The government has confirmed that elections to the Provincial Council for the Northern Province will take place in September. The National Peace Council (NPC) welcomes this announcement that puts to rest the speculation on this issue. Two coalition partners of the government have been objecting strongly to these elections. If the provincial elections are not held, and the government fails to keep to its word it would seriously undermine its credibility. The international community will no longer believe any undertakings or commitments regarding the issues which form the subject matter of the United Nations Human Rights Council or other UN body. It will only strengthen the position of those who oppose the government in international forums on its record of human rights and fundamental freedoms. It is necessary for a nation’s leaders to keep to their word if the country is to preserve its credibility.
By deciding to hold the provincial elections for the Northern Province as promised, the government will be sending a message to the people of the North that it is keeping a promise that it has made and can be trusted by the minorities. This also has the potential to increase the government’s credibility with regard to other promises it has made, such as the promise to implement the LLRC recommendations and thereby provide solutions to the people’s most urgent needs. The government has a moral commitment to reunify its people of all communities and lead them to reconciliation after war. This need is most marked in the case of the people of the North who have been the worst victims of the war. Whether Tamil, Muslim or Sinhalese, those who lived in the North, and those who continue to live there, have been terribly scarred by the years of war, some have lost nearly everything they ever possessed, and need to be compensated and brought back to the national mainstream.
The National Peace Council believes that the manner in which the government conducts itself in regard to the September elections in the weeks and months ahead will also be important. About two months ago, when the first talk of provincial elections in the north began to circulate, there were attacks against the opposition political parties in the North and against pro-opposition media groups. This type of violence appears to have subsided. It is important that the principles that underlie a free and fair election be honored. It is the responsibility of all political parties not only to desist from violence in the lead up to the elections but also desist from coercive tactics such as bribery, corrupt practices, financial inducements and articulating unrealistic promises.
The National Peace Council calls on the voters from the North to vote for those who stand for democracy and value principles of subsidiarity in governance. An elected Tamil majority provincial administration created through free and fair provincial elections would increase the level of trust in the democratic process and possibly help to break the deadlock that has blocked the Parliamentary Select Committee process of constitutional reform proposed by the government. We believe that the only way to keep a society together is not to force it to be together. National unity must come through freedom and responsibility that are the essence and the essentials of any communion. It is through Freedom and Respect that one generates the feeling of community from within, and a sense of belonging, that Sri Lanka will be unified in heart and mind as it is in territory.