Daily News Editorial
Causes for the Unity Government’s defeat at the local government elections are still being dissected by the pundits. Some attribute the loss to electorate’s backlash on the government, in the form of a protest vote, over the high cost of living, while others ascribe it to the fallout from the bond issue. There are others who put forward the gross neglect of farmers and peasants as reasons while some are of the view that waste and profligacy such as in the purchase of luxury vehicles for government ministers had turned the voter- especially the middle class – away from the ruling alliance. The other school of thought advanced is that the threat of a division of the country, dinned into the public, effectively, by the Joint Opposition, through the introduction of the new constitution, had its impact on the voter, in the south. Equally, others simply attribute the outcome to the Mahinda factor.
However, Cabinet spokesman, Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne thinks different. Addressing the post Cabinet media briefing, the minister said that he was of the view that the home and home match between the partners of the alliance government contributed in large measure for the voters reacting as they did. He said this was the first election in post independence history where an alliance governing the country kept on attacking each of their partners during an election campaign. He said one of the main reasons for the defeat of the UNP and SLFP at the recent LG polls was the two parties trading various allegations. “This led to the loss of lots of votes for both the UNP and SLFP,” he opined. He further went on to say that the damning accusations hurled at each other on the campaign trail, by both parties, in their bid to harness the maximum votes, boomeranged on both. The people made up their minds from what they were hearing that the UNP, SLFP and the Podujana Peramuna consist of rogues. Hence they would vote for Mahinda Rajapaksa because he, at least, won the war.
Minister Dr. Senaratne is not off the mark in his assertion. The UNP and SLFP MPs were at each others’ jugular from the very inception and not just during the election campaign. The alliance partners were talking at cross purposes and contradicting each other in their numerous utterances before the TV mikes. Matters only came to head during the polls campaign.
Clearly the wrong signals were sent to the voting public. The impression created was that of a government in drift, with those at the levers of power not in control. Things did not help when both sides started accusing each other of being rogues. This clearly detracted from the more serious accusations made against the Rajapaksas and their associates. Rajapaksa’s crimes were yet to be proven but here they were confronted with a situation where the President, no less, was coming out openly to claim that there were big time rogues in his government. ape aanduweth loku horu innawa. There was little doubt as to whom these remarks were aimed at. Not to be outdone, the UNP too started turning its guns on the President. The voters were confused and voted for the lesser evil, against whom charges were yet to be proved, while, in the government’s case, the accusations had a ring of truth in it, what with the President, no less, spilling the beans.
For all intents and purposes, the alliance partners, UNP and SLFP/ UPFA, were campaigning in a vacuum, not complementing each other, which also went onto portray a picture of instability.
Blunders were also not in short supply. Suspending Brigadier Priyankara Fernando, our Defence attache in London, for reacting ‘inappropriately’ to a group of pro-LTTE demonstrators, opposite Sri Lanka’s High Commission building, by the Foreign Ministry, was seized upon with glee by the Joint Opposition, to make maximum political capital out of the episode. The President’s subsequent cancellation of the suspension only made matters worse, betraying the contradictions within the Yahapalanaya government –nay, a breakdown in the administration. Of course the spate of strikes, failure to resolve the SAITM issue, doctors’ trade union action, the fuel crisis, the unresolved garbage problem, all combined to conspire against the government, that reflected in the results of the LG elections.
Be that as it may, with the Unity Government now firmly re-established, it behoves on the alliance partners to end their bickering and work for the common good of the country. All right thinking members of the public are of the view that the coming together of the once arch political foes was the best thing that happened to the country in its post independence history. These segments, no doubt, will want the status quo to continue, in the name of stability. The dark pall that hung over the country following announcement of the LG polls result is gradually being dispelled, with the PM and UPFA General Secretary announcing the Unity Government would stay put. It is the responsibility of all to ensure it continues for the rest of its duration.