From the Green Corner

14th November 1999

Let's not fool ourselves

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Reading my unseen friend Paakshikaya's column last week, many of my friends said they all noticed one strange feature: he did not gloat over the fact that five MPs had crossed over to the Peoples' Alliance. Now, this is election month and Paakshikaya is known to boast of his party's conquests, but not so on this occasion and that reveals a little secret. Tell me my friend, are your party people really happy to see these people in your ranks? Or is it yet another of the plans hatched by the pea-brained advisors to Her Excellency?

Judging from the initial public reaction, Paakshikaya, the PA seems to have lost rather than gained by the crossovers. If you watched the 'Rathu Ira' phone-in programme last week, you would have realised it. Of course some, including Sarath Amunugama, said that the viewers who phoned in were setup by the UNP but we in the UNP do know that there was no such plan and we therefore know it was a genuine reaction!

To put it in a nutshell, Paakshikaya, the UNP was voted out of power by the people in 1994 because you campaigned on the slogan of 'dooshanaya and beeshanaya' and also promised to solve the ethnic question. Today, by accepting these former UNPers, you have taken in to your fold two people-Wijeyapala Mendis and Nanda Mathew- who epitomized the 'dooshanaya and beeshanaya' allegedly perpetrated by the UNP. And by enlisting the support of Susil Moonesinghe you have enrolled another perceived to be rabble-rouser who will adopt a hard-line stance on the ethnic question.

And then, the ordinary voter will look at the PA and say 'we voted for them to eliminate 'dooshanaya and beeshanaya' and now those who were blamed for that are in the PA and the UNP has got rid of them!' So, dear Paakshikaya I believe you are more sensible than some of your colleagues which is why you were not so enthusiastic about the entry of these personalities to the PA.

And I'm told that there is already dissension within your ranks about these ex-UNPers and that is the story behind their appointment as Ministers on 'Special Assignment'. Wasn't Sarath Amunugama promised the Public Administration portfolio and likewise, wasn't Nanda Mathew promised the Posts and Telecommunications portfolio, Paakshikaya? And wasn't there some opposition from the incumbent ministers? And isn't it also true that no other minister offered to hand over at least part of a portfolio to the new entrants?

So, my dear friend, let's not fool ourselves: these crossovers are just the death rattle of a desperate government in its last stages. We have no objection to them because as our leader said your president is doing the UNP a service because she is taking care of the dirt in his own house! But these crossovers also reveal another important fact- that you will stoop to anything to win the next election. And it is on this aspect that I wish to enlighten our readers more because I know that your Samurdhi Minister S. B. Dissanayake has been entrusted with a lot of responsibility these days.

I say so, Paakshikaya because we have learnt from our grassroots organizations that your Samurdi Niyamakas are visiting UNPers and promising them Samurdi grants- but only if their polling cards are handed over to the Niyamakas who, of course, will do the needful on polling day! If the UNPers refuse, threats and coercion are unhesitatingly used. These Samurdi Niyamakas are indeed the eyes, ears and 'athakoluwas' of the PA. But that is not all, Paakshikaya. Samurdi Niyamakas in areas where the UNP is expected to do well have been directed to identify those who will actively work for the UNP on polling day. They will be visited by "strangers"- persons recruited from another, distant village- and "advised" not to work for the UNP. If they do not comply, more "persuasive" methods will be used.

Then, each Samurdi Niyamaka will be given 50 ballot papers- presumably printed by the Government Press- to organize 50 persons who will go to vote with a ballot paper of their own! They will go to the polling booth, get their legitimate ballot paper and then cast their votes, one legal and the other illegal, without much of a hindrance. This will be done in areas where the UNP are favourites, the aim being to close the gap. The ballot papers will be delivered via the party apparatus on the 20th of December, we hear.

Finally, Samurdi Niyamakas are presently collecting information of persons who are not in the country- remember, there are a half a million housemaids alone! - and of persons who have expired: a total of about a million votes. I need not say for whom these votes would be cast, need I? So, my dear Paakshikaya this is how the PA - or at least some sections of it-plan to influence people and win elections. And why not, your party people have already have done their apprenticeship for this at Wayamba, haven't they?

Now, my friend, if memory serves me right during that infamous Wayamba episode, you prided yourself on using your good offices to condemn what happened at Wayamba and said that you were partly responsible for the relatively fair elections that followed in the other provinces. Well, Paakshikaya, what will you say to these tactics? I have explained at length what the PA tactics will be. Tell us whether this is only another moronic idea emanating from the Samurdi Ministry or whether this has blessings from the highest levels. And pray tell us what you propose to do about it, will you?

But I must also tell you this, Paakshikaya. We are aware of the ground reality and we have taken our own measures to counteract such methods- so, don't say you weren't warned. And as far as predicting who the winner will be on December 21st, I agree with you that Anura Bandaranaike is a good predictor of election outcome but not in the way you say he is, Paakshikaya. Remember what happened to the UNP in 1994? Anura Bandaranaike crossed-over with eight MPs and was appointed a Minister- and the UNP lost the election. Now, we have Sarath Amunugama crossing-over to the PA with five MPs. So, surely Paakshikaya, you must know what the outcome is!

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