Gilchrist's squash ball and MR's majority

We are never short of conspiracy theories in this country. The government tells us that a group led by presidential candidate and former Army Chief Gen. Sarath Fonseka was hatching a plot to arrest President Mahinda Rajapaksa and take over the country while election results were being announced. The Opposition claims that the government manipulated the outcome of Tuesday's election electronically.

Why are they telling us all this? If the government has evidence of a conspiracy by Fonseka or anyone else to harm the President and grab power, it must call for a high level probe and deal with the culprits, if any, legally. Similarly, the Opposition ought to make a beeline for the Election Secretariat and report the alleged manipulation of results to the Elections Commissioner and demand a probe. Why should it waste anymore time?

The Opposition's reaction to its crushing defeat on Tuesday reminds us of the way some of us refused to come to terms with Australia's spectacular win against Sri Lanka at the last World Cup finals. We expected our boys apparently in good form to come up with the goods in style. But, alas, we were in for a rude shock! Adam Gilchrist's stellar performance shattered our hopes and as if that tragic drama in Bridgetown were not enough, the Air Tigers carried out a sortie in Colombo. We faced a double whammy as a nation. We needed an excuse for our humiliating loss in the crucial cricket match to console ourselves and found a squash ball that Gilchrist had placed inside a glove to enhance his grip on the bat, with which he smashed a blistering 149 runs off just 104 balls and steered Australia to victory. We tried our damnedest to make an issue of that squash ball but in vain. Cricket lawmakers rejected our complaint out of hand.

Politically speaking, President Rajapaksa did a Gilchrist at Tuesday's polls and left his adversaries stunned. It is only natural that the Opposition, in a desperate bid to save its face, refuses to concede defeat and tries to make an issue of a non-issue in typical Sri Lankan style.

Elections Commissioner has sanctioned, announced and gazetted polls results. International election observers are unanimous in their decision that the election was free and fair.

Moreover, counting is done manually by the Elections Commissioner's staff in a very transparent manner in the presence of a large number of counting agents appointed by presidential candidates. If any attempt had been made to switch bundles of votes, as claimed by some Opposition politicians, the counting agents would have raised a rumpus and there would have been utter chaos at counting centres. Any political party could ask for a recount to clear doubts. Results are unofficially known at the end of the manual count before the Commissioner makes official announcements thereof. (See our front page news item quoting an Election Secretariat consultant and a letter by a former Assistant Returning Officer on the opposite page today.)

The Opposition which imported a reconditioned campaign slogan from the US–Obama's 'change'–seems to have borrowed an excuse for its failure also from that country–a computer glitch in Florida, which allegedly enabled President George W. Bush's victory in 2000. But, unlike here, in the US the voting process is computerised.

The claim that the counting of votes was manipulated and the Election Secretariat computer system tampered with to distort the results of the presidential election is a slur on the Elections Commissioner and his staff. It is hoped that the Election Secretariat will counter this allegation and put the matter to rest.

When the Opposition complains of a sophisticated hi-tech operation to manipulate election results, it highly overrates the incumbent government which even did not know until noon on the polling day that its bête noire, Fonseka, was without a vote! 

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