Ilankai Tamil Sangam

Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

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The Presidential Race

by K. Mylvaganam, October 1, 2005

The shot has been fired by the starter - the election commissioner - and the two competitors (two so far) are sprinting away.  But they have many hurdles to clear before they reach their destination.  The cheering parties are doing their lot, but not in a sportive manner, rather with violence potentially in their hands.  The papers say that there is severe abuse of power.  Photographs of government vehicles utilized for electioneering purposes are published to expose the unfair nature of this competition.  But so far no whistle has been blown by the judges in charge of the race.

Mahinda's nightmare

Some are confused whether it is "Helping Hambantota" or is it "Helping Mahindatotam?  A court case was filed by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) in the Magistrate’s court on the "Helping Hambantota" scam.  This case is unduly getting delayed.  Even the magistrate, according to yesterday’s papers, has been transferred out.  Who is behind it is left to the imagination of the readers.  This is one of the hurdles the P.M. has to overcome.  We have to wait and see whether he will get knocked down or knocked out.

The second and a bigger hurdle is the election manifesto of the SLFP.  The president, who is "apparently wild" with the P.M. for signing the agreements with the Jathika Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) and the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU), has said openly that the SLFP candidate shall abide by the policies of the SLFP.  But the agreements with the JVP and the JHU are highly contradictory to the SLFP policies.  If Rajapakse were to go by the SLFP policies which accept the Post-Tsunami Operation Management Structure (P-TOMS) and a federal solution to the ethnic problem, the JVP and the JHU would withdraw their support and might even field their own candidate.  If the P.M. were to stick by the agreements with the two parties then the SLFP may deny him the candidacy to stand for the election on the SLFP ticket and put someone else in his place.  Anura Bandaranaiyake is waitng for this to happen so that he will be the next choice. Mr.D.M. Jayaratne’s name is also on the card.

A silly, hasty and unwanted error by the PM

The P.M. need not have gone into signing such an agreement if he had only known that he was assured of the support of these two parties at least that of the JVP even without the agreement.  Neither the JVP nor the JHU would like to get their vote banks exposed at this stage.  This is particularly so for the JVP.  The votes they got in the last election were not entirely from the JVP supporters.  Because of the election pact they had with the SLFP they got the SLFP voters also polling for them.  That is how they got 39 seats in 2004 elections.  Otherwise they could have not counted more than 16 at the most.  Hence, if they were to do it alone this time by putting up their own candidate and competing with the UNP, SLFP and the JHU, then their true vote bank would get exposed.  If only Mahinda Rajapakshe had had patience and common sense, he would have definitely achieved their support even without this silly agreement.  Now he has openly portrayed himself as a Buddhist chauvinist element, thus prejudicing the minorities.

What is the President up to?

She was blowing hot and cold before she left for the USA.  Even while she was there she was playing tough with words about the agreements that the P.M. has made with the two parties concerned.  Now suddenly she seems to have gone cold.  It was strongly suggested that she would summon the central committee of the SLFP and get Mahinda to either dump the two agreements or lose the SLFP candidacy.  Instead she has made him to chair the committee to draft the SLFP manifesto.  I wonder whether this is a case of "Set a Thief to Catch a Thief."  There was also a strong possibility for her to dissolve the parliament and hold the election on the same day as the Presidential election.  She can also get the report of the commission she has appointed on the "Helping Hambantota" scam and if Mahinda is found guilty, which is very probable, she may dump him on that count and appoint her dear brother Anura instead.  This will ensure the victory of Ranil Wickremasinghe.  It all depends who she hates most – Ranil or Mahinda.

Who will win?

Some say that this is the million dollar question.  But, for us Tamils, it is not worth even a cent.  Because we know history – "History is our Guide."  It has taught us that changing the bulls of a cart is not going to affect the direction of the cart.  The SLFP and the UNP, as far as the Tamils are concerned, are two bulls on the same cart.  Both the bulls have gone in the same direction since 1948, one after the other.  We are nearing six decades seeing the same old story repeated over and over again. 

It was some years ago that we got fooled by the promises given and extended our support to one party or the other.  When we got cheated by one, we jumped to the other party that promised us the moon.  Now we have come to a stage where we cannot be fooled any longer. First we begged for fifty-fifty, then we asked for Federalism and now we demand a separate state.  Now both the bulls are advocating peace.  The two major parties have been playing "Panthu" with us.  Between the two they say "I ball, you bat" and "you ball, I bat."  And we, the "Ball," get hit by both of them.  Now we have had enough – enough is enough.

This reminds me of a street drama (Theru Koothu) I saw recently round the corner of the road I now live in - Kilinochchi.  It was election time.  The one in Green says I will kill 1000 Tamils.  The crowd in sarong and Kondai with a comb stuck on it shouts "Jeyaweva" and the one in green is placed on a chair and he is crowned.  He sends his troops and the Dhoti-clad people get beaten up.  The next election comes up.  A lady in blue says I will kill 2000 Tamils.  The "sarongs" shout "Jeyaweva" and the lady get seated in the chair and the crown is placed on her head.  The troops were sent in and the Dhotis get beaten up again.  But suddenly something interesting happens.  Some of the young ones in Dhoti pull off their dhotis to see that they were wearing striped uniforms inside their dhotis.  They set upon the troops and give them a severe beating and chase them away.  The next election comes and both the blues and the greens say, "We are for 'Peace'."

