CMC defeat: Is it a challenge to the goverment?
By Dr. Nirmal Ranjith Devasiri
Nov 5, 2011
When one examines the results of elections since 2004, several salient features emerge. One of the main factors that come to our mind is of the Sinhala Buddhist voter.
the polity of Sri Lanka, we now see a phenomenon of the Sinhala Buddhist voters’ converging around the UPFA. Today, we can go to the extent of identifying it as a separate constituency. Hitherto this constituency was fragmented among the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, the UNP, the Left parties and the JVP.
The periodic shifting loyalties of this constituency resulted in political power shifting between, the SLFP and the UNP. However, since 2004 this trend has undergone a change. Specifically under the leadership of Mahinda Rajapaksa, the UPFA led by the SLFP gradually started its consolidation of its hold of its Sinhala Buddhist constituency. Yet, there were other constituencies in the country that the UPFA could not bring under its hegemony/control.
One was the North. While the UPFA consistently won in the South, it consistently failed to win in the North. The Tamil National Alliance continued to win in the North. The other constituency that eluded the grasp of UPFA was Colombo.
The Metropolitan Colombo and to some extent the Dehiwala-mount Lavinia areas were included in this. This is apparent even in the latest local gover nment results. In whatever election results we analyse, we should examine, the winning margins of the UPFA in areas such as Hambantota and Moneragala, UPFA has polled more than 70%. The UNP in these areas were limited to about 20%.
However, you will find that this winning margin of the UPFA gradually shrinking as you approach the urban areas of the country. It is true that the UNP has lost in Kandy. Yet, the winning margin of the UPFA is proportionately low. Even in Hambantota, the perfor mance of the UPFA in the Hambantota Pradeshiya Saba is proportionately higher than its perfor mance in the Hambantota Urban Council.
This indicates a definite pattern. What these figures indicate is that there is a section of the populace that the UPFA cannot bring under its hold or rather they resist coming under the UPFA hold. They may occasionally shrink towards them under some distance circumstance but they never become an org anic par t of the UPFA constituency.
The constituency that refuses its allegiance to the UPFA consists of the North and the people in metropolitan Colombo. It doesn’t necessarily mean that there are no other such groupings. In fact, there are other groups such as the Muslim community and the plantation Tamil community who do not form a part of the UPFA constituency.
However, the leadership of these political groups may in retur n for political patronage help the UPFA in their quest for power. But, that does not happen by rewarding the individual voters of these constituencies. The government says that the story about flattening Colombo is made up. Such false utterances are being made by the SLFP as well. Selling the Sinharaja forest and the Sigiriya rock fall into that category.
This reduced the tendency of the voter leaning towards the government. In voting, there are collective behaviours and individual behaviours. In the north, the voters expressed a collective will. Yet, people like Douglas Devananda will get some votes for individual reasons such as getting employment for one’s children or getting a favour.
Even in Colombo there could well be such a g roup. The statement of Tissa Attanayake, that the victory in Colombo was the be ginning of their national triumph is a good statement for their political party. But the truth is different. This is not a victory of the UNP. This is a defeat of The Government. It is not a vote for the UNP. It is a protest vote against the government. Why did the people of Colombo vote for the spectacle (pun not intended) in the previous election? People voted for the spectacle symbol because they were not voting for the UPFA. They did so, not because they endorse the UNP.
However, in 1994, these people voted for President Chandrika Kumaratunga. It was because, she was in possession of a language to address the people on issues such as the communal problem. But after President Kumaratunga it was not repeated.
People live in rented dwellings because, they do not have a home of their own. For the working and the poor people of Colombo, the UNP is a rented house. It is not a home they own.
However, the UNP mistakenly believes that the people have voted for them. Therefore winning Colombo is not a trend. It is possible that the murder of Bharath Lakshman may create some inter nal dissention within the government. That may create an opportunity to the UNP which is a different issue alto gether. However, the Colombo factor doesn’t re present either the beginning of the end of the government or the beginning of an eventual UNP triumph.
The government is not ready to abandon its programme for Colombo purely because it lost the elections. They have a clear plan for Colombo that is based on economic and political considerations. In addition, there is also the ego factor, that is based on the challenge to the personal authority of the Rajapakse clan that wanted to create a Singapore or New York out of Colombo. The government is not ready to just throw in the towel.
As Machiavelli said, sovereignty of the people takes the form that Machiavelli suggested. One must listen to the people only if it benefits the rulers. This government is unperturbed by the defeat in Colombo. The danger can come only if the gover nment is defeated in the middle class areas that are now controlled by the likes of Wimal Weerawansa.
The government knows that Colombo cannot organise itself as a separate opposition to it. On the other hand the promise of making Colombo an authority in very attractive.
The majority of people who use Colombo are constituted by the floating population that comes in the morning and go out of Colombo in the evening. For these people a Colombo city administered by the Ministry of Defence, clean and attractive is something to be desired. It is not attractive to the poor people living within Colombo. For them Colombo is a place where they make a living.
Removing garbage is attractive to the ordinary person. It is not attractive to people who make a living out of garbage. I am not suggesting that people should be allowed to live in the midst of garbage. I am only giving voice to the realities that exist.
The political power of the country rests not in the hands of the people who live in Colombo but those who come to Colombo in the morning and leave Colombo in the evening. The for mation of an authority that supersedes the authority of the Colombo Municipal Council will be attractive to the floating population that comes in and goes out of Colombo. Therefore, the opinion of those who live in Colombo does not matter to the Gover nment.
Translated by Minna Thaheer from an interview given by Dr. Nirmal Ranjith Devasiri, Head of the Dept. of History, Colombo University, to Bingun Menaka Gamage published in Lankadeepa on Tuesday October 18, 2011.
Source: Daily Mirror - Sri Lanka