Elections, Jaffna, Politics and Governance, Post-War

Exploring the Myth that the Tamil vote will be the decider at the Presidential Elections

Aachcharya writing from Jaffna

Two Tamil Dailies Thinakkural and Uthayan (Jaffna) carried yesterday a headline report of retired Supreme Court Justice C.V. Wigneswaran’s opinion on whom the Tamils should vote for at Presidential elections. (Justice C. V Wigneswaran is a highly respected member of the Tamil intelligentsia and while on the Supreme Court was known to be extremely independent and forthright in his views. He was named by TNA as their nominee for membership in the Constitutional Council)

Though the report is filed in a manner as if though the newspapers contacted Justice Wigneswaran to get his response regarding rumours that some sections of the diaspora had contacted him about contesting at the presidential elections, the two reports are verbatim similar which probably means that Justice Wigneswaran himself wrote and sent the interview to be published to both these newspapers, on his own volition or possibly responding to a request from the TNA leadership.

In the interview he has said that certain individuals’ self centric actions (probably referring to Shivajilingam, Srikantha) have led to confusion among the Tamils. The following are translated excerpts from the ‘interview’:

“There is no point in voting for a Tamil candidate. Even if all Tamils vote for him we will achieve nothing. It is one of the two mainstream candidates who will win the elections. It will be the same if we boycott the elections. This will only display the desperate state of our politics or that we haven’t come to realise our democratic rights. So far Tamils have either voted for a Tamil candidate or boycotted presidential elections. This was to display the distinctiveness of the Tamil people’s politics. But now after the armed struggle has fallen silent this trend has to change. We have to be strategic. We have to see what we can get out of these two mainstream candidates. I am happy that the TNA is doing this. The TNA engaging in discussions with both candidates is productive. Tamil people should listen to the TNA leadership on this issue. The 22 parliamentarians speaking in different voices is no good. The TNA leadership should let the Tamil
people know of their decision soon. One thing is for sure if we vote for a Tamil candidate or boycott the election it would either mean alienating our democratic rights or supporting someone else [probably meaning voting for Shivajilingam being voting for MR]”.

He also refers in the interview to how the Upcountry Tamil leadership and the Muslims have used the ballot effectively in the past. Tamils have no option now but to take up this weapon he says. He also says that if the Tamils stand united we can decide which way the majority goes in the parliament at the next general election. He concludes: “Our differences will aid them. Our unity will aid us”

The Jaffna Uthayan which has for now long supported a vote for SF has written an editorial overjoyed with Wigneswaran’s public stance on the issue and have insisted other community leaders also come out publicly with a similar stance.

The All Ceylon Tamil Congress met in Jaffna yesterday to decide on whom to support and on Kajendrakumar Ponnambalam’s insistence they have voted on a resolution to boycott the elections. Former MP Vinyagamoorthy who is the President of the ACTC is not happy with the decision (he wants to use the vote to de-seat MR) but has gone with the resolution not wanting to challenge Ponnambalam. 4 MPs attached to the TNA are supposedly favouring a boycott – Kajendrakumar, Pathmini Sithamaparanathan, Solaman Cyril, and Kajendran, all being Jaffna MPs. They all are in Jaffna these days. They met with the Jaffna Bishop yesterday.

Earlier Shivajilingam also claimed support from seven TNA MPs for a Tamil candidate. One is not sure how many of these TNA MPs will support Shivajilingam as the Tamil candidate though. MP Shivashkthi Ananthan has come out accusing Shivajilingam of receiving money from Mahinda Rajapaksha to contest the elections.

I suspect that the TNA leadership (R. Sampanthan, Mavai Senathirajah, Suresh Premachandran and Selvam Adaikalanathan) might come out and ask the Tamil people to vote for “regime change” without naming Sarath Fonseka. In short the call will be for Tamils to cast a silent vote in favour of SF. One will have to wait and see how many Tamils feel like voting. I suspect that the voting numbers in the North will be small – small that they will not be able to influence the national vote significantly. The way Eastern Tamils vote is also very unclear. Pillayan is unlikely to come out strongly for MR or to inspire people to vote for SF. Karuna’s influence (unless he stuffs ballot boxes) is also not clear. For the Tamils to be the deciders in the election (like they could have been in the last) they have to vote as a whole to one candidate and the Sinhala votes to both candidates should be almost equal. I doubt whether the challenger to the incumbent can muster that many Sinhala votes to equal the incumbent’s or that the Tamils will vote significantly to one candidate despite their being a disguised call from the TNA to vote for Sarath Fonseka.

