and pressure groups. Fair enough, but why don’t the minorities also learn not to ask these two parties the things that they cannot do? No one learns.
If Gota loses this presidential election, it will mainly be due to the minority votes. Most of the Tamils in the North and the Tamils and the Muslims in the East won’t vote for Gota for obvious reasons. Radical Tamils think it was Gota who wrecked the LTTE and killed its supreme leader Velupillai Prabhakaran, the “Sun God” of the ethnic Tamils. In the case of the Eastern Muslims, the recent Easter Sunday Attacks created an anti-Muslim sentimentality among the general public of all faiths. They expressed the view that if Gota was the Secretary to the Ministry of Defense this type of a heinous attack wouldn’t have happened. And the Muslims at large believe that a future Gota administration would not be easy for the Muslims as Gota would go an extra mile to eliminate the radical Muslim elements in the country and that would mean even the moderate Muslims will have a hard time. This feeling is kind of reasonable with the way the present government acted in the wake of the April massacre. Their lukewarm attitude to a carnage of such magnitude might make such attacks possible in future too. If Gota comes to power terrorists would find it very difficult but the Muslims will have to pay a price (of being searched and their cultural sensitivities compromised.)
If Gota doesn’t get the minority support, which I don’t think he would, he will have to get an amazingly big majority from the Sinhalese voters. Gota has been able to get the support of Mr. Arumugam Thondaman and his Ceylon Workers’ Congress but Thonda doesn’t enjoy the sole power in the Hills as some breakaway groups have left him and formed new parties or alliances. Besides, you can’t trust Thonda as well since he has kept changing camps as a habit, mostly by ending up with the winning side. So, Gota has to work hard to retain Thonda and also try his best to woo the minority votes from the North and the East before it is too late. With my experiences being in the North most of the last year and the East this year, I find the moderate Tamils and Muslims are of the view that a return of Gota will ensure stability which will result in economic development in the two provinces. Having said that, it is too early to predict if this sentiment of the Northern and Eastern people will convert to votes for Gota.
This is where Sajith has the upper hand. Traditionally, the UNP has been accommodating the ethnic minorities in Sri Lanka even before the Independence. Minorities have held high positions within the party hierarchy and also in the UNP cabinets whenever they were in power. The SLFP being a late comer to politics as a breakaway fraction from the UNP and the former’s slogan being the controversial “Sinhala Only Act” alienated the Tamils and the Muslims from the party I guess. Sajith will go to any extent to get the minority support, which he has already successfully done to ensure his chances in the final battle. He already has been able to secure some fractions of the Estate Tamil powerhouse by ironing out political deals with them. But he can’t be complacent about their support as some political surprises that could come out of the blue might upset his apple cart at a crucial time. It happened during 2005 edition of the presidential race, didn’t it? Who can say such a maneuvering won’t happen in two weeks’ time?