Parliamentary Elections 2010: A Turnaround Challenge for NE Tamils? An Interesting Viewpoint
Posted on March 4th, 2010

By Jolly Somasundram former Civil Servant.

“The time has come the Walrus said to talk of many things -of sailing ships and sealing wax and —whether pigs have wings.”  Lewis Carroll, Walrus and the Carpenter.
 
 So with the Tamil Leaders! After years of politically representing and leading the NE Tamils, with the external assistance of the Diaspora, the Tamil Leaders have now led the marginalized NE Tamils to an arid future. In the 2010 Presidential Elections, NE Tamil leaders- betting with an unerring certainty on the wrong horse- converted an already dispirited people into an irrelevancy.
 
It was the devil’s electoral deal struck with General Fonseka that did it. General Fonseka was the commander of the Sri Lankan army, mandated to defeat the LTTE. He successfully achieved his mission and was nationally recognized. But, there were the gravest doubts whether he achieved his mission justly. In the last days of the war (17th-19th May) “the Tigers were completely and tightly encircled and their doom was certain. A little patience would have avoided needless and extreme civilian suffering and death.” (New York Times- 21/ May/ 2009, page 9).
 
Over 20,000 Tamil civilians were estimated killed in the three months, exceeding by five times, the civilian carnage inflicted by Prabhakaran over three years. Events of the last few weeks are graphically depicted in the US State Dept’s and the UTHR (J)’s reports. It was at this time that the wife, medico- daughter and 12 year son of Prabhakaran were done away with, like the Czar’s family by the Bolsheviks. Subsequently, Gen Fonseka boasted that he had given orders that those surrendering with white flags were to be shot. After the victory, he incarcerated the entire population of the Wanni as collective punishment. There were 300,000 of them- all Tamils- dumped in foetid prison camps and he wanted another 100,000 soldiers to manage these camps. (There is irony in the General protesting his post-election ” five star hotel arrest” for one night).
 
President Rajapakse refused the General’s request, causing the first rift between the two. Credible evidence has now emerged of the General’s criminal, exchange control breaches. It was with this General, one who wanted the Tamils to get back to India , that the Tamil leaders struck their electoral deal- with no mention of devolution, 13th amendment or NE re-merger in the deal. Kural (570) says, ” Tyranny, that allies itself to fools and charlatans, / Is the only burden under which the earth groans: there is nothing other besides.” Fortunately, the South, with common sense, saved the NE Tamils from utter annihilation, had the General won the Presidential election. NE Tamils are the modayas.
 
The deal struck between the TNA and the General was a Himalayan blunder, falling into the same category, as the Communist Party of India not permitting their leader- Jyoti Basu – to be the Prime Minister of India when it was his for the taking, and the Nazi- Soviet pact concluded in 1939. 
 
The 2010 Presidential election result has to make the NE Tamils come to terms with one reality. President Rajapaksa’s victory was a Pan-Rural Sinhala triumph with no NE Tamil input into the equation. President Rajapakse, could, if he now wishes, totally ignore the NE Tamils, and there is nothing the NE Tamils could do about it, except bleat. “Having painted themselves into a corner, NE Tamils complain of being cornered” acidly wrote Sivathasan, in a perceptive op-ed published in the Island
 
End Of Two Dynasties In The South 
The 2010 Presidential elections ended two dynasties in the South. One was the Bandaranaike dynasty. Its last representative, Chandrika Bandaranaike, supported the General. Even her pocket borough electorates, Attanagalla and Dompe voted 60% against her. There will be no more Bandaranaikes in power in the near future, as there will be no Kennedys’ within the power structures of Washington DC . The second dynasty to end was the Senanayake- Jayawardena one. As will be explained later, its last representative- Ranil Wickremesinghe-, though of excellent presidential material, has no credible chance of gaining power in the future.
 
