14 August, 2020

Blog

General Elections & Our Future

By Thanges Paramsothy

Thanges Paramsothy

Thanges Paramsothy

What do we learn from the parliamentary election held on the 17th August of 2015? In my opinion, which is shared by some other political analysts as well, the voters have questioned the divisive politics promoted by some narrow nationalist political parties. Exclusivist ethno-religious nationalisms have posed a threat to social harmony in the country. They have divided the people along lines of ethnicity, religion, language and territory. Viewing every single problem in a multi-ethnic, multi-religious country solely through the lens of ethnicity and nationalism creates tension, disharmony and resentment and often instigates individuals and communities to act against one another. We now live in a society where the differences between communities in terms of religion, language and culture need to be respected. One culture or identity is not in any sense inferior or superior to another culture or identity. All the communities on the island need to be treated equally and their dignity should be protected.

To emphasize the importance of singular imagination does not mean that we disregard the plural character of our polity and embrace the “Sri Lankan identity” (which is often equated with the Sinhala-Buddhist identity by Sinhala-Buddhist nationalism). The Sri Lankan state cannot be associated exclusively with “Sinhala” or “Tamil” or “Muslim” or “upcountry Tamil” or “any other ethnic group.” Sri Lanka a rich mosaic of all and one should not use this identity to create divisions within the people of Sri Lanka. We need to see this identity as common to all even though there are differences in the numerical strength of the different communities and different historical texts state that a particular community or some communities came to this island before others.

RanilWe have to move forward appreciating the differences, valuing the cultures of each other and recognising the importance of each citizen without allowing nationalisms to imprison us. When we associate the state/country with a particular ethnic group, we stop recognising other cultures and ethnic groups and their place in the state. While each politician and citizen in Sri Lanka give importance to their shared ethnic identity and culture, they should recognise others equally including in electoral politics without creating unnecessary tension among the people. It is a culture of co-existence and power sharing that we need to promote. We all have the ability take the country forward but we have not taken strong action in this regard. Now we have to act as agents of progressive change.

It should be noted that the Sri Lankan state has failed to address the problems of the workers and ethnic and religious minorities. In the post-independence history of Sri Lanka, we witnessed ethnic polarisation, riots and armed conflicts, thousands of deaths, disappearances and loss of property. Many citizens of Sri Lanka irrespective of their ethnic, class, caste and gender backgrounds still suffer due to the prolonged armed conflict and the political violence at the different levels of society. In order to move forward, the newly elected government should address the socio-economic challenges facing the people and find solutions to the prolonged national question without exacerbating the divisions.

It is apparent in the last parliamentary election that the people of Sri Lanka have shown their opposition to divisive politics in remarkable manner. I do not say that that the narrow nationalisms of the north and the south were overwhelmingly rejected. What I would like to emphasise is that these nationalistic/divisive approaches have been defeated to some extent. The United People Freedom Alliance (UPFA) on the one hand created fear among the Sinhala voters in their election campaign that the UNP was going to divide the country and allow the LTTE to regroup, as part of their strategy of maximising their votes. The Tamil National People’s Front (TNPF) on the other hand contested the election by raising the slogan of “two nations – one country.” Both of these parties who resorted to divisive politics have been defeated. The Tamils in the north-east overwhelmingly rejected the TNPF though the party in its campaign selectively attacked militant groups like the PLOTE and EPRLF, constituents of the TNA, for their involvement in abuses while praising the LTTE and portrayed the politicians of the TNA who showed interest in engaging with the Southern political parties as traitors to the Tamil cause. The TNPF also received support from a section of the Tamil diaspora. However, this party was able to get only 15, 022 votes, which is estimated as 5% of the total votes polled in Jaffna district. Its performance in the rest of the Northern and Eastern provinces was even worse compared to Jaffna.

The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) continues to emphasize the importance of finding a solution to the Tamil national question in their electoral politics. But the TNA overtime has adopted a flexible approach to the Tamil national question understanding the complexity of the issue in a multi-ethnic society. This also shows that the divisive/nationalistic version of electoral politics has started to wither away in post-war Sri Lanka for the first time.

