National Govt in SL stamps down Tamil bargaining power

tamil partiesDespite coming third with a total of 16 seats in the Sri Lankan elections, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) has lost the bargain ing power, which seemed to be coming its way, to former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s SLFP-UPFA combine. The ‘national government’ of Ranil Wick remesinghe, which includes elements of the UPFA, doesn’t need TNA support. In the light of the upcoming United Nations Human Rights Council session at Geneva, where the Sri Lankan military and the former government headed by Ra japaksa could be criticized, this could imply that future ethnic negotiations and s power-devolution could run into rough t weather even under a regime without Rajapaksa.

Either shocked by the twin-defeats of the past months or to continue having an indirect say in government-making, the Rajapaksa camp has once again let President Maithripala Sirisena hijack Rajapaksa’s votebank. This has meant the continuance of the pre-poll national government under the Sirise na-Ranil duo, from which the TNA had calculatedly stayed away after the presidential elections.

Like the acknowledged hardline LTTE before it, the moderate TNA lead ership has fancied itself as a good negotiator viz the divided Sinhala polity, but the post-poll situation may not allow it much room. It seems that the days of Tamils and TNA once again crying foul at the `majoritarian’ Sinhala polity may not be far away .

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has promised a new political culture. During the run-up to the parliamentary polls, he and President Maithripala Sirisena promised a `fair deal’ to the Tamils in search of an elu sive post-war political solution. During the run-up to the parliamentary polls, Ranil clarified, possibly to satisfy his larger Sinhala constituency , that he was against federalism but was willing to consider power sharing down to the village-level, as used to be the case in the era before the India-facilitated thirteenth amendment.

If the international community con tinues to be insensitive to Sri Lanka’s socio-political and ethnic realities, there could be domestic pressure from some quarters on the UNFGG administration to negotiate a fair deal with the Tamil minorities. China and Russia might then end up as Sri Lanka’s friends, which could have consequences for India.

Though the party had hoped to bag up to 21 seats, TNA won 14 elected seats and two national list seats on the strength of its voteshare. The fear of diluting the Tamil nationalist political agenda and the near-exclusive electoral edge it has enjoyed in the north and the east have made the TNA keep away from Muslim and Indian-origin Tamil parties. This has denied it any chance of winning more seats. Today , the Muslim and the upcountry Tamil parties have one-fifth share of the UNP-led UNFGG parlia mentary g roup. They would also have their ministers, whereas the Sri Lankan Tamils would con tinue to be seen as being a g ainst post-war `nation al reconciliation’ and `socio-politi cal integration’.

Unfortunate ly fo r t h e S r i Lankan Tamils, a Sirisena-Ranil lead ership may be better placed to try and con placed to try and convince the international community than the Rajapaksa leadership. If the West is unwilling to be convinced, particularly in the context of the UNHRC, it would only push the government into a hardline position.

In between, the TNA too could be readjusting itself to the changing internal dynamics. Its Northern Province chief minister C V Wigneswaran had sounded the bugle of Tamil nationalist politics before the elections, in the name of taking a principled position, but that didn’t yield electoral dividends.

Just to keep the internal divisions at bay and even otherwise, the TNA and the Tamils could be forced to revive tired, old slogans of Sinhala backstabbing and majoritarianism, before dissenting to concede and confess that they had erred once again (`meendum pizhai vittom’). Unfortunately , they would have their lament all over again, but not a political solution. (TOI)

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