The Sunday Leader

RECORD NUMBER OF CANDIDATES

poli-mahin

Mahinda Rajapaksa

The country is once again gearing up for a presidential election, with a record number of 22 candidates. However, whether the voters have a choice when exercising their franchise is a perennial question that has plagued the country since the introduction of the Executive Presidency in 1977.

The presidential election this time has become a battle between two contenders to claim credit for the military victory against the LTTE by the security forces earlier this year.

Apart from the two main candidates, President Mahinda Rajapaksa and common candidate for the opposition, General Sarath Fonseka, the remaining candidates claim to be the ones with alternative programmes to address the issues faced by the country. Their objective is to raise issues not addressed by the two main candidates.

Yet the main focus of the election is bound to be dominated by the war and deciding who is the actual saviour of the country from a three-decade long terrorism menace.

Gen. Sarath Fonseka

Gen. Sarath Fonseka

President Rajapaksa acted as the commanding officer of the three forces in the war against the LTTE, while Fonseka played a key role in the war as the Army Commander.
However, the extravagant pre-nomination campaigns launched by the President and the General are clear indications of the emphasis that will be placed on the war victory.

General Fonseka has pledged to abolish what he claims to be the root cause of all ills, the Executive Presidency, soon after assuming office. President Rajapaksa meanwhile claims to continue with his development programme for the country as highlighted in the Mahinda Chinthana policy framework.

The campaigns for the sixth presidential election have been launched following the handing over of nominations last week. President Rajapaksa and Fonseka launched their election campaigns on Friday amidst large gatherings in Anuradhapura and Kandy respectively.

M.C.M. Ismail, M.B. Thaminimula, Achala Asoka Suraweera and K.G.R.L. Perera

M.C.M. Ismail, M.B. Thaminimula, Achala Asoka Suraweera and K.G.R.L. Perera

Several independent candidates and those backed by political parties claim that neither of the main candidates have managed to address the real grievances of the minority communities and of the people.

G.O. Aruna de Soyza, Wije Dias, Ven.Battaramulle Seelarathana Thero and P.D.P.S.A. Liyanage

G. O. Aruna de Soyza, Wije Dias, Ven. Battaramulle Seelarathana Thero, P. D. P. S. A. Liyanage, W.M.U.B. Wijekoon and C. J. Sugathsiri Gamage

They say the two main candidates will not be in a position to address the issues faced by the country if elected to office.

Sarath Manamendra, Mahiman Ranjith and Sarath Pinnaduwa

Sarath Manamendra, Mahiman Ranjith and Sarath Pinnaduwa

Restoring and protecting democracy and addressing the minority issues are dominant factors raised by the other 20 candidates.

A. Senaratna Silva, L.M. Ilyas and Sirithunga Jayasooriya

A. Senaratna Silva, L.M. Ilyas and Sirithunga Jayasooriya

The only independent Tamil candidate at the election, TNA Parliamentarian M.K. Sivajilingam, says the Tamil-speaking people have lost faith in the main candidates because neither of them has managed to address their concerns in the past.

Sivajilingam said that his main aim in entering the fray is to ensure that neither one of the main contenders receive the required 50% votes in the first count.

“Being defeated in the first round will make them open their eyes to the real issues,” he said.

Interestingly, most of the candidates have acknowledged the fact that the real contest is between two candidates and all they can do is call attention to their demands. Come January 26, 14,088,500 persons will be eligible to exercise their franchise to elect the next Executive President of the country. There has been an increase of 761,340 voters since the last presidential election in 2005.

But even with 22 candidates the voters are once again left with no proper choice, with the battle lines being drawn between two candidates.

“There was no choice, we had to choose the lesser evil,” responded an opposition politician when asked why his party decided to support a certain candidate during the 2005 presidential election. These words may ring true to many voters forced to decide on their next head of state come January 26.

Dr. Wickremabahu Karunarartne
box-1Q: Why did you decide to contest the presidential election?

A: The two main candidates are agents of foreign powers. One is a direct agent of the US while Mahinda works with world powers. Therefore, they are agents of foreign powers. Both are chauvinists. The Sunday Leader has exposed human rights violations that have taken place towards the end of the war. The government says it is a military secret, but it is a military secret only if the incidents have taken place. These people are killers and stage-managed. I stand for independence, freedom, democracy, right of self-determination, equality, autonomy and homeland for the Tamil speaking people. I have been fighting for these since 1974. Members of our party have been killed by the JVP as a result. I believe in the citizenship of estate workers. Both main candidates are anti-Sri Lankan, anti-people and anti-freedom forces.

Q: If elected what would you do that is not being done now?

A: I will immediately abolish the PTA, lift  the Emergency and release political prisoners like Tissainayagam. I will also empower the workers and peasants. A discussion will also be initiated with the Tamil leaders to bring a solution. I will not support separatism, but will campaign immediately and work out a programme for freedom, democracy and a new constitution.

