Main Income Sources Agriculture and Fisheries
Land area 2609 Km2
Coastal Belt 130 Km
Registered voters 421,186
DS Divisions 11
Members of Parliament 06
PC members 12
Hambantota is one of the most backward districts in Sri Lanka. The Central Bank report 2005, ranks Hambantota as the third poorest district in the country and the poorest in the maritime provinces, with 32 percent of its population classified as poor. At every election, politicians had promised to develop the district. However, the plight of the people remains the same.
On this occasion too, candidates contesting the Southern Provincial Council election are going from door to door with loads of promises.
The ruling coalition UPFA s main election promise is to provide jobs for the unemployed in the district at the proposed Hambantota port which is under construction. Three Presidential Coordinators Kapila Dissanayake from Medamulana, S. V. P. Ananda from Ambalantota and Siripala Jayaweera from Tissamaharama - are among those contesting from the Hambantota district. Popular actress Susantha Chandramali is also in the fray from the Mulgirigala electorate.
Some UPFA candidates say that they are relations of President Rajapaksa and ask the people to vote for them. Some of them say that they are coordinating secretaries to the President and they will provide employment at the proposed Hambantota port.
Whatever the government that builds the port, the UNP says they will provide the unemployed with jobs in the Hambantota port under a future UNP government. As usual, the JVP promises a violence and corruption free administration under a future JVP regime.
This is the first Provincial Council election to be held after Hambantota district MP Mahinda Rajapaksa became the President of the country.
Due to that fact the government will go all out to bag the Hambantota district with the highest majority in history. There were nine UPFA members in the previous council, including four JVP councillors as the then JVP contested under the UPFA coalition while four UNP councillors were elected from the Hambantota district.
Hambantota is the largest district in the Southern Province. The district has a population of 525,370 who inhabit 2609 square kilometers. The 130 km long coastal belt in the district enables many to be involved in the fisheries industry. Of the total population, 244,847 are unemployed and 96 per cent live in rural areas.
According to the Hambantota District Secretary R. M. D. B. Meegasmulla there are 421,186 voters in the four polling divisions, Beliatta, Tangalle, Mulgirigala and Tissamaharama and they will vote for ten political parties and six independent groups to elect 12 members. There are a total of 240 candidates.
`We need 6400 officers on election day for 373 voting centres around the district. But Hambantota cannot supply that number. As such, we will need officers from other districts,` Meegasmulla said.
Sixteen thousand nine hundred and ninety four families in the Hambantota district were affected by the Tsunami in 2004. There were more than 6,000 deaths and more than 4,000 houses were damaged. According to the Fisheries Ministry, 92 percent of the fishing fleet was affected by the disaster, while damage to the agricultural sector amounted to about 350 hectares of paddy lands and 36 hectares of other field crops.
Muditha Indika, a graduate who lives in Tangalle, said that the government is yet to complete reconstruction of houses. Most houses built for the tsunami affected are occupied by UPFA supporters, he said.
The fisheries community is yet to recover from the disaster. Some of those who were involved in fisheries now work as labourers in construction sites for daily wages. Hundreds of acres of paddy fields affected by the Tsunami have been abandoned because of the salt water factor.
Indika said:`President Rajapaksa had appointed hundreds of fisheries inspectors from the District when he was the Fisheries Minister several years ago. There are Agriculture Officers and Agrarian Research and Production Assistants attached to all Grama Niladari Division. But acres and acres of paddy fields lie deserted and the youth are moving away from fisheries industry.`
Secretary of the Pahalagama Rural Coordinating Committee in the Ambalantota Divisional Secretary area, Aroma Nishanthi said that politicians appear only at election times. The people in the district are a disillusioned lot, she said. `Our village is yet to benefit by the Gemi Diriya or Gama Neguma programmes launched by the government. We do not have concrete roads.`
`We formed a Rural Coordinating Committee with the assistance of Care International, Hambantota. As a result, villagers are involved in several industries like agriculture, coir and the production of bricks. Technical knowledge and financial assistance is provided by Care International. They provided Rs. 15,000 each for self-employment projects,` Aroma said.
