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