Q: Why would the public believe in you?

A: The public will believe because they know my policies. They know very well what I stand for. But people are not ready for such a revolutionary change. Therefore, they put false leaders into power. Now they are beginning to realise the need for a radical change and those who are for it will support me.

Q: What will be the theme of your campaign?

A: Freedom, democracy, a solution based on equality and autonomy, and the right of self-determination of Tamil-speaking people.

Q: Why are Sri Lankans always stuck for choices when it comes to appointing their leaders?

A: People are generally opportunistic and look for a soft way out. It is not only in Sri Lanka, but it’s always the case. People try out false puppets first. They go through all kinds of gospels before coming to the right one.

The 22 Presidential Candidates

1. Mahinda Rajapaksa (United People’s Freedom Alliance)
2. Sarath Chandralal Fonseka (New Democratic Front)
3. Sirithunga Jayasooriya (United Socialist Front)
4. M.B. Thaminimulla (Okkoma Vesiyo-Okkoma Rajavaru Sanvidhanya)
5. Sarath Manamendra (Nava Sihala Urumaya)
6. Achala Asoka Suraweera (National Development Front)
7. Anura Liyanage (Sri Lanka Labour Party)
8. Ven. Battaramulle Seelaratana Thero (Jana Setha Front)
9. Dr. Wickremabahu Karunaratne (Left Front)
10. L.M. Iliyas (Independent)
11. Wije Dias (Samajavadhi Samanatha Pakshaya)
12. Sarath Kongahage (United National Alternative Front)
13. K.G.R.L. Perera (Our National Front)
14. Mira Mohideen Mohamed Mustafa (Independent)
15. Kanagalingam Sivajilingam (Independent)
16. W.M.U.B. Wijekoon (Independent)
17. M.C.M. Ismail (Democratic United National Front)
18. Oswald Anura de Zoysa (Ruhunu Janatha Party)
19. Sanath Pinnaduwa (National Alliance)
20. Adurage Seneratne Silva (Deshapremi Jathika Peramuna)
21. C.J. Sugathsiri Gamage (United Democratic Front)
22. Mahiman Ranjith (Independent)

Sarath Kongahage

box-4Q: Why did you decide to contest the presidential election?

A: I believe in campaigning to protect democracy in the country.

Q: If elected what would you do that is not being done now?

A: I would enhance the democratic institutions and will also consider a change of the constitution to give more power to parliament. I don’t believe in totally abolishing the Executive Presidency. I have always believed that the Executive Presidency should not be abolished.

Q: Why would the public believe in you?

A: My credentials have been honorable and people know it. I have always said that terrorism should be eradicated by crushing it militarily. I have also advocated a political solution to the ethnic issue. Since 1988 from the time I was in the Mahajana Party with Vijaya Kumaratunga I have not changed my stance.

Q: What will be the theme of your campaign?

A: Protecting democracy and preventing military rule.

Q: Why are Sri Lankans always stuck for choices when it comes to appointing their leaders?

A: Under the presidential system the main race has always been between two candidates. This is the case in any country and not only in Sri Lanka. It is not a question of having choices – this is the system in every country.

M.M. Mustafa

box-3Q: Why did you decide to contest the presidential election?

A: I have not been able to do anything at the Ministry I was allocated, as I was not given any duties. I was idling and in June 2008 I vacated office. I couldn’t do any development work in my area, Kalmunai, which was the worst affected by the tsunami. Everyone is talking of resettlement in the Wanni and excess houses are being built in those areas, but it is different in my area. There are 435 families that are in need of houses in Kalmunai. I have carefully watched the actions of the government to see if they would take an initiative to solve the ethnic issue.
I was annoyed to see that after the war the government has gone back to the previous position. In fact they are aggravating the problem. The influence of the JHU has resulted in the Muslim community losing patience. The JHU is provoking the Muslim community on one side. The lands of the Muslims in the north and east are not being returned to them. By entering the presidential election my intention is to use the media and travel around the country to present my proposals to develop the country, address the minority problem and the root cause for all issues faced by the country. I will ask the people to endorse my proposal for the betterment of the country.

Q: If elected what would you do that is not being done now?

A: I will not be elected, but it will gain attention for my proposals so that the next president will take notice of them. I’m making use of this opportunity to tell the people about the issues related to various ethnicities, the economy, education and how to solve them.

Q: Why would the public believe in you?

A: I have already proven myself by introducing IT in 1988, advocating free education through the granting of scholarships and working for the needy in the country.

Q: What will be the theme of your campaign?

A: To put forward certain demands to solve minority grievances, proposals to build the country (education, higher education, technical education and foreign employment will be given special attention). If one of the main candidates accepts these proposals I will support him and if neither party accepts them I will hope all communities will support it.