The newly elected government has some immediate as well as long-term responsibilities and challenges in order to lead the country. It has now been more than six years after the end of the bloody civil war in Sri Lanka. Thousands of people who were displaced from the northern part of Jaffna are still living in IDP camps and with their friends and relatives. They should be, without further delay, resettled in their lands. It is the responsibility of the government and its establishments to take the necessary steps to solve this problem.

Moreover, thousands of war-affected female-headed households in the north and the east of the country have been leading a difficult life under conditions of economic hardship and intimidation for several years. A proper mechanism should be created in order to support them consistently. Those who committed war crimes and crimes against humanities need to be investigated and punished according to the law of the land. This might be hard for the new government as the state was complicit in the brutality that happened at the end of the war. But there is no other alternative for a government that wishes to lead a civilised society. Transparency and accountability with regard to war-related issues are essential to ensure reconciliation and peaceful ethnic co-existence in post-war Sri Lanka.

Devolving powers to all the ethnic groups and regions is very essential. This needs to be done by acknowledging the changing patterns of the different nations territorially. The government should act with courage in this regard and convince the people that power sharing benefits all communities on the island. We do not have to rely on the international community to do this. We have the capacity to do this but we need to engage with this issue with an open mind. It is now in our hands whether we live together moving towards a better nation or fighting each other and paving the way for another round of communal tension. The new government, the civil society, political parties and the people need to work together to put an end to decisive politics in the country.

*Thanges Paramsothy – PhD Research Student in Anthropology, School of Social Sciences, University of East London, UK

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • 5
    0

    Well said, most appropriate for our present time politicians to get together and rule this country and be united in love for the development of its people, future generations and the prosperity of this country. Now is the time, now is the hour for these precious and momentous time in the history for all hearts and minds to blend and leave aside hatred, animosity, jealously, communalism and to bring to book all the looters of this land who have ruined its environment and destroyed nature.

    Allow the grieved and humiliated and destroyed hearts to grieve over their loved ones, allow them time in the north and the east for them to come to terms with the loss of their loved ones for the sake of reconciliation and peace. Allow all citizens to practice their religions wherever they are, whoever they are and they have a right to live, be loved, secured, a roof over their head, employment, equal opportunities which can only be achieved with love, peace and harmony.

    Let us see the ruthless rulers, murderers, perverts, drug barons, looters and environment scavengers perish in front of our own eyes so that retribution is slow but sure.

    May God, Allah, Buddha and all the dieties protect and lead this country to wealth and prosperity for all citizens, no matter colour creed, whatever !

    • 1
      0

      Dear Thanges,

      As a person who respects you and uses some of your writings as references in what I write, I am in full agreement with most of what you have said.

      It is obvious that nearly 50% of the Sinhalese (who are mostly Buddhists), have rejected the racist propaganda that MR and his supporters unleashed (even the spectre of a divided Lanka). But this won’t last unless Tamil Politics change its character and prove to that 50%, that they were right to reject the racist fear mongering. It is a golden opportunity that should not be lost.

      I am placing before you Three Facts.

      1. The TULF claimed the North and the East as “Exclusively the Homeland of the Tamils” in their 1977 Election Manifesto.

      2. The Map below is dated 1726 AD and is in a Dutch Museum.
      http://www.atlasofmutualheritage.nl/en/Map-Ceylon.5852
      .
      3. The quote below is also from a Dutch Museum
      .
      “There was a narrow tongue of land at Elephant Pass a fort was built to guard the border with the king’s territory”
      .
      (http://www.atlasofmutualheritage.nl/en/Elephant-Pass.813p#Details
      .
      When common property is misappropriated there is inevitably an adverse reaction from those who are being cheated.

      What are your views on the above?

      Kind Regards,

      MNIN Perera (OTC)
      mninperera@gmail.com

      • 1
        0

        MNINP,

        “But this won’t last unless Tamil Politics change its character and prove to that 50%, that they were right to reject the racist fear mongering.”

