Editorial- island.lk

February 13, 2018 at 11:00 pm

Defeat-induced delusion

A crushing defeat at a midterm election is the political version of a devastating earthquake. That is not something any government can come to terms with, easily. It is only natural that such traumatic experiences make the ruling politicians take leave of their senses. Some yahapalana leaders, reeling from last Saturday’s local government polls defeat, have claimed that their camp has not lost because the Sri Lanka Progressive Peramuna (SLPP) has polled only 45 percent of the valid votes. They have a remarkable ability not to let reality get in the way of their flawed and misplaced reasoning!

 

In electoral contests, especially the ones held under the first-past-the-post system, the number of votes polled by the losing candidates is, more often than not, higher than the winners’. But, that doesn’t mean the losers are winners! One may recall that the aforesaid argument was first peddled after the 1970 general election. It was claimed then that the UNP had polled more votes than the victorious SLFP-led United Front. That was the reason why the late President J. R. Jayewardene introduced the Proportional Representation system after capturing power in 1977. (They chose to ignore the fact that some UF constituents had gone it alone in certain electorates in keeping with a no contest pact.)

 

The yahapalana grandees must come to terms with the fact that they have faced an ignominious defeat and there is no way they can fool the people with statistical lies. What they have to do now is to take a long, hard look at their dismal performance and try to rectify their blunders before the next election. A tall order!

 

If the yahapalana camp is really confident that its support base remains intact and the SLPP’s win is not worth celebrating, then why has the UNP, which kept on telling us that the country had tremendously benefited from the so-called national unity government, decided to form a government of its own?

 

The public is aware that both the SLPP and the UNP-SLFP combine consist of elements with sordid track records, save a few. The previous regime earned notoriety for large scale corruption and the yahapalana leaders sought a mandate to bring them to justice. But, within weeks of grabbing power the self-proclaimed champions of good governance proved that they were no better than the thieves they had undertaken to catch; they committed the first mega bond scam in Feb. 2015 and graduated to the second one the following year. If the people had decided against voting for thieves they wouldn’t have been able to vote at all. Given a choice between two groups of rogues the public apparently decided to elect the more efficient one.

 

Here is an interesting story which explains why the yahapalana government lost. Before the 2015 regime change an Opposition MP while enjoying a drink with a powerful minister wanted to know how the latter with humbling beginnings had amassed so much of wealth to build a palatial house. The minister took the inquisitive friend to his rooftop terrace and showed him a bridge in the wide blue yonder, saying in a hushed tone, “From that project.” A few years elapsed, the minister’s party lost and the other received a ministerial portfolio under the present government. The duo, as thick as thieves, met on the yahapalana minister’s rooftop for a drink. The guy out of power, amazed at the spectacular opulence of the newly built sprawling house complete with an Olympic-size swimming pool, asked how so much of money had been made within a couple of years. The yahapalana minister took the other to his imposing balcony and declared, pointing to the horizon, “From that bridge project!” The latter, with a look of curiosity furrowing his brows, scanned the area and, seeing no structure, said, “I can’t see any bridge.” “Yes, there is no bridge,” the yahapalana minister chuckled.

 

It behoves the yahapalana potentates to read the public mood and effect a course correction urgently if they are to avoid another electoral disaster, which will be far more devastating like the second wave of a tsunami, unless they get their act together. They can’t go on postponing the Provincial Council elections till the cows come home. If they think they can dupe the public by holding each other responsible for their collective defeat and breaking ranks, they are mistaken.