Communal politics must end

The July 23 Local council elections were significant in more ways than one. One irrefutable fact in favour of the Government is that these LG elections, however flawed they may have been, were conducted in the Northern Province after nearly three decades; one having to concede that flawed elections are better than no elections.

Students of politics will know that one of the earliest acts of terrorism in the Northern Province was the disruption of the 1981 District Development Council (DDC) elections. The Government of the day maintained a semblance of democracy at the time by conducting elections, but the DDC elections were a farce. Rigged and stuffed, it was a classic case of elections not promoting democracy, but chaos.

Then in 1983, 'the boys' as the terrorist groups of the North were then affectionately called by the Tamil parties began to make their mark in the politics of the area. A boycott of the local council elections in May that year was called by 'the boys', two months before the watershed anti-Tamil pogrom was to hit the country. Private Jayawardene was killed as he manned a polling station in those elections, and a month later one of the United National Party's Tamil politicians, the elderly S. Thilar, was shot dead outside the Jaffna General Hospital. The silence to these terrorist attacks by the Tamil regional parties was deafening, tacitly approving of such dastardly acts, as mainstream political parties, the UNP, the SLFP and even the left parties were shunted out of the politics of the North. It was only a matter of time, however before these 'boys' trained their guns on the Tamil parties themselves throwing them by the scruff of their necks into the political wilderness.

The elections of July 23 and the campaigns connected thereto at least brought a semblance of democracy and elections back into the northern peninsula and the Wanni region, however flawed the polls may have been. The new Elections Commissioner continued to cut a sorry figure, a pathetic by-stander to the abuse of State power and to the electoral violence perpetrated by the clique ruling as proxies of the Government in Colombo, yet their actions were only to boomerang on them and the Government.

The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) won a vast majority of the councils on offer in the North and so did not complain eventually, but its own campaign slogans left much to be desired in a country that is striving against many odds to achieve national reconciliation of the communities. Some of the TNA representatives indulged in beating the communal drum and traversing the same old road they have taken ever since Independence to maintain a grip on the politics of the North.
They seem to know no other political course to guide the destinies of 'their people' into a new world of what should be a united Sri Lanka. They seem to have learnt no lessons from the dangers and disasters of sowing the seeds of racial hatred and reaping the whirlwind quickly, having forgotten the fact that it was their predecessors who stirred the hornet's nest and had the radicalised youth jettison them, preventing them at gun-point for a good quarter of a century from representing the people of the North.

Their argument is that the nationalism unleashed in the South needs to be countered. The end result is a clear polarization of the North and the South once again. In the process, however, the TNA has taught the mainstream Opposition in Sri Lanka one lesson, and that is that a Government can be defeated at the polls. Even if the Opposition began at minus one and without a level playing field when contesting the ruling party, they can end with plus one. The Opposition in the South will have to come to grips with the bitter reality that when contesting this Government at future elections, it will not be on equal terms. State resources and machinery will be abused to the hilt; the laws will apply only to the opposition; the Police, and sometimes the military will be deployed to buttress the ruling party; and the Elections Commission will remain passive spectator with neither eyes to see, nor ears to hear, or tongue to speak of all the malpractices committed by the governing party, despite a new dispensation at its helm.

That the Opposition in the South received yet another drubbing on July 23 comes to no one's surprise. Our Political Editor refers to the continuing in-fighting within the main Opposition party, the UNP, and its inability to forge any meaningful challenge to an almost runaway Government. The UNP will know by now that in future races it will not be standing together with the ruling party at the starter's block. It will be starting with a handicap, and if it ever intends defeating this Government it must consider that it has an extra lap to run as well to succeed.

The Provincial Council elections to the North is the next harbinger whether this North-South divide is only going to get further exacerbated. If the trend that has been just witnessed in the Northern local council election campaign continues in the same vein, then this country is going backwards, and not forward.

