Ilankai Tamil Sangam

Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

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Sri Lankan Presidential Election Result 

Tweedledum or Tweedledee; it does not matter a jot or a tittle to the Tamils

Editorial, Tamil Writers' Guild, November 18, 2005

The Sri Lankan presidential election that was held on Thursday, 17th November 2005 has produced a result that is of supreme irrelevance to the Tamils of the country.  The Sri Lankan Prime Minister, Mahinda Rajapakse of the UPFA, has won the race, receiving 4.88 million votes, or 50.3% of the total cast, to become the Sinhala nation’s fifth President.  He has beaten the former Prime Minister and UNP candidate Ranil Wickremesinghe, who received 4.70 million votes or 48.4% in a close-run race .  It is reported that most Tamils did not cast their votes in this election, either in the NorthEast or the South.   The Election Commissioner has put the voter turnout overall at some 75%.

Rajapakse's inauguration, November, 2005

This election should have been Ranil Wickremesinghe’s opportunity to build bridges with the disenfranchised Tamil community by pursuing a programme for equality, justice and peace for all citizens of the country.  It is obvious from the figures of votes reported that he had a significant proportion of the Sinhala electorate supporting his policies for economic development and racial harmony and that he lost by a wafer thin margin. 

When considering that Wickremesinghe's rival Rajapakse, by his virulent anti-Tamil stance, had forfeited the right to Tamil votes, Wickremesinghe could have harvested the votes of all reasonable and moderate Sinhalese and as well as those of a majority of the Tamils and other minorities, if he had only shown some statesmanship and political fortitude. But he, and his senior cohorts like Moragoda and Dissanayake, tried to outbid the devil himself by claiming during the hustings the dubious battle credits for sinking Tiger supply ships and for turning over the treacherous Karuna and his brigands.  Sinhala triumphalism was to be his path to electoral glory. They also paraded the hoary chant that they had got the LTTE in the vice of Western governments and international public opinion.  Wickremesinghe has still to learn the lesson that prosperity and leadership need courage and vision, and he has now paid the price for feebleness and chicanery. He has once again lost his chance to become President of the country. There is no doubt that he will be remembered as a good but weak man who was always out- manoeuvred by his contemporary in politics, Chandrika Bandaranaike.

The new president, Rajapakse, has taken a hardline against the Tamils by entering into a pre-election agreement with the extreme Sinhala racist party, the JVP, which has consistently advocated no political compromise with the Tamil parties and has supported a military campaign for the annexation of the traditional Tamil homelands within a unitary Sri Lanka.  He also allied himself with the chauvinistic party of Buddhist monks, the JHU, which has campaigned relentlessly for the domination of the Buddhist religion and the Sinhala race in the fabric and politics of Sri Lanka.

On the other hand,Mahinda Rajapakse, as the outgoing Prime Minister in the government of President Chandrika Bandaranaike previously supported the continuation of the Cease Fire Agreement with the Liberation Tigers (LTTE).  He has also been a vocal supporter of the P-TOMS agreement with the LTTE to deal with the administration of foreign funds for tsunami relief in the northeast. But the principles and consciences of Sinhala leaders are like those of Faust, available to trade with the devil of Sinhalese racism and political opportunism.  Rajapakse saw no dilemma in shedding his previous support for these watershed agreements for communal amity and constitutional progress when it was politically expedient.

Rajapakse has now won the prize that he has always wanted and it will be seen if he is up to the position. His attempt to siphon off some of the tsunami funds for his private account is a reason for caution. Rajapakse's 'low' birth and his undistinguished background make him a distinct change from the presidents who have preceded him.

The Tamils have no cause for celebration, but have to view these events with circumspection and alarm.  The madhouse of politics in Sri Lanka is once again in the hands of the inmates of the asylum.  Rajapakse, along with the JVP and the JHU, have got the time bomb in their hands and could again summon the roll of the war drums.  It is possible they will engage in racist war cries and will shatter the fragile peace that has prevailed in that blighted country for nearly three years. Or, it is possible that Rajapakse will abandon his ill-gotten friends of the extreme racist fringes and go forward in peace to restart peace talks.

The Tamils have been but innocent bystanders in the national politics of Sri Lanka since independence.  There will not be a single Tamil in government this time again, except for a few minor quislings. The Tamils will not stand to be marginalised forever. It is up to Rajapakse to grasp this opportunity to pursue peace with justice and prosperity or to reap the harvest of dragon's teeth that he and the country will inevitably sow if he is hell-bent on a destructive Sinhala majoritarian and an anti-Tamil course.