Voters in urban and semi-rural Sri Lanka, not unexpectedly, think differently as voting patterns emerged for the upcoming January 8 presidential poll a joint poll by the Business Times (BT) and Research Consultancy Bureau (RCB) has revealed. The BT-RCB poll conducted on email and on the streets of Nugegoda, Borella and Maradana this week found [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

Infrastructure, rule of law emerge as top issues among working/urban class, BT-RCB poll shows

BT-RCB pre-election poll

Voters in urban and semi-rural Sri Lanka, not unexpectedly, think differently as voting patterns emerged for the upcoming January 8 presidential poll a joint poll by the Business Times (BT) and Research Consultancy Bureau (RCB) has revealed.

The BT-RCB poll conducted on email and on the streets of Nugegoda, Borella and Maradana this week found that the urban affluent and semi-affluent community believe the proper application of the “rule of law” was the main priority while among semi-rural and the working class population, infrastructure development was the most important issue.

The BT poll on an email data base that includes different kinds of professionals, corporate and public sector executives, academics and students drew over 400 responses while the RCB survey tapped more than 700 respondents on the streets reflecting a broader Western Province perspective.

A list of six priorities was presented to respondents in both polls, carefully compiled to equally reflect the campaigns and issues raised by the two main presidential aspirants – incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa and former minister Maithripala Sirisena. For instance priorities like infrastructure development and developing the rural economy were weighted in favour of President Rajapaksa while maintaining the rule of law and abolishing the Executive Presidency was the campaign plank of Mr. Sirisena.

Two other priorities – no recurrence of the ethnic conflict and greater employment opportunities – were considered neutral issues.

While email respondents voted ‘rule of law’ and ending ‘the executive presidency’ as the two main priorities, RCB respondents listed infrastructure development and ‘other comments’ as the most important.

RCB created an ‘Other Comments’ priority to list other issues raised by respondents which were not in the list of provided priorities. Issues in ‘Other Comments’ included ‘Drop in Income’, ‘Fights/Conflicts/Instability’; ‘Less family power (Rajapaksa’s)’, ‘Reduce price of goods’, ‘Change in voting system’, ‘Reduce corruption’, ‘Need media freedom’, ‘Less drugs’, ‘Strong Opposition’ and ‘Freedom to the People’.

The RCB poll was conducted differently and not as straightforward as the BT’s email version. Without presenting a list of priorities or any prompting, street respondents were first asked to name the changes they expect after the presidential election. Subsequently they were presented the list of six priorities and asked to comment.

Mixed views from the people on the President, Maithripala

More than 90 comments were received in the street poll by the Research Consultancy Bureau (RCB). These have been categorised (for convenience) into three sections reflecting pro-Mahinda, pro-oppostion and neutral views.
In favour of Mahinda Rajapaksa:
1. Presidential rule is necessary to correct our people. Without a system like this our people cannot be corrected.
2. It is likely that if the President is not re-elected the climate for war will return, once again.
3. Maithripala (Sirisena) has no experience in governance and it is very likely that he – and the country – will face difficulties.
4. Only some provisions in the Presidential system need to be amended.
5. There is hope for the country under the President.
6. There should be a President to take brave decisions to face the increasing influence from foreign forces.
7. There is no future for those who change their political party.
8. The war situation can crop up (again).
9. This (presidential) system needs to run for another 20 -30 years to develop the country.
10. There won’t be a recurrence of the war.
11. There can be foreign influence (if there is a change).
12. There is a need to retain the Executive Presidential System to avoid a repetition of the war.
13. Let’s hope the present President will be re-elected.
14. This is not the time for a change in the Presidential System.
15. There will never be another war: That is not possible.
16. If the present incumbent is not re-elected there will be a war in the near future.
17. The Executive President can contest on three occasions only and the President maintains that stand.
18. The government is strong. The President will return.

