By Rasika Jayakody –
Many claim that the reason behind the TNA’s resounding victory in the North is nationalistic inclination of Jaffna Tamils that was aroused to a large extent by pro-LTTE propaganda. Among the Sinhala community, a perception has already been created that Tamils, as a collective, have voted for the “nation”, while the Sinhalese are burying themselves in the mud pool of preferential votes.
The TNA’s victory in the North was not something unexpected. Everyone knew that the TNA would secure the power with a huge margin, probably with a two thirds majority. But many expected a keen contest between the TNA and the UPFA in some parts of Jaffna that were previously considered as EPDP strongholds. However, there was no competition whatsoever in the end and the election appeared to be a one horse race.
The TNA election campaign was cashed in on prevailing divisions and the election manifesto was clearly gravitated towards separatism. The need of an armed struggle was stressed at election rallies from time to time and incendiary speeches were made by top rung TNA leaders, including Wigneswaran, its Chief Ministerial candidate, from the outset of the campaign. Some candidates openly stated that they were seeking a mandate for ‘liberation’ and it was crystal clear that they were referring to the creation of a separate state. The TNA, throughout its election campaign, did not consider the 13th amendment even as the starting point of a political solution. Above all, territorial integrity of Sri Lanka was challenged, overtly and covertly, and that seemed to be the core message of almost all their speeches and slogans.
It would not take an Einstein to realize that the TNA is not ready for unity and reconciliation, and only interested in cashing in on existing ruptures between Sinhalese and Tamil communities as a result of the 30 year long terrorist war. By voting for the TNA, the Tamils in the North, endorsed the hardline policy of the party in a post war equation. It is naïve to believe that they are not aware of the fact that endorsing hardline and secessionist policies of the TNA will further displace them socially, economically and ideologically. But it is interesting to find out why the Tamil voters in the North travelled that dangerous path, oblivious to its far reaching repercussions.
The TNA, from the very beginning, did not have a clear policy when it comes to solving the socio-economic problems faced by the people in the North. One classic example was its stolid silence over the poaching by Tamil Nadu fishermen in Sri Lankan waters, depriving fishermen in Jaffna of their livelihood. Similarly, the TNA had no solid plan on poverty alleviation, infrastructure development or creating employment under the existing framework. All its focus was on “shared sovereignty” and “self-rule for Tamils” which the provincial administration will never get in the foreseeable future. Unfortunately, 75 percent of Tamil voters in the North who voted for the TNA did not notice its blindness to several key matters concerning them.
There was no active Tamil intelligentsia in the North that was capable of guiding the Tamils to make inroads into the mainstream politics, coming out of the communal shell created by chauvinistic Tamil politicians for more than seven decades. There was no one to point out the long terms repercussions of seeking refuge in the secessionist camp which is only capable of creating more and more troubles. There was no one to stress the importance of resolving ground level problems under the present framework, instead of spending time and energy over hypothetical political reforms such as self-rule and shared sovereignty for the North that will never take off the ground in the present context. At the end of the day, the TNA’s approach will delay the restoration of normalcy in the North and hinder the socio-economic growth of the province. This intellectual lacuna was the main reason behind the ideological poverty and parochialism of Tamil politics, making it vulnerable to pro-LTTE and secessionist rhetoric spawned by the TNA and its top rung leaders.
On the other hand, the government failed to create a strong and realistic message vis-à-vis the propaganda campaign by the TNA. The EPDP, which was the main constituent party of the UPFA in the North, did not have the intellectual capacity to present a strong viewpoint on bridging the North and the South by assimilating everyone into a much broader Sri Lankan identity. Although they spoke highly of infrastructure development and economic progress in the North, it was not backed by a broad political perspective that could strengthen the anti-secessionist message. A candidate who contested for the Northern Provincial Council under the UPFA ticket told this writer on a personal note that the government too needs a Sampanthan, perhaps a slightly younger one, who could do exactly the opposite of what Sampanthan is doing. And he appeared disappointed at the fact that there was no potential ‘Sampanthan’ in the picture as far as the ruling party was conderned. All in All, it is this inability that played into the hands of the TNA and Wigneswaran, paving the way for them to achieve a thumping victory that was marked by skullduggery.
*Rasika Jayakody is a Sri Lankan journalist who may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Vibhushana / September 28, 2013
Its interesting you say this. Imagine they cannot “join the mainstream” for cultural reasons. See the moment SLFP or UNP get a foothold in Jaffna, anyone can be appointed regardless of caste. The Vellalar can only play with caste prejudice if the party and the people are entirely Tamil. This is “Tamil homeland” for you. Its a cage to keep the low castes in bondage.
