Territorially, Tamil Nadu is the closest Indian State to Sri Lanka. If not geography, at least history — especially contemporary history — should have impelled the people and political class of the island nation to keenly follow the upcoming elections on the other side of Palk Strait.
But, “politicians here are not concerned,” says Rajitha Senaratne, the spokesperson of the Sri Lankan Cabinet who is considered to be close to President Maithripala Sirisena.
Asked why the interest has come down so much, Dr. Senaratne, who was a Minister in the Mahinda Rajapaksa Cabinet, says: “When [former President Mahinda] Rajapaksa was in power, there were problems [with Tamil Nadu]. Now, there are no problems.”
Vickramabahu Karunarathne, general secretary of the Nava Sama Samaj Party and a veteran Left leader, feels that politicians in Tamil Nadu are not taken seriously in Sri Lanka. “Both the Sri Lanka Freedom Party and the United National Party [UNP] have neglected Tamil Nadu as their leaders believe they can get things done only through [New] Delhi [Central government].”
Ahilan Kadirgamar, a Jaffna-based political economist, is of the view that in the past the principal parties were concerned about Tamil Nadu politics as events there could impact Colombo’s relationship with New Delhi. This, he feels, is not that big a factor anymore.
However, Democratic Left Front leader Vasudeva Nanayakkara — a prominent face of the pro-Rajapaksa camp — has an interesting take on the question.
He says that the end of the 26-year-long civil war, and Tamil National Alliance chief R. Sampanthan’s decision to work with leaders of the main Sinhala parties in arriving at an understanding on the Tamil question are among the reasons behind the “diminishing level of interest.”
Mayantha Dissanayake, the 42-year-old UNP legislator from Kandy and son of Gamini Dissanayake (one of the biggest advocates of the 1987 Indo-Sri Lanka Accord) explains that, in general, political parties in the country pay more attention to parliamentary elections in India. “Not only foreign policies, we also like to observe economic policies of the Indian government.”
Mr. Kadirgamar, however, adds that the elections in Tamil Nadu are being followed by those keen to know if the next State government will shift its position on the fishermen’s issue. (The Hindu)