23 September, 2020

Blog

The Way Northern Vote Went Is Also A Matter For Concern

By Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

The unexpectedly strong electoral performance by the newly formed SLPP whose chief protagonist is former President Mahinda Rajapaksa at the recent local government elections was a wake-up call to the parties in government. The opposition has argued that the elections, which came a little after the mid-point of the government’s five year term, was akin to a referendum and therefore those in government had lost their mandate to govern. This argument has been countered on the basis that a local government election cannot take the mandate away from a national election. As the pressure on the government has subsided the timing of the election can be said to be a blessing in disguise. It is clear from the election results that if the parties in government had continued in the same manner, they risked being badly defeated at the next general elections in 2020.

Political analysts and public opinion indicate that there were a number of issues that clearly went against the government parties. One of the most significant issues were the cost of living and the feeling of those who are either on fixed incomes or earning their living in agriculture that this government did not care for them. The removal of subsidies, such for school uniforms, the Samurdhi and the fertilizer, cost the government dearly. Also significant was the failure to tackle corruption in high places, and the ironic reversal of roles where those who promised to eradicate corruption came to be accused of it by those so accused. Another significant issue that underlay the criticism of the government was the sense that it was divided and weak with the two parties at loggerheads, which President Maithripala brought to the fore in the election campaign.

The appearance of division within the government is a serious problem that has to be overcome, as it suggests that the government cannot adequately protect the nation interest even as it has faced, and faces, both internal and external threats to its sovereignty. The question is whether the government will give equal priority to dealing with all of these main issues, or whether it will prioritise one or two above the others. The directions already appear to be set. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has explained the government’s electoral setbacks as due to its inability to show any stunning economic performance rather than a middling performance. On the other hand, President Sirisena has pledged to address the problem of corruption both outside the government and within it.

Partial Analysis 

It is worth noting that most mainstream analysis has focused on the vote in the south of the country, in the Sinhalese-majority areas. This is in part because the Sinhalese majority constitutes an overwhelming majority and their vote is essential to form any government. It also reflects a mindset in which the ethnic minorities are generally perceived as being peripheral and living on the periphery of national concerns. This is the thinking of a polarized society that continues to ignore the polarization as not being of the highest importance. The lessons of the past three decades are still being learnt. We continue to see only one side of the picture for the most part. Northerners see from a northern perspective and southerners see from a southern perspective.

The marginalization, and neglect, of the politics of the North and East is what led to three decades of war and devastation, and to the economic setbacks suffered by the country as a whole. If there had not been a war, it is likely that Sri Lanka would have been much more economically prosperous than it is today. In 2008, Sri Lanka was counted amongst the 20 most fragile states in the world, out of 176 in which this assessment was made. Some of the indicators that are used to assess whether a state is fragile or not are following: Group Grievance: Existence of tension and violence between groups, which can undermine the state’s provision of security. State legitimacy: Corruption and lack of representativeness undermine the social contract, as citizens lose confidence in state institutions and processes. Factionalised elites: A fragmentation of ruling elites and state institutions along group lines undermines public confidence. Today a decade after that assessment, Sri Lanka has risen to the 47th position in terms of state fragility, out of 176 countries. This continues to be a high warning situation and suggests that the potential for instability continues to remain.

In the local government elections in the North, the TNA suffered significant reversals and lost ground to political parties that accused it of having been co-opted by the government at the expense of the Tamil people. This is because the TNA under its leader R Sampanthan has been playing a very supportive role to the government and trying to get it to deliver benefits to the Tamil people in a cooperative manner rather than through confrontation. This is in contrast to the Tamil parties of the past, including the more nationalist ones today, who have generally criticized and opposed governments, albeit for good reasons, rather than work with them. The relatively poor performance of the TNA is directly connected to the non-delivery of what is most meaningful to the Tamil voters.

Starting Point 

Three months ago after the announcement of local government elections the government began to downplay the constitutional reform and transitional justice processes it was engaged in. This was on account of its concern that the opposition would use these issues to mobilize nationalist sentiment against them. Despite the government’s caution, this is precisely what the opposition has done, claiming that Tamil Eelam is being revived by the government in collusion with the TNA and the international community. In the aftermath of the electoral setback suffered by the parties in government, there is concern that the government would put ethnic-related reforms into cold storage until the next national elections are concluded in two years.

On the other hand there are countervailing pressures. The international community appears to be putting pressure on the government to keep its commitments and promises. It was based on those commitments that the government has obtained significant economic benefits and trade concessions, such as the GSP plus. If these benefits are to continue the commitments made need to be kept. The government’s record will be scrutinized soon in Geneva when the UN Human Rights Council takes up the resolution on Sri Lanka that it co-sponsored along with the government in October 2015. There have been calls by foreign governments that Sri Lanka should implement without further delay the Office of Missing Persons and also other institutions such as the Office of Reparations and Truth Commission.

