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Vote us or suffer

by Thrishantha Nanayakkara

(February 18, London, Sri Lanka Guardian) “Either you vote us or suffer” is the new motto of Sri Lanka’s ruling UPFA party’s local Government election campaign. President Mahinda Rajapakse’s lieutenant Wimal Weerawansa told the voters that they will be left with a local Government that can enjoy riding a heavy vehicle round the village if the opposition is given power in their local government. Another said that the Government will appoint their own commissioners to go against the local Government body elected by the people. This is perhaps the most direct threat that the Government would go against the will of the voters.

Fear mongering and threatening the voters has been the trademark of Mahinda Rajapakse Government. During the war, every military move to capture a major town in the North was preceded by a provincial council election in the South. The threat was that “if you vote the opposition, you will see grave consequences on the operation in the North.” In response, the opposition MP Ravi Karunanayake equated this style of winning the election by holding the military operation for ransom as “going to Pamankada while saying we are going to Alimankada”. We all know how the state media was abused to skew this statement to fool the public. This heinous political terror tactic spread even to the presidential election. On the election day, bombs were exploded in several parts of the North to remind the traumatized people that danger awaits if they dare to vote. Southern voters were terrified by showing the possibility that foreign imperialists will occupy this land if the opposition comes to power. The mega die hard patriotic mouthpiece Wimal Weerawansa was used to make the voters shiver in this fear. The voters, however never believed that the ruling party would sell prime land in Colombo, including the army headquarters opposite Galle face green to foreigners on a permanent basis (not on lease), and borrow at 6% interest rate from foreigners to squeeze your throat at some point in the future. Yesterday, I was listening to MP Udaya Gamanpila using the same terror tactics to justify sale of prime land in Sri Lanka to foreigners in “Ratu Ira” programme, where he said that the Government reserves the right to send such urgent sales of pieces of our beloved motherland to foreigners through special ministerial committees if people need rapid development. The same people sent Sarath Fonseka to jail for not noticing that his son-in-law was bidding to supply some material to the armed forces in the correct tender procedure. What is horrifying here is the way they claim the right to engage in shady sales of pieces of country by holding the people’s urge to revive the country’s economy for ransom. They go a step further to claim the right to interpret what is legal and what is illegal depending on which side of politics the person concerned in sitting on. And they fearlessly continue to show it in action by holding the voter’s fear for ransom.

Dear voters, please do not let anybody rob your vote by threatening you. If you allow it, they will continue to rob you till it is too late to realize that your sons and daughters are left with no choice due to your habit of succumbing to threats. In this sense, I respect opposition MP Karu Jayasuriya’s statement that “Today we might mortgage our civil liberties in exchange for relative stability, the promise of development and an illusion of ‘peace’. But the day will come when Sri Lankans too, feel that something in their souls that cries out for true liberty. The day will come, when all Sri Lankans believe that we deserve more than a corrupt regime that is siphoning the nation’s wealth; that we deserve a government that allows us to speak freely and live in dignity. A day when we realize that the power to make a change lies within ourselves.”

Thrishantha Nanayakkara is a lecturer at King's College, University of London. He has also been a Radcliffe Fellow at Harvard University, research affiliate at MIT, and postdoc fellow at Johns Hopkins University, USA. He is a product of the University of Moratuwa, Sri Lanka, and subsequently followed postgraduate studies leading to a PhD degree in robotics and systems control at Saga University, Japan.

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