The Logic of Helping the Lesser Evil

by Eelapalan blog, January 4, 2014

One thing is clear. For the Tamils, the upcoming elections are not about a boycott.  It is about if Tamil leadership should actively endorse either of the two Sinhala nationalist candidates and campaign.  The lack of strategic thinking and inability to think outside the mainstream have been the TNA leadership failures. It was evident in their very early position on International Investigations, Failed endorsement of Fonseka, not using the NPC and EPC as the Palestinians have forced the PA to do, etc.

Yet telling Tamils to “go with the flow”, not to “rock the boat”, choose “lesser of the evil” is packaged as something clever and not as something devoid of strategy.  Fielding a strong Tamil candidate to repeatedly and democratically show the Tamil stand and to still allow the opposition candidate to win would have been the right strategy.   A Tamil candidature would have unified and motivated a much larger Tamil turnout. And if  the Tamil votes will make a difference, as it is being sold, then the higher turnout and a 3rd front would have forced a recount for the leading candidate.  The 2ND CHOICE of the Tamils would win. Tamil narrative would have stayed intact and would have actually progressed further.  Mr. Sampanthan could have been that candidate. This could have been the crowning moment of his career and contribution to the Tamil cause. Setting a very good example his way into retirement.  Mr.Sampanthan discounted such an idea in 2010 to the American ambassador and decided to endorse a “national” candidate. This time, it is the repeat of the same playbook.

There has been reasonable amount of debate why actively endorsing Mythiripala is wrong.

Mythiripala continues to demonstrate, as expected, why he is a candidate for the Sinhala nationalists. Many among the Tamils dismiss that as either having to be realistic or as necessary to win the elections.

Then what are Tamils being asked to contribute to?  An endorsement for the continuation of this ethno majoritarian mindset?

The tiring example of lesser of the two evils is used. Aren’t Tamils helping to move the acceptable baseline of evil even higher? Aren’t we being willing participants in making that higher baseline as the new norm moving forward? Telling the world we will align, without any principles, with anyone. This slippery slope justification started first with the endorsement of Fonseka. Adding to the list of  existing contradictions when we go to complain in a few years why things are not working out. Digging the hole deeper.  I can only assume, In a scenario of a family feud, if Gota had decided to run against Mahinda, we may have heard similar arguments in support of Mahinda perhaps.  Tamils should prepare themselves for such a future.

As the Tamil Civil Society Forum reasoned well, the Sinhala constituency of the Island still refuses to acknowledge that the violent nature of the state came about because of their tolerance and endorsement of violence against the Tamils.  Until the larger Sinhala consciousness connects the dots, and asks for a genuine reform of the state, all else is a token exercise to provide temporary breathing space to them.  It is wrong to ask the Tamils to help provide that breathing space knowing Tamils won’t get anything in return.  And it is wrong for the TNA leadership to do it on the backs of the Tamils, furthering the illiberal mindset.

Perhaps this cartoon captures the essence.



At a personal level, I am biased against the parliamentary system of governance and support an executive presidential system with the judicial and legislative checks and balances.  This again is the failure of the Sinhala society that keeps electing leaders making promises to protect only them by whatever means. You can’t have the cake and eat it too.

Parliamentary system will shift some of the powers to various party leaders and MP’s. Prime Minister will be beholden to to the whims and fancy of the same ineffective and corrupt party leaders. I am sure TNA leadership smells the same opportunity and thrives to feel important at  a “national” level. Bargain for their pound of flesh would begin for the upcoming parliamentary elections. Their logic will again revert to that of the NPC times that the Tamils can’t let Douglas win.

At this rate, Sinhala voters need to find a bigger evil who can dwarf MR, Gota, MY3, etc so Tamils can make themselves feel better about endorsing lesser evils. This is one favor Sinhala voters can do for the Tamils to make them feel better about their poor choices. May be that is the missing link for better understanding between the two nations?

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