27 October, 2020

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Harsh Reality Of Anticipated Northern Elections

By Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

The passage of the second US-sponsored resolution at the March session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva appears to have served as a wake-up call to the government. One aspect of the government’s response has been to hire a new public relations company in the United States. This PR effort seeks a favourable revision of US policy through a more professional approach than the previous PR effort. The mandate of the new public relations initiative is to positively project the government’s achievements in post-war rebuilding to those that matter in the US policy making circles. It is also to obtain more space and time to achieve reconciliation on the ground.

The international community and diplomats in Sri Lanka, are watching for progress on the ground. Changing the messenger matters little when the message from the ground is a negative one. Therefore, the implementation of the constructive recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, as called for by both the first and second US-sponsored resolutions in Geneva, are of great importance. In particular, the implementation of the government’s LLRC action plan will be a visible manifestation of its sincerity. An easily verifiable indicator of achievement would be to hold the provincial council election for the Northern Province, as promised by government leaders at various forums, and also in the LLRC.

The government would also be concerned about the cauldron of hate that is being brewed a mere 30 kilometers across the northern seas. The agitation in Tamil Nadu gets its political backing from across the Indian political spectrum from the Sri Lankan government’s failure to honour its promises to the Indian government. The government’s war-time promise to improve on the devolution contained in the 13th Amendment and make it “13th Amendment plus” was a basis on which the Indian government gave the government its support during the war against the LTTE. The least that the government can do is to implement the 13th Amendment in the Northern Province, as it has in the rest of the country. The best that the government could do is to ensure that the elections to the Northern Provincial Council are free and fair and not in contempt of those ideals.

GOVERNMENT CONCERN

Unfortunately, the reason for the upsurge of organized violence in the North in recent weeks is almost certainly due to the provincial elections that are expected to be held for the Northern Provincial Council by September this year. The target of the violence has been the TNA. First, a political meeting organized in Kilinochchi by four leading MPs from the TNA was attacked by a mob in the vicinity of a police station and in a town with a large number of military personnel. The inaction of the security forces on the scene together with the inaction of the MPs own official security detail is suggestive of tacit governmental approval of the disruption of the meeting. This attack was followed by one on the Sudaroli newspaper office in Kilinochchi. Staff members were severely assaulted. As the attackers got away without being apprehended by the security forces, and this newspaper is owned by a TNA MP, it is not difficult to perceive a governmental hand in this attack as well.

Government spokespersons have denied a government hand in it. At a media conference Minister Dullas Alahapperuma denied that the government was behind the two attacks and said that they condemned the attacks and had appointed police teams to investigate them. The government routinely denies any role in perpetrating extra-legal violence. More significantly, however, the Minister had admitted that the government coalition had not won the majority of votes at local government elections held in the Northern Province, but added that it was the government’s achievement that elections there could be held at all. He is reported to have said that “Whoever wins the Northern provincial council election, it is our victory that created the situation to conduct the poll in the province.”

The government’s concern is that a TNA led provincial council could take actions that are at cross purposes with the plans and visions of the central government. It is undoubtedly concerns of this nature that has led Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa to argue that a hostile provincial administration in the Northern or Eastern provinces could be detrimental to the national reconciliation process. In a media interview he has even said that “such an administration could be as intimidating as the conventional military challenge posed by the LTTE.” The Defence Secretary has also said that the ongoing crisis in Tamil Nadu on issues relating to Sri Lanka is an example of how the devolution of powers can be abused.

TWOFOLD STRATEGY

The problem for the government is that the Northern Provincial Council election is one that it feels it cannot afford to lose. To a government that wishes to concentrate power in itself, the idea of losing power over a provincial council is not something that they find acceptable. The recent electoral verdicts in areas where Tamils are a majority have invariably been in favour of the TNA, which is the main Tamil opposition party. A provincial government would provide more legitimacy to the TNA when it speaks to the country and to the world. At the moment the TNA members can only speak as MPs who are a small minority in a Parliament in which the government holds a 2/3 majority. But if they win the provincial council elections, the TNA will speak as an elected government, and with greater authority.

Despite these misgivings, it now appears that the government has decided to take the plunge and hold the provincial council elections for the Northern Province as promised. Too much is at stake for the government to falter on the promise it has made. The alternative would be a possible follow-up to the two UN Human Rights Council resolutions that could go so far as to call for sanctions against Sri Lanka or for an independent international commission to probe into human rights violations and war crimes in the last phase of the war. Further, the government may feel that it can pull off a surprise victory at the Northern Provincial Council election, just as it did at the Jaffna Municipal Council election in 2009 using the economic and other resources at its disposal.

On the other hand, it may be premature for the government to bank on victory at the polls in the North at this time when the wounds of war have still to heal. It would be a tragedy if strong arm tactics, such as those that are now being practiced in the North, serve to alienate the Northern voter and their representatives even more. The TNA must not be seen as an enemy, to be defeated by any and all means as in the war. Instead they should be seen as another democratic political party and beneficiary of the war’s end. It is also important for government leaders to consider that unjust victory breeds hatred in the minds of those defeated, and the higher good for them and for the country is reconciliation.

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Latest comments

  • 0
    0

    One question of principle: can you be less moderate than your government? The state has the monopoly of violence,but if government uses its power to oppress its citizens, then the government itself becomes outlaw.
    Rajapaksa first murdered the Tamils, then he jailed in their own land with 13 division. Finally he silenced their voice with intimidation on political parties and newspaper. The LTTE was a subversive organization using terrorist means. The big question then is: how can you defend yourself otherwise?

