Presidential Poll 2019 ‘sick and tired’ demand balm, not a president

5 November 2019 12:07 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


Taking a close look at the hopes and expectations of residents in Gampaha District

With 1,751,892 registered voters as at 2018, Gampaha is described as one of the ‘swing districts’ and is also the second largest with 18 seats next to Colombo. Why it is described as a swing District is because 14 out of the 15 times there has been a national vote, people of Gampaha have voted the right way. Known to be a stronghold of the Blue Party, the District is also home to the Biyagama Export Zone, thereby attracting a migratory population adding to the diversity and giving it a national identity of sorts. During the 2015 Presidential Elections, incumbent president Sirisena received 669,007 votes while Mahinda Rajapaksa received 664,347 votes from gampaha district. As the election heat has slowly penetrated into the nooks and corners of the island, the Daily Mirror recently visited several polling divisions in Gampaha District including the Gampaha town, Biyagama, Nittambuwa and Thihariya to find out what people expect from the next President. While many were clueless as to whom they should vote for, a few have given up hopes on politics and the rest were confident that the candidate they support would win. 





They haven’t done much for our benefit : Pema

“The Rajapaksa regime was able to end the war and I feel that Gotabaya would be a good leader,” opined Pema Perera, a small business vendor at Gampaha town. “I’m not satisfied with successive governments and even though they get elected from our vote they haven’t done much for our benefit.”




Justice not served for Easter Sunday victims : Gunaratne


“I’m 70 years now  and have been voting for the Blue and Green Parties ever since, but this time my vote is for Anura Kumara Dissanayake,” said M. A Gunaratne, a resident of Gampaha. “It was President Premadasa who built the garment factories in this area.  Not Mahinda or Gotabaya or Ranil. After we gained independence all politicians filled their pockets. Around 300 people died in April and there’s no justice being served for the victims. They only appoint commissions and nothing beyond that.”


This is the first time I’m going to vote : Nilusha

Nilusha has been working in the Middle East for eight years and this is the first time she’s casting her vote at a local election. “My husband is from Weli Oya and back in the day there was no direct route to reach his house,” she said while attending to the selling of lottery tickets at her stall. “But during the Rajapaksa regime a direct route was constructed and now we can reach his house within four hours. In this lottery business, I have to pay Rs. 3.50 as commission to the agent from one ticket that we sell and therefore it’s difficult to earn a living from this job. My husband is sick and I earn for a family of four. If I don’t come here for a day it’s difficult to survive. We stay for rent and don’t have a way to apply for a Samurdhi loan either.”


This is the first time I’m not voting : Chaminda

“I’m fed up of politics and therefore decided not to vote this time,” opined Chaminda Kumara, a jewellery vendor at Gampaha town. “It’s true that voting is a right we all need to exercise and even though there are 35 candidates in the list there’s no use. A new candidates have no chance and as always, the next president will also be a candidate from a major party. This is the first time I’m not voting.”



Private bus owners haven’t benefitted from this govt. : Sanjeewa

“We need to live in a country with a Sri Lankan identity,” opined Sanjeewa who works as a private bus driver in Gampaha. “We don’t care about religion, caste or any other divide. People in this profession haven’t been treated fair during successive governments. Initially they reduced diesel prices by Rs. 8, but they didn’t reduce the price of tyres, oil or spare parts. Therefore private bus owners haven’t benefitted from this government contrary to the Rajapaksa regime where we earned Rs. 1500 per day. But during his time the fuel prices were high.”





Present govt. failed to deliver many promises : Ranjith

“During the past five years we have been struggling to survive,” said Ranjith a three-wheeler driver in Biyagama. “With the high cost of living people aren’t happy with the existing Government. They promised a lot of things, but failed to 
deliver many of them.” 



Challenging to meet daily expenses : Perera

“People live with a lot of pressure due to financial issues,” said E. Perera, a lottery ticket seller in Biyagama. “The cost of essential items has hiked up and even I find it a challenge to meet daily expenses from this business. Likewise people are in a daily struggle for survival. We hope Gotabaya would be a good leader who will think more about the people.”



UNP Govt. failed to recognise soldiers : Dassanayake

“The UNP Government only promised many things,” opined Dassanayake, another three-wheeler driver operating near the Biyagama Export Zone. “They even failed to recognise the soldiers who saved the country  during the war. The Rajapaksas have a history of walking the talk, so my vote is for Gotabaya.”


