In Conversation with Prof. Upul Aberathna
Do Not Underestimate the Minority Vote
The Catamaran’s exclusive interview with the Professor on the weight of the minority vote this election.
Prof. Upul Aberathna lectures in the Political Science Department of Peradeniya University. Thirty five political parties and independent candidates have filed nominations for this presidential election, the highest number of candidates contesting in our history. This is The Catamaran’s exclusive interview with the Professor on the weight of the minority vote this election.
THE CATAMARAN – What is your opinion on the number of candidates contesting for this election?
According to the definition of democracy, anyone can contest for Presidency, but some candidates contest for purposes other than winning. Eventually, the expenses of these candidates are borne by the public. As a society, we must focus more on this issue.
THE CATAMARAN – Floating votes are crucial in every election. This time, there are about 1.5 million new voters. Isn’t winning their vote a challenge to each candidate?
People in this country consider three criteria when voting; the candidate, the party, and the policies. Traditional voters of the main parties vote irrespective of the candidate. Others vote considering the family of the candidate and the services the candidate has rendered. The most important is to focus on the policies. They push the country forward. We must evaluate the candidates’ capacities to provide practical solutions to the problems of the country.
THE CATAMARAN – How are minority votes crucial in this election.
This is a multi-ethnic country. While the majority of voters are Sinhala Buddhists, there are a considerable number of Tamils and Muslims. Their vote base is about three million. Gaining their vote is important due to two reasons. First, their vote is a strength to win the election. The other is that the elected President cannot rule the country without the support of these communities. The President is elected by all the people of this country. Therefore, he must be liked by all communities, according to my stand.
THE CATAMARAN – What are your views on national security at the presidential elections post Easter Sunday attacks?
The Easter Sunday attacks took place at a time peace had been established in the country, causing massive chaos in society. Alertness of security forces, police and intelligence wings alone cannot guarantee national security. We must have ethnic peace. Ethnic and religious reconciliation is the first step of national security.
THE CATAMARAN – Throughout our history, people have not used their sovereignty wisely, according to political analysts. What is your view on this?
Elections are the time when sovereignty, guaranteed by the constitution, is practiced by people. No one can be elected as President without the people’s consent. Therefore the people must be thoughtful about whom they are going to hand over the power of ruling the nation. It is important to consider their capacities to solve the problems of the country as well as the principles of the parties they represent.
THE CATAMARAN – You were a member of the committee appointed for public consultation on the new constitution. What has happened to it?
The way this country operates is that the opposition opposes any good thing the government tries to do. All MPs agreed that a new constitution was needed. The Parliament was converted to a constitutional council with the consent of all MPs. We went around the country obtaining people’s views about a new constitution. Certain sections of the opposition protested saying this would be a constitution that divides the country. They sought political mileage at the cost of the needs of the country. We are not thinking as Sri Lankans. Instead, we still consider ourselves as separate Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims.