Posted on December 1st, 2019


Revised 2. 12.19

The Presidential election of 2019 was a landmark election. It was the first time that a Presidential candidate had won on a Sinhala vote alone. There hadn’t been a previous instance of a Sri Lankan leader declaring that his victory at national election was due to the votes of the Sinhala majority, said observers.

I knew that it was possible to emerge victorious with the sole backing of the Sinhala community,”  said President Gotabaya after the election. I knew from the beginning that the majority Sinhala community would be the decisive factor in this victory.”

It was observed, however, that earlier, at the 2010   Presidential election Mahinda Rajapaksa had also   shown that it was possible to win on the strength of the Sinhala majority vote.  In the 2010 election Sarath Fonseka got the Tamil and Muslim votes, but Mahinda Rajapaksa defeated Sarath Fonseka by over 1.8 million votes.

The popular notion is that President Gotabaya won exclusively with a Sinhala Buddhist vote. That is not correct. The election was won jointly, by the Sinhala Buddhists and Sinhala Catholics.  The entire Catholic coastal belt (except for Negombo and Wattala) voted overwhelmingly for Gotabaya, pointed out Fr Vimal Tirimanne.

The support of the Sinhala Catholics definitely helped to give Gotabaya   a good majority. It must also be emphasized that Catholic politicians, such as Sudarshani Fernandopulle, worked hard to ensure his victory. They appeared on the election platform with him. This election has shown, therefore that a combination of Sinhala Buddhist   and Sinhala Catholic votes can win an election comfortably.

Until 2019, it was held that that a candidate could not win the Presidency without the Tamil and Muslim vote. At a conference in Cologne, In November2005 the Tamil delegates had told Kusal Perera  ‘We decide the results, not the south. The minorities held the Sinhalese in contempt, observed Chandraprema. The minorities knew they could always win against the divided Sinhalese. The 2015 Presidential election confirmed this. President Sirisena lost in the Sinhala districts. He won because of     the overwhelming majorities received from the north and east.  Maitripala Sirisena won because the majority of the minority and a minority of the majority voted for him, said critics.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s election has challenged the notion that a candidate could not win the Presidency without the Tamil and Muslim vote. The myth that no candidate could win without the support of the Tamil and Muslim political parties, has been exploded, said analysts.  

The 2019 Presidential election showed that a presidential election could be comfortably won without support of minorities   provided the Sinhalese voted in a single group. Up to now, there was no strong united Sinhala vote. The Sinhala vote was divided between the SLFP, UNP, JVP and left parties.  This time, the Sinhala voter rallied round Gotabaya Rajapaksa, magnificently   and voted for the Pohottuwa. The Tamil Separatist Movement can no longer dictate at elections, said analysts.

There was a sizeable ‘minority’ vote going to Sajit Premadasa in 2019 too. The TNA, SLMC (Sri Lanka Muslim Congress) and the ACMC (All Ceylon Makkal Congress) delivered the entire northern and   almost all eastern polling divisions to Sajith Premadasa. The South infuriated by the   alleged UNP-TNA deal, voted heavily against Sajith Premadasa. The Sinhala vote was so large that the significant gains in Jaffna, Vanni, Batticaloa, Trincomalee and Digamadulla electoral districts were wiped out in the final count.

The minorities could always pull off another 2015 style coup in the next election by ganging up behind a Sinhala leader who was willing to do their bidding, but that would then lead to another 2019 type of election, observed Chandraprema. After 2015, voters will now always be vigilant at every election.

Tamil and Muslim voters have been voting for their candidates and for Tamil separatism at every election. No criticism has been made about a ‘communal vote’ then .But after the 2019 elections, where Sinhalese voted en masse, critics complained about a ‘communal vote’.

The recent presidential election is a clear indication of the fact that voting has taken place based on communal lines, said Jayatissa de Costa. Especially after 1977 it is very evident that Sri Lankans cast their vote based on ethnicity and this must be stopped. Sri Lanka’s voting trend based on ethnic lines is not a good thing for the country as a whole, he concluded.

