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How and for whom I voted at the elections

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The polls for the election of the President of Sri Lanka have just closed at the time of writing, and results are likely to be in during the next 18 hours. It seemed like a good idea now to declare publicly how I voted.

I do so because we tend to fudge our previous opinions as soon as we find out the results, and thereby fail to learn. So I chose to set out my reasoning publicly, before counting begins.  Not because the public wants to know my opinion, but because it helps me learn. We must learn to force ourselves to learn.

So I declare whom I voted for and my reasoning.

There are some background things:
First, I am convinced that elections of the kind now practiced globally have become a farce to placate the vast majority into thinking that their choice makes a difference. But the population of the world is increasingly run according to the whims of a tiny, tiny cartel that decides what should happen in every country. Most of those who decide aren’t even human, but abstract ‘people’ – namely, the largest global corporates. I know that elections offer no hope for the vast majority of the population in the USA or elsewhere to influence their own health and wellbeing – but I vote out of habit.

Second, I vote on the understanding that the person I vote for is my adversary from the moment he wins.  I try to avoid the trap of approving mindlessly the subsequent deeds of the person I voted for. We vote because we must, really. Rather like how most of us consume alcohol. We don’t need to become a fan or convince ourselves that we like the stuff (or the person) simply on the basis of a seemingly voluntary action.

Next is choosing between candidates.

We try to see what each contender will deliver. We should think not only about us and our immediate circle, but to humanity and sentient beings at large. This is quite an over-the-top calculation for a mere vote. But then I do this to make things clearer for myself, not really to change the world.

In this regard, Mahinda Rajapaksa (MR) appeared to me clearly better equipped and inclined to oppose the agenda of the ruling global oligarchy. The oligarchy would, I felt, clearly prefer Maithripala Sirisena (MS) as a tame leader. What this oligarchy wants is bad for the health of nearly all of humanity.

Within Sri Lanka, Rajapaksa, I felt would stand for less conflict between peoples in the short as well as long term. That I value greatly.  The oligarchy works to spread and sustain conflict. And it works in ways that increases economic inequality – both of which are inimical to human wellbeing. They work through the governments and leaders they control (especially of the US, UK).

On another matter to do with the health of the Sri Lankan public, I very much liked Sirisena for having stood up to the inducements and threats of the tobacco trade. He showed at the time a laudable commitment and great resilience to stand up against the noted global bully. And I gladly agreed to deliver a homily to him at a WHO function meant to felicitate his steadfastness. I felt sad at the time that Rajapaksa seemed to be veering towards compromise with the trade. My guess was that the tobacco trade had worked through one or two persons close to him, while economic advisers in the cabinet and treasury had contributed by misleading him about the nitty-gritties. And this was to do with a trade that killed – during the 30 year war –more than did the violence. Even to appear to compromise on this was for me a weakness.

But nearing the election though, I recognized that most in the informal network of agents (that conduct surreptitious ‘guerilla’ campaigns in buses, trains and public settings, posing as ordinary citizens) who promote pro-tobacco agendas were surprisingly for Sirisena. So were pharmaceutical, alcohol and tobacco trade-friendly people. It appeared that those in the know were not worried that Sirisena would have enough clout as President to persist with his stated alcohol, tobacco and pharmaceutical related policies.

So I had decided, about a week or so ago, to vote for Rajapaksa – mainly because of his courage in standing up to global bullies. But on the morning of the election, a person whose opinions are solid, told me in a chat, ‘We are going to have regime change anyway, because the western powers have decided on it. If Rajapaksa wins they will next use protests, clashes and street violence. It may be through orchestrated ethnic and religious strife or various political ploys.’ His view was that it would be safer and healthier to allow their desired regime change through the peaceful means of elections. ‘This country can’t afford another bloodbath of 60,000 deaths of good people. We have been so battered that we cannot survive another wave of killing. We just don’t have the human resources.’  A Sirisena win he thought would be a peaceful way of allowing the desired regime change before a violent one was next imposed.

The next 20 minutes, driving back home and towards the polling booth, I realized he was probably right. Examples he did not mention, but came to my mind, were Iran and Thailand. Iran’s public quietly voted out the ‘extremist’ candidate and has survived without violence so far. Thailand’s electorate stubbornly kept electing their preferred candidates until he (and she) had to be forced out by violent means. The damage to Thailand has not only been economic.

Despite this consideration, I stuck with my decision of a week or so – and voted for Rajapaksa.

I think I still valued the likely role he will continue on the international stage – which I think is for the global good. We ignore the world at our peril. All countries have to pull together to avert the impending climate disaster. More chance of Sri Lanka supporting such a move with Rajapaksa as leader.

I fear that domestically he will no longer take forward the tobacco and alcohol agendas, now that vociferous advocates for it have left his team. Should this happen, much preventable misery will continue. Nor do I see the ‘pharmaceutical policy’ moving forward. But then these weren’t likely to move with a Sirisena win either.

I know that I will not be popular with whoever wins.

That, I think, is what all voters should do: try to elect the best possible candidate - but see him as your adversary from the moment he wins.

And I can add a postscript today, four hours after the winner was officially announced.

I drove around Colombo to sense the mood. Nowhere, nowhere, did I see any people out in celebratory or happy mood. Although I had heard some firecrackers earlier they too had quickly dissipated. It appeared as if the victors too weren’t particularly buoyant.

The mood I saw in the street reflected the mood of all those in the Elections Secretariat office earlier in the day, when the victor was announced. Mr Sirisena did smile. Nearly everybody else looked glum. Ranil W seriously so. Only Mr. Rishad Bathuideen and the gentleman sitting next to Ranil (Mr Wijedasa?) appeared genuinely pleased. What’s happening?
Some of those to whom I sent the earlier email (pasted below) replied that they voted for the winning candidate because they wanted to reduce Rajapakasa’s majority, but not to make him lose! What indeed is happening??

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