Over 20 million in Tamil nadu are illetrate whereas the adjoining state Kerala completey literate. The same game is played in Tamil Nadu. They have a caste cage there as well preventing a mass of people from being educated.
Native Vedda / September 29, 2013
“Over 20 million in Tamil nadu are illetrate whereas the adjoining state Kerala completey literate.”
Tamil Nadu recorded a population of 72,147,030, growing by 97.4 lakh persons in the last decade, of which 80.1 per cent are literates, according to the 2011 census. – The Indian Express 31 May 2013
The illiterate population is about 14.328 million out of total population of 72.147 millions.
On the other hand Sri Lankan illiteracy rate is 8.1%, 1.69 millions out 20.869 million population.
The sad part of this comparative exercise is that you may have an impressive 91.9% literacy rate compared to your neighboring Tamilnadu yet 1.69 million are illiterate.
However, the impressive achievement on the part of Sri Lanka is that they have created 20.869 million stupid men and women.
Though Kerala has achieved impressive literacy rate the caste politics and consciousness deep rooted in certain parts of the state. Remember the state is highly diversed religiously which helps caste discrimination that much difficult.
Lanka Liar / September 29, 2013
You forgot that there is no white van in Kerala and Tamil nadu But do you find in SL. It is not literacy it is civilization that is important. Why the NP is civilized and not the South they are pretty close isnt it.
Patriot / September 28, 2013
It is naïve to believe that they are not aware of the fact that endorsing hard-line and secessionist policies of the TNA will further displace them socially, economically and ideologically.
What is naïve, is to pretend that SL is not in the middle of an international intervention. The northern voters seem to have a better grasp of the “big picture” than the GOSL does. They have observed as the GOSL obediently complied with everything asked of it by the UN/US. There is no reason to believe that the GOSL will not be forced to comply with UN/US mandates in the months ahead as well. So why even bother engaging with the GOSL? There is a new Sheriff in town.
Rather than trying to displace the northern people socially, economically and ideologically, even more than they have over the last 60 years, the GOSL should instead start thinking about what they are going to do in March 2014 at the UNHRC!
essie / September 28, 2013
Interesting. The writer does not appear to see what really lies behind the Tamil Vote. The TNA’s victory was not because they advocated separatism or change in govt. They won because the people lost faith in the UPFA-EPDP combination. All they want is peace without an intrusive army presence; and the displaced want their land back. There was no skullduggery as the writer implies. The GOSL has been dragging its heels on these issues.
However, its clearly up to the TNA now to accept a certain amount of compromise.The South doesnt need a Sampanthan clone-it needs a President who can focus on the ‘human’ element, not an extremist.I think the present incumbent can make the change-if he so wishes.
Agnos / September 28, 2013
Oh! A moronic journalist who supports a murderous regime and its EPDP, and sees none of their evils, has the gall to talk about ‘no active Tamil intelligentsia’ and ‘intellectual lacuna.’ You keep burying your head in the sand and then expect others to follow suit. Carry on fool.
Jim softy / September 28, 2013
Just like UPFA TNA is also an alliance of Tamil parties ?
They all represent Tamils only.
So, is it strange for TAMILS ONLY PARTIES WIN TAMIL VOTES ?
All make hair splitting arguments and something amazing that happened. But, they don’t admit for 30 years it was tamils who did not allow tamils to vote.
They blame sinhala people even though they have to praise sinhala people.
where is the honesty and the sincerity ?
Tamils promote everything tamil, govt should do it the grass root level in order to break down that high level propaganda.
sandun / September 30, 2013
Skullduggery? Secession? What is this guy smoking? When the south votes to elect the blatantly racist Mahinda Rajapaksa and his self proclaimed extremist cabinet and alliance partners with their religious intolerance and openly hegemonic rhetoric that’s the exercise of the free franchise. When the north votes for freedom the south has been denying them four years after the war ended by endorsing greater self rule (and what the devil is wrong with that? Isnt it the government that was not so longer ago advocating the gam sabha as a smaller unit of devolution to give people more say in their own affairs?)and the removal of the massive army presence somehow that’s a vote for secession. Rampant and unrepentant racism from ghostwriter to rival the JHU and wimal weerawansa. A vote Against the government is not a vote for Eelam. But with this kind of thinking among the supposed sinhala intelligentsia it’s no wonder Mr rasika’s government is winning no friends in the north.
Probono Publico / September 30, 2013
@ Rasika ,while the Govt may not have a Sambandan in its ranks it certainly does not lack pervertic fellows like Fathima Fukushima who very dearly portrays the Govt as the devil incarnate