30 November, 2020

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Recapturing The Tamil Vote

By Elilini Hoole

Elilini Hoole

In the last provincial council elections, the TNA gained sweeping victories across the North. Tamils may have done well to choose the TNA which continues to voice Tamil concerns. For, just this last June, the government implanted a military camp in Thirumurukandy, Mullaithivu by stripping those who lost their permits in the war, of their land.

I learnt from witnesses, while working in the Vanni, how the military enforced this land decision (though how the military is involved in civilian matters beats me!), mocking Tamil resettlers in Sinhalese, calling them dogs and asking what right they had to ask for that land. While even UNHCR and human rights NGOs stood mutely on the sidelines, the TNA immediately organized a protest bringing due attention to this blatant injustice. When the 18th Amendment threatened the democratic rights of Sri Lankans, the TNA bravely spoke its minds in Parliament despite obscene comments of ‘Kotiya’ from government MPs.

The Betel Leaf has become a symbol of violence and betrayal in Tamil minds. If you think about it, no other symbol has evacuated 100% of two whole districts, Mullaithivu and Kilinochchi, as well as large portions of Vavuniya, Mannar and Jaffna! It is that mere association of the government with these iniquities which led to the failure of the EPDP in the Vanni; even potent candidates who reached out under the betel lead were rejected by most Northern and Eastern Tamils.

And yet, even the TNA has failed to provide the people of the Vanni with solutions because money and services are distributed by the government. As a result the TNA is unfairly seen as a weak party represented by elites who have forgotten the living essence of the Vanni. No matter the party affliation, all politicians, even those of the TNA, have done little to address the shocking rise of poverty and social disintegration of the Vanni. A government study of food security in the North and East (2011) reports that the median income in the Northern Province is 1,667/= per month, whereas the national poverty line in Sri Lanka is 3,534/= month. Additionally, 80% of families in Kilinochchi do not know when, how and if they will have their next meal. Little do politicians seem to care that the people of the Vanni have lost everything. The Vanni has been reduced to little more than a battleground for votes. It is true, a poor man cares little for his rights if his child starves before his very eyes, and that does negate the power of his voice in the national discourse, thereby worsening his lot.

The government practically deserted the returning Tamil population during resettlement, proving itself either incapable or un-caring in protecting and defending the rights and freedoms of its citizens. In subtle ways it continues to alienate the North by, for example, posting signs on empty lands proclaiming “This is the military’s inheritance” or hanging billowing signs of the President with only Sinhalese captions. In my travels through the Vanni, I have heard it expressed numerous times that, had only the government let them out of Menik Farm sooner, or helped them restart living on their war devastated lands, they would have been much more welcoming of the President.

But instead, the government allowed other nations to bear the brunt of post-war rehabilitation expenses and the NGO community to provide on the ground assistance. The Indian government proved its deep commitment to resettling families by providing diverse material assistance, from tin sheets through the GoSL, to emergency resettlement tools through UNHCR, and now permanent housing to approximately 40,000 families. Northern and Eastern community rebuilding is more shaped by the USA, EU, Australian and a host of other nations who have laid the foundations for reconstruction in Sri Lanka. But this is entirely unhealthy when you take into consideration race relations and rejection of the indigenous identities of community, relationships and coping mechanisms. Identities of women, family and collective being as we understand them are especially rejected by western aides (For example, women in self-help groups are demanded to leave their homes for community work at the expense of family obligations, resulting in spousal abuse). Healing needs to come from within, and for this the people must have genuine, supportive political leaders.

But we Tamils should not have to demand freedom and rights from the State, as if they are the State’s to ration out. What we require is that our freedoms and rights, which are inherently ours, are not swallowed up by the broader political agenda of the State. In this regard, it is not just the Tamils who have a just cause. Every citizen of Sri Lanka faces oppression of their naturally endowed privileges as humans. For example, the dozens of communities illegally displaced by the fast paced highway development schemes, or the fact that citizens and journalists cannot voice their opinions without deeply suspicious scrutiny by the State and peers alike, or our inadequacy to battle corruption in our schools, churches and temples, work place and, especially, the government.

Symptomatic of reduced freedom and rights is that our country is no longer run “for the people, by the people” as a democracy should. Corrupt politicians control the future of our nation according to personal whims and fancies. And instead of holding leaders accountable to their constituents, we feel powerless to change the system – to exert our democratic voice!

Politicians have used their posts to fill their coffers, but have failed to value the unique qualities of Sri Lanka which have marvelled travellers throughout history. The rich get richer by trampling on our future. Graduates who have been advantaged by the free education system migrate by the droves to other countries which appreciate their vast treasuries of talent. They simply cannot survive in a country which relies on nepotism and privilege instead of education and talent. Yet, like the CEO of a business, politicians care only about the bottom line – their bottom line.

Having won the war, Mahinda Rajapakse bears a great responsibility to lead the nation as a united body. Abused by the past and the present, Tamils do not need armed or unarmed crusaders. What is needed are friends and politicians who will accept and help them move beyond the scars of the past to a united Sri Lanka.

