Sri Lanka a Bombshell in the Northern Province

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<ul><li><p>7/29/2019 Sri Lanka a Bombshell in the Northern Province</p><p> 1/4</p><p>Sri Lanka: A bombshell in the NorthernProvince</p><p> Dated 23-Sep-2013</p><p>Guest Colum by Dr.Kumar David</p><p>Provincial Council (PC) elections were held in three provinces in Lanka on21 September the Northern (NP), North Western (NWP) and the Central</p><p>(CP) Provinces went to the polls and as expected the Rajapakse governmentwon fairly handsomely in the Sinhalese majority NWP and the CP securingabout 60% of the vote.</p><p>The bombshell was the NP where the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) wasexpected to win but the outcome turned out to be a titanic landslide. The</p><p>TNA secured about 80% overall in the province and in the culturally andemotionally crucial Jaffna District it took 85%. The TNA (actually theIllangai</p><p>Thamil Arasu Katchi or ITAK, the largest party in the TNA, is the name under</p><p>which it contested) secured 30 of the 38 seats in the Northern ProvincialCouncil (NPC) inflicting a stunning defeat on the government. It wasthought that because the Presidents brother Basil had been spearheadinglarge infrastructure construction projects in the NP, and because theacknowledged base that the governments point man in the north DouglasDevananda had nursed over the years, Rajapakses UPFA would be able tosave face. These hopes have been devastated.</p><p>The profound political message is this. The Tamils have emotionallyreaffirmed the war crimes accusations they have been making against theregime, they have also rejected what they perceive to be an oppressorSinhala State; there is no other interpretation for this result. PresidentRajapakse in the meantime held his position in the hearts of the Sinhaleseas the NWP and CP results showed. There is now a dangerous bifurcation inthe country; a long repressed Tamil voice has found utterance for amessage whose intensity is unlikely to diminish at least till there is achange at the Centre. But that is unlikely any time soon. It is in this contextthat I will make some effort in this essay to think a little bit ahead and</p></li><li><p>7/29/2019 Sri Lanka a Bombshell in the Northern Province</p><p> 2/4</p><p>speculate on how things may unfold.</p><p>What next?</p><p>The one issue on which Chief Minister designate C.V. Vigneswaran and thenew NPC Administration cannot retreat is demilitarisation, in some form andguise; this is non-negotiable for the people and for the TNA unless it wantsto lose all credibility. For the Presidents other brother and all powerfulDefence Secretary (DS) Gotabaya, as well for the army brass, it is a red-linethat cannot be crossed. How is President Rajapakse going to make thetactical retreat that he must? What is the inner relationship betweenPresident and DS? The siblings are so close that an open rift is hard tobelieve, and if these gears do crash the regime itself will totter because thisaxis is the locus of power in Lankas authoritarian dispensation.</p><p>The blatant involvement of the army in election violence and refusal of thepolice to intervene indicates that the President has lost control of the DS, orthe DS has lost control of the military. To some degree the TNA can thankthe army for the landslide; its involvement in pre-election violence and therefusal of the police to intervene galvanised anger. It also focussed thespotlight on either the role or the impotence of the DS.</p><p>Hence I believe that the first flashpoint in the new structure will be the</p><p>question of confining the military to barracks and ending its openinvolvement in every aspect of civilian life in the north. A meeting, a socialgathering, a pamphlet, you name it and it needs permission; and bewaresomeone will be there keeping a watchful eye. This massive electiontriumph for the TNA must toll the death of this order of things.</p><p>What after that?</p><p>The next crucial issue is whether the NPC Administration is allowed to geton with its job or stated more generally, the relationship between theCentre and the Province. I had been of the view before the elections thatsince an authoritarian regime cannot tolerate pluralism and sharing ofpower the regime will bring the NPC Administration to heel or even dissolveit down the line. The tools in the hands of the President are many such asappointing hard-core military types as provincial governors whose powersare great, engineering political rifts as has been done in the Eastern</p></li><li><p>7/29/2019 Sri Lanka a Bombshell in the Northern Province</p><p> 3/4</p><p>Province, fiscal undermining, and if all else fails, dissolving the Council.However, the enormity of the governments electoral defeat must haveforced a change in these options. There is pressure on the President that hehas no choice but to work with the NPC; he has to bend and cooperate.</p><p>I am no wide-eyed dreamer, but the Commonwealth Heads Meeting willtake place in Colombo in November. It would be suicidal for the regime toget into a confrontation with the NPC before that. It is the chauvinist in thegovernment that are hostile to the new NPC, but has the scale of events cutthe ground under them? A friend writing a few days before the electionshad this to say:-</p><p>Though chauvinists in the regime use racist slogans on election platformsin the South they have to temporarily tone down their ultra-racism. Gota,</p><p>Champika and Wimal seem to be going through a crisis. Liberals and leftistin the government are in a happy mood in this situation, but neither didanything useful during the visit of the General Secretary of HR (UN) oranything constructive regarding the TNA Manifesto. Vasus comments wereutterly negative and predicted that the Manifesto would provoke the South.At the same time in a Ravaya interview he attacked Gota and other racistsso as a make President Mahinda look like a good guy.</p><p>Champika Ranawaka and Wimal Weerawansa are Cabinet Ministers fromallegedly highly racist political parties in the government alliance andVasudeva Nanayakkara a Cabinet Minister from an allegedly leftist party.Gota is the DS, and Ravaya a radical Sinhala weekly].</p><p>It remains to be seen if the regime will put its authoritarianism on thebackburner for a while and accept that it has no choice but to change itscontrol-freak style. This is where Delhi and the international communitycount. The Geneva UNHRC meetings are upon us. A clear and unambiguousdeclaration and watertight conditions that even the magicians in Colombocannot wriggle out of are of decisive importance.</p><p>Thoughts for the Tamils</p><p>TNA leader Sampanthan has proved himself an artful old fox; he is shrewd,intelligent and politically principled. Chief Minister designate Vigneswaranhas put his foot and been guilty of a faux pas or two. He is new to politics</p></li><li><p>7/29/2019 Sri Lanka a Bombshell in the Northern Province</p><p> 4/4</p><p>but needs to learn fast. His reported characterisation of Prabaharan as ahero was totally unnecessary; Tamil youth would have supported the TNAeven without opportunist throw away remarks. He took a blind pot-shot atthe DMK and ANADMK saying these parties were exploiting the Lanka Tamilissue for their own political gains. Of course its true, but why moralise, whyrub erstwhile supporters up the wrong way?</p><p>What the TNA must not do under any circumstances is capitulate to thepressure of the rump-LTTE Tamil diaspora TGTL or whatever it calls itself.</p><p>The TNA must dig in and firmly affirm that it will remain faithful to theManifesto on which it was elected. This will be trouble enough withouttaking on board the rantings of LTTE-rump loonies. The TNA has nowestablished beyond doubt that the in-country leadership is at the helm ofthe Tamil people and it must not allow the tail to wag the dog. The Tamildiaspora has help and can continue to help in the development of the North</p><p>and the East, it can play a constructive role; that is the relationship that hasto be nurtured.</p><p>The Tamils should rejoice that their emotions about war crimes has foundvoice; they had to wait four years for this opportunity, but history, like themills of god, grinds slowly and unlike the said mills, it does not grindparticularly fine. If they are allowed autonomy, in deeds even though not inwords, to live freely in their traditional homelands and to prosper, they willhave to forget and forgive a lot. Thats the price of reconciliation from the</p><p>Tamil side. I am reading a lot into possibilities; working together the TNAand Sinhalese democrats can deliver.</p></li></ul>