A Rising Son From The Deep South.
The 2010 Presidential Elections have the following consequences.
 1. President Rajapakse will hold office for another 6 1/2 years.
 2 Within this period, there will, at least, be two Parliamentary Elections, the first being in April 2010.
 3. In the 2010 Parliamentary elections, there is the possibility, if  cards are played right, of the leading NE Tamil Party having the largest contingent of parliamentarians it ever had, of 22-25. In 2011, there will be a population census, followed by a Delimitation Commission. NE Tamil will lose between 3-6 seats in the post-2010 Parliament because of a decline of population. 
 
The 2010 Parliamentary Elections will be held under the prevailing electoral system of proportion and weightage for the smaller parties. Whatever the dimensions of the electoral victory of the Presidential Election, since the Parliamentary Election will be held under a different system of computing, it will be most unlikely that any Party will gain a 2/3rd’s majority nor even a simple majority. In short, the largest party will have to scout around for coalition partners: jumbo Cabinets will continue. The possibility is that the governing Party will gain 100-95 seats, the UNP 70-65 seats and the JVP 10-8 seats. (The UNP has conceded that the governing Party will be the largest: their concern is to prevent it getting a 2/3rds majority). Depending on the sophistication of the election approach of the NE Tamil Parties, they could well be a significant third Party, with an attractive seat portfolio of 22-25. 
 
As stated, the post-2010 Parliamentary Election will also be held under the presidency of President Rajapakse. In foreign relations, the Russia- Iran- Pakistan- Sri Lanka- Myanmar-China linkages will continue and get stronger. Sri Lanka is no longer a dot in the Indian Ocean but a major player in a new, Eurasian international arrangement, and, a critical, strategic, transportation location for energy supply to
China, which is scheduled to surpass the US as the largest economy by 2030. (This is a rebuffing of the MacIinder, geo-political sea lane theory of the 19th century, now applied to the 21st). It is not in the interest of any country in this supply chain, to permit a regime change in Sri Lanka . There is also a possibility of the Putin Model being applied, i.e. President Rajapakse entering Parliament as Prime Minister, at the end of his second term.  In short, the newly emergent Rajapakse power centre of the Deep South will become a dynasty, replacing the two moribund ones. It will last at least 25 years. If this were to happen, NE Tamils, if they are led by their NE Tamil Parties’ thinking  and they acting within their existing, dated paradigms and continuing with their traditional “friends”- are facing a continuous exile from power for another ten years (at least) and possibly twenty five years. 
 
Turn Round For NE Tamils: A Rebranding Required.          
In this bleak emerging scenario, the militarily defeated NE Tamils, if they are not to follow the path adopted by the Veddahs- that of refusing to face realities and determinedly pursue dated technology and hunting economic modes, should- instead of re-arranging the deck chairs when the Titanic is sinking- immediately, craft a turn around strategy. If it adopts a fresh branding strategy there will be hope for them. There are refreshing signs that fresh thinking is prevailing. One of the first steps in a turn round is creative destruction.
 
The TNA has done it. It has undertaken a purge, on a scale no other political Party has ever attempted in Sri Lanka . Political pornographers, quislingams, boycotters, left-wing hallucinators, President Counsel aspirants, Katunayake roaders, flotsam and jetsam, debris and detritus, have all been swept away, though some atrophied individuals yet remain. Although the TNA made a mistake with the Fonseka agreement, it has now emerged stronger for the purge and has become the main and significant force to represent the NE Tamils. The TNA is the SLFP of the NE Tamils.
 
The 2010 Parliamentary Elections.
The forthcoming Parliamentary elections give a providential opportunity for an effective turn around strategy. There are two forms of election to Parliament, the first, direct, the other, through the national list. The national list depends on the total overall number of votes obtained. There is also a bonus seat given to the Party that obtains the maximum number of seats in a district. The number of elected members and the number of slots to be nominated for NE Provincial districts are,( the number of slots is in brackets), Jaffna 9 (12), Vanni 6 (9), Batticoloa 5 (8), Digamadulla 7 (10)  Trincomalee 4 (7). While maximising the number of  winning candidates, the leading NE Tamil party should be able to obtain the Jaffna, Vanni, Batticoloa bonus seats and, with effort, the Trincomalee one. Colombo district has 19 elected and 22 slots for nomination. There was one NE Tamil in the dissolved Parliament.
 
