Colombo, February 14: A survey conducted by the Colombo-based Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) in September-October 2021, found that while the majority of Sri Lankans were wedded to the principle of elections, they were also hankering for “a strong leader who is not inconvenienced by elections.”
An overwhelming majority (92.2%) were in support elections as a way of choosing the rulers. However, 75% favored a strong leader. From an ethnic perspective it was mostly respondents from the Sinhala and Tamil communities who said that there should be a strong leader who did not have to worry about elections. Up Country Tamils and Muslims opposed the strong leader principle.
Exactly half of the respondents (50.3%) were of the opinion that more powers should be given to parliament by reducing the powers of the President.
An overwhelming majority (87.4%) said that all major decisions that concerned the country should be taken by experts rather than politicians. Nationally, a majority of respondents (60.7%) were of the view that there should be more experts as opposed to politicians in the government.
There appeared to be overwhelming support for the military as a result of its efforts to mitigate the COVID-19 crisis in the country. However, when asked as to whether the country should be governed by the military, a substantial majority (70.8%) said “no”.
There was however considerable support in the military handling public affairs at a time of crises. This view was held particularly by the Sinhala community (60.5%), as opposed to those from the minorities (Tamils 30.5%, Up Country Tamils 30.2% and Muslims 25.2%).
On giving decision-making powers to religious leaders, a majority of respondents (76.3%) disagreed that major decisions should be taken by religious leaders.
A majority of respondents (64.1%) said that it is unlikely that during its term in office, the Gotabaya Rajapaksa government would lift the country from the economic crisis it has been in.
There appears to be a certain degree of skepticism about the government’s plans to bring about a new constitution. Nearly 40% were of the view that a new constitution was unlikely.
A majority of respondents (72.1%) were of the opinion that even though chemical fertilizers are not good for one’s health, until a viable solution is found, chemical fertilizers should continue to be used to some extent. Only 23% of the respondents were of the view that chemical fertilizers must be completely stopped, immediately.
Nearly 45% of the respondents felt that the government should allow foreign companies to invest in the country, as an increase in trade would benefit everyone. But 37.5% said that due to exploitative practices of foreign companies, the government should not allow foreign investment in the country.
On household income, a significant proportion of respondents (75.1%) indicated that their household income got worse. This is felt most among the Up Country Tamil community (63.6%) which indicated a drop in income. A significant majority of respondents (58.8%) from the Up Country Tamil community indicated that their political party affiliations resulted in their being unfairly treated when receiving government subsidies.
Nearly 48.6% were of the view that their association with persons from other ethnic groups had remained the same when compared to what it was two years ago. Nearly 30% of the respondents claimed that it had got worse. Up Country Tamils (47.3%) and Muslims (40.5%) reported that inter-ethnic relations had got worse.
Nearly 37% of the respondents believed that freedom to criticize the President and other political leaders had decreased, whilst nearly 32% of the respondents claimed that it had remained the same. Muslims (51.9%), Up Country Tamils (51.5%) and Tamils (50.3%) claimed that there had been a decline in the level of freedom to criticize the President and other political leaders when compared to what it was during the previous government.
Muslims (50.4%) and Up Country Tamis (56.6%) and Tamils (45.3%) said that it had become difficult to criticize the military. Only 25.3% of the Sinhalese felt so.
Whilst a majority of respondents (58.2%) were of the view that the government would maintain good foreign relations, nearly one third of the respondents indicates that the government would not. From those who indicated that the government would not maintain successful foreign relations, it was mostly respondents from the Muslim community (40.2%) who held this view.