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Sri Lankan Provincial elections; TNA should be part of a provincial government in the East.

Sweden, Sept. 11 -- Provincial council elections in the North Western and Sabaragamuwa provinces once again demonstrated that the Rajapaksa express is still chugging along without any serious opposition, although there is little doubt that the full force of the UPFA government was used to secure this election. Power of incumbency is a lethal force that is hard to match.

The outcome in the East was different but not unexpected. Despite some doubts, the UPFA partner TMVP secured the most number of seats, although falling well short of a majority. They need at least 5 more seats to be in government. The SLMC has seven seats, and they could provide what is needed for the UPFA/TMVP to form the next government.

The SLMC along with the UNP which has 4 seats could also provide the TNA which has 11 seats a chance to form a government.

The TNA could also support a UPFA/TMVP government and even be part of a coalition.

Whatever way one looks at it, the TNA is at a cross road, and they have a few options to choose from in terms of their future direction in the East. Their political vision will determine which option they choose.

Firstly, like the CWC, they could support the UPFA if their immediate concern is the welfare of the Tamil people they claim are suppressed and bereft of opportunities and equality. They could enter into an agreement that allows them to work with the UPFA at provincial level while giving them the freedom to oppose the UPFA at national level when and where they consider it necessary to do so from a national perspective.

Secondly, they could enter into a coalition with the SLMC and the UNP and function as a provincial government opposed to the UPFA at both provincial and national level. While this would promote TNA's national political agenda, it is unlikely that the interests of the Tamil people in the East will be served in the same manner were they to choose option 1.

Thirdly, they could remain as the opposition group to a UPFA/TMVP and LMC coalition government. In the event, the Tamil people who supported them and gave them 11 seats will suffer most, although the arrangement will benefit the long term political agenda of the TNA. The biggest winner in this arrangement will be the SLMC as they are bound to extract blood from stone in order to provide the 7 seats to the UPFA/TMVP to form a government.

Many in Sri Lanka entertain doubts about the political agenda of the TNA. Questions and eye brows are raised whether the TNA is only a mouth piece for forces outside Sri Lanka whose political agenda is the ongoing political instability in Sri Lanka, especially where it involves Tamil/Sinhala politics. There are legitimate doubts whether the TNA is able to chart a course of reconciliation with the Sinhala community as they are only a proxy for those who do not want such reconciliation.

So, it is very unlikely that the TNA will see beyond their noses and think strategically, and will be capable of seeing outside the box in order to serve the very people they claim they represent, and who they claim are suppressed and denied equality and opportunities.

Were they different, visionary enough and truly representative of Tamil interests in the North and the East, and capable of lateral thinking, they could do a few things at this juncture.

Firstly, they could develop a provincial level policy which is different to a national policy.

There is no law or convention that prevents them from doing so. Having developed such a policy, they could enter into an agreement with the UPFA/TMVP combine to form the next government in the East.

In the event, the SLMC will be able to extract less from the UPFA/TMVP, especially at the expense of the TNA, and all parties including the SLMC and the UPFA/TMVP, would have achieved a better sense of balance in the horse trading exercise.

Secondly, knowing that the UPFA centrally would consider it a major coup should the TNA join a provincial government, the TNA could extract concessions at national level which would bolster their political image and fortunes, nationally and internationally. One of these could be a joint national/provincial agreement on land management and an agreement on devolution of Police powers, perhaps over a reasonable period of time. A definitive date for elections in the Northern Province could also be negotiated for support in the East.

Thirdly, the TNA could function as the catalyst for development, both political and economic in the East, and in doing so demonstrate that, shared power is possible and effective, and it could assist economic development. If the TNA were able to draw the less extreme elements within the Diaspora to invest in the East and the North, and spur economic development, it would benefit the Tamil community there more than others simply because of numbers.

Greater investments will also provide strong footholds for Tamil entrepreneurs, and the consequent returns on investments could be measured both in economic terms as well as political terms with the strengthening of Tamil economic power in the East, and the North.

Equality and opportunity will be achieved from a position of strength rather than as a concession from the Sinhalese.

In the absence of a strong political opposition in Sri Lanka, and the continuing support for the President and his government from the predominantly Sinhala constituency, political agreements rather than political confrontations could better serve the Tamil community, and they could also provide the checks and balances that are so urgently needed in the country today.

Has the TNA got the vision, the foresight and the guts to do something different? Unfortunately, very unlikely.

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Publication:Asian Tribune (India)
Geographic Code:9SRIL
Date:Sep 11, 2012
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