29 October, 2020

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First Steps In Sri Lanka

By The Economic and Political Weekly –

Wigneswaran

A small door has opened with the victory of the Tamil National Alliance.

The Northern Provincial Council election in Sri Lanka, which the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) won resoundingly with over 80% of the votes polled, attracted an unusual level of national and international interest, being the first Provincial Council election to be held in the North since the Indian Army pulled out in 1990. Unresolved questions about the war contributed to this interest in a major way. The election, it was anticipated, would be an occasion where the people would deliver their verdict, and they did so with a voter turnout of 70%. After years of apathy, the public suddenly seemed to believe that an expression of their protest would change things for the better.

The powers of the council, never spelt out clearly, have in practice been whittled down over the years, yet even the token powers it retains over land, and law and order are seen by Sinhala nationalists as a bridge to separatism. The post-war reality, on the contrary, is that the government has taken over large tracts of land, depriving Tamil residents of their land and livelihoods. It has offered Sinhalese families incentives to settle in the North on one-and-a-half-acre plots, while a landless Tamil family is at best entitled to a quarter acre. Behind the massive government expenditure on infrastructure and Sinhalisation lies the neglect of war-affected Tamil civilians, maimed, traumatised and broken families buried under the government’s claim that it fought a war with zero civilian casualties, intimidation and surveillance by the military, and militarisation of all aspects of life.

The vote was a positive rejection of a government which was indifferent to the people’s real feelings while deluding itself that the people should be grateful for roads, electricity and railways – public utilities that any government must provide. Another important reason for the high turnout was the week-long visit of United Nations Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay just 19 days before the polls on 21 September.

Regrettably, the TNA’s election rhetoric had plenty on Tamil valour but little on the reality of Tamil suffering. The nature of their campaign, based on the rhetoric of Tamil exclusivism, prevented them from attempting to build bridges with Sinhalese and Muslim people based on common interests. On a more sinister note, they tried to boost their fortunes by massaging latent LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) sympathies and branding their electoral rivals as traitors, although people have increasingly come to understand the LTTE’s true nature and realise that its intolerance was largely responsible for the irreplaceable losses they have faced. The TNA’s rhetoric made indomitable heroes of LTTE conscripts cynically forced into the doomed battle that ended the war. Their insensitiveness on this score was matched by crocodile tears for the civilian deaths for which their support for LTTE propaganda was partly to blame. A huge gap was in evidence between the TNA’s rhetoric and the true plight and misery of the people.

One candidate kept out by the TNA, Gnanasakthi Sritharan, could have brought in the dimension of social reform that was missing from its programme. Gnanasakthi has long experience working among and mobilising the poor. As a member of the Eelam People’s Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF) women’s wing, she played a leading role in the women’s protest against fratricidal bloodletting among militant groups in 1986. After seeing at first hand the harm done by the advancing Indian Army in her village of Urumpirai in October 1987, she opposed the EPRLF joining forces with the Indian Army. When the war ended in 2009, she returned to active work among the rural villages.

Ananthi Sasitharan, who was elected on the TNA list, represented the important constituency of those whose husbands or relatives surrendered to the Sri Lankan army at the end of the war and then disappeared. There are hundreds in this category, and there is no closure for these losses. Ananthi deservedly attracted support by her courageous defiance of the state forces’ intimidation, including a recent attack on her home. Her election gives the missing a voice. But another category – the thousands who went missing under the LTTE’s regime – has never had a voice. The international community ignored them because they wanted to bring the LTTE into an impossible peace they thought was more important. The TNA too finds those killed by the LTTE an embarrassment, as the number includes many of their leaders and colleagues who were branded traitors by the LTTE. Advancing reconciliation among the Tamils themselves demands a struggle for democracy and openness.

The government’s idea of development through building roads and infrastructure on borrowed money does not go beyond turning the country into a giant tourist resort where the north-east would be a satellite of big money based in Colombo. The centralisation of all development funds and activities was taken a step further in January when the Divi Neguma Bill placed development funds, formerly controlled by the provincial councils, in the hands of Basil Rajapaksa, the president’s brother. In this set-up, it is not surprising that there is no development that aims to give people viable livelihoods and stop the haemorrhage of the educated young. The TNA’s victory and even the little authority the provincial council would have, gives an opportunity for thinking through what form the people’s demand for autonomy should take.

*This is the Economic and Political Weekly Editorial of Vol – XLVIII No. 40, October 05, 2013

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Latest comments

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    Makes for very depressing reading :-(

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    Looks somewhat like Tissahamy the Vedda Chief except for the red bullet hole in the forehead.

    Thalaivar had a bigger pottu!

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      Fathima Fukushima

      “Looks somewhat like Tissahamy the Vedda Chief except for the red bullet hole in the forehead.”

      You are free to take a dig at Tamils or Sinhalese not at our cost.

      You should apologize to my people.

    • 0
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      Fathima Fukushima’s shit hit the CT fan again.

