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by Tisaranee Gunasekara “It shows that something is wrong with the system of government that injures the felicity by which society is to be preserved”. Paine ( ights of !an"
( #ovem ber $%& '($)& *olombo& +ri ,anka Guardian" - majority of +inhalese are less e.tremist& more rational and more humane than their ajapaksa/saviours& according to the latest opinion survey by the *entre of Policy -lternatives (*P-" . They are also becoming increasingly discommoded by and therefore disaffected with the e.isting regimen. 0Top ,ine +urvey1 2emocracy in Post/3ar +ri ,anka4 contains many e.pected and une.pected insights into the collective thinking of the ,ankan people. 5ne of the most politically portentous and (helpful" findings is that an absolute majority of +inhalese (67.$8" think that 0the government should give priority to allocating resources to rebuild the conflict afflicted areas& even if this means that less money is spent in the rest of the country4. 5nly a miniscule 9.78 of +inhalese think that 0rebuilding the conflict affected areas should not be given priority over the needs of the rest of the country4. This shows a spirit of generosity and solidarity which augers well for +ri ,anka and badly for the ajapaksas. :!aking the community more fanatical and e.ploiting the resultant fanatics” & a key instrument of ajapaksa rule& is clearly not achieving the e.pected success. -ccording to another fascinating finding& just $6.78 of +inhalese believe that only ;uddhism should be given a special place in the *onstitution while assuring the freedom of other religions (status <uo". 5nly a miniscule %.%8 of +inhalese support the more e.treme (=>?@;;+" position that 05nly ;uddhism should be given a special place in the ,ankan *onstitution4. A6.68 of +inhalese and 6(8 of ,ankans think that the *onstitution should guarantee religious freedom as a fundamental right (without giving primacy to ;uddhism". Interestingly& the stance closest to secularism (making no mention of religion in the constitution" is more popular with
?pcountry Tamils (A78" and !uslims ('7.$8". *learly the +inhala public is far less majoritarian supremacist than their rulers want@need them to be& even after years of concerted fear/cum/hate mongering by the ajapaksas and their more rabid pro.ies. -nd that cannot but be bad news for the +iblings because their political project depends on inter/communal disharmony. 3ithout terrifying enemies and potent threats Bamilial ule and 2ynastic +uccession cannot survive. The *P- survey paints the picture of a people who are open to logic& reason and ordinary kindness& a people capable of drawing closer together on the basis of common problems& shared interests and human sympathy. The divides do e.istC but they are not unbridgeable. -nd the best bridge between the communities is their growing dissatisfaction with the present and their increasing pessimism about the future. 0The Dconomy& +tupid4 6(.68 of ,ankans and A6.A8 of +inhalese think that current national economic situation is somewhat bad@very bad. 5f this category the absolute majority (9(.68 of ,ankans and %%.%8 of +inhalese" believe that the government is responsible for this unhappy state of affairs. 5nly )(8 of ,ankans think that their own financial situation improved in the last two years while 6'.98 of ,ankans think that their own financial situation deteriorated. 5nly AA.)8 of ,ankans think that the general economic situation improved in the last two years. =ust )6.'8 of ,ankans believe that the general economic situation will get better in the ne.t two years. *omparing the results of the '($) survey with a similar survey by the *P- in '($$ provides some interesting insights into the trajectory of public opinion. There is a country/wide decrease in wellbeing@security and in future e.pectations. - growing number of ,ankans believe they live less well and less safely today than they did two years agoC a growing number of ,ankans are less hopeful about the future than they were two years ago. The +inhalese are no e.ceptions to this general trend. In '($$& just )6.'8 of +inhalese thought their financial situation got worse in the two preceding yearsC in '($)& almost a half of +inhalese (A7.)8" think that their financial situation deteriorated in the two previous years. In '($$& 6).78 of +inhalese believed that the general economic situation improved in the two previous years. ;ut by '($)& this figure has crossed the key 6(8 markC only A78 of +inhalese think that the general economic situation improved in the two preceding years. In '($$& a mammoth 9(8 of +inhalese thought that the general economic situation will get better in the ne.t two years. In '($) only )E.68 of +inhalese think that the general economic situation will improve in the ne.t two years F a decrease of A68& in just two yearsG The reason for this drastic increase in pessimism is sourced in the yawning gap between popular priorities and ajapaksa priorities. D.pressways& ports& airports& convention centres& sports comple.es and other mega infrastructure projects& so beloved by the ajapaksas& do not figure on the spending priorities of ordinary people. !ost ,ankans think that education& health and agriculture should be prioritised in spending national wealth.
The +inhalese prioritise health (A(.A8"& education ()7.98" and agriculture ()6.A8". Dducation is the greatest priority of the minority communities (Tamil / 9).98C ?pcountry Tamil / %).98C !uslim / %).98". !ost ,ankans believe that government should focus on cost/of/living& poverty and education issues. +inhalese believe that cost/of/living (6E.68"& health ()).$8" and reducing poverty ())8" should be primary government concerns. Tamils think that education (6'.)8"& jobs (A%.68" and reducing poverty ())8" should be government priorities. ?pcountry Tamils think government should prioritise education (6(.78"& unemployment (A).A8" and cost/of/living (A(.$8". !uslims want government to focus on cost/of/living (9'.A8"& education ()7.78" and reducing poverty ()9.78". 3hat do ,ankans hope for from the current development processH #ot hubs& miracles or international renownC just reduction in living costs (9E.)8"& employment generation (6%.68" and better education facilities ()E.A8". The +inhalese hope for reduction in living costs (9E.68"& employment generation (6'.98" and developing agriculture (A(.98"C Tamils want reduction in cost/of/living (9).'8"C job creation (%9.E8" and education (6A.'8"C ?pcountry Tamils hope for reduction in living costs (9(8"& jobs (6E.68" and education (6(.68"C for !uslims& the desired results are decrease in cost/of/living (EE.)8"& employment generation (%9.68" and education (6$.E8". The priorities of most ,ankans and most +inhalese accurately reflect the national reality of a developing country beset by ordinary livelihood issues. The ajapaksas are trying to impose the superstructure of a developed country on an economically struggling land. Their pretentious policies are dangerous& unsustainable F and obviously unpopular. Politically too a sense of disenchantment is visible& both nationally and among +inhalese. In '($$& 7%.$8 of +inhalese thought the security situation got better in the previous two yearsC currently only E98 of +inhalese think so F a decrease of 7.68. In '($$& 9E.%8 of +inhalese believed that the security situation will improve in the ne.t two years. In '($)& only 67.98 of +inhalese believe in a more secure future& a drop of 'A8. The potential to win over a majority of +inhalese without succumbing to the lure of +inhala@;uddhist/supremacism (mas<uerading as 0nationalism4 or 0patriotism4" does e.ist. The +iblings have not succeeded in turning most +inhalese into automatons& willing to march towards any disaster& on command. The people can be weaned away from the ajapaksas with reason& information& education and knowledge. Is the 5pposition up to the taskH
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