Photo courtesy AP/Eranga Jayawardena
  • Justice Minister Hakeem was reported to have told during campaigning, he should not be made to look like a man taken hostage.
  • Ministers Rambukwella and Premjayantha, invited TNA to form a “National” alliance for the Council in the East.
  • Senior Minister and Communist Party leader DEW Gunasekera says he wrote to President Rajapaksa proposing a “National Council” that includes the TNA, for the East.
  • Senior Minister and LSSP leader, Prof Tissa Vitharana backs a “non racial”, all included Council for East.

A week gone by and the claim by President Rajapaksa – that his leadership paved for ten successive victories for the UPFA which by itself is a historic feat – is being severely challenged in the East. People are strangling the conscience of the SLMC leadership and the SLMC shopping list is being ignored by President Rajapaksa.

To begin with, the PC elections were NOT free and fair in any way. After many violent clashes, two murders in the North Central Province and a long chain of violence reported from the East, dispute the statements of some party leaders and the Elections Commissioner that elections were peaceful. A petition filed in the District Court of Anuradhapura by a group of citizens during the campaign period proved in Court there were massive abuse of State power and resources by this regime, for election campaigning. Delivering his judgement, the Judge noted, he has no jurisdiction to punish any and therefore had to stop by making a sweeping statement that citizens should vote all corrupt and law violating men and women out of politics, adding that elections are meant for such clean up.

In the Eastern Province the people did vote them out in the midst of threats to life and armed thuggery, out there in the open. The Tamil people almost en bloc voted with the TNA and for sure, no other ethnic group voted with the TNA, other than Tamils. The Muslim voters had the SLMC clearly identifying with Muslim sentiments, opposing the UPFA head on and that gave all the reasons for the Muslim voters, not to vote TNA, even if they wanted to vote against the UPFA. The anti UPFA Sinhala vote, went the UNP way. With only the Tamil vote in a province where the Tamil population is now a little over 36 per cent, the TNA polled 30.9 per cent of the total polled to have 11 Councillors elected. Two of them have the highest preference votes in the Eastern Province.

The ruling UPFA with all the violence added to their advantage, with all State power abuses, only managed 6,217 votes more than the TNA to get 12 Councillors elected. They thus had the advantage of getting the 02 bonus seats, to make their collection, a total of 14 Councillors. At the last PC elections held in August 2008, when the TNA was not in the picture, the UPFA, again with State power in its hands, polled 52.2 per cent to have 20 elected Councillors. To have that “more than half the votes polled” then, cut back to a mere 31.58 per cent now, is no historic victory to the UPFA.

The defeat of the UPFA in the East, was a massive defeat, given that President Rajapaksa himself campaigned for the UPFA. The SLMC and Justice Minister Hakeem, though part of the regime, broke out in the East as an anti regime entity, campaigning against all violence and threats from UPFA big wigs in the East. The Muslim people in the East who voted for the SLMC thus registered a very aggressive anti government vote and it was 20.98 per cent. The UNP though not up to its expected mark, still polled 11.82 percent mostly from Ampara district, making the total anti government vote a big chunk of 63.7 per cent. This is against the 31.8 per cent the government managed with all thuggery, State power and resource abuse.

What then is the mandate of the people in the East ? It has two very important political messages. First is that, the Tamil people voting lock stock and barrel with the TNA, say they don’t accept this Rajapaksa regime as one, that answers their problems and issues. What ever the report this regime would send for its UPR in Geneva, all their internationally marketed post war achievements have been rejected by the local Tamil people in the East, in no uncertain terms. This Rajapaksa rule, is not the choice of the Tamil people. The second is that, Easterners in a very clear mandate has rejected the UPFA as the political party that should rule the Eastern Province. Their 63.7 per cent mandate is for a non UPFA Provincial rule, which is possible and should be allowed as the democratic right of the people in the East.

What then is this talk about a “National Council” ? About a “non Racial, all included” Council ? Is that not, what the Eastern Provincial Council would be, if the SLMC, TNA and the UNP form the administration, giving the 63.7 per cent anti government vote the right to have their Council ? But, that is not what the aged “Left” and the UPFA is pressurising the SLMC for. This pressure in Colombo and at Temple Trees is one that opposes the very spirit of power sharing. It opposes the political defining of a Provincial Council even in its leanest form, under the half implemented 13th Amendment.

The Centre in Colombo has taken over the power of deciding who would form the Eastern Provincial Council, arrogantly ignoring the mandate given by the voter in the East. The final decision is not going to be on what the parties decide in the East for the East, but on what is offered from the SLMC shopping list, for power in the Colombo government. This regime and that includes the “Left” add-ons too, works on heavy centralised Executive power, they see as “political stability” gained through the 18th Amendment, as explained by Prof Peiris, at the sidelines of the recently concluded CPA sessions. Its high handed, centralised power that totally subverts the mandate of the larger majority of the people in having their own provincial council. Unfortunately, all political parties are accepting and taking that most undemocratic intervention from the Centre, for granted

East is now undisputed proof, this regime is not for any form of devolved power. Its proof too, that minority leaders, the likes of Justice Minister Rauf Hakeem is hostage of his own petty, personal, power politics that gives this regime more strength in centralising power. Add the Bill for “Divi Neguma” that attempts to control all and every local initiative from the Centre in Colombo, under one single minister. This is also proof that even if the Northern PC elections are held as suggested by President Rajapaksa in September, 2013, the Centre in Colombo would finally decide, what that Council should be. As long as they believe they cannot manipulate the Northern provincial Council from Colombo, that elections would not come round. The East perhaps would now make this Rajapaksa regime to postpone the NPC, to 2014.

Its now a different discourse, the Opposition and democratic political forces would have to begin. A new discourse that would not limit the issue of power sharing as the political solution to the ethnic conflict, but one that lifts that need to a more broader democratic platform, to bring round the Sinhala South to discourse how this mighty centralising of power gives way to subvert the mandate of the people and lead to autocratic rule. This centralised power that leads to a gangster style rule, is now a core issue that should cut across all ethnic divides to demand power sharing to the South as well.