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        Fathima kakushima’s…..did you go to the kakus this morning

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          Kakushima is under the order of Mahinda not to go to Kakus in the morning… but to stay awake and and do the kakus on all CT posts

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    The guy who wrote this article has his/her own prejudices.

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    Fathima Fukushima and Jim Softy,

    if there is a another war, dont forget that Sinhala Army will loose, carefully hand this time my friend, its not like before, as LTTE has gone under the grass and even yesterday I heard that 1 Army man got killed by unknown man, and appeared to be someone has shot a lonly army guy by Pistol. Who killed him? its a daily routine as they are trying to kill atleast 1 eah day so they can achive 365 death of Army. in the other had Gota is abducting and putting them in a Chemical Barrell that Flesh and bone is metling becoming Juice with a seconds. however this time Sinhala have to be very careful as Enemy will be much equal when Muslims Join the Tamils to fights for their life… and will expect more trouble when SHEBAB , AL QAEDA, THALIBAN what ever mad people enter .. then the end of all Chandi Gota and his Chinese Army support. remeber thought America is againts to Exteremist, still they support Muslims in front of Russia and China.. :) becase USA is God Believer, but China and Russia is Demon Belivers. [Edited out]..

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      Is this the new plan for Eelam? Posting incoherent drivel to commit genocide on the brain cells of people reading it? :D

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    This Wingeswarn character is a nut.Still he is on the illusion that he is currently a judge.A lot of threats and hot air.An idiotic novice in to politics.He believes that blackmail tactics will work.It’s high time to inquire his assets and wealth.It’s a matter of time before he gets cold feet and blink.In the meantime he can play the role of Mama boy and seek the solace of new girl on the block,[Edited out]Navaneetham Pillay!

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      well if the same rules apply and we inquire about the wealth of the Govt ministers then all of them will be in jail for fraud maxie boy!

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      If he were a junior magistrate appointed by your excellency’s govt. I can understand, but he is way too senior a judge and a well read man for you to poke your kevum kokis..go ahead yap al you want but remember you are only exposing your shortcomings!

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    The provincial council is powerless and penniless !

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    A very good article except sympathy for Gnanasakthi Sritharan who contested on EPDP ticket and lost. She has done service to the community but EPDP is considered as the traitor and criminal because of the hundreds of abductions, torture and disappearances carried by it in collaboration with the military. Even in the case of diluting the already defunct 13th A EPDP head Douglas Devananda kept quiet in the cabinet meeting whereas Rauf Hakkeem and Vasudeva Nanayakara raised objections.

    Chief Minister dsignate Mr Wigneswaran starts his work with an open heart and overwhelming support of Tamils. His success depends more on goodwill and cooperation of the president than the efficiency of TNA.

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    A good analysis but all depends whether the central government will grant sufficent funds for the newly elected council can commence work for the benefit of citizens in its area.
    The council does not even have a meeting place – they intend meeting in a pradeshiya saba hall or a hotel.
    Meanwhile,the army continues to encroach on public lands to undermine livelihoods related to agriculture and animal husbandry – the government ignores this situation.

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      Sufficient funds.

      HOw easy it is.

      give us every thing free and we will do the job.

      IS that why they need power too ?

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    This is how Wigneswaran and his TNA were seen by another Tamil;

    “The electoral triumph of the Tamil National alliance(TNA) at the Northern provincial elections is being viewed by many as a significant breakthrough in the long struggle waged by Sri Lankan Tamils to achieve equality and justice in the Island. Despite the widely prevalent optimism this writer however is quite pessimistic at this point of time about this expectation. The hawkish manner in which the TNA conducted its campaign as well as the hostility it has evoked amidst hardliners in the South does not augur well for the positive future of the Northern provincial council. Enhancing this disillusionment further is the spectacle of an eminent ex-Supreme court judge transforming into a third-grade politician engaging in cheap politics”

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    CM Wickneswaran is indeed a pitiable figure. Wrapped up in outdated legalese, never having been in touch with Northern peasants, livinng in Kolumbu Mr Wickneswaran has now taken up the silk based national dress (typical of high cst hindus) and the red pottu larger than his eyes.

    I wonder what he is going to negotiate for and with whom? What is his BATNA? The PC’s are operative on 13A which is part of the constitution; the SC has ruled on land powers. What else is he looking for?

    His naivity was demonstrated when he called Late Mr VP a hero; to be honest; he is not a hero to more than 99% of Sri Lankan tamils especially those who handed over their kids to Mr VP to stiate his bloodthirst. Mr Wickneswaran has never experineced the pains of a parent when handing over a 16 year old son and daughter to Mr VP. he will never know that pain.

    For starters, Mr Wickneswaran will do well to get rid of his silk national costume and aquire cotton verties and cotton tops; that clothing is more representative of the common tamil man and is more comfortable in Sri Lankan climatic conditions.

  • 0
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    we tamils and muslims will kick ass in near future . All you singhala madayas better watch out

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