  • 0
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    Jehan

    Well, in any conflict we need both parties to build trust and moderate their positions in order to achieve true reconciliation. In my view the TNA still falls far short in this regard. The TNA should:

    1) Stop acting like it is an adversary of the GOSL with an equal footing. It should desist from working with sinister foreign elements to intimidate and force its agenda over the will of the Sri Lankan people and thereby undermining the sovereignty of the country;

    2) Realize if it wants to participate in the electoral process and hold political office it should consider itself a part of the Sri Lankan polity and bound by the laws of the land like everybody else.

    3) Stop saying one thing to the Tamil people and something else to the government.

  • 0
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    All the usual tricks and worse will be used by the government to win the election – pollcards snatching,non-delivery of polling cards,grama
    niladaris under threat against assisting those needing to register,all
    resources of the government (hundreds of vehicles,’campaigners’ from south,election officers specially selected and brought from the south,
    cutouts,posters,counting agents from the south) ,state media blast,disruption of transport,bribery,thuggery & intimidation,juggling of votes during counting etc.
    EPDP will assist & as usual,the navy will ensure that the Islands Electorate will vote for EPDP.
    Intimidation by the army will be intense.
    Poll monitors will be not allowed to do their work correctly.

  • 0
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    The Northern Provincial Council Elections must be monitored by the UN and be overseen by independent international observers! the SL army must be expelled from there, at worst confined to barracks – would the Rajapaksa govt ensure that?

    • 0
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      USSR

      You cannot tell the GOSL what to do, because you are not the TGTE. You are only a senate chair (not even a senate table).

      But then the TGTE cannot tell the GOSL what to do either. Because they are in parallel universes. TGTE is the virtual (not virtuous) government of a virtual Eelam. Whereas GOSL is not in cyber space. It is in a dimension you have long divorced yourself from …..remember it is called the real world.

      And the LTTE rump cannot tell the GOSL how to run elections because it sent money to Prabakaran to disrupt/ban elections in northeast and deprive the Tamil people from voting. Now the LTTE rump and your TGTE are talking about good governance. You guys are good comedians. The world might even go hysterical if you tell them the LTTE cut off the fingers of those Tamils who defied the ban and voted.

      • 0
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        And elections for the Northern Provincial Council wouldn’t be held if the LTTE had not been pulverized by the Rajapaksa regime in the first place. Prabakaran the blood thirsty killer was maniacally opposed to the very concept of Provincial Councils.

  • 0
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    It will indeed be interesting to see the population statistics, before the war, after the war and at the time of the elections.

    The demographic changes and the numbers will tell us a whole new story and those numbers will not lie.

    UN Monitors are of no use as there will be no violence on the day of the elections. The results will be predetermined by those who program the computers. As Lenin said, “It is not the voting that matters, it is the counting that matters.”

    The TNA is in a tough position, if elections are held, they will lose a rigged election and if they don’t contest also they will lose.

    Let’s wait and see.

  • 0
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    If the Northern Election to be considered legitimate it is important for the Government to bring either SAARC or Common Wealth monitors. If the foreign monitors are not involved this would be another rigged election.

  • 0
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    If the government loses it, a Premadasa style dissolution will be the only “peaceful” option. Of course there are other options which are not advisable.

  • 0
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    Jehan Perera,

    While the northern province should be treated like the other provinces with respect of the PC, it is bound to be proverbial tiger for the government, if the TNA wins as expected. The despicable charade that the present PC system of devolution has become, is bound to be exposed at every turn. The TNA will demand the intended share of the flesh. The consequences can heighten political tensions and aggravate yet unhealed wounds. The government and the country are heading into a storm. This aspect has been ignored by you. If the government had taken forward the 13+ , this likely scenario could have been avoided. The only solution now is to let the spirit in which the PCs were constituted to prevail at least in the north. Can we expect such political wisdom from this government, as it operates now? Even if it does, how will the other PCs react?

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

    • 0
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      Correction: – a proverbial tiger ride for the government?

      Dr. RN

      • 0
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        The TNA delegation that met the visiting Indian MPs indicated today that, ” The Provincial Council system under the 13th Amendment to the Constitution are inadequate to solve their problems, BBC Sinhala Service has reported.

        Quoting TNA MP E. Sarawanabawan, the BBC said that all Tamil MPs belonged to several parties and the religious and civil society leaders asked the delegation for an interim self-government”( Lakbima).

        Jehan, your response?

        Dr.RN

  • 0
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    Now the whole world is watching.you cannot play hide and seek anymore.the history repeat it self.if the govt.is wise,then they will have a fair and free elections.otherwise it will be forced on them.even shiv sena has said in the Indian parliament India must send the forces again to rectify the mistakes made la

  • 0
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    The MARA”s government wanted to show the world that the Tamils are with them by winning the election.That is the only reason for them to declare election in North.They will use all corrupted practices including using state media,all state machinery,military and police,all corrupted politicians and money for this purpose.At the end of the election,Mr. Jehan Perera who is the Secretary of PAFERAL(So called Election monitoring NGO-Infamous for issuing certificates for corrupted election victories of the ruling party) will issue a statement that the Election was fair and Free and approve the victory of the Government. Government is now making all arrangements under the supervision of key Ministers .They have already started attacking media establishments and the TNA offices in the North.They even organized protest possessions and rallies against UN resolution on Sri Lanka by forcibly bringing people.

    Will Jehan recommend for an international group to assess the real situation and submit a report to suggest that the environment is conducive to hold elections in North?

    Will the Government allow an international group to monitor the
    election?

    Will the Government go beyond 13nth amendment to address the grievances of Tamils

    Will the election results(Powerless Provincial Council) find a solution to the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka?or further deteriorate the situation

    Rememkber .theyn

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