Sri Lanka government has announced elections for local civic bodies including the prestigious Colombo Municipal Council on Oct 8. These elections were repeatedly postponed earlier under the emergency regulations which were revoked in August to keep at bay the pressure from human rights groups for accountability for the crimes committed by the army particularly during the closing phase of Eelam War IV. President Mahinda Rajapakse likes to use these elections to strengthen his democratic credentials.
Disappoint may be in store for him, just like in the July election for local councils which saw the erstwhile LTTE proxies putting up a good show in the Tamil dominated areas. What helped them was Rajapakse’s procrastination on the issue of devolution – 13th amendment – plus solution for close to 26-months and referring the issue just on the eve of the ballot to a Parliamentary Select Committee.
One immediate goal of President Mahinda Rajapakse’s United Peoples Freedom Alliance (UPFA) is unfurling of its flag over the Colombo municipality which is the fiefdom of the opposition United National Party (UNP). As of now, Colombo’s civic body is managed by a government appointed special commissioner. The UNP-led civic council was slapped with a corruption charge-sheet and dismissed in 2008.
Being the country’s capital, Colombo is the home to hundreds of government employees, and they are not much enamoured of the ruling alliance and its plans. The government wants to transform the capital city into a commercial, financial and tourism hub for South Asia. Towards that goal, it has announced plan to make the city slum free.
Some 75,000 families are to be evicted from the slums to make way for property developers and investors. All these families are potential voters in the October election. In fact, one estimate says, majority of Colombo’s 3, 95,000 voters are slum dwellers and other low-income families. Their vote is crucial for victory.
The ruling alliance has not yet come up with any blueprint to win over them.
(To be continued)