While in Biyagama the Daily Mirror also learned that many people visit the Export Zone area in the morning desperately seeking jobs. Area residents claimed that although the Government boasted about giving jobs to people, there are many who are unemployed and are willing to do any odd job for lower wages. A representative of a company would visit them in the morning and announce what task they have to do like at an auction and take them to the particular location. This is the plight of most females visiting Colombo with high expectations of being employed at a garment factory. The males are willing to earn higher salaries.



We have been treated in an unfair manner : Chandrawathi

“I live in a temporary shelter in Kendalanda,” said Chandrawathi with tear-drenched eyes. She runs a corn shop in the Nittambuwa town. “No corn has been sold for the day and I earn only around Rs. 1000. Around 20 houses were demolished in our area and they promised they will construct new houses. But they didn’t do it. We have been treated in a rather unfair manner. This shop was broken down and I spent Rs. 15,000 to relocate it. They constructed a new area for local vendors, but now its dominated by vendors from areas outside Nittambuwa. I don’t know whom to cast my vote for. During an election supporters of both parties come and paste their candidates’ photos and ask us to vote. But after we vote we get nothing.”



When an election is close by they distribute various items: Mangalika

“We don’t even have sanitary facilities,” opined Mangalika, also a resident in Nittambuwa. “They distribute roofing sheets and various other items when an election approaches. It was only during the Rajapaksa regime that people had some relief. So we will support him nevertheless.”




Not satisfied with any Govt. : Nishan

Nishan owns a communication Centre in the Nittambuwa town. “I’m not satisfied with any Government. People’s rights have not been fulfilled. We want to live peacefully, but whether justice has been served on the citizens of this country remains a question.”




Need someone to represent the youth : Suranga

“There’s no hope for poor people,”said Suranga, a three-wheel driver in the area. “Politicians keep shifting sides and working for their own benefit. We live with much challenges and as the youth we too need someone to represent us. Most candidates and politicians are in retirement age, but they don’t want to leave and make way for others.”





Confident that 15,000 votes will be for Green : Nawaz

“98% of people in Thihariya are for the Green Party,” said M.F.M Nawaz, a UNP Provincial councillor at the Aththanagalla Pradeshiya Sabha. “There are 16,400 registered Muslim voters in the area and we are confident that 15,000 of them are loyal voters of the Green Party. But irrespective of who wins, this area is very peaceful.”



Nothing for people in lower strata of society : Prabath

“During the previous Local Government Elections, SLFP received 6700 votes and out of them around 2000-3000 votes were from the Muslim community,” said Tharanga Prabath, SLPP organiser in Thihariya. “SLFP came third and we had 8000 votes from Thihariya and we are confident that those votes will also be in our favour. Nothing has been done for the people in lower strata of society and they are expecting a change. We don’t see much work done by Sajith and the existing Government for that matter. People in these areas survive on a daily wage and they need a boost in their businesses.”


We have to run behind debtors : Perera

“Our cheques are being returned and we have run behind debtors to collect our money,” said P. A. W Perera, another local businessman. “Sajith’s manifesto is not practical and therefore we will are confident that Gotabaya will succeed. Small businesses have no progress and cost of products are high.”




Need a Government that will walk the talk : Haniffa


“We want to live in peace,” opined Nissan Haniffa, a small business vendor in Thihariya. “My business suffered after the Easter Sunday attacks and we need a government that will walk the talk. I’m not satisfied with successive Governments because they didn’t deliver on the  promises.”




Vote base isn’t powerful for other candidates : Hassan

Kamil Hassan owns a vegetable business and is a resident of Thihariya. “The existing government has done a lot of work without much fanfare,” he said while sharing his opinions with the Daily Mirror. “But there were some shortcomings too. However, the success of my business depends on my capability and if it doesn’t succeed I can’t put that blame on the Government. Therefore, even if the Government changes, it won’t affect my business. On one hand Gotabaya has the experience regarding security and Sajith has built houses for people and done much work. So people have to vote wisely. The vote base isn’t powerful for other candidates. If Anura Kumara comes to power in the opposition then they should get hold of a few ministries and show the people that they too are capable.” 



Deserted campaign offices by the roadside



Pics by Nimalsiri Edirisinghe


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