And finally what can a vote for SF achieve at all for the Tamil people? Tamil people’s ‘active engagement in national politics’- what will it lead to? Will SF devolve powers, dismantle the High Security Zones, repeal the PTA, revoke Emergency, resettle IDPs in places of their choice? Has he promised any of these? Or has MR promised any of these concretely? (Dayan Jayatilleka might say all of these are stupid/unintelligent demands. For him there is only one thing that will be intelligent for the Tamil people to do: Vote for MR.). Both candidates know well that making concrete promises on any of these will mean betraying the Sinhala nation. The TNA knows very well that none of them would even promise any of these or might just pay lip service to some of them. Hence my prediction that they will call for a silent vote.

Justice Wigneswaran is deeply anxious and nervous in his call for unity. It is going to be very difficult to bring TNA under one umbrella again. And that’s why, like the state of Muslims politics today, Tamils can never be King or Queen makers. The days of Ashroff and Thondaman are gone. And unless there is a change in the way South does politics even if you are a King maker, the Tamils will be disappointed once again as they were when their King maker Chelvanayagam was disappointed when the B-C and D-C pact were dishonoured.

  • “The way Eastern Tamils vote is also very unclear. Pillayan is unlikely to come out strongly for MR or to inspire people to vote for SF. Karuna’s influence (unless he stuffs ballot boxes) is also not clear”

    It’s a Real situation Aachcharya [Edited out].

  • K.A.B

    Exploring the Myth that the Tamil vote will be the decider at the Presidential Elections–

    Most of the N-E Tamil people had to boycott last time. Result was MR won with a very narrow margin of 200,000.

    Today this is different. All Tamil people are not against MR. He can muster more than 10,00,000 votes from the country.

    What will be the impact of the decision of TNA ,still undecided fraction of the Tamil community on MR’s overall performance.

    If none of the main contenders is above 50% then the issue of second counting will arise. How many second preferences can SF get from the N-E Tamil people? Surely MR also will get certain amount of second preferencestoo.

    Further TNA is loosing fast its grip on N-E people. They are already late to take a decision. Will all N-E Tamil people wait to accept what the TNA is going to say so late? People would have fo made their choice by now. It is not going to be necessarily for one person alone.TNA cannot change it at the last moment just like reversing a car.

    Finally history has releated.TNA has not made use of yet another opportunity. They couldn’t make up their mind to decide. Ran to India or Europe. Too many to and fro from MR to SF and vice versa.

    Chances of SF’s win are slim. Even if he wins, no hope of a stable government.JVP will not allow to make any decision favourablif /reasonable for Tamil people. The then opposition, presumably UPFA will not help SF.

    If MR wins these slow leader will have to wait till the wounds heal.New comers will replace them.TNA wil be getting obsolete fast .May be Sivagi will emanate as a new Tamil national leader after the election.

    Whether like or not ,N-E Tamil leaders will have to learn to work with MR.
    (I am n ot a MR man.)

  • Groundtruth

    Good analysis. To vote or not ro vote is the primordial question. If I was one of the Tamils who had suffered badly will I feel like voting at all for any politician knowing that bad politics is the root of all the evil. If voting is repugnant to the Tamils whose fault is it? A rather impossible question to answer.

    Given that NONE of the candidates stated any vision, nor any plan for the future who are voters to vote for? Just on war hysteria? Only imbeciles will do that and regret later.

    It is time the candidates are pressed by the voters to come up with something they can vote on. Merely throwing scraps is not at all good enough.
    Besides their past record will matter too.

  • Tamils must vote for Sarath Fonseka.He cannot be worse than MR as far as the tamils are concerned.He has publicly declared his assets and has vowed to eradicate corruption which I am sure he will do.The courtry needs a change. Only the 113 cabinet & henchmen are prospering now.

  • A concerned Sri Lankan

    General Sarah Fnseka is the only hope for the Tamils and the minority communities. General Fonseka will never betray the Tamils. General Fonsekeka will see that Tamils are made happy and safe. The Tamils should never forget hoe MR treated the IDP’s and is even treating them now. Hesuandered all the aid given by foreign countries for the welfare of the IDPs. Sarath FRonseka has promised to settle all IDPs, remove the War Zones etc., and bild houses and infrastructure necessary. So, tamils have no other choice tan voting for General Sarath Fonseka. I only hope they will not make a mistake again.

  • Hiran

    I have yet not understood the Tamil Psyshe and their thinking on playing one sinhala group against the other, instead of joining the main stream politics and taking part in a nation building excersise.

    My question to the Tamil Politicains

    Are the tamils politticians still hell bent on promoting the two nation strategy at whatever costs.

    Is this not the parth to self destruction?

  • p.g.wijeratna

    why people in the north think about tamils and sinhalelse all the time . Why dont they think all of us in srilanka one people vote only for good or bad in general.If you think who will give more for tthe tamil people or less for the sinhalese people wouild it be right? Until we grow up to think we all are people the problem in srilanka cotinues.. you all have brains vote for whom you like leave the people to decide

  • Soori


    Are the Sinhala politicians, particularly the leading presidential candidates hell bent in holding on unitary state that ensures hegemony of one race over the other at any cost? They seem to be, because neither of them declared any other position so far. Therefore, the Tamil politicians could not be expected to give up the two nation strategy.

