The emphatic victory of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) at last week’s Provincial Council elections revealed an inconvenient truth the government didn’t want to hear. Four years after the war ended and despite the many grandiose development plans, it has not only failed to win the hearts and minds of the Northern people, it has also lost their trust.
Four years is time enough to reach out to a people looking to rebuild their lives on a foundation of a peace dividend promised by a victorious government after a near 30-year war.
- Moving forward with the reconciliation process,
- Acknowledging a degree of accountability,
- Initiating a process to investigate the disappeared,
- Scaling down of the military presence,
- Showing the political will to find a workable solution to the Tamil issue,
would have to a large extent established the government’s honest intent and earned the goodwill of the people. Regrettably, what the government did instead was to ride the triumphalism high and brag about its victories, an exercise specifically aimed at pleasing its already established vote base in the South.
All these gave enough reasons for the people in the North to place their faith, hope and trust on a man who the voters wanted to believe, would be fluent in whatever language it takes to find a solution to what is now being called the ‘Tamil Problem’.
Chief Minister designate, C.V. Wigneswaran, may not be the modern-day Moses come to lead his people to the Promised Land. But in a world where more problems are created than solved, he is the best hope to solve the Tamil Problem, the civilized way.
Wigneswaran is a brilliant intellectual, a man who knows Colombo politics inside-out. And if the government is serious about its desire to find solutions to the grievances of the minorities, instead of imposing itself and shouting from the rooftop about all the development programmes in the North, all it has to do is set up a very serious and genuine dialogue with the North’s new Chief Minister designate.
Wigneswaran is not like the former Eelamists or those so-called reformists, who once pulled out guns from their holsters and who are now aligned with the government for their own survival, as the election results have shown. The only thing Wigneswaran may have to live for is the integrity he cultivated among the Sinhalese and the wish of the newly bloomed Tamil masses in the North, who overwhelmingly voted for him as their saviour.
Independent journalists who followed his election trail know too well the statements made by him, and the Tamil voter, unlike his counterpart in the South, does not cast his or her ballot for a man or woman who plays to the gallery. Wigneswaran spoke about the strength of an Army in peace time and their activities among the masses that the government claims to have liberated from the clutches of terrorism. That Wigneswaran has already made his first move by publicly calling for the removal of a military official from the governorship of the North, a matter that should not be allowed to go unheard and un-noticed.
Many peaceful movements the world over have succeeded after starting off the same way that Wigneswaran started. He has fired the first shot and this is something the government, which has won only militarily, will have trouble trying to cope with in times of peace.
Wigneswaran has already put his cards on the table, bringing up the question: The government may have been prepared for war, but is it prepared for peace?
There was a time to play war and a time to play politics. This time it has to be a straightforward show, played out in the open for all to see. Democracy is about rights, it is not in the conduct of an election.