By Brian Senewiratne –
I have recently had a spate of emails about this. I cannot see the problem.
The Sri Lankan Tamils have three options:
1. To vote for the ‘common opposition candidate’ Maithripala Sirisena
2. To vote for Rajapaksa
3. Not to vote at all
If they opt to vote for Rajapaksa, they are crazy. Every Tamil should know that if Rajapaksa is elected, that is the end of the Tamils. It almost is, already. No one in his right mind can fail to see this. So, option 2 is out.
Not to vote at all is to vote for Rajapaksa.
Does the Tamil vote matter? Yes it does. With a voter bank of more than 600,000, the Tamil vote can be the decider.
What about Sirisena? Well, we don’t know. When he blasted Rajapaksa and set out the wonderful things he was going to do if he is elected eg doing away with the Executive Presidency within 100 days, restoring the judiciary, ending corruption etc, there was not a word about what he would do about the Tamil people and the trauma they are going through. Not a word about the military occupation in the North and East where the Tamil civilians are being treated as the ‘spoils of war’. In fact I did not hear the word’ ’Tamil’ being mentioned.
His closeness to the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) is a worry. The JHU is a Sinhala-Buddhist extremist party which is virulently anti-minority, especially anti-Tamil. It is totally opposed to devolution of power of any sort to the Tamils. An alliance with such a party will create major problems for Sirisena, irrespective of whether he is any different from Rajapaksa where handling the national question is concerned.
Sirisena was part of the very same government that have done these terrible things which has resulted in international investigation. Sirisena has vehemently defended the Rajapaksa policies for several years. He now says that despite being critical of what Rajapaksa was doing, he was not in a position to express his views and was ‘frustrated’. If so, why then did he not resign?
What is foremost is that this election should be seen as an opportunity, perhaps the last opportunity for many years to come, to get rid of a dreadfully violent, corrupt, nepotistic government, one of the most dangerous that Sri Lankan has ever had. Rajapaksa and his junta have virtually dismantled democracy, installed a Totalitarian State under one family – a family Autocracy – destroyed the legal system, and drained the country financially, the money being shipped away abroad, the visible evidence of which can be seen in the USA and elsewhere.
Get it wrong, and the Tamils and all other ethnic groups and the entire country will pay a huge price for a very long time – perhaps forever, ending with a ‘Failed State’ no different from Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, probably worse.
There is simply no choice. It should be a one-horse race but with the violence that the Rajapaksas are capable of unleashing (which was clearly acknowledged by Sirisena) and the possibility that Gotabaya Rajapaksa will launch a military coup, or rig the ballot boxes to the extent that the election will be a farce, I would not be surprised if Rajapaksa wins the election. In any case he has said that he will be the President on 9 January 2015 even of he loses the election since his term as President does not expire for another two years. If he wins, the two years remaining will be added to the six year term, and Sri Lanka will be cursed with this dreadful regime for another 8 years, probably for the foreseeable future. As for the Tamils, they will be gone – genocide of the Tamils.
The Tamil vote for Sirisena, might, I stress the word ‘might’, prevent this disaster. Sirisena might also be a disaster for the Tamils but less of a disaster than Rajapaksa. Nothing can be worse than the Rajapaksa junta for Sri Lanka in general, the Tamils in particular.