Wrong Choice by Eastern Tamils to Cost Them the Chief Minister Post
Posted on September 10th, 2012

Dilrook Kannangara

It was a needless election that was held more than a year in advance. Although the ruling UPFA won the North Central and Sabaragamuwa Provinces, the winner is less apparent in the Eastern Province. UPFA leads ITAK by just 1% or 6,217 votes. Without the two bonus seats, UPFA and ITAK would be only one seat apart. Eastern Province is more fragmented along ethnic lines than ever. Compared to 2008, UPFA has suffered a huge setback despite ending the war, development and reconciliation. In 2008 UPFA had the absolute majority with 20 seats.

The Reconciliation Process Failed Miserably

Clearly the vast majority of Tamils have rejected the ruling party in favour of ITAK. UPFA has only one elected Tamil candidate who is the former LTTE commander S Chandrakanthan. 

According to the 2007 provisional census Tamil population of the Eastern Province comprising of three districts was 40.5%. ITAK obtained 30.6% of the vote. In other words, 76% of Tamils voted for ITAK. A district-wise comparison shows shocking results.

DISTRICT

TAMIL

ITAK

 

POPULATION

VOTES

 

%

%

Trincomalee

29%

29%

Digamadulla

18%

16%

Batticaloa

74%

51%

 In Trincomalee, 100% (29% out of 29%) of Tamils voted for ITAK.

Digamadulla Tamils have voted for ITAK in almost their entirety (87%). In Batticaloa, 70% of Tamils voted for ITAK. Slight improvement in Batticaloa is due to the former LTTE commander contesting in the election. What is absolutely shocking is the total ethnic fragmentation in Trincomalee and Digamadualla districts that are reasonably multi-ethnic. If reconciliation is about building harmony, it has completely and utterly failed.

It is important to admit this fact at least now and change course. Else billions of rupees spent and will be spent on reconciliation will not yield results.

Muslims in contrast have voted more sensibly. Except for Digamadulla, less than half of Muslims voted for SLMC.

DISTRICT

MUSLIM

SLMC

 

POPULATION

VOTES

 

%

%

Trincomalee

46%

17%

Digamadulla

44%

30%

Batticaloa

25%

11%

 68% Muslims in Digamadulla voted for SLMC which is of concern. The ugly slide into communal politics of Muslims must be halted at least at this stage.

However, it is not only Tamils and Muslims who have voted for communal politics. Sinhalese in Trincomalee have for the first time voted for the National Freedom Front which is an ultra nationalist political party. In fielding NFF against UPFA, government policymakers have accepted the need to make use of ethnic fragmentation.

ITAK Trying to Reverse Development, Democratisation and Integration

Although ITAK has a part to play in the failed reconciliation model, it has no positive part to play in development, democratisation and integration. Therefore, it must be kept out of power in the province. With 11 seats, ITAK is well positioned to grab the control of the province with the help of either UNP or SLMC or both. A tie up between ITAK and SLMC is mortally dangerous to coexistence and must not be allowed at all cost. An ITAK-UNP alliance is most lethal to UPFA. As the UPFA is shy of five (5) seats to gain a majority stake in the Council, it should join with SLMC.

SLMC is already a coalition partner of UPFA central government. Therefore, it is not out of the blue to join them at provincial level. SLMC will rightfully demand a Muslim Chief Minister if they were to join the party. As Muslims are the largest ethnic group in the East, it is fair that a Muslim becomes the Chief Minister.

UPFA’s experiment with a Tamil Chief Minister failed very badly. There is no point in continuing with a Tamil Chief Minister anymore which will further make the UPFA unpopular among voters who matter. Even Tamils in Batticaloa rejected him as two (2) ITAK candidates scored more than him. He doesn’t lead the UPFA preference votes list across the three districts and as such has no claim to the top post.

If power sharing is only about sharing power with Tamils, it is better not to share power at all as it discriminates others. It is high time Tamils reciprocated.

Taking the support of ethnic Sinhalese and Muslims for granted is another fatal mistake of UPFA. UNP MP Daya Gamage voted the highest number of preference votes among Sinhalese. Obviously the Sinhalese are losing faith in the government that has failed them since 2010.

Revoke 13A and Serve the Voters

The root cause of this level of Balkanisation is the 13A. Low voter turnout at every provincial election speaks volumes about the irrelevance of the provincial system. Without the provincial governance structure, there are plenty more relevant governance structures in place. 13A arose not out of necessity; it was imposed.

Continuing with 13A further fragments the body politic of this nation. It must be repealed as soon as possible. Repealing 13A should be the first priority of a proper reconciliation process. The whole reconciliation process must be reformed anew. This is not the first time Tamils rejected multi-ethnic politics after the war ended. Tamils rejected it in 2010 twice by voting for TNA and TNA aligned political groups and also in 2011 by approving TNA at Local Government elections. However, the government pushed on with the failed reconciliation process until the worst ever political disaster in September 2012.

This is the first time UPFA failed to win a majority stake in any election since 2004. And this is the first time UPFA lost so badly unable to reach 50%. The Opposition is determined to make it the beginning of the end of UPFA. Unless UPFA leadership identify and support their ardent voters and stop wasting resources on non-voters, it indeed will be their end. Astute politicians and strategists of UPFA must now be able to identify the two buckets that hold water and the one that leaks. Pouring more and more into the leaking bucket will not only deprive the other two but also waste vital resources without any return. UNP leadership pins hopes on the government wasting all its energies and resources on insatiable Tamils to grab the opportunity to topple it.

After winning the 1999 presidential election with a margin of over 8%, politically inexperienced President Chandrika was assured by Ranil to go ahead with her Political Package to appease Tamils. When she failed at satisfying insatiable Tamils and wasted resources meant for others, UNP struck, collapsing her government. However, Ranil did the same mistake in 2002 and hoped Tamils would return the favour in 2004 or at least in 2005. Once again, they didn’t. Rajapakshas who languished in the Opposition for 20 long and punishing years may not have forgotten it in just eight (8) years. It was the Sinhalese and Muslims who voted them into power and only they will protect them. Serve them to stay in power or leave them disgruntled to be lured by the opposition.

3 Responses to “Wrong Choice by Eastern Tamils to Cost Them the Chief Minister Post”

  1. Lorenzo Says:

    UPFA + NFF + UNP = 19

    Jack up with UNP is better than SLMC.

    Good chance to appoint a Sinhala chief minister. Everyone will be happy.

  2. Dham Says:

    Dilrook,

    “In Trincomalee, 100% (29% out of 29%) of Tamils voted for ITAK.”

    If only 50-60% people casted vote, does that mean 100% Tamil voters went there to cast their vote to dead Velupillay Prabhakaran ? While other races were not even interseted very much, they went their to show the solidarity ?

  3. Fran Diaz Says:

    Whatever the combinations for governance of the East, the vast majority of people in Sri Lanka want to make sure that Separatism is not the cards for Sri Lanka. To that end, whatever the ultimate political combo outcome in the East, 13-A must be removed from the Constitution of Sri Lanka. It is SEPARATISM that we must combat, and tendencies in that direction.

    Political combinations will come and go, but Sri Lanka must stay intact. Let us have strong Laws that prohibit Separatism, while giving basic human rights to all citizens of Sri Lanka.

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