By Kumar David –
An editorial in the Tamil newspaper Valampuri of 6 June said in translation: “We observe recent speeches of the CM are unusual . . . he has a habit of severely criticising President Maithiripala Sirisena . . . the CM has already spoilt his relationship with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe . . . why does the Chief Minister, who never blamed former President Mahinda Rajapaksa in this way, blame President Maithiripala Sirisena? Is this stand for the purpose of supporting Vasudeva Nanayakkara, who wants to bring back Mahinda Rajapaksa?” The CM in question is CV Wigneswaran (CV for short), Chief Minister of the Northern Province elected by a hefty majority, and co-father-in-law with Nanayakara – their two children are married but this is of no political significance. I do however agree that both want to undermine the Sirisena-Ranil (S&R) administration and incite racial animosity; with Nanayakkara it is deliberate design, in CV’s case it supplements complex ambitions discussed below.
Why do I doubt CV’s motives? His actions are irrational (what good will it do Tamils to bring back Rajapaksa?) and there are goings-on in the TNA that add credence to negative interpretations. Here is a paragraph from a recent e-mail typical of what many are saying: “I have been concerned by CV’s behaviour of late. I gather he is interested in succeeding Sampanthan as TNA leader on the latter’s retirement. Sampanthan wants to hand over to the younger and more dynamic Sumanthiran, but CV and diehard sections in Jaffna are bad-mouthing Sumanthiran as Colombo-based-and-born, and a Christian to boot! This is the primordial and tribal gibberish that mars our national and regional outlook”. Add to this personal jealousy of Sumanthiran – he is a very good lawyer, speaks Sinhalese and is growing internationally alongside Sampanthan. Tiger-rump websites are also publishing material to the effect that TNA MPs (but not CV and his supporters are massively on the UNP payroll). CV too has nurtured a good reputation in the past, so it is disturbing that when good men fall: “Oh, what a fall was there my countrymen! Then I, and you, and all of us fell down”.
If there is a split in the TNA
Let us for arguments sake consider a split in the TNA; a mirror image of an SLFP Mahinda clique break away into a separate cabal. Yes I grant that a TNA split is less likely than the MR clique divorcing the SLFP to go it alone in the elections (though even that is unlikely since bargaining for more seats within the SLFP list is a better option). If there is a split, the formal SLFP led by Sirisena will do better than the breakaways as the latter includes most of the previous regime’s vermin. Still there is reason to believe that Mahinda insiders are focussing on a comeback strategy aimed at one to one interviews with MR to clear his name of abuse and corruption, using Gota to propagate alarm that there is a Tamil-TNA-Diaspora security threat and trying to rope in the JVP.
However, if on the Tamil side, a TNA split materialises between CV led nationalists (in concert with Suresh, Ananthi, Kirubaharan and Gajan) and a Sampanthar-Sumenthiran wing pursuing solutions within a unified Lanka, the outcome may be bad. The alienation of Tamils by the Sinhala State for four decades and flagrant rights violations in the last stages of the recent war has ploughed fertile ground for “primordial and tribal” politics. Tribal excrescences on the Tamil side (mirroring the MR clique) will be more influential than the Sinhalese version will be in the South. If a person of CV’s calibre provides leadership the malignancy will be magnified.
What if the primordial-nationalists subdue the liberal-democrats in the TNA, or if in a split they win a larger portion of the alliance’s base? (The TNA is now an alliance of just three parties – ITAK the old Federal Party, EPRLF and TELO). Nationalist putrescence in one community will spur it in the other; rank communalism in one community will embolden it in the other. These are sensitive times; the defeat of the Rajapaksa proto-dictatorship has not “solved” the national question though it has changed government attitudes to Tamils and promoted a few practical concessions. These gains will be reversed since concessions are tactically disadvantageous for the ultras; if circumstances improve for Tamils, tribalism and its CV-led champions become superfluous.
Responding to these challenges the TNA and GTF (Global Tamil Forum) – a diaspora entity committed to Tamil rights but prepared to do it within a united Lanka if this is possible – held talks in London in early June; Mangala Samaraweera (ManSam) reportedly made an input. The discourse was about “confidence building between communities”; an outlook rejected by the ultras on both sides. TNA-GTF while signalling a constructive approach made it clear that the needs of displaced people, housing for two thousand families in returned military occupied lands and release of political prisoners were essential to ease Tamil alienation.