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Latest comments

  • 0
    0

    Miss Hoole’s wrapping up message makes a lot of sense

    It should be an eye opener to the TNA, and the Diaspora joint front, who have done nothing materially to lift these people up, except getting a free ride on their backs to gain browny ponts from their followers with exaggerated and mostly unsubstantiated allegations.

    TNA can not be the executor of Praba’s Will .

    Only the Govt of the day can allocate scarce resources such as land in these sparesly populated areas when the inhabitants in some parts o the island are packed like sardines at over 1000 per one square km.

    If she is a political activists working for the TNA, there is no problem.

    Otherwise the value of her message is lost by giving the TNA plug.

    • 0
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      There is nothing such as Pirapha’s will. It is the will of the Tamil People that we want indpendence if not equality is given. Whoever leads will have to carry that will, whatever their means are violent or non-violent. whereever they are in Sri Lanka or Abroad. We do not want material benefits. We want freedom and independence not to be ruled by army of occupation. We know how to look after us economically. We did it when there was total economic embargo by the Sri lankan government when lived happily and freely under the LTTE Administration

      • 0
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        It’s not working very well for you, is it? Whether through democratic or violent means, a minoriy cannot hope to bully a country.

  • 0
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    TNA who should rightfully run the affairs of the northeast province by being the majority in the NE Provincial Council,are not allowed to do so.
    Instead,a ‘puppet’ administration subserviant to the military regime run by the military governer, ‘functions’ in name only.
    All decisions are taken by the governer.
    This is why the Divineguma Bill could not be brought before the NE Provincial Council for approval,and the Military Governer’s “assent” for same became null & void.
    The villan for this became the CJ who with other judges wanted the assent of all Councils, by virtue of the supreme court’s interpretation of the constitution.
    In this situation,how do you expect TNA to do anything meaningful for the welfare of the tamils?
    The Diaspora is willing to assist,but the Government wants them to channel their funds through KP whom noone trusts,or cares for,for reasons well known.
    Now,women have been forcibly “recruited” to the army and the armymen prey on helpless war widows.
    When the military control the land,how could citizens commence any livelihood.
    Removing the military including the governer from the north,is necesary for tamils to prosper.

  • 0
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    If the people elect the TNA as their representative how can the govt deny the will of the people. The reality is that the govt has no wish to devolve power and the north is under military rule where all illegal actions are covered by the draconian PTA. People are being arrested, lands taken over in the name of security even three years after the LTTE was eradicated. Doesnt make any sense other than that the Govt is working on a different racist agenda.

  • 0
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    it was always about land and water.

    Tamils have dragged the whole country into senseless war for 30 years by asserting a right to hold their own land while denying other communities to buy land in their areas.

    this initial injustice has seen their own destruction;today the land is being resettled; tigers and their vast majority of patrons from among the minority have lost their case, the land they cultivated and the respect they once had, gone for good. tough choice you made.

    finished.

    • 0
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      WHo said that other comunities lost their right to buy land. Tamisl never objected purchase of land by any one. They can not under the law. what they objected State aided racist colonization. Evry land that was bough elswhere by Tamils using their hard earned money not given free by Government. Do not talk rubbish taht they did not allow other communities to by Land. We have not lost yet. We will rise now by non violence means

  • 0
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    I must be wrong remembering that for 0 years the tamil people were not allowed to vote or were they Miss Hoole? Your memory is probably as bad as mine.

  • 0
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    Get another Velupillai Mis Hoole and then you can talk about the Tamil people’s vote.

  • 0
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    When one mentions that help must come also the diaspora towards the
    economic upliftment of the Tamils, by way of investments etc in N/E,
    a cunning agenda is being perpetuated by the MoD. They have put the
    grant of dual-citizenship on hold, since January 2011, following the
    Oxford debacle in UK. When this is not granted the diaspora who wish to dispose their inherited assests or Invest are held back.
    Apparently this can be classified as structured genocide, as the granting of dual-citizenship comes under Act No. 18 of 1948 – Citizenship. The
    MoD has made a caluculated move, depriving this community of what it is
    due under the law. Lawmakers have no time for these hidden tactics either.

  • 0
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    Punchinilame,
    Sounds like they are holding off your claim to dual citizenship. Dual citizenship is not a right. Most of the foreign Sinhalese and Tamils gave up their Sri Lankan citizenship so they can take citizenship of a foreign(Western) country for their own benefit(using bogus refugee claims). Now that the war is over, everyone is clamoring back to get SL citizenship.
    These same foreign Sinhalese and Tamils have continued to sabotage SL from the comforts of their homes abroad. The last thing SL needs is for these people to get citizenship so they can rape the country again.

  • 0
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    No one is doing anything to solve the immeadiate problems of the Vanni people living much below the poverty level wondering from where their next meal will come. Is it not the duty of the government to treat all alike errespective of their posistion?. Former Prime Minister is very sensible when he pointed out about the lobsided development in the country. Goverment should utilize the borrowings from IMF,World bank and others in a sensible way. All in the Parliament should reveal their assets to the public. This applies to MR and their sibblings also. We all know how Namal passed the Law college examination but how is he importing all the luxuary vehicles!!!.

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