This is where things stand now.  Both parties are crying their guts out to bring peace to the island in their own ways.  The P.M. says no to P-TOMS, no to the Interim Self Governing Authority (ISGA) and no to Federalism.  He is for a unitary state.  Still, for all that, he has the audacity to state publicly that he would talk to Mr.V. Pirapakaran.  This reminds me what the Tamil National Leader said once when he was asked whether he would at the peace talks give up the demand for a separate state if a federal solution is offered.  He said "If it is a separate state, then there is nothing to talk about.  When we said that we are prepared for talks, the obvious inference is that we would consider an alternative solution put forward by the SL government, provided it fulfills the aspirations of the Tamil people."  The same applies to the P.M.  If it is a unitary state that he is talking about then, there is nothing to talk about.  At the moment we have - already - a unitary state.  There is nothing new about that, so what is there to talk about?  There can be no federal state in a "Unitary State."  But it is possible in a "united state."

As to who will win entirely depends on what the President is up to.  If she were to take a tough role and dump the P.M., then it is an easy walk-through for Ranil.  But there are so many things happening behind the scenes.  Mahinda may convince the JVP & JHU duo that he will accept the SLFP manifesto for the moment, but will adhere to the agreement after he is elected as the President.  Or he may tell the President that he will go by the two agreements reached with the two parties now, but will follow the SLFP principles after the elections are over.  But who is going to buy his story?  The latter is most doubtful, as the President has stated very clearly that the election manifesto shall carry the SLFP principles. 

Should Mahinda manage to win over the President, the JVP and the JHU, I will put my money in his till.  He stands a very good chance of winning.  The left block, except Wickamabahu Karunaratne, is with him.  Even some of the minority parties are sure to support him for some bread crumbs thrown at them.

On the other hand, Ranil has his own unchanging UNP vote bank.  The business group is behind him.  Because of the Anti-Religious Conversion Bill a large number of the Christian votes will go to him.  Since the government is delaying the relief to the tsunami victims and the P.M. is promising the JVP & the JHU that he would do away with the P-TOMS, their votes too will go to Ranil.  The probabilities are that the Hakeem and Thondaman may also agree to support him.  If the Tamils were to follow this trend, then Ranil will have a slight edge over Mahinda.

Who would or should the Tamils vote for?

A large majority of the Tamils, quite understandably of course, dislike Mahinda because of his deal with the anti-Tamil elements.  Their votes are mostly going to be cast for Ranil, unless someone tells them not to do so.  Who is the right party to tell them this?  We have to look into the political implications of such an open utterance. 

There are only two parties to whom the Tamils will listen. One is the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the other is the Tamil National Alliance (TNA).  Personally, I think it is wise for the LTTE not to take sides and, from what I gather, they will not.  Hence it is up to the TNA to do the job.  It appears that the Ceylon Workers Congress (CWC), the Upcountry Tamils Munnani lead by Chandrasekaran and the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) may go with the UNP.  If so a block support by the Tamils may seal the deal in favour of Ranil.

I beg to differ from the views of the majority of the Tamils that they should support Ranil as he is the "better" of the two evils.  We have to understand one thing very clearly.  Neither the UNP nor the SLFP can deliver the goods to us as they are individually incapable of doing so.  Under the present system of preferential voting, no party can obtain an absolute majority with over 150 members to support them in the parliament.  Even if the government proposes a suitable settlement, the opposition is sure to oppose it.  We have seen this over the past half a century.  A two-thirds majority is absolutely impossible.  Hence, a government that is anti-Tamil and extremely Buddhist chauvinistic will be ideal for us to win our goal – in our own way.  This is the TRUE situation.  In Tamil it is called "Ithuthan Yathartham."

Hence, I would strongly suggest that the TNA should go out and inform the Tamils to "Boycott" the Presidential election.  Our refraining from voting will be an indirect support to Mahinda.

I beg my readers not to misunderstand me.  I am no war monger.  If so, I would have stayed safely in the UK and made these comments from that safe haven.  I am in Vanni and I am fully aware that my suggestion may lead to war.  But I am sorry to say that the Talks are never going to bring a solution to the ethnic problems.  Even if one of the two major parties from the south is sincere enough to bring peace, yet its hands are tied as it will never get that absolute majority it needs and it will never get the support of the opposition to make amendments to the constitution, even for federalism, leave alone a separate state – Tamil Eelam.

Is there an alternative to war?

Yes, I think so.  But, unfortunately, it is in the hands of the two major Sinhalese parties, viz the UNP and the SLFP.  I do not envisage the possibility of a so called "National Government" comprising both of these parties.  They are terribly incompatible in many ways and they are utterly selfish.  Each one of them wants to take the credit for solving the ethnic problem.  They will never pull together. 

Instead I would strongly suggest that a "NATIONAL PEACE COMMITTEE" can deliver the desired results.  By this I mean that a high-powered committee comprising of very moderate elements from both parties in equal numbers and a person of the calibre of Dr. Wickremabahu Karunaratne from the United Left Front (ULF) should be formed to hold Peace Talks with the LTTE.  This Committee must be empowered to take decisions at the Peace Talks, accept or deny the suggestions made by the LTTE and put forward suggestions to the LTTE on behalf of the SL Government.  The parties involved in the peace talks may take breaks for introspection and consultation with their superiors and experts.  The decision so reached between this committee and the LTTE should be final and be presented to Parliament for formal approval.  Parliament should endorse it in toto without amendments.  This should be made obligatory both to the LTTE and the Government.  Otherwise, there will not be an end to the talks.  Of course some communal elements may raise objections vehemently, but the motto should be, "Let the Dogs Bark, but the Caravan Shall Move On."  The time has come for one to take the Bull by the Horns, if we are to avoid deaths, bloodshed, misery, destitution, deprivation and destruction.