Remarks on How Long Will the Honeymoon Last?
Posted on January 13th, 2015

Dilrook Kannangara

Writing to Lankaweb a writer asked the above question. This is just one of hundreds of questions raised by the people. In the current context, this is the most pertinent of all questions posed. The continuation of the new government, promises made to the people and most importantly the electoral calculous depend on this. It is very easy to break things up but very difficult to build something. The driving force behind the Common Opposition was to defeat Mahinda which was achieved. When the euphoria dries and reality strikes, the Common Opposition may find there are many issues demanding answers.

Ethnic Problem Minefield

In truth there is no ethnic problem. Appropriately the new government has not given it undue attention. However, TNA will be clamouring for ‘political solutions’ claiming Tamil people voted for Sirisena with that hope. Merging the north with the east is one of their main demands. However, that cannot be done without antagonising Muslims and the SLMC. A counter claim is made by the SLMC for a separate district in the east which is vehemently opposed by Tamils. Although President Sirisena and the UNP try to push these under the carpet, time is running out for TNA and SLMC as they have to strike when the iron is hot. It has only two outcomes – President and the UNP may try their luck with satisfying the insatiable Tamil astronomical black hole with more stuffing or the Tamil and Muslim people will resort to display of anger. If violence results, that will be the end of the UNP at the next general election. It will ruin tourism and FDIs.

Cabinet Size Verses Stability

The size of the Cabinet is inversely related to parliamentary stability. Already the President has broken his promise to keep the Cabinet (including ministers by any other name) to 25. Frustration will build as the UNP was languishing in the opposition for 11 years and the MPs need money for the upcoming General Election. This may lead to instability and corruption. UNP and other MPs without a ministry will have to be looked after in others ways which will spiral up corruption. Not having the parliamentary majority exacerbates this problem.

The UPFA can impeach anyone of the government over whatever excuses it can find. They may exercise their power when it is politically most opportune. The only escape for the government is to stick to election promises so that voters will not feel fooled.

The very large number of economic promises if given will ruin the economy. The promised salary increase alone will cost more than $1 billion. Reduction in petrol, diesel, gas and kerosene oil prices cost another colossal amount. These policies go against the grain of the UNP which is a party of businessmen. However, if these promises are not kept, that will frustrate the people resulting in agitations and disruptions.

Previous Instances of Tamils Being Ungrateful

Unfortunately it is a recurring theme. Tamils have shown little belongingness and gratefulness to Sri Lanka let alone to a party that helps them. Despite making him the Chairman of the Ceylon National Congress, widely respecting him for his academic achievements and helping his brother get the top job in the country, a senior Tamil civil servant turned politician turned against the Sinhalese in 1921 after his demand to create a Tamil” electorate in Colombo was rejected. In 1923 he officiated the concept of Tamil Elam (source: One Hundred Tamils, AJ Wilson). Despite working together with the All Ceylon Tamil Congress and sharing ministries, a group of them left the UNP government in 1949 and formed the Ilankai Tamil Arasu Kachchi (ITAK) over petty excuses.

In 1965 the UNP government of Dudley came to a pact with ITAK and ACTC (the infamous D-C Pact) to win the election and govern. Massive economic benefits were given to Tamils in the north and the east. Northern Tamils were helped to establish businesses in Colombo and given various economic incentives. However, their separatist demand didn’t die. At the 1970 election they not only refrained from voting for the UNP that had given them so much, but also voted for the opposing SLFP (in addition to Tamil racist parties)! It gave Dudley a shock and ended his political career.

The 1970 SLFP led government had many Tamil ministers and lower level politicians. Enormous amounts of economic benefits were showered on Tamil people, particularly the northerners. A university was built in Jaffna, Kilinochchi was turned into the largest commodity exchange in the country, the government was very lenient on illegal goods smuggling to Jaffna from South India bypassing severe import restriction enforced in other parts, spared Tamil rebellious youth despite killing tens of thousands of Sinhala rebels and showered many other advantages on Tamils. It was a time when Tamils could smuggle sarees unhindered but Sinhalese could not transport rice. Upcountry Tamils were granted the franchise. Alas! When it came to 1977 election, Tamils showed their usual ungratefulness and voted for TULF that threatened barbaric violence and vowed to wipe out Sinhalese from the north.

The same happened to Chandrika in 2001 after she turned a heavily underdeveloped Jaffna (after 5 years of LTTE rule and an economic embargo) into a modern city in 1996. Ranil’s UNF suffered the same fate in 2004 (general election) and in 2005 thanks to the CFA.