D. M. Nimal of Habaraththawela said the Koggalla Bridge was in a dilapidated state and the one and only bus to the village from Ambalantota does not reach its destination as the bridge was not secure and sure. School children are compelled to walk two kilometres to catch the bus every day. There is no sign of a new bridge being built.
Lasith Wiriththamulla of Sitinamaluwa in the Beliatta Divisional Secretariat area said that neither the UNP nor the UPFA has provided the people with their necessities.
The villagers of Beliatta, which is President Rajapaksa s electorate, complained that the Godakumbura bridge which connects Beliatta town to Matara, is in dilapidated condition for nine months and work on a new bridge has not commenced yet. This has compelled vehicles to make use of a temporary bridge to enter Beliatta.
Lakmal Punchihewa, an executive of a private company said that Beliatta has been neglected by President Rajapaksa. Development programmes are going on in other parts of the district, but not in the Beliatta electorate. `However, we will vote for the government for having ended the 30-year old war. We will, however, refrain from casting preferential votes.`
H. S. William of Weeriyagama in the Suriyawewa Divisional Secretary area said: `We are supporters of the UPFA and voted for President Mahinda Rajapaksa at every election. But our Samurdhi facility has been pruned down by the Samurdhi officer. We have no regular income. Because of that we will support the UNP.`
The main source of income for the people in the Suriyawewa area is from agriculture, including paddy and chena cultivation. To derive this income regularly their main requirement is water. Farmers at Weeriyagama in Suriyawewa said once there had been a proposal to build a canal to supply water to their cultivations benefiting over 5000 families. The project was started a decade ago and financed by the Southern Development Authority. But the project is still to be completed and nobody is aware of what has happened to the funds, the villagers said.
However, Hambantota District UPFA leader for the SPC polls, former Council Minister V. K. Indika said numerous facilities have been provided to the people by the previous administration. He said that the UPFA will emerge victorious at the forthcoming polls.
The former Southern Provincial Council Minister of Sports, Youth Affairs, Rural Development, Rural Industries, Housing, Women s Affairs and Fisheries, Indika said he will be the next Chief Minister, which would mean more benefits for the people.
`I m the senior most minister in the SPC and I have functioned as the acting Chief Minister on 10 occasions. The Chief Minister s post has never been given to a councillor from the Hambantota District. Both Matara and Galle Districts had chief ministers. This time, it is Hambantota s turn to produce a Chief Minister,` Indika said.
Hambantota District UNP leader MP Sajith Premadasa said that the government is involved in what he termed as a third class election campaign in the district. The UNP campaign is severely disrupted and offices are constantly attacked.
`We are campaigning under heavy suppression. They are destroying our election offices and attacking our supporters. However, our campaign has been successful and the people will vote with the UNP on October 10,` Premadasa said.
The JVP meanwhile, also criticised the government for attacking their election offices and party supporters. To date, around 25 JVP offices have been attacked and set on fire, allegedly by UPFA supporters. A JVP spokesman charged that no arrests had been made so far, but the police were acting in a strange manner by arresting JVP supporters who lodged the complaints, instead of the culprits.
JVP General Secretary Tilvin Silva said that there is a special law being implemented in the Hambantota district. At the beginning of the campaign, 15 JVP candidates in the district had been arrested and produced before courts. The violation of election laws was widespread in the district as the government s intention was to win the election by a huge majority. The government appears to be worried as the JVP is sure of securing a large number of votes in the South.
He said the Elections Commissioner recently ordered the removal of all billboards and the closure of certain party offices. But in the Hambantota district, billboards and illegal election offices of UPFA candidates still remain open. No action has been taken to remove them.
Last time, in 2004, the UPFA obtained 70.12 percent (141,283) votes from the Hambantota District which is the highest percentage compared to the other two districts at the Provincial Council Election. The JVP contested under the UPFA coalition and the JVP had four members in the previous council. The UNP polled 58,327 votes (28.95), with is the lowest percentage at 2004 Southern Provincial Council election. Country will know the verdict of Hambantota voters on October 11.