        There might be hope of a change if the TNA manages to purge the radicals or at least control them. This includes getting rid of the Chief Minister of NP.

        “I am placing before you Three Facts.”

        While I do not doubt your facts I doubt their relevance.

        • 1
          0

          Dear The Rogue Ayer,

          It is relevant due to the following statement.

          Thanges wrote “Devolving powers to all the ethnic groups and regions is very essential. This needs to be done by acknowledging the changing patterns of the different nations territorially”

          There is a claimed region (TULF election manifesto) that is not historically supported and a region that is historically supported (Dutch Maps and records).

          The claim is designed to Cheat and Rob the rest of Lanka’s Citizens of their birthright.

          Thanges would have his own views and it would be interesting to know what they are.

          Kind Regards,
          OTC

      • 0
        0

        Dear Thanges,

        Why are the Tamils fighting shy of discussing this Mythical “Historical” Tamil Homeland?.

        I expected you to express your opinion and presented FACTUAL historical information.

        Yet you fight shy of a discussion. Why?

        Kind Regards,
        MNINP

  • 6
    3

    Thanked,

    Wise words indeed from a very young man, who has chosen to live with us and learn, though born/brought up in the UK.
    Your words are those of a wizened old man.

    Thanks. I hope other young men and women will come forward to set an example to those, some young , many middle aged and many over 50 years in age, who are intent on adding more tinder to the ember that is yet visible and is ready to flare.

    Dr.RN

    • 2
      0

      “Your words are those of a wizened old man. “

      Don’t insult this fellow; The picture shows he is still a young fellow enjoying his night cricket between the sheets.

  • 1
    5

    Correction:

    The above conment is addressed to ‘ Thanges’

    Dr,RN

    • 2
      0

      Wow! I thought you were referring to our Foreign Minister who also has returned from the UK with a degree in Batik Printing. Thank God for your clarification.

  • 4
    0

    Good article.
    anyways, I cant really get it why lankens in general voted for Wimal Weerawanse and rejected Rosy senanayake. It is believe most living in Western Province are educated enough to see it right or wrong. Rosy and all the JVP active men that worked die hard revealing all high profile corruptions. These men and women are raw diamonds of lanken politics. bu tthem to have got rejected is really pain while enriching the hands of Gomanpilla others that only stood with doggy politicians that eroded lanken politics.

    Can anybody of you please add your thoughts in this regard -thank you

    • 3
      1

      MS M,

      That’s the million dollar question, we should not forget the voters of south electing Geetha, Nishantha Muthuhettigama and Rohana Abeygunawardana
      (really does this 3 deserved to be in the parliament ? ) and the guy who is in remand for murder gets the highest votes, something is fundamentally wrong with our voters.

      If we analyse the DNA of this 2 set of people I am sure will find some similarities in origin.

      One thing is clear for me that is the hardcore Baiya is gonna vote blue no matter what. There brain functions does not allow them to think beyond that.
      The baiya who is able to think even a bit has changed colors.

      Thank god sanity prevailed even by a small margin. What I gather most of these candidates (the worthy ones) will be accommodated by NL.

    • 6
      0

      Because the people are stupid.
      People believe any lie about Rosy.
      People believe Wimal’s lies as revolutionary.

      The article is nice uplifting out of this world fiction. Word out on their street is Comrade Wimal is main opposition to UNF and UPFA National Government.
      It is more likely we are going to get more Wimal hunger strikes soon.

  • 3
    2

    It is true that people have not favoured or defeated ethno/religious extremism to a great extent at the elections both in the south and the north. This is a great reason to rejoice. However, ethno/religious nationalist feelings, mutual fears or misconceptions might prevail for years to come, from all sides, unless necessary steps are taken to alleviate/change them through political reforms, socio-economic changes and education. The initial efforts, in my view, should be ‘ideological’ or educational in a visionary manner to bring the hearts and minds of the people together while not neglecting pressing needs of those who have suffered from the past conflicts. It is in this context that I appreciate the author’s efforts to submit his views in a non-antagonistic manner and particularly to highlight that we all are in a better position to move towards reconciliation and resolution of the conflict/s. More discussions of this sort are necessary.