Mahinda despite his vast experience and political acumen fell in the same political cesspit. Even the strongest Tamil Elamist would agree there never was anyone who did so much good to Jaffna, Vanni, Batticaloa, Colombo City and Nuwara Eliya. Batticaloa received very special attention as it was extremely poor when he took office due to neglect, war and the tsunami. Mahinda even went beyond reason and justice and granted racist aspirations of Tamils too. Sinhalese and Muslims were deliberately not resettled in the north so as not to hurt Tamil sentiments, the north was heavily demilitarised threatening national security, Thesawalamei Law was kept despite its discriminatory nature, rehabilitation of ancient Buddhist monuments in the north was stopped to reassure Tamils and implemented a very large number of recommendations of a presidential commission (LLRC) benefitting Tamils only. These are in addition to saving thousands of Tamils a year from untimely deaths and winning a near perfect peace which benefitted Tamils most.

Despite all these, Tamils voted against Mahinda. The districts where he did most voted worse.

Sirisena must not make the same mistake. If he does, it gives the opposing camp a tremendous electoral advantage. At the general election, Tamils in the north and east will not vote for UNP. They will vote for TNA. Muslims in the east will not vote for UNP but for SLMC. If UNP loses Sinhala votes too, then it is the end of the UNP.

5 Responses to “Remarks on How Long Will the Honeymoon Last?”

  1. SA Kumar Says:

    Merging the north with the east is one of their main demands. -NO
    1) Change NP governor- already done
    2) release private land from forcers occupied now.
    3) release long term POW ( former fighters)
    4) Police power (13A)
    5) land power (13A)
    6) NP & EP merging ( last demand- not serious about it)

    live & let live until Eelam war V.(We-Tamil need 100 more years to recover from Mulli vaikkal )

  2. NeelaMahaYoda Says:

    With 81.5% votes participated in the last presidential election total voters = 12,123,453
    Jaffna & Vanni voters = 520976
    Tamil and Muslims in the East =630,284
    Subtotal North& East = 1,151,260

    In the General Election in May 11,000,000 sinhalese will elect their MPs for the National government. It is either UNP or UPFA going to get the highest number of MPs and elect either Ranil or Mahinda as Executive Prime Minister. Cabinet will be selected from both UNP and UPFA proportionately. At least for the next two years they don’t need help from the minority parties including JHU. I am sure either way JHU will be side lined by both UNP and UPFA

  3. Dilrook Says:

    Mahinda has an excellent opportunity to ride back to power. However, he must focus (position as they say in marketing) on the voters (segments as they say in marketing) that matter. If Toyota (not Lexus) tries to cater to buyers of BMW and Tata, it will end up losing all 3 segments. Similarly, Mahinda has lost Tamils and Muslims and should not focus on them. It is impossible to win them back in such a short time and trying to win them back will lose him more Sinhala votes. As such his only path to success is to take up Sinhala interests.

    He should demand and promise to abrogate 13A calling it a white elephant. He should condemn TNA attempts to divide the country and file action against it for conniving with banned foreign terrorist fronts during the election. His team must include top nationalists who can stir patriotism in people against the TNA and SLMC. UNHRC will once again take anti-Sri Lanka action in March. Maximum political mileage must be sought.

    If violent acts break out from TNA and SLMC separatist action, that will be a boon to Mahinda’s team.

    For the general election, the Common Opposition will fragment into TNA, SLMC and CWC. Jaffna seats have reduced which means TNA will try to win a seat or two from Colombo which is doable.

    As a result UNP’s focus will be on Sinhalese. JVP too will be vying for the Sinhala vote. In this context, it is not difficult to deny UNP a controlling stake in parliament.

  4. Nanda Says:

    Practically speaking Maa-Hindaa cannot comeback. Please see my comment elsewhere for the reasons.

  5. Ananda-USA Says:

    THIS is the FIRST STEP in the DISMANTLING of the Army Presence in the Northern Province.

    MORE to follow … keep TUNED PATRIOTS!

    Aiyooooo Sirisenaaaa …. what are you DOING to our Motherland!

    New civilian governor appointed to Northern Province of Sri Lanka

    ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

    Jan 13, Colombo: The Sri Lankan government has appointed a non-military civil servant as the Governor of the Tamil-dominated Northern Province.

    A prominent Sri Lankan diplomat and former Foreign Secretary H. M. G. S. Palihakkara has been appointed as the Governor of the Northern Province, sources said.

    Palihakkara will replace Governor G.A. Chandrasiri who was a retired major general of Sri Lanka Army and former Commander Security Forces Headquarters – Jaffna.

    Chandrasiri, who was reappointed as governor in 2014 by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, was reportedly at loggerheads with the Northern Province Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran.

    Palihakkara had served as Sri Lankan Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva, and represented Sri Lanka at the UN Commission on Human Rights, UN Conference on Trade and Development and the Conference on Disarmament.

    Meanwhile, Sri Lankan High Commissioner to Canada Chitranganee Wagiswara has been appointed as the Secretary to the Foreign Affairs Ministry.

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