    But, regardless of it, there is another strategy is unfolding against Tamil nationalism. Little by little, Sri Lanka seems to be taken over by China in south and India in north for the loans owed to those countries. To neutralize the Tamil nationalistic upraisal in north, India seems to have found a way: It is going to pump money, Indian industrialization and Indian control over north in the name of rebuilding.

    1. Already funds have been allocated for Indra Gandhi university .
    2. Major companies like Ashoke Leyland have decided to build factories in north.

    It is indeed a good news for Tamils. Who cares about a Tamil nation if they could build a Singapore with Indian support and backing?

    But isn’t it what the Sinhalese were fighting against all these days: protecting Sri Lanka from Indian hegemony? I think with the demise of LTTE that war is lost. Tamils won and Sinhalese lost.

  • Dear Friends,
    The only hope for Tamils is SF, because he has genuinely expressed his views and genuineness. The main reason for insurrections in the North and South in 1971,1989 and 1983-2009 is the corruption and wastages of public funds,which would have been used to solve main problems of all people in Sri Lanka. So SF has publicly promised to eradicate the corruptions. Also the main party which always tried to treat all communities alike is UNP ; also Ranil is not a chauvinist who is the main supporter of SF . So the one and only hope for Tamils is SF. I think the minorities should not avoid the situation this time.

  • jayathilaka

    calling an early presidential election by the president is not not beneficial for the government and its alleys when concerning about tamil votes specially in north and east.Instead they could have taken time to restore the livelyhood of tamils to befor they go for an election.the large portion of tamils will vote for their own candidate rather than choosing others.and ultimate result will not be a healthy one for the government.government has created an unnessary problem by calling unexpected presidential electionat an un unwanted time.

  • Kumar

    “(Dayan Jayatilleka might say all of these are stupid/unintelligent demands. For him there is only one thing that will be intelligent for the Tamil people to do: Vote for MR.)”

    Great!!! That is what he would say!

  • wijayapala

    Dear Soori,

    I think with the demise of LTTE that war is lost. Tamils won and Sinhalese lost.

    This is truly brilliant thinking. Why don’t you share this with the other LTTE supporters who are upset about refugee camps etc and tell them that the Sinhalese had lost?

  • Hiran

    Agian the thinking is tamils VS Sinhala and who has won and lost.
    if there is development in the North I am glad to hear.

    You have forgotten a fact that India trained the LTTE and other forces in the past.

    So having China in the south is a balancing act that Sri Lanka will have to play.

    Take the two eaxamples you have given
    1. Already funds have been allocated for Indra Gandhi university .
    So many have gone overseas for eduaction both tamils and sinhalese, many to India hence will be a foreign exchnage saving.

    2. Major companies like Ashoke Leyland have decided to build factories in north.

    Mainly Employement for the laborers, management will be Indian-Tamils will still have to go down south in large numbers for employement in keeping with their intelectual abilities.

    mainly the problems in SL are economics and hence where there are employment oppotunitites and education they will not be misled by these short sighted politicians. I say both Sinhala and Tamil.
    Live and let live

  • realsrilankan

    Hi you all !(who talk about winners of the war)
    thing a little moment .
    we all (sinhalese ,tamils,muslims and others)have lost.
    then who won? of course india and china.
    once all of us must be redy for fighting against expansionists.

  • BGK

    I am an Indian Tamil and have no doubt that India was forced to train SL Tamils only when Sinhala politicians violated human rights of Tamils. Till then it was a peaceful struggle, but that was crushed by brute force. India has paid the price for supporting LTTE and learnt it’s lesson – even helped SL crush LTTE/ Prabakaran, but it seems like at least the communal minded section of Sinhalese haven’t. Ensure equal treatment and don’t bring Chinese into the neighborhood it you are really serious about good relations with India. With all due respect SL gains more by keeping India happy and by bringing the Chinese in you are unwillingly acting as a pawn in the competition for regional supremacy.

  • Dhiraj

    “Ensure equal treatment and don’t bring Chinese into the neighborhood it you are really serious about good relations with India. ”

    China is a friend to Sri Lanka and it is in Sri Lanka’s interests to cultivate its relationship with the next superpower. India’s unwillingness to help Sri Lanka in the war is the reason China was courted. Hambantota was first offered to India, which india refused. As an Indian Tamil, instead of pointing fingers at “communal minded Sinhalese” perhaps you could speak to your communal minded Tamil leaders from Karunanidhi to Vaiko? Tamil Nadu politicians have been active supporters of violence and terrorism in Sri Lanka.