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If you can’t add and subtract you must quit politics

Somawansa Amarasinghe, perhaps more than anyone in the badly shaken Fonseka camp, demonstrated best the ridiculous levels to which the Opposition has fallen when he said that the election result was manipulated by a computer ‘gilmart’. It reminded me of something that a pro-Mahinda person is supposed to have told someone who campaigned for Sarath Fonseka: ‘you people will lose the next election and will continue to lose until you learn some basic mathematics’.

Elections are about numbers. It’s about who gets more. It is about figuring out percentages, perusing voting patterns, factoring in ‘changed circumstances’, vote banks, voter turnout and trends, yes, simple things like that. One can also add in ‘sense’ as in the perceivable mood of the electorate (through surveys, attendance at meetings/rallies etc). This is where the Opposition tripped badly. They showed that they were atrocious at arithmetic.

It is a simple matter of keeping things sane, keeping emotion and fantasy out, and playing within conservative margins. It is one thing to exaggerate to keep campaign spirits up and to try and demoralize the enemy, and quite another to let oneself get carried away by these lies. That’s exactly what happened or seem to have happened to Fonseka. The man was lied to, clearly, and innocently believed whatever his trusted lieutenants fed him. The result, therefore, was ‘shocking’ and the man was duly shocked out of his wits to the point that he started mouthing the craziest theories, which made the drama he concocted in the hotel look even more ridiculous than it already was.

The main figures are of course the overall votes polled by each candidate and the relevant percentages. Mahinda Rajapaksa won by a majority of over 1.8 million or close to 60 percent of the vote. Fonseka claims that he actually won by a majority of 1.5 million. In other words, he’s accusing the Rajapaksa camp of pilfering some 3.3 million votes (that’s almost one-third of the total votes cast). If anyone can do this, that person is clearly endowed with a kind of ingenuity that has been sorely lacking among those who have led our nation and that itself is a kind of qualification.

The truth is that it is impossible to cook an election to that extent. People have called for an audit of the result. This is unnecessary because all relevant information is at the disposal of each candidate. Fonseka had agents at all polling stations and all counting centres. These individuals know how many votes each candidate polled, how many votes each had in each ballot box. To say that there was mischief at the counting centres is therefore an admission of sorts that one’s agents were blind or inept. If there was any ‘gilmart’ Somawansa should ask Mangala Samaraweera who was the biggest culprit in misleading Fonseka. That’s where the ‘gilmarting’ began. And, sadly, ended.

The first error was to think that Sri Lanka was made up of only the electorates within the Colombo Municipal limits. Had the Fonseka camp recognized the fact that Colombo District is several times larger than these electorates (in terms of geography and population) and had they factored in past results and the general sway that Rajapaksa held with non-urban voters, they might have realized that Sri Lanka, being many times larger than Colombo, would not vote the way that Colombo 7 would/did (for example).

Somanwansa might have expected the entire North and East to vote for Fonseka. He might have expected the number of registered voters to be an approximate indicator of the number of voters present in these areas. He clearly forgot to subtract the numbers that have fled the Northern Province. He forgot to factor out those who were not inspired by either candidate and who rejected not just Fonseka and Rajapaksa but also the TNA. The Fonseka camp did not subtract the numbers that were ‘conceded’ by fielding a party-less candidate. They forgot also that the JVP in 2008 is not the JVP of 2005, having lost key members to the Rajapaksa camp and crucially also its most eloquent orator, Wimal Weerawansa. They forgot that both party member and loyalist would be less comfortable about supporting a UNPish candidate and one endorsed and backed by the UNP as opposed to a candidate that had in 2005 accommodated the JVP in a far more organic sense. They forgot that this could be true of the UNP also, that the UNP member and loyalist could be less enthusiastic about a non-party candidate and one backed by the party’s historical antithesis, the JVP.

They didn’t factor in or rather ‘out’ the SB factor; the UNP’s former national organizer was a vote-getter, a speaker, a man capable of running a strong campaign. Fonseka lost Hanguranketha by a big margin. Johnston and SB took away more votes than Wijedasa Rajapaksa brought, and only an idiot would have calculated otherwise.

They forgot, clearly, that UNP’s vote bank had been considerably eroded on account of Mahinda’s overwhelming success in defeating the LTTE and the manifest weakness of the current UNP leadership.

They forgot also, that just as the UNP has done in elections held while in power, the edge of being in a position to manipulate state resources to advantage was another trump at Rajapaksa’s disposal. It counted among these other things even though it was neither a necessary or sufficient factor in re-electing Mahinda Rajapaksa.

At the end of the day, without a shred of evidence, Somawansa has to take recourse in a single word, ‘gilmart’. In the end, therefore, one can say aney pau. Wimal Weerawansa had a pithy one-liner: ratata aadare ayata rata giya; badata aadare ayata bada giya.

Untranslatable of course, but it means this: ‘The country went to those who loved the country, and those who loved their stomachs lost their stomachs (suffered diarrhea). This is not true for there would have been many who voted for, Fonseka who too loved the country, but if one is going to capture result in terms such as ‘computer gilmart’ then I think Wimal’s observation is the more relevant and superior.

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