Rajapaksa to Tamils: elect known devil

Ray

The Chairman
Professional
Joined
Apr 17, 2009
Messages
43,132
Likes
23,835
Rajapaksa to Tamils: elect known devil



Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapaksa today appealed to the Tamils to back him, the "known devil", in the January 8 presidential polls as he campaigned in the former LTTE bastion.

"There is a saying that the known devil is better than the unknown angel", Rajapaksa said in Sinhala. He was speaking through a translator at a rally in Jaffna, the former LTTE stronghold.

The 69-year-old Rajapaksa has been battling a flurry of defections from his ruling coalition - the United People's Freedom Alliance - with another parliamentarian switching loyalties to the Opposition ranks today.

Achala Jagoda became the 26th legislator to join the opposition unity candidate Maithripala Sirisena in the endless stream of defections.

Rajapaksa's Jaffna visit came as the main Tamil party, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), backed Sirisena for the presidential polls and the Opposition yesterday alleged that the government had deployed soldiers to keep the Tamil voters away. "We have information that about 2,000 soldiers in civvies have been deployed in Jaffna alone. They are sent to some areas of Polonnaruwa too. Some platoons have already been sent."

"This is my 11th visit to Jaffna as President," Rajapaksa, who has been in power for nearly a decade, told the rally.

Taking a dig at Sirisena, the incumbent said his rival is a stranger to the Tamil-dominated northern region while he as President had done much to further their interests.

He also accused that Sirisena had shown little interest in the area, saying he had been "an infrequent visitor" to the region.

Rajapaksa, who came to power in 2005, listed a series of infrastructure projects that had been completed since the end of the civil war in 2009.

"We gave you electricity, we gave you new schools and now we want to give you proper water supplies," he said, in a region that was devastated by the 37-year-long separatist conflict.

A low Tamil turn out is expected to help Rajapaksa in the direct contest between him and Sirisena.

Tamils account for around 13 per cent of the 15 million people entitled to cast their votes and their choice of candidate could be crucial to the outcome of what is seen as a neck-to-neck fight.

He was slated to inaugurate the latest stretch of a reopened rail link from Colombo to Jaffna but cancelled his plans at the last moment, leaving his transport minister to do the honours.

Rajapaksa also blamed the TNA-run northern provincial council.

"They did not use the money given to them to work for you," he alleged.

TNA won over 85 per cent of the vote and routed Rajapaksa's ruling coalition in the September 2013 provincial election.

While Rajapaksa is popular among the majority Sinhalese community, he is disliked by many Tamils after the 2009 crackdown.
Rajapaksa to Tamils: elect known devil
Rajapaksye himself claims he is a devil! :rofl:

Tamils will make a difference in the election results and so it is not surprising as to what he claims.

One would wonder why should he worry when it is claimed that he is intensely popular in Sri Lanka.
 

Ray

The Chairman
Professional
Joined
Apr 17, 2009
Messages
43,132
Likes
23,835
A race too close to call

In Colombo, revulsion against the Rajapaksas and yearning for change is palpable but the rural vote outside the capital still seems largely behind the President.

For Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, this is a moment of reckoning. His bid to get re-elected for an unprecedented third term, is facing a serious challenge mounted by the Opposition re-energised after Mr Rajapaksa's long-time party and ministerial colleague, Maithripala Sirisena defected from the ruling combine.

Mr Sirisena, backed by former President Chandrika Kumaratunga and the United National Party's (UNP) Ranil Wickramasinghe has turned the presidential election into a credible contest, a prospect that looked improbable even a month ago. A series of defections by smaller allies representing the Muslims has further eroded Mr Rajapaksa's support.

Two major factors must worry Mr Rajapaksa. One is the division in his core Sinhala vote and the other is the prospect of minorities Tamils and Muslims voting heavily against him. This is a big change from 2010, when he won the elections comfortably thanks to a famous military victory over the Tamil Tigers that ended a 30-year war in the island nation.

Since then Mr Rajapaksa's popularity has eroded considerably because of charges of authoritarianism, financial corruption and nepotism. A two-third majority in Parliament allowed the President to rewrite the Constitution and lift the restriction on holding the office of the President for more than two terms.

