29 January, 2022


Make An Offer The TNA Cannot Refuse!

By Malinda Seneviratne –

Malinda Seneviratne

It’s been almost a week since the elections for the Sabaragamuwa, North Central and Eastern Provincial Councils were held. The votes were counted and the elected have been separated from the losers but the Chief Ministers have not been named yet.

In the North Central Province there is a tussle between incumbent strongman and aspirant strongman.  Sabaragamuwa is quiet.  The noise is coming from the East.  There’s no clear winner and therefore many are claiming bragging rights.

The ruling party (UPFA) won the largest number of seats and therefore can say ‘we won’.  The opposition, as a whole, can say, ‘the UPFA doesn’t have a clear majority, so it has lost; consequently, we won!’  The TNA says, tagging along so to speak, ‘we got the biggest slice out of the opposition (which won by the way) and therefore we are the winners’.  The SLMC says ‘we are the king makers’.  Wimal Weerawansa’s PNF, which was snubbed at the nominations by the SLFP-led UPFA, still managed a single seat (equal to the JVP) and can say ‘we won too’.  The UNP and JVP can say (in consolation) ‘the UPFA lost’.  They are not in a position to dictate in the post-election machinations.

Someone must cobble together a majority, either by aligning with one or more parties or by persuading a few people to join ranks.  The latter seems to be the easier path.  It might not be the best, though.

The difficult thing is to work with ‘sworn enemy’.  The SLMC, during its campaign used the communal card in raw and distasteful ways, especially considering that its leader is a Cabinet Minister in this Government.  The principled thing would have been to first resign.  Now, after bad-mouthing, when the king-maker claim is tossed out, it implies a willingness to hold hands with the ‘baddies’.  The TNA was no better, but it didn’t have the ‘cabinet-handicap’.  On the other hand, a party that was so slavish to Prabhakaran cannot really point fingers at anyone.   The UPFA may have some higher moral credit here, but then again there was the usual abuse of state machinery in the campaign.  As the incumbent at the center, the UPFA can call the shots, hence the talk about ‘purchasing’ support or getting a few to defect.

It’s all about maneuvering and bargaining, brinkmanship and arm-twisting, promise of goodies and preying on vulnerabilities.  But let’s face it neither the parties nor the elected can be called decent, respectable, democratic, principled entities.  Take any party and you can find fault and 101 reasons not to work together.  There are also 101 arguments for working together.

The TNA was the LTTE’s pawn. So what?  They were victims of circumstances just as must as they were happily complicit in that sordid political story.  The SLMC is made of politicians, just like the UPFA is. They ‘invest’ by campaigning and they want to recover investment.  Just like anyone in any other party.  No one is cool.  The UPFA has the inside track, as mentioned above.  For all the bragging, in the end, the UPFA’s decision will stand.

In these circumstances, the SLMC will have to play second-fiddle. The TNA cannot afford to do so.  But the TNA cannot play communal politics and ever hope to do anything for the Tamil people in the East.  Indeed, the election result (the three-way split) puts paid to all arguments for a North-East merger and rips apart the ‘Exclusive Traditional Homeland’ thesis.  Demography counts and the count is now out there for everyone to see.

The UPFA can do without the TNA.  This, interestingly, is the very reason that the UPFA can and must brush aside the TNA’s long history of scuttling discussions, dodging issues and playing the communal card as ‘what any political party in reduced circumstances and slipping fortunes would do’.

The UPFA can call the TNA bluff.  The UPFA can do what the TNA will not be able to deal with.  The UPFA can tell the TNA something like the following:

‘Look, we know your history.  We know who is above you and who is below you. We know about strings and string-pullers, puppets and puppeteers.   We know your strengths and weaknesses.  And we know you know us too.  Very well.  So here’s the offer.  You run the East.  You pick your Chief Minister.  We don’t want anything in return.  We promise only one thing.  Come budget-passing time, we will make sure that you don’t lose the vote.  Take it.  Do your best. Good luck!’

