By Harim Peiris –
Last week, Rajavarothiam Sambanthan, the leader of the Tamil National Alliance pulled a political rabbit out of a proverbial hat, when long running rumors were confirmed that eminent jurist and articulate good governance advocate, retired Supreme Court Justice C.V.Wigneswaren was to be the TNA’s nominee for Chief Minister of the Northern Province.
Justice Vigneswaren as Chief Minster
That announcement essentially confirmed that Justice Wigneswaren would be the first Chief Minister of the post war Northern Province. Tamil politics is essentially a one horse race, for the TNA, with the EPDP as an also ran. The UPFA with its strident majoritarian ethno religious nationalism, has no appeal among the Tamil community. The Regime’s attempts, through Chinese funding of extended cantonments with adjacent settlements, to change the Tamil majority demographics of the North will take several years to reach fruition and certainly not by the September polls. The Muslim vote in the North will be divided between Rishard Bathurdeen’s Party which will contest within the UPFA and the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) which will go it alone. However, the Eastern Province model of an amalgamation of Muslim votes and Sinhala votes which just saw the UPFA beat the TNA by a mere six thousand two hundred votes only, in the entire eastern provincial vote, after losing the popular vote in both the Trincomalee and Batticalo districts, will not work for them in the North, with a much lower Muslim vote and a miniscule Sinhala vote.
However in victory, the TNA should be generous in the North and offer a provincial ministerial seat to the SLMC, forming a joint TNA – SLMC administration, which will be no constitutional bar to the SLMC’s role in the UPFA Cabinet at the Center. This will both serve as a model for the East, where the former military governor, ignores the elected Council and acts as if he has a popular mandate from the people. The President’s meeting with the Eastern Provincial councilors who were boycotting sessions, only papered over differences, since none of the substantive issues were dealt with. Keeping the SLMC within government in the context of the anti Muslim activities of government allies will increasingly be a very tough task.
Dayasiri joins the UPFA
Not to be outdone, President Rajapakse earlier this week played his own political trump card, when long running rumors that UNP Member of Parliament Dayasiri Jayasekera was crossing over to the UPFA, was confirmed, as he resigned his parliamentary seat, to become as he claimed the Chief Ministerial candidate of the UPFA for the North Western Province. That announcement saw more confusion in UPFA ranks as the incumbent UPFA Chief Minister of the province, Athula Wijesinghe was to claim that he, as the current Chief Minster would indeed be the UPFA’s chief ministerial candidate. Despite state media and pro government analyst often talking about dissension within the opposition, be it UNP or TNA, it is the UPFA which has been showing signs of serious fissures within its ranks and confusion over crucial national policies like constitutional amendments.
A narrowing electoral coalition for the Rajapakse regime
The governing coalition of the Rajapakse Administration, in fact its two third majority in parliament managed to hold together once the regime, both due to internal dissent and Indian pressure decided that its urgent bill of the 19th amendment, to strip away the exiting limited powers of the 13th amendment, was no longer urgent. An object lesson perhaps in how not to engage in constitutional reform. A vote on that bill might have precipitated a loss of the government’s two third majority, when the old left, comprising the CP, LSSP and NSSP, in a rare display of political backbone not demonstrated since 2005, joined the SLMC in stoutly resisting the proposed 19th amendments. Fisticuffs at a Cabinet meeting on the subject, between Ministers DEW Gunsekera and Wimal Weerawansa were barely avoided and then formally denied by the Cabinet Spokesman. One wonders if this new show of defiance is a reading by all these political players, that the regime is relatively weaker now and has seemingly lost its ability to steam roller unpopular measures catering to the whims of its more extremist allies.
A Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) of dubious credibility
Limited claims to credibility that the Government’s parliamentary select committee might have claimed to have disappeared, when the Government failed to make even its own solely government only PSC representative by excluding LSSP leader Professor Tissa Vitarana and SLMC leader Rauff Hakeem. In the parliamentary traditions of the Commonwealth, whose summit Sri Lanka is proud to host, a solely government PSC must be another unique first. The Government’s indecisiveness and political theatre of its proposed 19th amendment must surely make any opposition move to participate in the PSC, prior to a clear statement of policy by the Rajapakse regime, not only a futile exercise but worse a naive provision of political legitimacy to a government divided amongst itself and unable to represent a coherent policy.
* Harim Peiris‘s writings may be accessed online http://harimpeiris.com