| by Upul Joseph Fernando
( April 9, 2014, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) After the conclusion of the Southern and Western Provincial Council Elections, US Ambassador in Sri Lanka, Michele J. Sison, held a hastily arranged meeting with the Chief Prelates in Kandy. In all probability, she may have already read the contents of Mahinda's final political speech, which he had delivered at an election rally, just prior to the polling date. At this meeting, Mahinda had categorically stated, "Irrespective of any decision they will take at Geneva, we will abide only by the peoples' verdict which they will give with a resounding victory for us at the Southern and Western Provincial Council Elections."
The reference to the people's verdict would surely have meant at least 65% of the vote in the two Provinces, as predicted by Minister Dullas Alahapperuma quoting a government sourced survey, which pointed to a majority between 65-67% in the two Provinces. As predicted by the government conducted survey dated 24 March, the minister expressed the government's confidence that they would easily enjoy a landslide victory at the polls. But, it was not to be. Majorities obtained in Western and Southern Provinces respectively, were mere 53.53% and 58.06%.
Why did it happen as it did?
The answer to the question lies in the recent electoral history. This government had been using the Geneva ploy to win elections as the UNP Government from 1983 to 1994 and the Chandrika Government from 1994 to 2001 used the war against terrorism for the same purpose.
From 1983 to 1994, the UNP's strategy for winning elections was to appeal to the people to strengthen the government by delivering convincing election victories to defeat terrorism and unite the country. People who were disappointed with the continuing war took this pledge seriously and gave governmental power to the UNP. When the LTTE terrorists assassinated then President in 1993 and Pooneryn Camp fell into the hands of the LTTE, the people started questioning the UNP's professed commitment to end the war.
It was during the prevailing uncertainty in the country and the people's utter abhorrence of terrorism and resultant carnage that a new messiah in the shape of Chandrika came along, promising respite from the war. She promised a peaceful settlement through dialogue with the Tigers. She was immediately given the Tiger label and her election posters were painted with Pottus on her forehead to denote she had Tiger connections. All these actions were instigated by the UNP rivals. When her opponent in the presidential race was killed by the LTTE terrorists, she was having discussions with them; yet it did not in any way influence the people's preference of her at the next election. People wanted relief from the war and its devastation so much that they decided to allow Chandrika to try out a peaceful solution through dialogue with terrorists. Thus, she won Presidency in 1994 on a peaceful solution platform.
In 2001, Ranil used the same hackneyed clichés used by Chandrika, promising a negotiated solution to the ethnic problem. Meanwhile, Chandrika Government's media handlers kept on tarnishing the UNP and its leader as a LTTE sympathizer and that they were acting in concert when a bomb was set off to kill Chandrika during her election campaign. In spite of all criticisms levelled against him, he mouthed the peace formula and asked the people to give him a mandate to discuss peace with the Tigers. It was at this time the Tigers surrounded and almost overran Jaffna Fort, entrapping a large number of security service personnel. Exacerbating the dismal security situation in the country, the Tigers were able to breach all security cordons and launch a devastating attack on the Bandaranaike International Airport, Katunayake. People had had enough. They decided to give power to Ranil to work out a peace deal, with terrorists.
Geneva card no longer effective
Mahinda's Government today is in the identical position as the UNP Government in 1994 and Chandrika's Government in 2001. It is five years since the Geneva resolutions against the government were adopted. All those five years, Mahinda's Government used Geneva issue to draw votes in large numbers for electoral victories. People were made to vote for the government to defeat what it called a conspiracy by the country's opposition, the US and Tiger sympathetic Diaspora. Then resolutions against the government were brought in 2012, 2013 and 2014 in Geneva. They were all lost by the government.
Now people are disillusioned about present diplomatic dispensation of the government. They have noted the country being isolated among the world community. Electric chair bogey has run its course and come to a standstill.
All these many and varied considerations have made the people to deprive Mahinda's Government from getting an election victory in the range of 65-67% majority. What has been attained is an unimpressive victory. America has read the signs of what is in store for the government as happened to the governments in 1994 and 2001. America could easily accelerate the process by imposing economic sanctions. Then, people will look for an alternative government, which can work with America and amicably settle the diplomatic differences. America is watching like an eagle, because it knows where the wind blows.