The northern elections and their aftermath
Posted on August 14th, 2009

By Mario Perera, Kadawata

 Much ink is being made to flow on the subject of the relative good performance of the TNA at the recent polls. The elections were especially significant on several counts; the most important of them being the blunder of the government think tanks in holding them at this unpropitious moment. Indeed there was nothing to justify the holding of these elections because nothing had normalized in those parts of the country.

The think tanks were perhaps led by the president’s declarations that henceforth there are no minorities in this country. Where on earth is there a country without minorities? Where on earth is there a country where the minorities are happy with the majority rule? Where on earth is there a country where the minorities do not feel discriminated against? And why should all that no be so here? To expect anything else is to live in a fool’s paradise.

Sri Lanka is indeed a showpiece to the world where so many major ethnic and religious groups live since countless centuries and on such a relatively small territory. Indeed as a distinguished writer to Lankaweb suggested recently we should be declared a UNESCO world heritage site in this regard.

 Yes, ethnicity and religion are so deeply engraved in the national ethos that digging them out is well nigh impossible. Not even a presidential declaration can do that. Our State itself is identified as a Sinhala Buddhist State. Giving credence to this, monks serve as elected representatives and law makers in Parliament. The express desire of our parliamentarian monks was to transform the country into a “ƒ”¹…”Dharma’ State, meaning a Buddhist State.

The monks were among the most vociferous elements in inducing the State to an all out war against the LTTE terrorists. Monks here are government makers and government breakers. Think of the pacts that were made on one day and broken the other due to their intervention. The “ƒ”¹…”maha sangha’ will never allow anything smacking of separatism, whatever the name by which it is called to make headway. No government will take them head on. One may like this situation or criticize it, but it was always so and will remain so. It may even seem like being obliged to kiss the hand that one would like to cut off.

 The Sinhalese take pride in calling themselves “ƒ”¹…”Sinhala Buddhists’. No one faults them for that. In like manner others too could call themselves Tamil Hindus and Muslims. What all this means is that a majority and minorities do exist in this country. What the majority thinks as being good for all may not necessarily be what the minorities think of as being good for themselves. This was what the government learnt at the recent polls in the north. And what is the harm in that? Yet anything is good enough for minorities with separatist tendencies to hang on to.

The TNA victories are, in my opinion being overplayed with imaginations running haywire. The TNA showing has to be seen in the backdrop of the “ƒ”¹…”ghetto’ mentality of the voters concerned. For thirty years or more they lived by themselves and for themselves with no other reality but themselves to reckon with. Sure the LTTE brought them misery after misery but yet it all happened among themselves like within a family.

As the saying goes the devil you now is better than the angel you do not know. These people did not know of any angels, only devils posing as princes of light, like in any typical “ƒ”¹…”thovil’ ceremony. So for whom could one expect them to vote but for those who remind them of the “ƒ”¹…”thovils’ of bygone days? The exact opposite is happening in the rest of the country with the government scoring massive electoral victories one after the other. The north south divide during the last thirty odd years was such that it is now, after the northern polls made to seem of abysmal proportions. All this is more imaginative than anything else. Throw a straw to a drowning man and he will cling on to it with all his might.

 The TNA did not win for what it did for those people. In fact it did nothing other than propaganda work which after all came to naught. The TNA won because they were the ones closest to the crowds in the northern ghettos. They represented what those Tamil populations were able to call “ƒ”¹…”ours’. What these mistimed elections did was to bind these voters together to the memories of the past rather than commit themselves to the unknown future. This is also the fragile link in that binding chain; the memories of the past.

Yet with the passage of time sanity must prevail. These people, with the opening of the ghettos and a look over and beyond the wall will seize the opportunities provided for their advancement and development. Then realization will dawn that representatives are elected not only for what they are or seem to be, but more so for what they can do.

 Let the government do the most it can for these people, these poor people who were caught between the devil and deep blue sea for over thirty years. Develop the north. Link it with the rest of the country with an excellent network of roads, rail and transport and communication possibilities. Destroy the ghettos. The government does not need the TNA or anyone else for that matter to do that.

 As for the TNA or others looking for the betterment of the lot of their compatriots of the north, the sooner they realize that there are parameters beyond which they cannot venture the better for all concerned. The LTTE or die hard Ealamists, the pride and glory of most Tamils were reduced to smithereens in spite of massive international support on all relevant counts be it military, financial or other.

A century old dream which began around 1918 was reduced to dust. Trying to reroute the same issues would be absolutely futile. The majority population will never permit a similar movement to rear its head again. Anything that smells of separatism whatever the camouflage is now “ƒ”¹…”anathema’ to them. Hence striving for a homeland, federalism, merging of provinces or anything bringing back memories of the thirty year military conflict will be opposed with all the vehemence the overwhelming majority is capable of. And here the government can do nothing, whatever be the pressures brought to bear on it, from within or from without. Any solution will be within the solid boundaries of a “ƒ”¹…”Unitary State’ and under one national flag.

 This is not a palatable truth to those who like to speculate and still more to dream of what could have been. So ink will flow in gay abundance. They have to reckon with a 2500 year old Island civilization that will not let go of its birthright. As for the government in power, it is riding the crest of the wave of its massive victory over the LTTE. Parliamentary elections are probably round the corner, and it is expected that the president’s party will sweep the polls with the necessary majority to amend the constitution. Then sweeping changes will be brought in.

 Parties fighting under ethnic or religious banners will probably be proscribed bringing overt separatist trends to an end. It is simply repugnant that parties be allowed to call themselves Sinhala, Tamil or Muslim. A move to this end is already made, and will be carried through eventually in spite of possible temporary setbacks. National unity cannot be brought about by legislation but clear cut boundaries will be established which say “ƒ”¹…”thus far and no further’.

The military will surely be strengthened and vigilance will be at its peak. This is the irreversible trend. New international alliances must be formed to counterbalance the ones whose only pastime is to pressurize us. This is the unshakeable mindset of the overwhelming majority of the population. Naturally there will be much clamour against such snow balls growing in size with passing time. But that is inevitable. A massive terrorist separatist threat was crushed after thirty years of suffering and misery while the world watched and “ƒ”¹…”enjoyed’, like the Romans watched the blood sports in the Colliseum.

What could not be obtained by such a brutal terrorist movement will never be obtained through the clamouring of politicians and intellectuals with separatist tendencies. Every foreign involvement in what is a matter for Sri Lanka to solve will not only be counter productive and to no avail but will strengthen the resolve not to cede to pressure. National unity to whatever extent will not come on a golden platter. But one thing is certain. The separatist dream laid to rest on the battlefield will never be revived in the political arena.

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