PC polls - Opposition parties get cold
The dissolution of the North Central,
Sabaragamuwa and the Eastern Provincial Councils ahead of schedule would
enable the Government as well as the Opposition to feel the pulse of the
The UPFA Government, led by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, in deciding
to hold fresh elections to these PCs has given an opportunity for those
in the Opposition to prove their strength.
The Opposition, especially the JVP which had attempted to capture
power twice through two insurrections in 1971 and 1988, is adept at
organising anti-Government demonstrations, using undergraduates and
factory workers as scapegoats. Nevertheless, they are unable to wield
this 'authority' at an election.
The bizarre manner in which the UNP and those in the Opposition
reacted to the dissolution of the three PCs is baffling. Opposition
parties in any part of the world which practises democracy generally
welcome an election at any level. Elections of any kind provide an
opportunity for the Opposition to regain power.
In 1994, the SLFP-led People's Alliance capitalised on its victory at
the Western Provincial Council election to win the General election and
eventually the Presidential election to end the 17-year-old UNP regime.
In sharp contrast, Opposition political parties in Sri Lanka act in the
most despicable manner by taking the Government to task for its decision
to hold PC elections. The complete opposite is a common feature in most
other democracies and elections are often postponed by incumbent
In 1983, the then UNP Government of J.R. Jayewardene held a
referendum instead of the scheduled General election to extend the term
of the 1977 Parliament till 1989. This was how the UNP practised
democracy when in power, thereby folding the electoral map for over
No sooner the elections to the three PCs were announced, Opposition
leader Ranil Wickremesinghe compared the Government to the LTTE. Could
any right-thinking person in his proper senses compare a democratically
elected Government that commands an absolute majority in Parliament to a
barbaric terrorist outfit? One may wonder whether Wickremesinghe has
gone bonkers, having lost a record 23 elections under his tottering
leadership. Perhaps, Wickremesinghe may be averse to improve this record
feat as he fears it would unwittingly help Sajith Premadasa to intensify
his ambitious battle for UNP leadership.
Former UNP Deputy leader Karu Jayasuriya has gone one step further,
saying that the forthcoming PC elections would be a farce. He also says
that the President enjoys sweeping powers under the Constitution. It is
apparent that Jayasuriya is under a delusion as it was UNP itself which
introduced the current Constitution way back in 1978. Rather than
criticise the Government for conducting elections regularly, it behoves
Jayasuriya and Premadasa to lend a helping hand to Wickremesinghe to
resurrect the UNP.
In wide contrast, the UPFA, led by President Rajapaksa prefers to
feel the people's pulse by holding elections on a regular basis. While
the UNP and JVP leadership are engaged in a relentless battle to
overcome internal power struggles, it seems that regular elections have
proved to be a headache for Opposition parties.
President Rajapaksa is an illustrious leader who strongly believes in
democracy and the people's power. He has proved this in no uncertain
terms by providing the masses numerous opportunities to exercise their
franchise and democratic right. This was the sole reason that prompted
the President to dissolve the three PCs, notwithstanding the adverse
views held even by his party officials that the drought now being
experienced in these areas would estrange the farmer community from the
However, the President is convinced that this would be the most
appropriate time to see how sensitive the masses are towards the
Government and threw a challenge to the Opposition. It is up to those in
the Opposition to prove that they still have some vote base to be proud
of although these figures would be remote to the number of university
students and factory workers they exploit at demonstrations.
President Rajapaksa has repeatedly stressed the need for a strong and
responsible Opposition. It is a crying shame that those in the
Opposition are resorting to undemocratic means to capture power, rather
than win the masses' confidence.
Sarath Fonseka's Democratic Party and the second breakaway group of
the JVP, Frontline Socialist Party, were among the first to declare that
they would not contest the forthcoming PC elections. This is quite
understandable as the leaders of these parties are aware of their fate.
Fonseka, especially, who went by the traditional vote base of the UNP
and the JVP came a cropper at the 2010 Presidential election. He knows
only too well how his party would fare if it were to contest
individually. The UNP and JVP leaders are by no means fools to
accommodate Fonseka again. Hence, Fonseka has little or no option but to
eschew elections and host media interviews.
The SLFP, on the other hand, has set a shining example by deciding
not to entertain nominations from family members and close relatives of
its MPs for the forthcoming PC elections. This no doubt is praiseworthy
and would provide more opportunities to aspiring youth from the
villages. It is fervently hoped that all other parties too would take
the cue from the SLFP and afford more opportunities for talented youth.
The PC polls would be an acid test for those in the Opposition if
they are to pose any challenge to the ruling UPFA. The Government had
simultaneously battled terrorism and 'economic' 'wars'. Apart from
eradicating terrorism and ushering in a peaceful environment for people
to live in harmony, the Government has also taken several tangible steps
to ensure that Sri Lanka wins the 'economic war' as well. Despite waging
an unrelenting war against the most ruthless terrorist outfit in the
world, the Government simultaneously launched several mega development
Consequently, the Northern and the Eastern Provinces recorded a
growth rate of over 22 percent while the country, has an average growth
rate of around eight percent.
The Government would certainly hold the Northern Provincial Council
elections no sooner the demining process is completed and displaced
persons are resettled completely. Opposition politicians should not look
at these positive developments with tinted glasses.
In the event the Opposition is sincere in its attempt to strengthen
democracy, it should go before the masses and seek a mandate by
presenting its plans to develop the three provinces. Instead of doing
what a responsible Opposition ought to, Opposition parties are now
pointing an accusing finger at the Government for permitting the masses
to exercise their democratic right.