Anti-UNP votes will not be divided – Vasudeva Nanayakkara
Posted on December 24th, 2017

By Rathindra Kuruwita Courtesy Ceylon Today

The nomination period for the 2018 local government election drew to an end last week and campaigning will commence earnestly in the coming days. Ceylon Today spoke to MP Vasudeva Nanayakkara about the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) preparation and the setbacks the party received after a number of nomination lists were rejected.

Following are excerpts:

The nomination period for the 2018 local government election is over and campaigning has begun. How has the early days of campaigning been for the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP)?

A: The nomination period was eventful for almost all the parties and there seems to have been clashes between aspirant candidates. Because of these clashes and disappointments, some candidates have become estranged from their parties. They have either joined other parties or have become neutralized or hostile.

In a way this is unavoidable as there have been close to 100,000 aspirant candidates and their hardcore supporters were vying against each other during the nomination campaign. Since there were a lot of hopes riding on this process and so many people were fighting for a limited number of places, it is easy for people to get upset and crossover to a side offering greener pastures.

However I don’t think that the masses that are already politically aligned will change their minds although some of their leaders have changed their minds.

You are contesting in an alliance, which includes the SLPP, were you able to include your nominees in the lists?

A: We are in the alliance, which includes the SLPP at the centre. So we are not under the SLPP but a part of the alliance. The powers of our alliance have been distributed evenly, of course with proportionate privileges to those who have the largest segments of political power.

Therefore, the numbers of nominees we can include differ and I am satisfied with the openings that I received.

As you said the nomination process seem to have been complicated for all parties, but it seems that it has been more so for the SLPP. Over 10 SLPP nomination lists have been rejected, which is a lot more than any other party. Why is this? Is it because of negligence, inexperience or internal clashes?

A: In any election a number of nomination lists are rejected. If the SLPP had some issues in preparing the nomination lists, it was because the SLPP was handling a lot more aspirants for nominations than any other party. There are political parties who had to struggle to find candidates, for those parties things are easy. But since we had so many applications, the selection process was long and complex. When a process is long and complex, the possibility of minor errors happening also increase, I think this is what happened to our nominations.

So I must reiterate that each party has its own problems and crossovers, but it is proportionate to the numbers of candidates that these parties had to process. But already we have taken legal action to reverse these decisions and I am certain that those in the rejected lists will be able to contest.

As you mentioned the party has taken legal action to revert the decision to reject some candidates lists. Do you think that your efforts will be successful?

A: Most of the lists have been rejected due to small technical errors but legal action has already been taken to restore them and I am sure we will be successful.

SLPP leaders have always insisted that the party has great support at the grassroots level. However, there does not seem to be any unity in command or strategy, with leaders leaving the party at a regular basis?

A: Our alliance has the masses behind it at the grassroots. While some area leaders have crossed over, this has not affected our strength at the village level. Some individuals can be won over through bribes, but we are a mass movement of people and our supporters are not of the wavering kind.

Talking about the leaders that have left, I must say that the government has begun not only to bribe politicians but also it has begun to bribe the voters at a massive scale. There are massive distributions of goods by the UNP; this directly assists the UNP candidates.

The government is also now distributing a sahana malla (a relief package) which is being distributed through Sathosa and other supermarkets. In this relief package, several items of food are sold at wholesale rates or at lesser rates. All these contribute to stemming of the unpopularity of the government and thereby affecting the electorate through inducements.

This is wrong according to election laws which clearly say that a party or a candidate can’t influence a person to come onto your side by either duress or inducement. By distributing ‘relief packages’ the government is resorting to inducement. On the other hand the government has the coercive power through the strength of the police and therefore they will also use this coercive power overtly and covertly to put the voters under duress.

This relief package is bribery because it’s an inducement in order to get the electors to vote for the government because the government is distributing the favours. We have complained to the Elections Commission but the head of the Elections Commission says that such distribution of goods through government programmes and projects is legitimate. But I don’t see how it is different from a candidate taking some food items and distributing among the people. This is the same principle which happens in a more general way.

Earlier you said that the government has lured SLPP leaders through bribes. Are you talking about Digamadulla district UPFA MP Sriyani Wijewickrama who was sworn in as the State Minister of Provincial Councils and Local Government after leaving the SLPP?

A: Yes, someone like Sriyani Wijewickrama who crossed over from us has now been appointed a State Minister. That’s another example of what privileges one can enjoy if one joins the government, and this is wrong according to election laws. More than that it is not ethical to cross over after being elected to Parliament with our votes.

There have been a number of others who have also crossed over and they will also get privileges in different ways. We might hear about some of them while others we might not hear but be assured that they did not leave us because of political disagreements or matters of principle.

One of the main allegations against the SLPP by the SLFP-Maithripala faction is that the SLPP is a collection of minor parties piggybacking on misguided SLFP voters and that your actions will relegate the SLFP to the opposition?

A: That’s not true; I think it’s the other way around. The SLFP is trying to piggyback on the SLPP that is why they tried to join us desperately. The President is in a difficult dilemma. He does not know whether to contest the election alone and lose badly or whether to contest with another party as the SLPP rightly dismissed their proposals. The SLPP can’t have anything to do with those in the government with the UNP.

The coming local government election will be held according to the Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) system, a combination of the First-Past-the-Post (FPP) and Proportional Representation (PR). So to be elected a party needs to win the majority of the votes in a ward. By contesting separately, the SLPP has effectively divided the anti UNP votes. Isnt this the truth?

A: Yes that maybe true if the anti UNP votes are divided, then it will assist the UNP. But the fact is that the anti UNP votes will not be divided because anti UNP votes are antigovernment as well. Thus they are anti SLFP as well.

In 2015 the UNP got the combined vote of the UNP and some of the SLFP votes. However, the SLFP voters would have crossed over to our side due to the unpopularity of the government. The UNP and the UNP’s allies will be left with the balance, only a remnant of what they received at the last general election. Therefore, there will be no division in the anti UNP vote.

How confident are you of electoral success in the coming local government election?

A: I can’t tell a number but I am sure a large majority of seats will be ours. What will be more surprising are the gains we would make in the North and East, which voted against us in the previous Presidential Election. Now the voters have swung towards us in a remarkable way. We didn’t use to have large number of votes there during the last Presidential or General election, but things will be different this time and that will have a great impact on the outcome.

Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa is considered the de facto leader of the SLPP. However, it seems that he has not joined the campaign. Nether have the SLFP MPs who used to support the SLPP vocally. Have they been intimidated after the President threatened to take action against SLFP MPs who would support any other party during the election?

A: I don’t think that there is any problem with Mahinda Rajapaksa or SLFP MPs of the Joint Opposition not campaigning for us because people know that they support us implicitly.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.



Copyright © 2024 All Rights Reserved. Powered by Wordpress