15th October 2000
Business| Sports| Sports Plus|
By Neelika de SilvaKing-maker Rauf Hakeem in an interview with The Sunday Times said the NUA had a love-hate relationship with the PA. He did not expect it to be smooth even in the future. Excerpts:
Which of the conditions you laid to the PA have been met ?
Virtually all of them. Particularly we were concerned about restoring the declining credibility relating to the maintenance of democratic traditions. We felt that something needs to be done urgently to restore that confidence to the public as the free will of the electorate could be reflected without unnecessary assaults, intimidation and violence.
Has it been met with the removal of Minister Anuruddha Ratwatte?
No, I am not talking about individuals. I am talking about principles involved.
What exactly were your concrete demands?
I told the PA that the only way to restore the declining confidence of the people in the government to preserve democratic traditions was to improve the institutional capacity. In the alternative they should create strong institutions which can play a supervisory role. Particularly there is a need to establish an independent Elections Commission and an independent Police Commission.
Why didn't you support the UNP?
The gap between the UNP and the PA was too large to reach the magical number 113. Therefore putting together the rag tag coalition with such desperate groups may not lend stability to the government. So first of all we've got to be convinced that whatever government we are going to support should have the stability to go the full hog.
What do you have to say about your allegations of not having a clean election?
There should be an authority invested with the responsibility of being the custodian of our rights. It should take meaningful steps to initiate an inquiry into these incidents of violence and cause that report to be published. It would act as a deterrent to any future attempt at rigging the polls.
But you don't consider this an obstacle in the way of your joining the PA ?
Individuals will come and go. Therefore institutions are necessary to instil confidence in the public. And that is why we are insisting on establishing an independent Elections Commission and an independent Police Commission. That would ensure free and fair polls in the country.
Don't you think that you have not honoured the late Minister Ashraff's last wish by joining the PA ?
You have to look at things in the context of affairs at that particular time. Mr. Ashraff had to leave for the Holy City of Mecca. He returned just a few days before the nominations. And we had the arduous task of finalising nominations within a short time.
In the meantime, we had to liaise with the government. At times we just couldn't establish that necessary link in communication. This led to a lot of misunderstanding leading to that fateful letter addressed to the President.
The President openly regretted her misunderstanding. She said she did not do it purposely and apologised.
Our relationship with the PA has been a love-hate relationship. It was never smooth. And I don't expect it to be smooth in the future as well. If we are a party with some self respect and dignity, we will have to revolt when the need arises. Loyalty means loyalty to the government, a cause or the President. What she believes in is different from preserving your identity within a coalition.
What do you think of the composition of the government ?
The National Unity Alliance (NUA) and the People's Alliance have had a track record of co-operation in the past. The EPDP which is the latest partner has had no direct role in a PA government in the past, though they have been lending conditional support while sitting in the opposition. Now that they have come on to the government benches, as far as we are concerned, they may look like strange bed fellows. But that's politics.
I see the entry of the JVP and MEP as a positive feature. In fact we did have a single JVP member last time, although the MEP was not represented. Both these parties have in their ranks people who can make a positive contribution to the development and democracy of the country.
You demanded Fowzie's head. Where do you stand now?
I think that I should bury the hatchet. We have to turn a new leaf. I don't have any personal animosity towards Mr. Fowzie. If he goes into his half tantrums, what I would do is to simply ignore him.
What did you get from the President ?
We received what we asked for. We have 12 MPs in Parliament. At least
half of them have been amply rewarded.
Addressing a post election press conference at the party office on Friday he said that we have a hung Parliament after four decades, the last such Parliament we had was in March 1960.
Asked what would have been the outcome if there would have been a free and fair election Mr Wickremesinghe replied it would have been a close tie between the UNP and the PA.
He said that it must be mentioned that the UNP was the only party which representation from the 22 districts since 1952.
There had been intimidation,rigging, violence,thuggery etc. on a large scale in areas like Kandy, Hanguranketha, Kegalle, Ratnapura, Puttalam,Jaffna, Nuwara Eliya,Kalawewa,Anamaduwa to name a few he asserted.In many of these places voters were denied of the democratic right to vote he said.
However, he gave credit to the JVP who secured 10 seats, for they got those 10 seats due to a concerted and well planned grass root level campaign throughout the island while the two main parties were concentrating at the district level.
The UNP leader thanked the Elections Commissioner, the Police,the security forces, the media and all those who helped in holding the elections, although it was marred by violence.
Chairman of the UNP Karu Jayasuriya said that the unprecedented scale of violence and still worse the blatant violation of the election law by the state print and electronic media was evident enough to state that the recently concluded election was not free and fair at all.
The state media went on a mud slinging campaign against the UNP leader
right up to the eve of the elections while state resources were mis-used.
Mr. Weerawansa claimed that the JVP which emerged as a third force by winning 10 seats was targeting 12 seats. However, they could have achieved it if there was a free and fair election.
The JVP lashed out at the ruling People's Alliance for the mass scale violence during the election.
'The rigging which took place in Anuradhapura and Kegalle was a major set back, because we lost more than 1,000 votes, affecting the overall figure. We could have easily won a seat. In several areas it was not the people's verdict that elected the individuals instead it was mass scale rigging by thugs,' he said.
'We are happy that the people elected us although we did not give them false promises.
Our victory was based on true politics," he said. 'As a left party we have created history by contesting an election on our own and gaining ten seats. The JVP has emerged as an alternative to both parties," he said.
The JVP described the newly formed government as weak since it was ruled by two minority groups, the SLMC and the EPDP.
