Handsome Hakeem, Rajavarothayam Sampanthan And The Eastern Province Horse-Trading

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By Kumar David -

Kumar David Colombo Telegraph

Prof. Kumar David

Subterranean dimensions of Eastern Province PC horse-trading ; Leaders and parties are agents of history

It has been said that man makes his own history but that he does it not under circumstances of his own choosing but conditions given and inherited from the past. The parties and leaders now jostling and positioning themselves in the Eastern Province Provincial Council horse-trade are superficially playing for influence, power and posts. True they think they also have an eye on the future. Deeper however, unknown even to themselves, they are setting patterns of community, class and power-block relationships that will define the political constellation of Lanka for the next period. The next period I have in mind is up to the next parliamentary and presidential elections.

The permutations look like this. Handsome Rauf Hakeem of the SLMC is hotly pursued by Mahinda Rajapakse and Rajavarothayam Sampanthan both ardently seeking his favours. A spanner in the works by DEW Gunasekara of the Dead Left, which did not win a single seat, is the proposal for an all-party provincial government. All this may seem crude power play, but the way it turns out will influence national politics for the next period. I am writing now, before the outcome is know, and I want to keep it that way because it allows me to better explore the inner implications of the options.

First however, we need a few statistics. The demographics of the EP are: 40% Muslim, 35% Tamil and 25% Sinhalese. The outcome of the elections: UPFA 12 seats (plus two bonus), the ITAK 11, and the SLMC 7 seats. The UNP managed just 4 seats and Wimal Weerawansa’s NFF grabbed one seat, adding up to a total of 37. Of the UPFA elected 12, seven are Muslims, and one UNPer is a Muslim, with the SLMC’s seven this makes a total of 15 Muslims; but crucially they lie scattered and spattered across three political entities. This is significant because the Muslims have long been snivelling that they have no political clout in the country, not even in the EP which has a Muslim plurality.

What men think they are doing

The simple options are for Hakeem and the SLMC to bestow their favours on the ITAK or the UPFA. If the former, the SLMC will hold the provincial Chief Ministership and the broader reigns of power for the first two years, and the ITAK for the next two. This would go some way to addressing Muslim concerns since this is the first CMship the community has held and it will give Muslim leaders the opportunity to formulate and implement a programme for the improvement of their much depressed community.

The second option is to stick with the government. If Hakeem stays with Rajapakse he will protect his cabinet portfolio and make those SLMC parliamentarians who are in it for perks and money, legitimate or illegitimate, happy. However, if he bows before Rajapakse and rejects the ITAK offer he will be remembered as the leader who threw away an opportunity for asserting Muslim identity and implementing a Muslim led programme. Either way it’s an agonising decision and will likely involve a split among his elected councillors now, or down the road.

The logistics of the all-party option are a nightmare. Who will hold the trumps and for how long each? Will the SLMC, ITAK and UPFA (probably a Sinhalese) hold the CMship and the reigns of power for one-and-one-third years each? Sounds perfectly crazy. Will this all-party circus be able to evolve some circuitous formula whereby it can actually arrive at a working arrangement? I don’t see how and it will so dilute Muslim influence that, de facto, it will be a betrayal of the Muslim masses who have at last raised their heads, albeit through three parties.

The concomitant issue is that this all-party formula is actually a three-party formula since it will and is probably intended to isolate and exclude the UNP. This may turn out to be blessing in disguise for the UNP helping it emerge as the principal oppositional power in the Eastern Province.

What men are actually doing

What men do and what they think they do are different. One fundamental matter is that the Rajapakse autocracy realises the peril of a Muslim-Tamil power block in control of the EP-PC. Any alternative centre of power is perilous to autocracy. No autocrat accustomed to absolute power can survive fragmentation of absolutism. This the sole reason why the Rajapakse Administration is determined to resist provincial elections in the Northern Province unless it is compelled to hold them, kicking and screaming, by the international community. Hence even if the regime is not explicitly aware that it is fighting for its survival at the centre by preventing a Muslim-Tamil block at the periphery, that in fact, is what it is doing.

Hakeem too is probably more aware of the jobs and posts for the boys, protecting his cabinet portfolio, the bribes that his more unscrupulous MPs may be pocketing, and the instabilities he will create for himself by annoying the President. He is probably only dimly aware that it is better to chuck up this impotent mess of pottage called the Ministry of Justice, set up camp in the East (he can’t become CM though) and work towards genuine mass leadership of the Muslim community. But then, Hakeem lacks the will and determination of genuine leadership, he is a nice man not a hard man; he is Hakeem not Leneen! Anyway, individuals apart, the future of the Muslim community is being played out in the corridors of power.

An interesting equation is emerging in respect of the TNA. If the TNA consecrates matrimony with the UPFA in the East (the presence of the SLMC is only a second or lesser wife), it is a matter that has great implications for its own future and that of the Tamil people. Down the line, but in the foreseeable future, will Sampanthan be invited into Rajapakse’s bed in the centre? A cabinet post for a TNA appointee and a deal on devolution will please the international community too. What’s the plum for Rajapakse? The TNA will back the continuance of an executive presidential system and the extension of the current incumbent for another term. True it may not all go this far, but an alliance at the periphery will have overflow consequences in national politics.

This is not all nice and neat for the mass of the Tamil and Muslim people! The other alternative, the emergence of a Muslim-Tamil power block in the East, which some of the seven UPFA Muslim Councillors will cross over and join, will be a fundamental turn of the utmost significance in Lanka’s medium term political future. Will it happen? I don’t know, but you will, by the time you read these lines. If NP-PC elections are held, the UPFA wiped out, and a TNA led PC installed, well the executive presidential system and its current incumbent had better bid politics goodbye.

