29 October, 2020

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Of Aspirations, Referenda And Realities

By Malinda Seneviratne

Malinda Seneviratne

Politicians and political parties don’t go before the people with a single promise, they offer bags of goodies.  Voters don’t think collectively. Some vote for one promise, others for another.  Typically, also, they vote for one thing and get something that was not promised nor envisaged.  And then there’s the ‘by default’ factor that dominates voter thinking; people vote against parties and candidates and they often go for lesser evils.  Consequently, we get winners and losers, with the former manufacturing ‘mandate’ according to whim and fancy.  So it has been and so it will be, be it local government elections, provincial elections or major national elections.

The focus, naturally, will be on the Northern Provincial Council Elections, being held for the first time.  Given that this is the second time that the Tamil National Alliance goes before the people of the province, the results could be read in terms of gains and losses.  More importantly, this election will be colored also by TNA rhetoric which includes the resurrection of the chauvinistic Vadukkoddai Resolution that painted the unattainable as possible spurring Tamil youth to armed insurrection.  It also all but buried any faith the Sinhalese may have had in Tamil parties like the TULF as decent, reasonable and honest partners in discussions on grievances and aspirations.

For these reasons, a landslide win for the TNA will be read as a vote for Eelam by that party and other intent on carving a separate state as well as spoilers who desire political instability in Sri Lanka.  A lesser result would be read by those opposed to the TNA as evidence of a divided Tamil polity.

A TNA win, even by a small margin, can and will be read as a verdict on the Government’s post-conflict strategy. The Government could respond (to a defeat even by a large margin) as indicative of how deep seated Tamil chauvinism really is or call it ‘international conspiracy’; few would purchase the latter though.  There will be a blame-game too in such an eventuality with Douglas Devananda emerging as the Fall Guy, not without reason.  He was, after all, an ‘investment’ that did not deliver.  His head could roll.

How the TNA defines ‘mandate’ post-election is left to be season.  How the TNA reads result will have to wait.  Who got in and by what margin will tell a story of relative strengths of the constituent parties of the TNA.  It may also indicate the importance or otherwise of other factors such as caste.  There could be post-election crossovers; we have seen after all how ‘that’ exacted an outcome that was not expected the moment the results were released in the case of the Eastern Provincial Council.  There will also be comment on the performance of the UNP, JVP and the DNA.  Voter turnout will be factored in and interpreted.

One thing is assured. Everyone will claim victory of one kind or another.  One thing is clear.  The Government has scored one victory: after liberating the Tamil people (many of whom would vote against the UPFA) from the tyranny of the LTTE, after releasing some 12000 or more terrorists subsequent to rehabilitation, after re-settling close to 300,000 IDPs, it has held an election for these very same people to elect the representatives of their choice.  There’s nothing even close by way of equivalent anywhere in the world.  Granted that the UPFA’s election campaign amounts to gloss-removal and conceding that the decision to hold elections may have been prompted by other pressures and not love for democracy, the fact of holding an election needs to be acknowledged and applauded.

What of the people, though?  As in any other election, post-election is about kings (electors) being enslaved to the interpretations of the crowned (elected) as well as the grandmasters of political commentary whose principal edge is the ability to turn molehill into mountain and vice versa.  The Northern Province, whatever the breakdown, will become or rather continue to be the political football that the rest of the country has been, for rulers, would-be rulers and king-makers both local and international.  There will be flag waving and hurrahs, debating points and finger-pointing, pandering to the lowest common denominator too.  In the end, all that will count is what tangible benefits accrue to the voters.

Let the winners have their moment, as they very well deserve all things considered.  Let them re-define mandate as per ideological predilection and political convenience as they probably will.  But let them all, winners and losers, ask themselves once in a while ‘What have I done and what has my party done to make life better for the people?’

There are no child-abductions in the Northern Province. No cyanide capsules. No landmines.  No restriction on livelihoods (except by Indian poachers). Troop withdrawal and removal of Army Camps has been slow but nevertheless steady.  There is electricity. There will be trains that go beyond Killinochchi.

Let us hope things get better and opportunities for betterment not squandered on the altars of pride, ego, deception, myth-mongering and one-upmanship.

*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

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    There is sexual harassment of females,especially war widows, who live below the poverty line.
    There are robberies by masked armed men.
    There are assaults of civilians now increased after the TNA victory at polls.
    Fishermen starve because others from the south have been brought and settled in fishing villages and tamil fishermen are pushed inland further from the sea shore.
    All local building and other contracts are given to southerners.
    All small businesses has been “captured” by the army – even selling fish and vegetables.
    The newly elected council has to persevere against the governor who,unlike other provincial governors,denies even the appointment of a sanitary labourer by the council,and controls all revenue collection and expenditure.
    The writer ignores realities.