There is an urgent need to meet at some middle path if the growing gap in this North-South divide is to be bridged. The TNA's somewhat excessive demands will never be granted by this Government, however much external pressure is applied on the Rajapaksa regime because this Government's existence and sustenance is the Southern vote that decries most of those demands.

Something the TNA would see as a regressive step would be the re-creation of the DDCs and the District as the unit of devolution with emphasis on development. However, after all the haggling, this might well be what would be the only via-media to the current impasse on devolution. The refusal of the Government to the granting of police and land powers to these devolved units will only be matched by the boldness of the TNA in asking for them, thoroughly insensitive to the fact that so many laid down their lives and lost their limbs to defeat secessionist forces, and everything linked to them such as too much devolution.

The Ministry of Defence in the meantime has, belated as it may be, produced a detailed report on the sacrifices the people of this country made to enable democracy and the rule of law to return and flourish in the North, and elsewhere. The report is to be released tomorrow (our front page story gives some details contained therein). Some may rightly argue that the fascist LTTE has only been replaced by a pro-Government gang in the North, but it has to be said, it is not of the same intensity as when the LTTE ruled the roost.

There is indeed a 'democratic deficit' in this country, and as much as this Government has a duty to bridge that deficit, ethnic, almost racist political parties, in the North and the South - and the East, have a duty not to fan the flames of disharmony once again. The cry of all the ordinary people of this land is only for unity and progress, and a speedy end to racial division -- a heartfelt conviction that all political parties would do well to heed.

  From : m rahman
 You must tell the Rajapakse regime to stop communal politics because still the government campaign is against the minority community  in this country so the  president doesn’t wont to solve this problem. Still we have a chance to solve this national issue but the UPFA believes in the Sinhalese voters and they are with extremists, because of that they are never going to solve this issue. The Rajapakse regime wants to be in power and is not interest in the people of this country.
  From : Vaidy
 GOVT should not recognize ethnic divisions in its camp and should refrain from entertaining separate Tamil groups amongst them. The problem is in the North which has overwhelmingly elected TULF as one group. Govt can have its own representatives of Muslims and Sinhalese only and nobody else.

From : nathen
 After a long absence I read your editorial , Papers like yours have not changed since
56.  This country missed its chance in 48 when it got its independence to become the power house of Asia but the collective xenophobia of the majority has brought this nation to the present state. I am a true son of the South who came back from the west to work here but was driven away  in 83 .( I was saved by a total sinhalese stranger)
I have experienced the southern political parties making deals with the northern parties
and renege over and over again. A true patriot is needed at this hour to save our country. Who can bridge the gap between the two communities ? I am an optimist but is this an old man dreaming?

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Editorial Archive 2011 
09th January 2011 - Reciprocity to visitors
23rd January 2011 - Food crisis: The balanced diet
06th February 2011 - Independence 2011 and beyond
13th February 2011 - The message from Egypt
20th March 2011 - Be with Japan, be prepared
27th March 2011 - Without FIA, more sabhas will mean more crooks
03rd April 2011 - Sports: Heroes and villains
10th April 2011 - Move towards direct democracy
17th April 2011 - A report that seeks to open old wounds
24th April 2011 - Clinically shred war crimes allegations
01st May 2011 - May Day: Distress call from migrant workers
08th May 2011 - Global 'dupli-macy' and what’s fair in war
15th May 2011 - The light of Asia and the Dhammadvipa
22nd May 2011 - Diplomatic debacle
29th May 2011 - India destabilising Lanka again
05th June 2011 - The reality and the rhetoric
12th June 2011 - Stop the pressure, give space to LLRC
19th June 2011 - Revise the Indo-Lanka accord
26th June 2011 - Damning NAM
03rd July 2011 - Govt. says ‘No’ to a modern citizen’s Right
10th July 2011 - People in the dark in every way
17th July 2011 - Mumbai attacks: Lessons for Lanka
24th July 2011 - Govt. ignoring epidemic of corruption
31st July 2011 - Communal politics must end
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