Ampara, Batticaloa, Elections, Jaffna, Politics and Governance, Post-War, Trincomalee, Vavuniya

Parliamentary Elections, April 2010: An opportunity for voters in the North and East

I remember visiting Jaffna in 1997. Local government elections were due. Several leading political figures had been assassinated in the preceding years, some by the LTTE, others by anti-LTTE groups.  In the prevailing climate of fear, the Federal Party had reluctantly submitted nominations for elections for the Jaffna Municipal Council and one or two other local bodies. The LTTE was against the whole exercise, but the anti-LTTE gun carrying groups were contesting the elections. The Federal Party candidates showed great courage in contesting but minimized their risk by avoiding public meetings and house-to-house campaigning.

Many Federal Party supporters faulted the candidates for avoiding public visibility. They asked: how can we vote for those who are reluctant to publicly or privately ask for our votes? But in the end they did vote for the Federal Party candidates, as did many who had never been Federal Party supporters. The faults they found in the Federal Party were nothing in comparison to those they found in the violent armed groups.

Of those armed groups, the LTTE ceased to exist in May 2009, but some of the other groups remain active in public life. They fared poorly in the recent local government elections in the North and proved to be ineffective in the Presidential Elections in January 2010. They are in the field for the Parliamentary Elections due in a few days. Whatever faults the voters may find in the non-gun carrying political parties, our priority is surely to eradicate the gun culture.

I have no doubt that the voters of the North and East will rise to the occasion as they have done more than once in the past and help to ensure that this time the violent gun carrying groups disappear from the political scene.