In favour of Maithripala/the opposition:

1. Growth of family power needs to be terminated.
2. There is no independence of the judiciary in this country. The rule of law does not prevail.
3. The Sri Lanka population is caught up in poverty and don’t have real future.
4. The dictatorship feature in the Executive Presidency needs to be altered.
5. Fear psychosis is being fanned by the Government to grab votes of the people, saying there would be a revival of ethnic clashes.
6. The government is misleading the public saying that it has won the war.
All these development projects are not financed by the money saved from ending the war, but by large scale borrowings by mortgaging future generations.
7. There should be good governance for a country to progress.
8. There is a need for a political change if the country is to move forward.
9. There is a huge space for corruption and this culture needs a change.
10. Politicians continue their way while the public suffer due to high prices of commodities and cost of living.
11. Rajapaksa’s will hold onto power.
12. There needs to be a change for justice and the rule of law to prevail.
13. There needs to be justice for the small man and the lower classes.
14. The cost of living is high due to corruption and waste.
15. There is bad financial management.
16. The country is caught in a financial trap due to high foreign debt.
17. Educational reforms are needed.
18. Public utilities need to be upgraded.
19. Development needs to be felt by the people.
20. People of the country must be able to feel the relief which is not there.
21. There is a need for clean, democratic governance
22. Democracy needs to be restored.
23. Corruption and cheating must end.
24. Bribery needs to be arrested.
25. Corruption, bribery need to be arrested.
26. Proper good governance needs to be enforced.
27. There will be no change in the system the things are going.
28. There is limited scope for employment in rural areas.
29. The rule of law needs to be applied equally both for ordinary citizens and the sons of Ministers.
30. Village labour needs to be properly remunerated.
31. The country needs a change.
32. This Hitler-like administration must end.
33. What is the use of highways if the people have no money to go on them?
34. Our children have been mortgaged through growing debt and loans.
35. The President is misusing presidential powers and taking revenge from opponents.
36. The people who surround the President are the ones ruining the country.
37. Rule of law must be restored.
38. Dictatorship must end.
39. Developing the highway network alone is not sufficient.
40. There is a belief that a UNP-involved regime can create an environment where the people would have (more) money in their hands.
41. There is a need for the rule of law to prevail.
42. Corruption and bribery in the state and private sector must be arrested.
43. We need a Police Service that respects the rule of law.
44. We need a society with ethics and respect for traditions.
45. There is a shortage of housing for the poor. What can you do with a salary of Rs. 15,000 these days?
46. There is no faith in the Police Service and the law and wherever we go we confront problems.
47. Maithripala (Sirisena) is a clean man.
48. Justice must be seen to be done.
49. Ranil (Wickremasinghe) is an experienced leader.
50. We can’t rely on what happened in the past.
51. If Mahinda is returned to power there will be a civil war in the country.
52. Ranil can create employment opportunities.
53. People must have the freedom.
54. We need a Police Commission.
55. There are loopholes in the legal system and this needs reforms.
56. The executive presidential system has no relevance to the poor.

Neutral views:

1. All politicians are corrupt. There are no sincere leaders.
2. Anyone who comes to power (or are in power) will not change the Executive Presidency although it is widely discussed to abolish the same.
3. The price of essentials would be revised in the post Presidential Election period.
5. This system has two sides of the coin. On one side there is the rule of law and the other side, the rule of the thumb which is needed to govern countries like this.
6. The UPFA has divided opinions.
8. Everywhere there is lies and deception to mislead the public.
9. The apparel sector needs upgrading and production needs to be increased.
10. Employment opportunities need to be expanded.
11. Promises need to be fulfilled.
12. The rural base for the economy, employment and infrastructure needs to be developed.
13. A Centre for productivity and economic development in the rural base is needed.
14. Promises are always given but never implemented.
15. The call to abolish the Presidential system has been there for a long time but no action taken to enforce it.
16. It is not material development but spiritual development that is needed.
17. People and politicians change once power is bestowed on them.
18. There will be post-election violence between supporters of Mahinda and Maithripala.
29. Rural industries need to be developed.
20. People need to know the salary packages that the legislators receive.

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