Much is at stake below men’s daily gaze. I think you will appreciate why I had to write this before the outcome of the horse trading was known. Uncertainty permits deeper introspection.

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12 Responses to Handsome Hakeem, Rajavarothayam Sampanthan And The Eastern Province Horse-Trading

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    Whoever comes, gives a burden to people and collect what ever they can, And vanish from E P. there will be no change of the style and walk. We know who are they. SLMC,TNA,ITAK, UPFA,UNP JVP, that P , this P, all the Ps are same. Bunch of crooks and thieves.

    SERUVILA SENARATH
    September 22, 2012 at 8:31 pm
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      Golden words. Sorry you are not near me to “Kattey seeni tikak danda (put some sugar into your mouth)”.

      Lanka Muslim, UK
      September 22, 2012 at 9:22 pm
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        What Hakeem has done is Vayilai munn. He is not from the East and theredfore does not feel the aches and pains of the Eastern person. He has no empathy with the Eastern person. Iwonder what the new Palmyrah group is doing- except climbing trees.

        Simhi
        September 23, 2012 at 3:45 pm
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        Hakeem has sold out in the East and now the SLMC is cosy with the UPFA that was threatening to move its mosque in Dambulla.. and is distracting the foolish Muslims by protesting big time some idiotic film made god knows where at the US embassy in Colombo. How’s that for a brilliant strategy of distraction from the main issue which is local and national politics in Lanka and not films made in the US.. Clearly the huge protest today at Galle Road has massive State patronage.. This is bread and circuses all right! Mahinda has fired a warning shot that he will not only use Sinhala Buddhist nationalistm but also Muslims to deflect critique of the Tamil issue! What a life!

        ranjith
        September 24, 2012 at 11:10 am
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      Time for TNA to stop making itself irrelevant and make the demand for an Provincial Council election in North before end of 2012 as a confidence building measure for TNA to join the PSC meeting on a political solution to the Tamil issue. TNA made itself irrelevant in EP by turning its nose up at the previous EP elections and is doing the same by refusing to join the PSC. It is the Tamil people who suffer as the result of Sambanthan’s lack of strategic thinking and prioritizing..

      Dodo
      September 23, 2012 at 3:03 am
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    As usual, Kumar D must be disappointed now …. Why? Because, he must be very unhappy about the outcome … No big dramas and shaming Sri Lanka in international arena on EP result is not materialised … By the way, SLMC was nicely and firmly told that they can not get the full pound of flesh … It is interesting to note that the ‘getting the full pound of flesh’ by race based parties is gradually diminishing … KD’s writing is shameful … Analyzing and promoting raced based politics is unbelievable …. Is this the quality coming out from learned academics? Their aim is to ‘regime change’ some how even using RACE card … What a pathetic mentalilty? By the way, your much loved SPRING in the middle east is increasingly becoming a mess … Are you still promoting the same SPRING to Sri Lanka? I am pretty sure that you are … You never care whether it is spring or winter … as long as it bring the bigger mess to the country so that it is ungovernable … I have to disappoint you, Kumar …. Now people know what people like you are upto … That’s why people across the country tolerate the government’s excesses and other law/order issues …

    Bruno Umbato
    September 22, 2012 at 10:23 pm
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    Whatever government is formed – now Majeed is Chief Minister – There will not be any drastic change in the socio-political-economic situation in the eastern province,unless the Military Governer is replaced by a civilian, as he overides all decisions of the council according to the wishes of the President,and the overiding authority of the army. Kumar’s analysis of the power-soup is interesting but unrealistic.

    Justice
    September 22, 2012 at 10:54 pm
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    As it played out Hakeem ate the cake and had the cake. Probably it will not digest easily and give him numerous bouts of colic in the future. Sri Lanka is not about principled politics, it is the politics of opportunity. Politicians are there mainly to feather their own nests except for a few like Mr Najib Majeed the new chief minister. It would be good if the TNA too could be brought on board to represent the Tamil community who have given them an overwhelming mandate. It would be better for them to cooperate with the Govt and get the job done for their community rather than sitting it out in the cold hoping for the benevolence of the International Community.

    Karthelis
    September 23, 2012 at 12:45 am
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      There goes KD again..trying to resurrect his shattered dreams. There was no horse-trading as surmised by you, but good old commonsense prevailed. Unless the ethnic parties come to terms with the government of the day, they will be left behind and it is their people who suffer. The TNA does not understand it. The late Mr. Thondaman did. Thanks to the intellects of the likes of KD, the TNA has gone even further astray. Sri Lanka is an intelligent country which has moved forward giving its peoples a better life. If you want to progress, ‘join it, or lie in the shallows for ever’..with thanks to Shakespeare.

      P.Riyad
      September 24, 2012 at 9:16 am
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    Hakeem is a poor excuse for a human being his greed for power and perks betrayed the very Muslim people who were duped, again, to cast a vote on race lines to a creepy self serving sycophant. This is a lesson to all Sri Lankans, vote with your conscience for a person capable of serving all the people and not himself.

    Concerned
    September 23, 2012 at 6:54 am
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      His favourite phrase ” perum pesuthal” does not translate as bargaining but as horse trading.

      Simhi
      September 23, 2012 at 3:50 pm
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      Hakeem had no option it appears. Idi Mahin was flipping pages from the “Kumari” file!!!!

      mike
      September 23, 2012 at 7:25 pm
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