The priority issues for the Tamil people of the North and East are find solutions to the problems they face as a result of the war. These include loss of land and livelihood, loss of family members who are missing and unaccounted for, and the desire to live in a non-militarised area. Underlying these needs is the desire to obtain political rights for which generations of Tamil leaders have fought for, including the LTTE, which they consider to be a supreme sacrifice. Just as much as the government needs to show results that are meaningful to the people in the south, so do those who lead the Tamil people need to show that they are achieving results that are meaningful to the people in the north. It is not possible to insulate political developments in the north from those in the south, and vice versa. The government needs to think holistically when it makes its plans for the future.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • 3
    2

    Had the government carried out the recent cabinet reshuffle before the elections they would have won by leaps and bounds. Just too late. Advisors like Jehan P should take the blame.
    Soma

  • 0
    0

    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

    • 0
      0

      CT editor seems possess a strange ability to read minds.
      Soma

  • 5
    1

    It is not a wake up call – it is a firing shot. Run for your life.
    Soma

  • 0
    0

    In 1956 the language/religion-divide was used to create a fear that Indian invasion (with treacherous Tamil support) was round the corner.
    Today the same ‘divide’ is used to create a panic. “Tamils must be held on a leash or else they will separate”.
    “Corruption, nepotism etc.” are being promoted as harmless and are NOT necessarily attributes of a patriot.
    This is the real danger

  • 3
    1

    Jehan, If the Sinhala and the Tamil ethnic groups are to live in harmony Tamil people have to demonstrate they have a political ideology beyond secession (In the South Sinhala people vote along Free Market/Socialistic/quasi Marxist lines). I do believe/hope most Tamil people are beginning to realize that too and that is why there is no longer a block vote for the TNA. Prof. Rajan Hoole’s recent article about politics of the academia in the North demonstrate that in the microcosm of the University. However if Mr. Sampanthan continue to go for the jugular of the Rjapakshasas those political ideologies will shift to Southern Nationalistic vs Northern Secessionistic politics, and we will be back to 1982 . It is the responsibility of people like you to highlight that most problems that Tamil people of of the North face are the same as their southern Sinhala brethren. As James Carville once said “it is economy stupid”.

  • 1
    0

    Do not underestimate the effect of Federal Constitution on Local Government election. If the Government bring it up to please Tamils and the international community they are digging their own graves.

  • 1
    2

    Johan
    Tamils as a nation are not interested 7n picking crumbs falling from the sympathy of the Southern Majority. if the southern politicians and the civil society can not deluver self respect to Northerners in a democratic manner, the best they could do is to let the Northerners secede. Thereby there will be peace and stability in both countries. We would not have economic stagnation war for seven decades. That is why baddukoddai resolution and LTTR

    • 0
      1

      Raja
      I agree with you. Let us now discuss the subject of physical relocation of Tamils (Tamil speaking people) who are presently living outside NE into the envisaged Homeland.
      Soma

  • 0
    0

    Mr. Jehan PErera: [Edited out]. YOur article can fool some elements in Sri lanka who does not want to understand certain facts. I know Sinhala buddhist Mahavamsa Mindset id slow to respond. that si their nature. The major Draw back is the thirashcheenayo in the parliament.

  • 0
    0

    Sambandan’s were living in a falsehood. They were feeding their constituency falsehoods. Naturally it cannot continue because such falsehoods cannot deliver results. If they think a coup hatched in cahoots with USA and India would deliver them nirvana, God bless Tamils……..What is needed in the North is to prise open the strangle hold maintained on the Northern constituency by TNA and their fellow secessionist travellers and open a path for direct engagement. Some signs have been shown in the LG results of such a desire in the North. Basil also spoke about the need for direct engagement by SLPP (the single largest bloc of Southern constituency). It provides a slim hope.

  • 0
    0

    The reversal of TNA’s success and hold on the Tamil population should not come as a surprise. The major Sinhala parties have NEVER been interested in delivering anything to the Tamils. They have repeatedly made false promises and pacts with the main Tamil parties, be it the TNA, TULF or FP but have always reneged on their promises. The current government’s failure to deliver on their promises to the Tamil population and the TNA was and is a certainty as the sun rising tomorrow. You do not have to be a genius to predict the outcome.

    The so-called moderate Sinhala politicians are only interested in Tamil votes to beat the Sinhala nationalists in elections and once in power they will do nothing to address the Tamil people’s needs as this will raise the ire of the Sinhala population. This deception has been going on since Independence and sadly will never change. This model only allows the Sinhala majority areas to progress economically if at all. What the Sinhala moderates do not realise is that this model also gives rise to the nationalists in both populations. Nationalism is the antithesis of economic progress.

    Sinhala nationalism in the form of racist policies and violence and Tamil nationalism in the form of LTTE violence set the country back by decades. More recently, it was Rajapaksa’s corrupt nationalism that has put the country in massive debt and if that is what the Sinhala masses and politicians want in preventing any progress on Tamil needs, that is probably what they will get at the next general elections. Everybody loses, well done!