If the Government considers a puppet-TNA a headache, the above would be the palliative.  The TNA cannot refuse and also claim that the ‘Sinhala’ Government is not interested in ‘power-sharing’.  And if the TNA accepts, it would amount to a decision to work within the existing framework.  That would be historic.

As for the SLMC, it might teach its leadership something about not being able to have it both ways.  The SLMC’s headaches should not worry the Government.  They will go away, by and by.  The TNA, not the SLMC, is the party to work with. That’s the challenge.

Malinda Seneviratne is the Chief Editor of ‘The Nation‘ and his articles can be found at www.malindawords.blogspot.com

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Latest comments

  • 0

    It is not an accident quintessential Godfather lingo, right from the mouth of Mario Puzo, is quoted by someone who had reached some undue height prematurely in the journalistic world by unabashedly singing hossanas of the faulty regime. Once again there is not going to be justice for the Tamils in the EP. Though winning more seats they are likely to suffer indignity if and when a Muslim member is placed as CM. The other alternative of a wider Coalition will see a discredited gun-slinger (and widely believed to be a mass killer) probably coming in as CM. The latter is nothing but a minority MPC.

    If it is a case of “an offer that cannot be refused” it has to be (1) the TNA, who polled the largest number of votes and secured more seats (this is, arguably more votes than the UPFA in real terms) to be asked to form the PC with their man as CM, and (2) a PC election in the NP, refused so far for no valid reasons, is by December 2012.

    I am afraid the situation obtaining in the ground in Sri Lanka is not consistent with the high standards of governance and justice ideally needed.


  • 0

    UPFA can easily form the provincial administration with the help of some TNA council members who can be easily bought over to the government side. The eleven TNA council members have no real allegiance to Sampanthan or to his Tamil Arasu Katchi (ITAK). The only long standing ITAK member among the newly elected Eastern Provinicial Council members is the former Parliamentarian Thurairajasingham. He is an Attroney-at-Law, a pacifist and a decent human being. The others were from TELO,EPRLF,Anandasangari’s TULF and a motely group of guys who were cobbled together just before the elections. The two TELO members elected from Batticaloa were former militants who worked with the previous Sri Lankan governments and the Sri Lankan Army.Thurairetnam is a former EPRLF militant (he reportedly belonged to the feared Razik Group which killed many LTTE cadres) who got elected to the last provincial council only because TNA boycotted the election at that time. Vellimalai is a joker who had been in many parties and TULF picked him up only because that one man party could not find any decent candidates in Batticaloa. The sixth member from Batticaloa district was a former bank officer and never had any party affiliation. The three guys elected from Trincomalee district appear never to have had any political background and party affiliation. One is a former Principal and another was a social worker. The two guys elected from Ampara district are also unknown quantities. One of them is rumoured to be a former Karuna associate. Except for Thurarairajasingham, who is the only decent guy among the lot, others can be easily bought over. I heard that they were taken into protective custody by the TNA leadership because because Tampanthan and Co. feared that most of them are likely to cross over to the government side. TNA leadership has no faith in these guys. The fact is they can be made to cross over to the government side without much difficulty. If SLMC continues to insists on its demands, UNFA may snub the Muslim party by buying over the support of these TNA council members.

  • 0

    Naga clearly is well informed of EP political matters. But there is no denying the fact the Rajapakses are using the army to meet, coerce, entice – failing which threaten with abducdtion or death -some of the PC members recently elected under the TNA. It is well known many voters were threatened not to vote. If not for this, the TNA vote harvest would have been much larger and the tally much more. All these sordid details will come out in the open in due course.


  • 0

    You completely got the point: if TNA moves within the framework, it implicitly recognizes its validity. But if it steps aside, then it is fomenting instability in the country and the resurgence of the old ghosts.
    Indeed the best scenario for the Rajapaksa administration is precisely a CM expressed by the TNA: he will be clearly powerless, but nonetheless a player in the game,where the rules are decided in Colombo.

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