'When we analyse the votes the SLMC gained it is less than 200,000. But they managed to play it in a subtle way so that the PA is at their mercy.
Even the EPDP will make their demands . The two parties are like stock
brokers. The PA will face a major setback in a few months. Finally two
minority parties will rule the country," he said.
"The results very clearly show that the people are getting closer to moderate political parties than to the armed groups. We have given up arms and the people have voted for us," he said. He said the decentralised budget allocation would be utilised by the party to improve infrastructure facilities in the Wanni region.
"We will concentrate on the facilities for displaced persons living in the Wanni region," he said.
The TELO returned three out of the six members from the Wanni region
by securing 21,705 votes from a total of 83,193 valid votes.
The working classes stood by the people. This is clear from the results of the postal voting where the PA won in almost all the electorates. The President is someone who is always ready for a dialogue with the working class. Although the opposition went on about the cost of living, people chose to vote for the right to life and the freedom of expression that they have enjoy under this government. People have the right to picket and the right to strike now.
Explaining reasons why the PA did not do well in Colombo he said the business community was against the PA fearing a run down in the economy if we returned to power. But our vote came from the farmer, the rural folk and the down trodden.
Mr. Moulana commenting on election violence said, 'This is very unfortunate.
This is the unfortunate situation created by the Proportional Representation
(PR) system which causes friction and division within a family and within
a party. The President and the government do not condone violence from
any quarters. Our party has been at the receiving end of most of the violence
especially from the LTTE.
By Hiranthi FernandoExplaining defeat at the general election held recently, the Sihala Urumaya leader S. L. Gunasekera said that the party has polled over 100,000 votes. However, he alleges mass scale rigging prevented the party from getting more votes.
As far as the Sihala Urumaya is concerned, I think we lost a lot of votes in the last week prior to the election. The UNPers who had earlier decided to vote for us changed their minds, concerned that if they did not vote for UNP, the PA may succeed in forming the government. Similarly, the PA supporters who were fed up and came to us, thought if they voted for the Sihala Urumaya, the UNP may form a government.
The main thrust of our campaign was the dangers facing the country with the proposals, agreed upon by the PA and the UNP, to create a Federal state in the country. The majority of voters failed to see the reality. Their primary concern was whether the PA or the UNP would rule the country. One set wanted to topple the government and put the UNP in power while the other set wanted to see that the UNP could not make any headway. So regrettably, the main national issue had obviously not influenced the voter's decision to the extent that it should.
The other point I want to bring up is the rampant thuggery in the country. To my mind it was something unprecedented in any general election. In 1989 there was thuggery, but that was by the JVP. That was not thuggery to make one party win but to disrupt elections. Here was a clear case of the government itself stuffing ballot boxes, intimidating voters, and taking ballot papers away.
There was also the unprecedented case of the General Secretary of the party in power, informing the Head of State well in time, of the activities of the supporters of Anurudha Ratwatte, Deputy Minister of Defence. The President said she would back the Elections Commissioner in anything he did. But, there was nothing the Commissioner could do before the elections. He could not command the Police. Only the President or the Deputy Minister of Defence could do so. Corrective steps should have been taken by the President. So really, of all the districts in the country, the polls should have been the fairest in Kandy.
The President said she gave orders. If that is true, then those orders must have been disobeyed. If the orders were followed, you cannot have the polling in so many polling stations annulled and so much of thuggery and violence in Kandy. So if the orders were given and they have been disobeyed, there should have been by now some police officers interdicted or sent on compulsory leave or some inquiry against them. No such thing has been done.
If the President genuinely wanted a free and fair election, how is it that not even a show cause letter had been sent to Anuruddha Ratwatte who has been named in the complaint by no less a person than the General Secretary of the party. If it was the UNP alone making allegations one could say they are biased. But here is the General Secretary of the PA making a very serious allegation. The person who is responsible for maintaining peace is breaking the peace.
On election day, it was a farce, not only in Kandy but in other areas
as well. A poll can be annulled only in certain circumstances. The Presiding
Officer has to make a report. If the Presiding Officer is too frightened
to make a report the matter ends there.
The first is that a large number of Tamil people have been displaced and dislocated. They are living in different parts of the district and some in other districts and other countries. The Tamil people were not able to exercise their franchise in a wholesome way. Various undemocratic methods were resorted to by other contestants, who are still armed and able to intimidate the voters and even the rival contestants. Adequate security has not been given to unarmed contestants. Police authorities had to obtain the clearance of the Defence Ministry to give permanent security to our candidates.
In Vavuniya for example, our candidates were hindered in their campaigning. Voters in uncleared areas had to travel seven to eight miles to the cleared areas to vote. In such areas, polling was nil or minimal.
A large number of Tamil voters are not in the country. Those in the country had to exercise their franchise in a very difficult and undemocratic environment. It was an ordeal, an unequal contest. They were subjected to all manner of impediments. We do not look upon the election results as reflecting a genuinely democratic verdict of the people in the north and east. I would say it is an aberration of existing ground reality.
Other political parties influenced our voters by unfair methods. Our party managed to get five seats in the north and east. Everything being equal, we should have got double that number. Though it was an unequal contest, we could not keep away as a democratic party.
There was violence in the north and east during election. In Jaffna,
one political party was able to behave as if it was the government. It
was able to dispense favours even while the election was on.
TELO and TULF have also sent written submissions to the Elections Commissioner said the ACTC's general secretary Kumaraguruparan.
Mr. Kumaraguruparan said the Elections Chief annulled only the voting in the Mullaitivu booths. "We were very disappointed. We feel that he has given justice for the Sinhalese and not for the Tamils,"he said.
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