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      On the face of it,the writer is quoting figures accepted even by the UN. Whereas the response has allegations which are not quantified and no evidence.

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        You mean like the one GL Peiris keeps on quoting of the 200 odd interviewed (or rather stage managed) in the North? Didn’t you read the latest of what Ban Ki Moon had to say of the “systemic failure of the UN to prevent atrocities in SL”?

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          UNSG can’t even come up with a credible tally from his own sources.

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        Read another CT article which UNHRC highlighted the sexual abuse to girls and war widows.

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          Article are NOT evidence.

          • 0
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            oh you want videos ? like the one channel 4 showed?

  • 0
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    It’s Malinda. It’s what he does. It pays his bills. His paper ‘the nation’ is the polar opposite of Tamilnet. It is what it is. Yet he does have a great smile though!

    • 0
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      MS has become a joker – is becoming clear to the masses every time after reading his articles.

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    people who were liberated, resettled and enfranchised have overwhelmingly voted against the people who claim to have achieved all of those. the victory for the govt must be bitter indeed! Why were the elections held? Part of the democratisation process? Or were they forced on us? What happened to the adieu that Wigneswaran was supposed to bid? Perhaps it is Darth insidious who should bid au revoir.
    S

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    PS cast had no role to play old boy. The vellala bogey won’t work. The people have voted in such overwhelming numbers that it is clear that cast, religion and other similar considerations have been transcended.
    Pps- the election violence shows the extent of the govt’s commitment to the elections.

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    The people in the North have voted and indicated their preferences. They have voiced their dissatisfaction with the policies of the govt in the North. As per UNHRC oral report at UNGA 2013.

    7.Four years since the end of the war, the military presence in the north remains considerable. The High Commissioner received information that a number of military checkpoints and barriers were removed just before her arrival and reinstated after her departure. There is a high level of surveillance of returnees, rehabilitees and detainees who have been released, including of the communities she met. She was particularly concerned to hear about the vulnerability of women and girls, especially in women -headed households, to sexual harassment and abuse, including at the hands of military personnel, and challenged the Government to formulate and rigorously enforce a zero tolerance policy for sexual abuse[4].
    8.The High Commissioner also received documentation on the compulsory acquisition of private land for installing military camps and other installations in Trincomalee, Mullaitivu, Jaffna and Kilinochchi. While the Minister of Economic Development explained that these acquisitions were in part to regularize earlier acquisitions of land for high security zones and thereby compensate the owners, she is concerned these policies will only make the complex land issues even more complicated and difficult to resolve. The Ministry of Justice is developing a comprehensive framework to establish land mediation for the Northern and the EasternProvinces to deal with some of the main land-related challenges and disputes, and we hopethis will empower communities to find appropriate solutions in partnership with administrative authorities at the local level.
    9.The role of military is prominent in other areas of civilian administration and economic activity in the north, including education, agriculture and tourism. The Secretary of Defence explained the challenges the Government faces in accommodating a large army throughout the island and transitioning army personnel to other economic activity. The High Commissioner therefore encourages the Government to initiate a meaningful and transparent reduction of the military presence to peacetime levels which would require a clear timeline for demobilisation, disarmament and disengagement from activities that are meant to be civilian.

    These are key areas of dissatisfaction that the Govt must address if it wishes to win the hearts and minds of the Northern people.

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    /*A TNA win, even by a small margin, can and will be read as a verdict on the Government’s post-conflict strategy. The Government could respond (to a defeat even by a large margin) as indicative of how deep seated Tamil chauvinism really is or call it ‘international conspiracy’; few would purchase the latter though.*/

    But when UPFA win in South it is not deep seated Sinhala chauvinism triggered by anti-Muslim, anti-christian propaganda by government lead BBS, Rvana forces etc.. -:)

    And importantly government defeated ‘international conspiracy’ in south. -:)

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    /* There will be a blame-game too in such an eventuality with Douglas Devananda emerging as the Fall Guy, not without reason. He was, after all, an ‘investment’ that did not deliver. His head could roll. */

    Milinda still cannot understand the boss properly.
    As long as Devananda don’t break ground rules of the boss he will be ‘Ape miniha’ and will be supported. -:)
    worse case he can get an embassy posting in a foreign country. -:)

  • 0
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    Malinda;
    As B B says, it is copareble to your The Nation = Tamil net.

    And When you say something like above mention,M R + Clan Will be Happy, and they will throw you a small piece of Roti.
    And you also will be happy because, you did what they want and got your daily bread.
    If they id not get Foreign aid, they would not do asphalting of roads to drive their Lombergahnis, Ferraris, and SUVs with 50 odd Security goons.
    If they do Not build Bridges and roads,They cant get
    20% commissions connivancely.
    Building Infrastructure of a country is a duty of the Relevant Governance, not a compulsory to beg for any Looting Politikkas to
    Do their duty properly.
    Those money not from their DOWRY’s.
    So what they done any thing from their family wealth or own money.