The ball then is in the Sirisena-Ranil court (ManSam is on-side already) but in the slapstick of Sri Lankan political horseplay the government is alarmed by the Mahinda clique’s proclivity for chauvinist rata demalungta vikka (sold out to the Tamils) burlesque. Tamil-hater Nimal Siripala de Silva’s outburst against ManSam is proof enough of such obscenities. ManSam’s reply in parliament was a masterly example of an open democratic approach to inter-community reconciliation. On the other hand Mahinda Rajapaksa’s open pre-election incitement to racism in Matara last week makes reunion between Sirisena and Rajapaksa impossible.
CV, having tasted and assessed TNA politics and politicians, feels he can do better by giving leadership to Provincial Councillors and the people to whom he has become a new messiah. He is the also the rising star of the diaspora hard-core. He wishes to succeed Sampanthan as leader, but while pleasing the Jaffna man he has nothing to offer the Eastern man – Tamil or other community. Could he mobilise the North, and lead it like the Scottish National Party, CONFRONTING the State for redress, as opposed to Sampanthan-Sumanthiran’s method of DEALING with the State for similar redress? This is unanswerable right now. If the Sinhalese continue to refuse meaningful concessions to the Tamils, confrontation of course is the better course. Hence, as before, the future of the national question sits squarely in Sinhalese hands. If they take Lanka down the road of war and terrorism, as they did in previous decades, the next game will be their political and moral responsibility. (This is not to be confused with my quarter century of opposition to the LTTE and Prabaharan; what is at issue here is not sharing blame for past violence and violations but perilous current political trends).
Why is Sirisena delaying parliamentary elections?
The prosaic reason for President Sirisena to delay parliamentary elections is that the UNP is on the upswing. Deferment and disappointment with the government will damage Ranil and benefit the SLFP. This is partly true, but second, the SLFP is under the delusion that it will do better under FPP than the present PR system. This is false, the SLFP will be wiped out under FPP because in one-to-one contests crooked candidates will be sent packing; under PR its block vote will earn it 50 to 70 seats. Let us not forget what FPP did to losers in 1965, 1970 and 1977. The Cabinet’s 20A proposal is said to provide for: 145 FPP seats, 75 District-PR elected members and 17 National List appointees. The SLFP is throwing a spanner in the works to block the Cabinet proposal. The objective is to delay the elections for as long as possible and give the Rajapaksa clique time to stir up as much trouble as possible. If agreement cannot be reached between the Cabinet and the SLFP on 20A there it is suicidal for President Sirisena to delay dissolution.
Is Sirisena a part of an SLFP conspiracy to remove Ranil via a No Confidence Motion and replace him with an SLFP nominee? I am certain he is not that mad. He will be committing hara kiri if he creates a scenario where, before or after the elections he is obliged to take on an SLFP nincompoop and potential Rajapaksa plant as Prime Minister. If the Sirisena-Ranil team fractures it will be the death of an un-handcuffed Sirisena. (For a roundup of where the hatchet is swinging these days see Verite Research ‘Media Analysis’ 25 May-7June).
A key point is what votes will be reckoned in allocating District-PR seats? Will votes polled by winning FPP candidates be included or excluded in the summation? If winner’s votes are included, surely this amounts to double counting. A party could score an FPP landslide in a district and also collect most of the District-PR seats, thus marginalising a solid runner-up party and nullifying the objective of PR. Hence only votes of non-winning FPP candidates in the district’s electorates should be taken into account in calculating the PR seats to be allocated to each party in the district.
[Example: Assume that winning candidate’s votes are counted in District-PR seat allocation. Consider a district with 10 FPP seats and 6 District-PR seats – I am keeping the125:75 ratio. Say Party-A wins all 10 seats in the district polling 100 votes in each electorate and Party-B is runner up polling 50 votes in each electorate; neglect other parties. Then Party-A will garner all 10 FPP seats as well as 6x(1000/1500) = 4 District-PR seats, a total of 14. Party-B, despite polling 33.3% of the total vote, will obtain only 2 of the 16 seats in the district].