A wake-up call | Daily News

A wake-up call

It certainly is a wake-up call for the Yahapalanaya government. Yesterday's local government election results went onto prove just how fickle our voters can be. It may be difficult for many to contemplate as to how a government, which was elected with such a fund of goodwill only three years ago hit such a nadir, as demonstrated by yesterday's electoral outcome. It (result) certainly smacked of a massive protest vote against the government for its failures on many fronts. The unusually large voter turnout at Saturday's election tells a tale. No doubt, the rising living costs, and, allegations of corruption within government ranks took a heavy toll. So was the procrastination in dealing with the corrupt, in the Rajapaksa government, casting doubts in the minds of the voters, on the authenticity of such charges.

The government also erred in not responding effectively to the charges leveled against it by the Joint Opposition. The silence no doubt created a negative image of it in the eyes of the voting public. For instance, the JO's aim at the government, accusing it of selling state assets, such as the Hambantota port and Mattala airport apparently found it's mark. Government worthies were not effective enough in countering these allegations.

At the time this is being written the pohottuwa, under the leadership of Mahinda Rajapaksa, has virtually swept the board leaving only a handful of Pradeshiya Sabhas and Urban Councils with the UNP. Of course, as expected, it won the Colombo, Kandy and Galle Municipal Councils, and, surprisingly, bagged the Hambantoa MC as well. The SLFP/UPFA was lagging far behind even in some of its strongholds with the pohottuwa winning a couple of LG councils Polonnaruwa, the President's home turf.

No doubt, there will be much soul searching on the part of the government. It should get down to the drawing boards and try to ascertain where it erred and take remedial measures in order to wrest the initiative back. The groundswell of public opinion against the government, due to its failure to tackle the day-to-day problems too had its impact. The huge majorities scored by the pohottuwa in the rural areas was proof that the government had alienated a large segment of farmers and the peasantry who have to undergo a harsh existence. The failure to promptly respond to the difficulties of the farmers like providing fertilizer on time and also problems they face in disposing their paddy harvests, no doubt, exacted a heavy price in terms of the massive protest vote. The current drought and destruction of crops certainly added to the frustration which was taken out on the government at Saturday's LG election. The bond issue too proved crucial, in the voters making their minds, especially as it was made to overshadow every other scam of the Rajapaksas.

In addition, the spate of protests, the frequent doctors’ strikes, street demonstrations and student agitations, almost on a daily basis showed the government up for being ineffective and powerless. Of course, such protests were dealt with an iron fist by Mahinda Rajapaksa. Still the pubic could not help but juxtapose the present situation with the discipline that prevailed during that era and found the government wanting on this score.

Certainly, the anticipated split in the SLFP/UPFA voter did not take place, with the blues virtually being decimated and the pohottuwa carrying all before it. President Sirisena may be ruing the opportunity he frittered away in taking disciplinary action against Mahinda Rajapaksa and the JO parliamentarians for going against the party, and, what is more, forming a party of their own. Now that MR had given leadership to the new party and won elections under its banner, it would be interesting to see what the President's next move is going to be.

The UNP, for its part, has much repair work to do, if it is to regain the initiative. There is a full two years left before the Presidential Election, ample time to catch up and remedy the mistakes. It is not clear as to the fate of the agreement signed between the unity government, in the wake of the election results. Of course, in a large number of local councils where the UNP or SLFP/UPFA lost, the tally of their combined votes exceeded that of the pohottuwa, and, therefore, as a unit, could muster a majority in these councils.

Be that as it may, the just concluded local government election, held under the old ward system, after a period of 41 years, was one of the most peaceful elections held in this country in recent times. The police acted impartially and even went to extent of detaining government candidates for violation of election laws. Elections Commission Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya deserves all the kudos for holding the scales evenly, and, implementing the laws to the letter, without fear or favour. The unprecedented voter turnout (in some LG councils it was over 85%) was proof that the people exercised their franchise in an atmosphere free of fear and tension. No state resources were abused by the governing party, unlike in the past. It clearly was democracy at work.


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The PM should be smart in delivering the services to the people. PM always talks about very long-term programmes and projects without resolving the crying needs of the people. The cabinet also should be smart. Fuel supply delays, delays in paying compensations to affected people, the UMA Oya project crisis, SAITM issue, demands of doctors and other unions need to be heard and resolved without delay for the govt was to win over the people. The delays in supplying fertilizer and paddy marketing issues have created severe problems to the poor peasants. The ministers were not focussed to these issues. Thay must act proactively to provide an acceptable solution. Otherwise, it would be better for the PM and cabinet of ministers to surrender the governance to others and retire from politics with honor.


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