That at least five of Mr Rajapaksa's immediate family members are in key government positions gives ammunition to his critics. In the last five years, the party took a backseat, leading to widespread corruption, lawlessness and cronyism, the Opposition has charged. Mr Sirisena, for long an insider, now says the concentration of power in the hands of the Rajapaksa family and large-scale corruption forced him to leave the government.

The real battle is to gain maximum support from the majority Sinhala vote in the 15-million strong electorate. In the 2010 elections, Mr Rajapaksa had polled more than double the votes secured by his main opponent, former Army Chief Sarath Fonseka in the Sinhala majority areas of south, central and western provinces but this time, Mr Sirisena has the advantage of ultra-radical, right-wing Sinhala party like Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) and a prominent Buddhist monk Sobitha Thero, backing him against the President.

But it's not a done deal yet.

Mr Rajapaksa, with his easy, if cultivated charm and an image of a decisive leader is adept at playing on Sinhala nationalist sentiment. He has already promised a new Constitution committing himself once again to the unitary status and has committed himself to establish a domestic investigative mechanism for probe into the alleged war crimes even while preventing any international scrutiny into alleged human rights violations. This appeals to the hardcore Sinhala voter base. In Colombo, revulsion against the Rajapaksas and yearning for change is palpable but the rural vote outside the capital still seems largely behind the President. Many Sinhalas, especially women, still root for Mr Rajapaksa's "macho" image and his firm handling of terrorism.

Mr Sirisena also needs to make a dent in the Tamil heartland to get ahead of Mr Rajapaksa. With less than 10 days to go for the elections, Sirisena has not spoken a word about the Tamil issue. His manifesto does not even mention the Tamils and their concerns although the influential Tamil National Alliance (TNA) that has widespread support in the North has decided on Tuesday to support him.

Mr Rajapaksa on the other hand, has launched an energetic campaign countrywide and is even touring the Tamil areas frequently. He has not only visited North and East more than once, but has made some promises, which will attract those who had suffered during the war.

Mr Sirisena in comparison appears wimpish and suffers from the perception that the Kumaratunga-Wickramasinghe duo and not him are the real power centres in the Opposition ranks. There is also lack of focus and cohesion among the disparate elements supporting

Mr Sirisena's campaign. The JHU and the TNA for instance, hold diametrically opposite views on the contentious 13th Amendment that allows genuine devolution of power to the Tamils.

In the larger context these issues may not matter though since anti-incumbency against Mr Rajapaksa is giving the Opposition more than an even chance this time.

The close contest throws up another possibility. For the first time, Sri Lanka may be forced to count the preferential votes. According to the Constitution, a candidate, in order to win, needs to receive "more than one-half of the valid votes cast", which is 50 per cent plus one vote. One possible scenario is that no candidate receives the required 50 per cent of the votes cast.

What happens then? The voters are allowed to indicate their second and third preferences when they vote in a presidential election. If no candidate receives more than one half of the votes cast, there will be a runoff and preferential votes will come into play. The process is complicated. Initially, all candidates except the two who received the most number of votes will be eliminated from the competition. Then, the second preferential votes of the eliminated candidates, if cast in favour of one of the remaining two candidates, will be added to their account. And finally, the third preferential votes of the eliminated candidates, if cast in favour of one of the two remaining candidates, will be added to their account. Only then the one who receives the "majority of the votes" will be declared the winner.

Political analysts in Sri Lanka say the country has never counted the preferential votes as there has always been a clear winner, even in some of the closest contests. In 1999 for instance, Ms Kumaratunga received 51.12 per cent votes while Mr Rajapaksa in 2005 scarped through with 50.29 per cent of the votes. Will it be any different this time? Will Sri Lanka be counting the preferential votes for the first time? President Rajapaksa would be hoping that the situation would not come to such a pass.

The outcome of the elections will be keenly watched around the world, especially in New Delhi. India's relations with the Rajapaksas have been bitter-sweet and his tendency to play the China card against India has not really endeared him to New Delhi but Mr Rajapaksa's alternative is an unknown entity so far. Whatever the outcome of the election slated for January 8, India will need to start afresh in recalibrating its relationship with Colombo.
The Asian Age - Indian Newspapers in English Language from seven edition
 

Latest Replies

New threads

Articles

Top