Ilankai Tamil Sangam

Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

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Elections - 2005

by Ganesh  

A large number of articles have appeared in the local and international media about the outcome of the recent elections in Sri Lanka. Attention almost exclusively revolves around the non-participation of Tamil voters and the effect it had on the outcome.  

I am one such voter, 62 years old. I was driven out of my home and village 10 years ago by the armed forces. My house has been destroyed by the Sri Lankan Army.  

When Ranil Wickramasinghe signed a Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) with the LTTE, I was glad that I would be able to return to my birthplace and start afresh. The CFA specifically provided for such measures. But, 3 years have passed since the agreement and I still remain a refugee, with the label of an “Internally Displaced Person.” Ranil Wickramasinghe could not allow refugees like me to return home as the Armed Forces invented something called the 'High Security Zone' and included my village in that zone.

I do not know whether there is any legal basis for the establishment of High Security Zones. I have been wondering about this situation for the past three years. I have now realized that the real power is not with the President or the Prime Minister, but with other sinister forces.

When the Presidential elections came around, I found that I have to make a choice between two men who will act as dictated by unseen hands, irrespective of the laws of the land and any agreement they may sign. Voting for any of these two men will not make any impact on my status as a refugee. I stayed away.  

Now I find that my decision and that of my community is being resented, even in distant places like Washington and London. These “Democratic” forces must understand and accept my Human Rights. Even when I buy a small item for 10 cents, my decision is based on whether it will be useful to me. It is on this basis, that I decided not to vote. No one has the right to blame me for not buying a soap or a toothpaste. Likewise, no one has the right or power to force me to vote or not to vote. That is my understanding of democracy.  

The United National Party is crying foul now and accusing the LTTE of preventing the voters from voting at this election. They must realize that a UNP Government prevented almost a million voters from voting, not just at one election, but permanently since 1948 by a very “democratic” process of bringing in a citizenship “law.” There was no murmur from any world capitals then. Today’s newspapers report that the UNP is to request the European Union to ban LTTE because the Tamils have refused to vote for the UNP. Miracles do happen and the JVP has instantly voiced support for the UNP on this. All southern politicians think alike when it comes to Sinhala hegemony, as I suspected right along. Tamil voters have been proved right. We really had no choice.

If the EU  bans the LTTE (which did not call for a boycott) and does not ban the UNP (which clearly disenfranchised a million voters in 1948), then it will turn out to be a clear miscarriage of justice.

Let there be no mistake. No one forced me to boycott this election. It was my choice. I found that voting at this election was a futile exercise and I stayed away.

I am amused by the suggestion that the LTTE forced the voters to boycott the polls. A block of 700,000 voters cannot be forced to abstain from voting by any force. The LTTE would not have even tried it. They understand that their power is sustained first, by public support and then, by arms. The simple truth is that these 700,000 voters shared the same fears, uncertainties, deceptions, insults and deprivations heaped on them for over 50 years. When the proposal to ignore the elections was made by some civic organizations, people decided to unite in this. It was not against any party or candidate, just a display of contempt for a system that has enslaved us.     

Looking at the reaction of some of the high and mighty, I realize for the first time, that I am an important person. Sinhalese politicians, analysts, commentators and even many World leaders seem to care for my democratic rights. Such attention was absent when I  voted at umpteen elections in the past. Nobody cared. But my silence has been heard in world capitals and in Colombo. This makes me a temporarily happy refugee.  

And, this thing called “democratic choice” confuses me a little. Everybody from election observers to NGOs have been satisfied that the elections in the South proceeded very democratically. I am not so sure. Did the voters in the South have a real democratic choice?   The voting patterns indicate that economic issues have not influenced the voters. It was something called “Federalism”  which held center stage.  An effort is being made to show the election as a choice between Federal and Unitary forms of Government. This is Rubbish. The Sinhalese voter has no idea about Federalism. No one has correctly explained to the voter what a Federal Government is and how it will benefit them. Even the UNP did not try. The JVP made federalism look like a plague. The poor voter knew only the Unitary system because he is living under that system. The Sinhalese voters took what appeared to be the safer bet and voted for Rajapakse.

I did some rough calculations and find that Rajapakse received over 55 percent support, a majority of over 500,000 votes among the Sinhalese. This majority was reduced to about 120,000 votes only because of the upcountry Tamils , Muslims and some Tamils in the east voted against Rajapakse.  

The Sinhala vote was influenced by misguided fears about Federalism, which is the result of 50 years of scaremongering by both major political parties. The infighting has weakened society and the JVP has swooped down like vultures, to the dismay of the West. The chances of a negotiated solution has faded because misinformed voters have told “No Federalism” and ambitious Politicians will follow their followers.  

There is a big difference between being a Leader and being a Ruler. Since 1977 we have had four presidents who turned out to be Rulers. Let us see whether the 5th one exhibits some Leadership qualities.