By R. Jeevan –
The Tamil Community was placed in an uncomfortable situation from the time when it was announced the 2015 Presidential Elections. Unable to enter into any kind of discussion with the then opposition the TNA saw any of its efforts to support Maithiripala Sirisena a wild goose chase. At the prima faciae, TNA was unlikely to call for a boycott or leave the decision up to the people. TNA members were very cautious in making any statement since there was a high possibility in the south to be misinterpreted any of its stands or even upset the Tamils in the North. The amalgam of Tamil academics and intellectuals, the Tamil Civil Society Forum (TCSF) argued reasonably on the issues pertaining to the Tamils and wanted to call for a boycott of the elections. The Diaspora instead was not interested at all and some groups called the Tamils to distance themselves from the election of the “Sinhala nation”. But in reality the people had already decided to whom to vote and they knew for sure the importance of this election.
Thanks to the invisible efforts of some TNA members who got into action to know the pulse of the people, and later pushed the TNA’s hierarchy to extend their support to Maithiri. The Bishop of Mannar Rev. Rayappu Joseph was the only one who was able to negotiate directly with the Presidential Candidate Maithiri, particularly when both of them met in Mannar during a propaganda visit. Though the Bishop met Mahinda Rajapksa, he did not discuss with him anything pertaining to Tamils or showed any signs of supporting him. Further he advised his Priests and all those who are in offices to encourage people to exercise their franchise, because he knew that people will vote for sure to Maithiri.The Jaffna University’s Student association and the Professors association requested people to cast their votes and threw their weights behind Maithiri. There is no doubt that the Tamil speaking Muslim community publicly declared their support to Maithiri in North while a few Muslim Politicians were clinging on to the Rajapaksa regime in the East. In North the voters’ turnout was so high and was unexpected to the fact that many local leaders were taken by surprise. But in every district different aspects played a vital role for this highest voters’ turn out.
In Jaffna and Kilinochchi the main factor which saw the highest ever turnout in a Presidential election was the increasing intimidation from the EPDP. In recent times EPDP has become more tyrant and established their monopoly. Jaffna which continued to keep its academic dynamisms despite the war and the difficult situation it faced in the past, started to experience deterioration of its own good due to the manipulative projects of EPDP and its influences in appointing people for government offices People in Jaffna were unable to digest such defamatory actions in a well respected Jaffna society and on the EPDP’s continuous efforts to hamper the smooth functioning of the Northern Provincial Council. Some days prior to the election many TNA members got into the field to garner support for Maithiri and educate the people on the process of voting. Though some defected from the call of the party’s hierarchy to extend their support to Maithiri, most of the party members acted positively, since they were aware that supporting Maithiri is not only the party’s decision but people’s choice too.
There was high intimidation from the pro-Rajapaksa forces to confuse the people regarding election. But everything went futile on the day of election. It was learnt from the University of Jaffna that until 11 am of the day of election the turnout was very low and was estimated between 20-25%. Some professors and wise students from the University of Jaffna immediately contacted their colleagues in certain areas to act promptly to increase the voters’ turnout. Unexpectedly the results were so high and the young men went house by house insisting the people to go for voting and ensured security through pool monitors. Despite rumours that Sritharan MP is boycotting the election in Kilinochchi, it so happened that MP himself had to go for voting as early as possible and then had to share through social media and via phone the images telling that he has voted already thus insisting all his supporters to go to the pooling stations.
The big surprise came from Mullaitivu district that during the last Provincial council elections TNA had to arrange transport service for the people to go for voting. But on the 8th people came in big numbers to vote for Maithiri without any prior arrangements. A TNA provincial councillor who first claimed to boycott the election then seen in the pooling station voting and encouraging voters to go for voting. A local political activist explains that the only choice of the Tamils in Mullaitivu district was Maithiri. For them defeating Mahinda Rajapaksa was more important than making Maithiri the winner. But in a certain sense they too expected a change. Likewise Mullaitivu became the third district with highest voting percentage for Maithiri, 78.95% people opted Maithiri for Mahinda.
The majority Tamils particularly the Christians in Mannar was joined by defiant Muslims to emerge with the highest voting percentage 85% in favour of Maithiri, the only district to do it throughout Sri Lanka. The second district in the list is Batticaloa and the third is Mullaitivu. This shows how the Tamil speaking community played a vital role in electing Maithiri as the Sri Lankan president. It is still a surprise to many how the people in the North and East responded to an unprepared election. Undoubtedly the need for a change and the urgency to address the minority issue played a vital role not only in North and East but also in the upcountry.