    And you Should ask Your Bosses, { not ours,as we did not elect them],
    why don’t you ask them,
    TO ASK FROM THEIR CONSCIENCE.

    “What have I,”so called elected politikka”,done and what has my
    Politikka Party done to make life better for the Sri Lankan working
    people?’,
    not for the sleeping, untrustworthy,public fund wasting bureaucrats
    of inefficient governance.

  • 0
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    Northern Tamils teach lesson in self respect to self degrading southern Sinhalese who betray honor and soul

    The Sri Lankan Tamils of the opposition by demonstrating via the results of the provincial council elections in the north on the 21 st that they can never again be trampled or degraded by mass murderers taught an exemplary lesson to the shameless Sinhalese of the south who even after their precious children are killed by these mass murderers and the fragrance of those children had not faded, offer fruits and flowers in bowls to them and even take smiling photographs with the murderers.

    The Tamils of the north at this election despite their abysmal sufferings even now without a proper roof over their heads , proved to the unscrupulous Sinhalese of the north through the recently concluded elections that they prefer honor ,dignity and self respect to a packet of buriyani , glass of arrack, a saree , a sarong , a spade and mobile phone with which any Sri Lankan political scoundrel buys the southern Sinhalese people who are ever ready to sacrifice their self respect even after a teacher of a school of their children was made to kneel down , a Principal of a school was slapped publicly and their children gunned down when they join peaceful protests to get their justifiable demands. The Tamil population of the north had taught an unforgettable lesson to the Sinhalese of the south who put a cross in favor of the culprits and crooks who betrayed the nation for Rs. 250 million on the Hambantota Port project by singing bailas (falsehoods expressed through melodies) to cover up the monumental corruption and losses . They made the message abundantly clear to the Sinhalese of the south via these elections that even if you beg do not betray your honor and dignity merely to fawn on leaders who are baneful and the crooked powerful.

    The northern people did not go on concocting stories that their aged leader is weak and debilitated. They did not go on maligning Vigneswaran because his brother in law is a
    government Minister. They did not castigate Sumenthiran as a ‘tie coat’ bloke who knows no grassroots politics. They did not hide under the beds claiming that they are scared of the forces.

    On the contrary at the first opportunity they got they rejected wholesale those unpatriotic scoundrels and rascals after identifying them, in a courageous manner which must make the Sinhalese of the south to feel infinitely disgraced, and hang their heads in shame.

  • 0
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    Dear Malinda
    This comment is not to abuse you and you have indicated on several occasions that you do in fact read the comments on CT (at least in relation to your articles) so please read on.

    1) Since of late your writing suffers from a lack of “gravitas” it flimsily waves this way and that without actually making a point. It’s almost like you’ve been watching too much of CNN.

    2) But then Malinda you have your politics and there is a specific design in what you write. But pray how could anyone interpret the vote for the TNA as a vote for Eelam? come now Malinda you are a very smart person and even you wouldn’t say that the TNA calls for a separate state in its manifesto. However the TNA manifesto is guilty of selective reading of history especially of the role of the LTTE, but then again so are you and most other commentators of the South, when you talk about “chauvinistic Tamil Nationalism” and the aftermath of of the Vadukoddai resolution you forget about what went before it.

    3) The TNA manifesto (despite it’s soft stance on the history of the conflict) is clear on one thing. That is they are for a measure of self rule within a united Sri Lanka. And if nothing else the overwhelming support of almost 80% of the people who voted shows that the Tamil speaking people in the Northern Province also support this position. Malinda you kind of forget it was the government which went before the tamil people and said vote for us we will give you these “goodies” if you do. Not the TNA. But then again you knew that. The TNA’s manifesto on the other hand revolves around a central premise. So is there any other way to interpret the TNA’s victory and the overwhelming mandate they got? So why be so flippant about it?

    4)Yes we should congratulate the government for having elections in the North and liberating the Tamil people. But then one has to ask the question why didn’t they vote for the government? why was such a resounding mandate given against the government? What can the government do to win them over? these are the questions we should be asking and that is the role of journalists, who – regardless of their opinions- need to ensure we have the conversations we need to have in this country. So my question to you is “why aren’t you doing this?”

    Also Malinds if you had any doubts about the TNA manifesto have a look at this http://www.dailymirror.lk/news/36036-unite-the-country-share-the-power-sumanthiran.html

  • 0
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    How about asking Rajapakka a job in the Foreign Service? ‘Nation’ paper is a joke! Ha…Ha…ha…!

    • 0
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      You are dead right. He is well at “Wortspiel” (play on words). Not having guts to name a spade as a spade. shame on his Uni Education.

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