  • 0
    0

    Rupavahini closed a Tamil Channel and reopened it as reconciliation propaganda Tamil Channel. Yahapalanaya has started to build 1000 Buddhist temples in North East. The Northern governor is using Old Tamil cinema songs to brainwash Tamils not to talk about their issues. Eastern Governor is treating the Hinduism in East with ultimate contempt. In the East, Sunday’s schools have been banned as in Sundays the Buddhist School wants to teach Buddhism. Hindu-Tamils are forced to give up their usual educational culture and being throated down with Buddhism. On the contrary, in South, Tamil bashing is taken to achieve the election victory. During the LG election, Yahapalanaya was part of Tamil Bashing while it has promised to IC of improving the war torn Tamils’ wellbeing.
    Joint Comedy club believe that it cannot form a party purely only on anti-minority policies with the reasonable legal recognition of externally or even internally. Because of this it has created a Skunk Party with the name of SLPP, with no senior politician from Joint Comedy Club being a member in that. Practically it has no Central Government members at all. But the party has the blessing of all Sinhala Majority Community; especially mentionable is Jehan PhD too. Jehan PhD, who advised Yahapalanaya to take Lord Naesby’s help to counter UNHRC until Lord Naseby declined, never condemned a party being formed by all Sinhala leaders, who refused to take membership in that. Jehan PhD supports this racketeering, by refusing to advice against it. The founders of the party are apparently in believe the party only can do damage to the country but not deliver the ethnic cleaning it promises. These shadow leaders expects severe retaliation from international community for its ideas of human right violation and inter-ethnic conflicts it promotes, so it is not ready to operate at central level where it cannot avoid international contacts.

  • 0
    0

    Sampanthar has openly challenged the shadowy leader of it that if he wishes promote the party’s objects further then he is willing to deliver the Tamil Eelam which he says he is not for. Here, in these pages, we have been advocating Yahapalanaya to take the bull on horn on the Constitutional change. Though Yahapalanaya was willingly scooping up the loss, but was not willing to counter campaign against to this party because of its association with it and its own anti-minority exercises. As it is known, Yahapalanaya is of two main elements, SLFP and UNP. Though only Joint Comedy club is associated with Slap Party, many SLFP members are Cats on the wall with the lookout of opportunity for jump in. Like Joint Comedy Club, though so far no SLFP MPs members have join this party, it is expected many to move there when the Old Royals officially announce their membership in that. The other partner in Yahapalanaya, UNP for long time has been staunch opponents of international assistance of Human Right in Lankawe. Ranil famously have maintained of resistance Lankawe becoming the contributor to ICC. Further he had launched his fight against Ex. UNSG and his commission’s report on Lankawe.
    So there are suspicion of the formation of this party, its objectives and policies. So far an inferable message is the majority community’s blessing is with the party though the majority of the Majority community and almost all of minority communities earnestly believe the man behind it is dangerous criminal. The loss to SLFP in 2015 by a Common Candidate was described as the verdict to punish him and clean the Lankawe politics. By punishing was meant punishments only to his suspected corruptions and private murders like Lasantha, Eknaligoda, but expressively indicated no war crime.

  • 0
    0

    While promising in UNHRC to accountability and responsibility, Yahapalanaya promised in the internal election “No leader, No Commander, No Soldier” will be prosecuted. In other words Yahapalanaya and Opposition, even at the election that is before the formation of the Slap Party, were in agreement to furtherance Old regime’s Buildups against Tamil minority. So there is no surprise now the voter to that party and nonvoters of the majority community are openly blessing the party, irrelevant of their economy, international opinion of the country, Media safety & trustworthiness are continuously falling.
    International Community created Yahapalanaya against Tamils wishes thinking they are imposing a solution to Tamils’ problems. Now they see that they pushed Lankawe into China’s hand and made Tamils not redeemable slaves for the majority community. This time Yahapalanaya has successfully used the Local election to deter the International pressure to releasing Tamils as counterproductive to International Interest as only Old Royal will be benefiting to come back to power. This is not the real situation prevailing in Lankawe, but only an out maneuvering of International Initiation by Yahapalanaya by refusing to internally promote reconciliation and peace with in the majority community. Chandrika still claim that her Sudu Nelum was a successful project. So it is Yahapalanaya refused to counter the anti-minority election campaign of the Slap Party. The way IC can deal with this is, if Yahapalanaya tries to hand over the power to Slap Party, IC has to remove the blockade it is putting on the International investigation of the Old Regime and with economic blockade on the Slap Party Government. If Yahapalanaya is not taking forward and implementing the resolution 30/1, IC has to impose economic sanction on Yahapalanaya government. This is the only way to stop Yahapalanaya secretly promoting Slap Party and Slap party using anti-minority campaign to win elections.

Leave A Comment

Comments should not exceed 200 words. Embedding external links and writing in capital letters are discouraged. Commenting is automatically disabled after 7 days and approval may take up to 24 hours. Please read our Comments Policy for further details. Your email address will not be published.