Changing tides

Thursday, 29 September 2011 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

With Municipal Council elections now around the corner, political parties are out and about issuing statements, cutting each other and casting allegations in booming voices on platforms.

Whatever the UNP says, this election will be a UPFA win, says Deputy Minister of Technology and Research Faizer Mustapha, claiming that the thinking pattern of the ‘so-called suppressed’ minority has changed over time.

“If you look at the voting pattern, previously the minorities have tilted more towards the UNP,” Mustapha acknowledged, “however with the leadership given by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, this thinking has changed, with the majority siding with the UPFA.”

He assured that the thinking pattern of the Government was the same as the first statement delivered by the President after winning a three-decade war: “There are no minorities in the country; but two sets of people – people who love the country and the people who do not.”

The words, however, were not just limited for the benefit of the media and the public, Mustapha said. The Government has, by action proved the point by allocating large sums of monies for the development of the north and east. “The President believes that the minorities should be part of the inclusive development process conducted by the Government.”

With his electorate being Akurana, which has a Muslim population of 65% and being an electorate never won by the UPFA, Mustapha changed tradition by winning it hands-down at the last local body elections.

“Because of the dynamic leadership of the President, people in the area for the first time elected a UPFA local body. So you can see that there is a shift in the thinking of minority in the country because of the vision of the President.”

“People today have moved away from traditional politics. People are more intelligent, educated and politically savvy. They don’t listen to people at the election platform say certain things,” Mustapha noted. “This time we are confident that we are capable of winning the Colombo Municipal Council election.”

Being a Muslim himself, the Deputy Minister claimed that there is a clear change in the thinking pattern of the minority.  “What I see is a major change. Even the upper middle class who generally looked at UPFA differently, because they were always of the view that the business community would benefit only through the UNP, now say ‘look at what the Defence Secretary has done by changing Colombo and making it a clean city. We should give the UPFA a chance.’”

Commenting on the much publicised breaking of shanty dwellers homes, he stated that all the shouting was for mudslinging only.

“You see people shouting that the shanties will be removed, etc., but the President very clearly stated ‘I will not demolish their houses until we give them better accommodation’. Because no Government could allow the people to suffer the way they are suffering. These people do not have basic water and sanitation facilities. The Government thinking is to give them these facilities,” he observed. “The UNP opposition is using this to frighten the people and turn the vote towards them.”

He maintained that irrespective of the UPFA winning this election or not, the Government policy would continue to give them 35,000 houses within the next three years.

“If you see Colombo City and the poverty, I have not seen such poverty in my village. You see 20-30 people sharing a 5x5 house, you see 100-200 people sharing a public toilet, which we should be ashamed of. This Government is ready to give political leadership to the poverty-stricken people within the Colombo Municipality.”

He added that even though UNP propaganda includes how, when elected mayor, the Colombo beautification programme will continue without the need of support from the Central Government, in truth this cannot be done. “It cannot be done for the simple reason that the Central Government has the power to approve or reject. Without the blessings of the Central Government, such work cannot be continued.

“What I feel is that they (the opposition) are playing the ethnic cards saying the minority is being harassed, but all this is unfounded,” he said. “People are not foolish anymore; today you cannot fool the people. They are savvier than they were.” He stated that even the Colombo businessmen, who were more towards the UNP, were today enjoying multiple benefits thanks to the economic empowerment that had boomed through the city after the eradication of war. “Earlier people couldn’t go out in the night, so there was no circulation, and people were scared to invest.”

Commenting on the Colombo City transformation project undertaken by Defence Secretary Gotab Rajapaksa, Mustapha stated that results had been business-friendly, with more investors and tourists coming in and liking what they see.

“Looking at it in totality, the President and Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa have paved the way for future prosperity. I believe that, looking at this election, the minority has given a very clear signal that it will support the Government.”