Those supporting the   Tamil Separatist Movement have made strong comments about the 2019 election. In what many have noted to be a disturbing trend, the North and East voted overwhelmingly for Premadasa, they said. That was expected, but what was not expected was the scale of his victory in these districts, they continued.

Premadasa polled over 80 per cent of the vote in the Jaffna and Vanni districts and over 70 per cent in the Trincomalee and Batticaloa districts and over 60 per cent in Digamadulla. Its magnitude has been an eye-opener they said.

The Tamils vote in 2019 was ‘worse’ than in 2015, they continued. In 2015 Mahinda Rajapaksa, in 2015, received 20% of the Northern vote, 26% of the Eastern ballot, and 24% from the N&E vote. Maitripala Sirisena, who received 72% in 2019. Gotabaya Rajapaksa received only 8% of the Northern vote, 24% of the Eastern ballot, and 18% of the total N&E vote.

The low scores for Gotabaya Rajapaksa compared to Mahinda Rajapaksa are not surprising. Gotabaya Rajapaksa has been depicted for the last few years as the person who unleashed the army on the ‘innocent Tamil people’.  Mahinda Rajapaksa on the other hand, went around saying that the war was not against the Tamil people.

 The voting pattern is not as bad as it looks. The North and east had the lowest voter turnout. Voter turn out in Jaffna was 68.43%, in Vanni 76.59%, Puttalam 76.53%, and Trincomalee 78.75%.  In contrast, Hambantota had 87.40 % voting. The population density in the North is also low.

There is also the question of the so called powerful Tamil Diaspora living abroad, who, we are told were very active against Sri Lanka in the west. They did not come to vote at this very critical election.  That is because such a grouping does not exist. The majority of the Tamils in the west   do not wish to get entangled in the Tamil politics of Sri Lanka. They are not interested and they avoid the separatist groups. The Tamil separatist organizations in the west are hired groups. They are of poor quality. The Tamil representatives appearing at the Human Rights Council, Geneva are proof of this. They look and behave like thugs.

 The Tamil vote for the defeated Sajith Premadasa has been interpreted as a great victory for Tamil Separatism. The Tamil National Alliance requested the people to vote for Sajith Premadasa and for his symbol the Swan, said Leader of the Tamil National Alliance R. Sampanthan  .Accepting our request and rejecting the call to boycott or to vote for a Tamil candidate and by voting for Sajith Premadasa the Tamil people have sent a clear message to the leaders of our country and to the international community, that the Tamil people are firm in achieving their rights, within a united, undivided,  indivisible country.

On behalf of the Tamil National Alliance, I wish to take this opportunity to thank the Tamil people who followed our advice and voted for Sajith Premadasa and his symbol of the swan. I also urge that this unity must be preserved and continued said Sampanthan.

Sampanthan urged President Gotabaya to “respect the very substantial democratic verdict of the Tamil people of the North and East.”The people belonging to all Administrative and Electoral districts in the North and the East have very largely voted for Sajith Premadasa who in his Election Manifesto outlined certain features pertaining to the resolution of the longstanding national question.

                       Presidential election 2019

The above map of the 2019 Presidential election shows significant new trends. It shows that there is a strong separatist movement along the coast line. But there are significant breaks in this. In Puttalam electoral district, Chilaw, Wennappuwa, Naththandiya and Anamaduwa were won by Gotabaya. Wennappuwa electorate extends to the sea.

 On the opposite side, on the eastern shore,  Gotabaya Rajapaksa won Seruwila due to the Sinhala population there. Sainthamarathu   also voted  for Gotabaya. Seruwila and Sainthamarathu extend to the sea.   It is now possible to recommend that the Eastern Province be eliminated. The three Eastern divisions should be absorbed into the North Central Province and Uva Province.

NOTE In this series, I have used ‘President Gotabaya’  where relevant,  ‘Gotabaya’ and ‘Gotabaya Rajapaksa’ for events before Gotabaya  Rajapaksa became president. Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa is referred to as ‘Mahinda Rajapaksa’ throughout. (Concluded)

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