Q: Why are Sri Lankans always stuck for choices when it comes to appointing their leaders?

A: There’s a lot of corruption, wastage and ad hoc decision making. The unqualified are being empowered and the right people are not entrusted with power. We have entered a new era after the war, but we need to look at the root cause, which has not been solved yet. Both main candidates played key roles in the war and claim to be the real heroes. However, it is not the solution to the problems.

M.K. Sivajilingam

box-2Q: Why did you decide to contest the presidential election?

A: The Executive Presidency commenced in 1977 and this is the sixth presidential election. We have experienced five such elections and we have supported a candidate at these elections, but all the presidents misled us. None of them have given us a solution to the ethnic issue. Even the main opposition candidates have not solved it.  I have come forward as I cannot support either one of the main candidates. There are 22 TNA MPs and 17 of them met on December 9 to decide on the presidential election. Seven MPs said a Tamil candidate needed to be put forward as the party could not support either of the main candidates.
The election this time is on who won the war and the Tamils have no role to play in it. Five of the MPs said the Tamil people should boycott the election. 12 MPs, which is the majority of the TNA MPs, did not want to support the main candidates. However, one MP said we should support General Sarath Fonseka. Finally, TNA leaders R. Sampanthan and Mavai Senathiraja said the party should wait and see without deciding. Since no final decision was arrived at, I have decided to contest independently.

Q: If elected what would you do that is not being done now?

A: I will merge the north and east and make it an autonomous state. The south will be divided into two autonomous states. There will then be three states and there will be a prime minister for each state. It will be a Union of Ceylon. The External Defence and Foreign Affairs portfolios will be with the central government. The other powers will be given to the autonomous states. I will move out of the capitalist system to a programme based on developing the rural areas, removing corruption, addressing human rights, holding an international inquiry on war crimes, releasing political prisoners and handing over the welfare programmes for the IDPs to the UN. However, I know I cannot be elected with the minority vote.

Q: Why would the public believe in you?

A: Over 50,000 persons have been killed, 35,000 disabled and children orphaned by the war. Political prisoners have to be released as well. The two main parties have failed to address these issues.

Q: What will be the theme of your campaign?

A: There are 30% Tamil-speaking people and 65% Sinhala Buddhist people in the country. There should be internal self-determination. If self-determination is bad then the government should not allow divorces among married couples. Some want the present rule, the others want a change of rule, but we want self-rule and autonomy. The aim is to defeat the main candidates in the first count by ensuring they will not get the required 50%. To date none of the main candidates have said they are prepared to form a Constituent Assembly to bring in the constitutional changes.

Q: Why are Sri Lankans always stuck for choices when it comes to elections?

A: This happens when powers are centered in one place. This is the way under the present system. If autonomy is given to each area then it reduces the space for clashes and creates communal harmony. When there are autonomous regions, the presidency will become a ceremonial role and problems will be solved.

3 Comments for “RECORD NUMBER OF CANDIDATES”

  1. Lee Joseph

    Absolute waste f tax payers money- Stupid laws must be revised soon-
    Minium deposit must be made Rs 5 million – if the Ind candiates have suffiect supporters they will find money. Parties must be at laest 5 years in exsit: with a membership of at least 50,000 All candidaes must hand over their assets declartion along with nomination which should be published in all news papers one week after handing over the nomination papers-

  2. Maha Sohona

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  3. Mahesh

    Nationwide referendum shows Canada’s Tamil community favours creation of independent state in Sri Lanka total of 48,583 people voted nationwide in the referendum held Saturday with 99 per cent voting yes.
    Comprehensive documentation of a referendum conducted among Eezham Tamils of Norway is now released in the form of a 48-page publication by Utrop newspaper, which conducted the poll on 10th of May this year. In the referendum, 99 percent of the voters endorsed the Vaddukkoaddai Resolution of 1976, calling for an independent and sovereign Tamil Eelam in the traditional homeland of Eezham Tamils in the North and East of the island of Sri Lanka. 90 percent of eligible voters in Oslo, and an average 80 percent of them in entire Norway turned out for the voting, a first of its kind exercise in that country and among the world diaspora of Eezham Tamils. The documentation is widely seen inspiring global democratic efforts of Eezham Tamils for their liberation.
    31,148 eligible Eezham Tamil diaspora voters over 18 in France participated this weekend in the referendum to say yes or no to independent and sovereign Tamil Eelam and 30,936 of them have said yes. The postal votes permitted to interior areas of France are yet to be counted and the number is expected to be between 2,000 and 3,000. In the absence of any official statistics, police estimates earlier placed the number of adult Eezham Tamils in France between 25,000 and 35,000. The near total turn out of voters amidst international campaign that Tamil Eelam is drowned in Mu’l'livaaykkal has stunned the observers. The public spirit has made sections of Tamil media, initially engaged in vicious campaign against the referendum, to make a U-turn supporting it later.

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