The TNA should be able to get two elected and gain a substantial vote that would give it a third national list slot. (Presently it has two). By careful management of the campaign, the TNA would be able to harvest 22-25 Members of Parliament.
 
Mahinda Chinthanaya. 
President Rajapakshe has let it be known that he would like to reduce the size of the next Cabinet. The existing Jumbo Cabinet was the result of low parliamentary numbers of the governing Party at the beginning of its governance. It did not have enough numbers to even get its own member as a Speaker: the Speaker was elected from the opposition. In the meanwhile, the Rajapakshe government has turned out to the strongest government Sri Lanka ever had. It ended a “unwinnable” war and made a radical change in foreign policy.
 
Those of the West, which opposed the government, are ‘restudying’ the issue;  the suspension of GSP+ will not be made effective. The government was able to strengthen its power by winning over members from varied opposition parties, attracting them with ministerial positions. If the Cabinet is to be reduced, the Party that could deliver over twenty members would be very attractive to President Rajapakshe. If this party works within the Mahindana Chinthanaya, that party has it made. 
 
TNA To Grab The Opportunity . 
As already argued, the NE Tamils are speedily moving towards irrelevance. If this backward movement is not stopped, their descendants are on their way to becoming Veddhas. NE Tamils are not in a position to make demands, ( Thimpu Principles, self-determination, NE merger, are, for now, so much pie in the sky); NE Tamils can only draw attention to promises.
 
The Mahinda Chinthanaya does offer many promises. Under the section on Provincial Councils, The Mahinda Chinthanaya states “I will re-establish the Northern Provincial Council under the 13th amendment, with immediate effect.” (Page 54). Further on, it adds, ” I will seek the assistance of Provincial Councillors of the Northern Province to expedite and strengthen the  Northern Development programme that seeks to upgrade living standards of the Northern population and ensure sustainable development.” 
 
There are various other promises strewn in the Mahinda Chinthanaya which should be mined. The TNA with over twenty members, being at the table and working with the governing Party, and, incidentally reciprocally strengthening it, is the only hope for NE Tamils to gain a modicum of self-respect.
 
Conclusion
   NE Tamils, living in this country, have to decide what is best for them. Those living in foreign countries are not their role models or judges. It is left to NE Tamils to capitalise on this opportunity- never to be repeated- or blow it, leading to disastrous results. In the latter event, there will be no one to be their saviour.
 
Prologue
“Moses, after years of slavery of his people in Egypt, led them to the promised land, with the help of external assistance, that of God. After wandering all over the Middle East , he staked his people’s homeland in the only area where there was no oil. ”

2 Responses to “Parliamentary Elections 2010: A Turnaround Challenge for NE Tamils? An Interesting Viewpoint”

  1. Sarath W Says:

    Jolly Somasundram is right. It is time Tamils in North and East do what is best for them, not what is best for their politicians and the diaspora. They should forget about racially biased political parties and join the mainstream political parties and work with them for their rights and development of their provinces. It is time they think we are one country and one people and realise this country will never be divided.

  2. Fran Diaz Says:

    While we agree with Mr Somasunderam that Lanka’s Tamil people should seize the opportunity to uplift themselves through
    “Mahinda Chinthanaya”, through the state of Democratic instutiions, etc. we would like to point out that the ltte killed a huge number of Tamils fleeing to Govt controlled areas. We wish people would really check up thoroughly on numbers who died during war time before publishing fantastic figures to impress the readers. Also, we would like to point out that the ltte hard core cadre of some 10,000 still held in GoSL facilities are not children. The children from the ltte have been rehabbed & released already. Correct me if I am wrong. Please state facts truthfully, or else the whole article becomes suspect of falsehood. Cheat & deceit must stop from now on. Play straight and gain self respect & respect from others.

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