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Marriage Proposals
Government Gazette

‘Minoritarianizing’ voter-mind and other academic slippages

Elections are passionate affairs in Sri Lanka. Given that the ordinary citizen gets a few weeks to feel like king/queen-maker this is not surprising. Sometimes, however, people go overboard and there is nothing as grotesque and ugly as when those who are supposed to be informed, sober and even dispassionate let their emotions mess with reason.

It is natural to be upset when the candidate or party that one supported gets defeated. It can even be a tad embarrassing when you’ve predicted a rousing win for the eventual loser. A loss by a huge margin when you’ve said it was ‘too close to call’ also makes for blushing. By and large, people get caught up with their fantasies and invest the world of propaganda with so much passion that they often start believing their own lies. I am thinking of all those people who were in the unenviable position of having to support Sarath Fonseka.

Human rights

These were people who were quite keen on giving legitimacy even parity of status vis-a-vis the Government to the LTTE, operating on the principle ‘my enemy’s enemy is my friend’. That was quintessential ‘self before country’ (ratata pera mata). In treating Prabhakaran as pal they had to, therefore, call Mahinda Rajapaksa’s key men in the battle, Fonseka included, ‘enemy’. They had a lot of pride to swallow in coming forward to support Fonseka, naturally, and this explains the argumentative contortionism they demonstrated in the initial stages of the campaign. I am thinking of people who claiming they are renaissance creatures, or seek ‘commonality’ by saying they are nobodies or try to cover up blandness by taking spicy names, and the familiar gang of ENJOYISTS who talk of human rights, democracy, good governance and what not even as they beef up terrorism ideologically and otherwise.

Intelligent voters have cast their vote for peace and freedom. File Photo

Corruption and nepotism

They couldn’t exactly come out in support of the ex Army Commander, so they framed it in different terms and tried to give Fonseka’s campaign a boost by saying ‘it is going to be touch and go’, or, like the renaissance guy, calling Fonseka a last-straw option and gently urging people to clutch at him (after trying to make people believe that the entire nation was about to drown). They must be all quite disappointed and I don’t blame them. While I am amused by their contortionism I saw nothing wrong in them supporting Fonseka. They all had legitimate reasons for preferring Fonseka over Mahinda Rajapaksa; they’ve been quite open in their objections to the regime and have been calling for regime-change frequently. Sure, they frilled it all with allegations of corruption and nepotism and sauced it with epithets such as ‘hawk’, ‘war-monger’, ‘chauvinist’ etc etc., but the bottom line was always apparent: they preferred a UNP or UNPish regime and ‘Fonseka’ was the closest to that particular Utopia they could imagine.

It’s when those who try to give ‘objectivity’ to preference by waving academic qualification slip up that it all goes beyond ‘amusing’. We had Jayadeva Uyangoda, widely quoted ‘expert’, ‘analyst’ and ‘political scientist’, coming up with this amazing sour-loser’s explanation/prognosis: ‘It is ironic that minorities favoured a military leader who led the ethnic war’. That’s just the first part.

‘Ethnic war’ is it? Not a struggle against terrorism? And these minorities, did they ‘reject’ only Mahinda Rajapaksa? It is not as thought the majority voted for Fonseka. Uyangoda forgets that more than half the voters opted not to choose either. Why is it that he doesn’t notice that those who did vote voted against Douglas Devananda, Karuna, Pilliyan and yes, even the TNA? What happens to the ‘ethnic’ in the equation when you throw in these salient factors? One can almost here Uyangoda mumbling soberly, ‘Rajapaksa’s victory is a deep blow to the minorities, for their hope for change has been rejected; for them the future is clear - they will be second-class citizens from now on!’

Political maturity

I wonder what would have given Uyangoda an electoral orgasm. Does nothing excite him this side of the Sinhala voter embracing a ‘change’ defined in Eelamist terms? Does everything this side of Eelam amount to a rejection of ‘change’ and therefore a condemning of minorities to ‘second class citizenship’? If this is nuanced analysis then I pity the undergraduates and graduates who are taught and whose research is supervised by this man.

Then there was Deepika Udugama, another Colombo University Professor. She’s ‘noted’, we are told, ‘how national apathy and populism have taken over the electorate after the decades-old war’. Here’s the punch line: ‘The lack of political maturity in Sri Lanka is obvious. The voter cannot go beyond the rhetoric of the politicians. As long as the economic needs of the individual are looked after, there is no attempt by the voters to insist on addressing minority grievances, which is what should have been seen in this elections by voting for change’.

She could have qualified each little wish in this wish list as being her personal preference. For example, she could have put it this way:

‘Sri Lankans are not as politically mature as I am. Unlike me, the rest of the voters cannot go beyond the rhetoric of the politician; I am smart they are stupid. I am smart and sensitive and I addressed minority grievances by voting for change because that is what this election was about; whereas the stupid majority chose to think about their economic needs. I observe, therefore, that all those who voted for Sarath Fonseka were concerned only about one thing: addressing minority grievances.’

Had she put it that way she would have appeared honest. Nauseating and elitist, yes, but still honest. As it is, it’s just nauseating and elitist. And she has the gumption to say that minorities are now condemned to suffering Rajapaksa’s paternalism!

Considering Uyangoda’s disappointment and Udugama’s ‘minoritarianization’ of voter-mind, I think I have more respect now for the renaissance guy, the ‘nobody’ and the coriander-baby.

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