    It is interesting note that while the author equates/compares the TNPF and the UPFA as the two extremes in the north and the south, some others point to the BBP as the counterpart of the TNPF in the south. They both have received very similar number of votes! I have seen some Sinhala media comments to that effect. In the latter perception, the UPFA might be the rough equivalent of the TNA, with similar left parties being some constituencies. Leftism and nationalism are mixed up in both cases. These are some of the ‘perceptions’ that I might think that we also have to resolve perhaps in a non-polemical manner. Based on these observations, I might also speculate or suggest that liberal notions may be more useful than leftist ones (i.e. Marxist) in conceptualizing ethnic conflicts and their resolution. I mean ‘liberal’ in a very broad manner.

  • 5
    0

    Appachhi!……Appachii…………..

    Koaaa Appachii!!!!!!

    ……..Aiyyoo Appachii!!.

  • 1
    0

    Appachhi Kaley; Dhang Appacchi Umbata Ooanne Wennaeyay Bung.

  • 0
    2

    Appachchi secured 95 seats for a party whose chairman and head of state was doing his best to defeat it !!!! That’s a marvel in itself. Shows MR has clout and MS is a buffooooon.

    • 0
      0

      All what you have said is right, but in a country where a section of voters prefer Weerawansa to Rosy and at the other side Sumanthiran to Suresh Premachandran, what a president can do who wants to bring good governance to the country and won by UNP votes.
      dh
      95 seats MR won is an indication of majority Sinhala Buddhists mind set and their preparedness to condone the corruption and nepotism if someone promised that he/she will deal with minority harshly if they elected to rule. On the other hand, Jaffna selecting Sumanthiran who is a pragmatic leader is one of the best thing happened to Tamils in recent times. What Tamils want is not mere talk but some runs on the board, it was missing for a while. Let’s see how far 13th gets to under a national government. This time, Sumanthiran should accept a ministry if it was on offer. Tamils’ voting to TULF/TNA always has been a protest votes against SL Govt which time and again upset them, not completely based on an individual candidate’s popularity. However, within a party popularity helps among individual candidates, Sumanthiran over Suresh says something about something?. If not heard loud and clear, see what happened to Gajendrakumars who started his election campaign with a fanfare at VVT, what a gimmick- when people still languishing with their own woes, these morons trying to make a living out of them. Am happy that Tamils voter responded for my liking rejecting all these questionable characters, except selecting Douglas. Hmm, there are bad apples every where, but in a fair election EPDP getting 30K votes makes me wonder as much as MR getting 95 seats. I thought he would not get past 50 seats.

  • 1
    0

    Aia,

    “Hmm, there are bad apples every where, but in a fair election EPDP getting 30K votes makes me wonder as much as MR getting 95 seats.”

    Unless I am totally wrong EPDP had three MPs and now only has one.

    Suresh might wiggle his way in thru the National List.

    • 0
      0

      The Rogue Ayer

      Yes, from 3 to 1 is good but my expectation was, nil. As you know, in the past it was conceivable that they were able to get some seats as with MR supports EPDP were able to muster some political influence in getting some jobs, transfers, promotions, releases, etc. So those who obliged might have returned the favor. At least for past 7 months, their influence was somewhat neutralized, and their atrocities in the isles around Jaffana was also brought under control, yet the culture was still well alive, eg: Vidya’s rape. Even after all this, EPDP getting 30K says something, do not you think?. Have we learnt a lesson?. Once we have had 22 seats and now comes down to 16, why?.

Leave A Comment

Comments should not exceed 200 words. Embedding external links and writing in capital letters are discouraged. Commenting is automatically disabled after 7 days and approval may take up to 24 hours. Please read our Comments Policy for further details. Your email address will not be published.