Dear Aravinthan Anna,
Many thanks for your Skype call this morning. Thanks to live streaming of Sri Lankan TV channels, I could follow the election results and related commentaries from here as and when it happened. As you correctly said, people in the North have clearly expressed their will to have a representation that knows their aspirations, and that they don’t need just any model of development. The electoral outcome of Kaytes Island is a good example that there is a limit to which money can buy votes. Now Anna, as a Southerner, while wholeheartedly well wishing the new Provincial Council so strongly led by ITAC, I challenge it to show by example that it truly stands by the aspirations of the people of Jaffna. Keep pressure on them to build up a good respect for rule of law, human rights, and equality among all its residents. When I mentioned about rule of law, you asked me if the Navy Commander would hold an inquiry into why Yoshitha Rajapaksa openly participated in political campaigns during the last couple of months while he is in uniform. Well I know that the Army held a swift inquiry into why former Army Commander Sarath Fonseka was allegedly involved in politics while in uniform based on evidence given by a politicna who crossed over to the Government side. You saw how fast those inquiries moved and how they rushed to give the verdict on a day the defense lawyers were not present. So, your argument that we in the South do not have strong rule of law sort of breaks down. Anyway, lets see how the Navy commander keeps up to that exemplary record held by the Army. If the Navy Commander so wishes, there were many photo evidence given in so many media, and this note is an open challenge to him.
Anyway Anna, in addition to rule of law, keep pressure on the newly elected PC representatives to build up the education infrastructure that once held Jaffna as an example in the whole country. They could even go beyond what is expected from them in terms of helping higher education in Jaffna. Higher education institutes can be mother nodes for grassroots level innovation across the society. As we always discuss, the number of people in the North compared to the South has no much meaning. What truly matters is the productive capacity and intellectual base of individuals. Just like MP Sumanthiran can account for about 60% of the opposition of the parliament in terms of the ability to articulate and to pose effective arguments when they are needed, a stronger education and innovations promotion base in the North could produce citizens who will revive the economy and innovative culture of that part of the country to be a miracle of Asia. If proper facilities are given, a lot of foreign academic institutes will readily collaborate with those in the North out of respect for the will demonstrated by the people in the North to move forward in their own unique way.
The outcome in the South is not without new political messages. I hope Muslim Congress learnt the lesson of the century. Their leaders cannot enjoy the perks of the Government and stay without protecting the rights of Muslim citizens in the South and still expect Muslims to vote for them. I am glad Muslims gave the message that they will vote if and only if a clear agenda to protect their rights are shown and an unwavering will to stand by it is exhibited.
Emergence of the Democratic Party as the third political force should open the eyes of traditional Marxist parties who held that slot since independence. My guess is that Sarath Fonseka’s strategy of holding pocket meetings to understand the ground level aspirations of the people and showing confidence and fearlessness amidst threats and adversities gave confidence to the people that the Democratic Party would be a strong representation to express their concerns. I hope they continue to be with people than political theory books. I fully agree with you that those politicians who go to books for prescriptions lose relevance with time. This has happened to the UNP leadership too. If you sit down for a chat with UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, he will quote at least ten books you haven’t read, and you will for sure be astonished to see his intellectual understanding of politics and the strategies of famous leaders. However, he doesn’t seem to relate those theories to how rural people in Sri Lanka live their daily lives. He doesn’t seem to understand that there is a rough but ambitious life behind a bracelet or a sweet SMS a youth will send to another. He doesn’t seem to understand that such youth look up at leaders with strong visions than those who look cute. Just look at what kind of movies the rural youth watch. They like impossible missions, challenge, exploration, other than just bracelets or sweet SMSs. UNP’s loss of base in the North is also sad. UNP in my view is the only party in Sri Lanka that has the right founding principles to accommodate people from all ethnic backgrounds. The rejection by the people in the North show that UNP has to re-visit their founding principle and the political culture of being grounded among all ethnicities in their daily lives.
Again, Anna, please don’t allow your newly elected leaders to go back to their cozy politics. Keep them challenged with clarity of expression. In that regard, I expect academics like you to spend at least ten minutes a week to go beyond books to see what the people need.