“Two States; Two Parties” exclaimed a wag punning on yesteryear’s famous quote of a famous man, Dr. Colvin R. De Silva – “One Language; Two States/Two Languages; One State” to describe the North-South divide of the time. What the wag was referring to, of course, was the overwhelming electoral victories in the South by the ruling UPFA and in the North by the TNA — verdicts which sharply portrayed the politics of this country as it is now.
The North and the South seem to have virtual ‘one-party’ rule. In the North, the TNA had little or no opposition, trouncing the UPFA and its ally, the EPDP. In the South, the UPFA has made it a ‘one-party’ state of affairs. Both owe much of their respective wins to, alas, the beating of the communal drum throwing secularism to the winds.
Surely, the Government must rue its decision to hold elections in the North. The fact that it was arm-twisted into doing so is its own fault. The Indian Government rubbed it in when it referred to the Colombo Government holding the Northern Provincial Council election due to commitments to the “international community”, and went further by saying there were more commitments to the “international community” to come. The Government has remained silent on this aspersion.
India has eventually got its way by having its proxy now in power and place in the North of Sri Lanka. This was the foothold it had wanted all these years and it is going to be more than a headache for the Mahinda Rajapaksa Government that caved in to concerted pressure from the so-called “international community”.
Calling the mass-murderer leader of the LTTE a “hero” and making close to seditious claims of “traditional homelands of the Tamil-speaking people”, the lexicon of the separatists may win elections, but will only earn the wrath of those in the South and kick goodbye to rapprochement.
It might be too much of a comedown for the TNA to be grateful to the Security Forces for eradicating the fascist grip of the LTTE in the North not so long ago. The LTTE had relegated the TNA to a mere spectator in the political canvas of the province. But there’s nary a single word of praise for the Government for creating the space for a peaceful poll in the North. The Security Forces continue to get only brickbats.
As for the Opposition in the ‘South’, the results of last week’s Provincial Council elections were disheartening, to say the least. The former Army Commander’s party claiming victory by winning a paltry number of seats speaks for itself.
The money bags thrown about by Government candidates show the amount of undeclared money floating around in this country. The Elections Commissioner asked for candidates’ assets before the election. So what now? Backed by the State apparatus, its men, material and machines, the stranglehold is only going to intensify in elections to come, climaxing with a Presidential election indicating the Himalayan task the Opposition faces in trying to turn the tables.
The Government’s objective is to keep the Opposition demoralised to the marrow, and in a perpetual state of internal strife and leadership struggles. It is to drain it of its financial and human resources to the point of extinction by the time a presidential election comes, with the governing party having enough reserves in the kitty and enough fuel in the tank. The choice for the Opposition is simple; swim together or sink together.
The Government has used the Provincial Council elections, and keeps doing it periodically, to further its goal. With the unlimited resources at its command, and an Opposition split to the core, victory is virtually assured at future elections as well. The price it has however, paid in the process, is having created in the North a veritable monster that is going to haunt the Government in the months ahead.
Political analysts fear the precipitation of old problems in new bottles and a replay of the pre-1983 era that led to the 1983-2009 period. Currently, India is debating how its Army could give money to politicians in the troubled state of Jammu and Kashmir in the guise of “peace building measures”. That India’s spy agency, RAW does this as a matter of course in its neighbourhood of South Asia is a well-known secret.
The last Chief Minister of the North-East Province was an acknowledged puppet of India and the Indian Peace Keeping Force, IPKF, during his tenure. He called for a UDI (Unilateral Declaration of Independence) when in office. Eventually, as the LTTE took control of the province, that Chief Minister went to live in India under Indian patronage and security.
These are the lessons that need to be learnt by the Government while it crows over its electoral victories in the ‘South’.
Take note of UNHRC warning
If the Government’s prevarication in bringing an alternate system of decentralisation of power to the Provincial Councils has brought about this situation either by design or by accident, news from the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva this week must have only compounded its worries.
The UN High Human Rights Commissioner who was in Sri Lanka late last month presented her oral submissions to the UNHRC this week wherein she made it patently clear that Sri Lanka is in danger of having to face an international (war crimes) probe should an internal mechanism not be put in place for an impartial investigation into alleged violations of International Humanitarian Law during the last stages of the military onslaught on the LTTE.
The UN High Commissioner even blames the Government for its procrastination in bringing proper charges against captured LTTE cadres.
The Government is given six months — till March next year — to get its act together. Like a dog with a bone, she won’t let go, but has failed to see Sri Lanka’s separatist insurgency in its totality and only limited the scope of the investigation to those final days — clearly on the agenda of the Western countries, which, in turn, are under pressure from the Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora. Sri Lanka might question the lady’s mandate to do so, but the resolution is on the table and to take this salvo across the bow seriously, is surely in the Government’s own interest.