By Shirley Candappa
The Northern Provincial Council election is now over. The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) comprising all sections of former militant groups (with the exception of Douglas Deva’s EPDP) as expected swept the board.
This Provincial Council election was an important step in taking forward the democratic process in the North. After years of serfdom under the yolk of the LTTE and one or the other militant groups the people were provided with an opportunity to elect a new set of leaders under a new dispensation.
Despite short-comings at the recently-held elections and what is being seen as a last minute attempt by certain militarised forces to change the outcome of the election through misleading propaganda, the polls were held in a peaceful atmosphere. Both local and foreign monitors until now have not exposed any major flaws in the process.
The Provincial Council elections in fact, held out a good opportunity to begin a new chapter in the political life of the Tamil people.
But neither the TNA nor the governing UPFA chose to make use of this opportunity.
The election and its run-up offered a chance to emphasise the multi-ethnicity of the country and to deal openly with the internal strife which is not particular to Sri Lanka alone. Today there are tools to deal with these problems.
" The breakdown of traditional Tamil cultural norms as a result of the near three-decade long war has given rise to a powerful, empowered community of women –single mothers and widows "
The manifesto of the TNA did not deal with these problems or offer any insights as to what the TNA proposed to do to face these problems.
Sadly the manifesto is not a forward looking document, but rather chooses to focus on the worst times in the past, whitewashing and covering up past mistakes and misdeeds.
Both Tamil politicians and their Sinhalese counterparts instead chose to play the nationalist card.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s United People’s Freedom Alliance played its usual worn-out old record of the continuing the fight against terrorism and western interference in the country’s internal problems.
The TNA true to form replayed its record on Tamil grievences, discrimination etc.
And now in principle, we the Tamils of the North under the guidance of the new team under the leadership of ex-Supreme Court Justice Vigneswaran will soon take charge of running the Northern Provincial Council.
The question is, do we have the will and the ability and plans to develop our people and our areas. Or are we going to continue looking inward and create excuses for doing nothing?
Do we have the imagination and the spirit to go that extra mile, join hands with the central government to reconcile our differences and work together to create a better tomorrow for our people who have for nearly three decades lived amidst terrible hardship and deprivation.
Or will we recommence playing the age-old game of making the rounds of western capitals crying of the problems we face from communalists in the south.
The Tamils of Sri Lanka now have their own Provincial Council, and as the leader of the TNA is fond of saying…”Tamils have reached a ‘CRITICAL JUNCTURE’.
So what are we going to do at this ‘critical juncture’?
We have a number of plus points in our favour…
Despite the military man holding the Governorship of the North, there is a good likelihood that he will not use his position to sabotage the work of the council, as the international community which pressurised the government into holding the Provincial Council elections will surely be extremely vigilant to see if the government merely went through the motions of democratisation or is genuinely interested in devolving power and extending its support to the fledgling administration.
Again the government itself will want to show it is in fact allowing democratic processes to develop, especially in view of the upcoming Commonwealth ( CHOGAM) summit which is to be hosted next month, as well as the Human Rights meeting in Geneva.
The breakdown of traditional Tamil cultural norms as a result of the near three-decade long war has given rise to a powerful, empowered community of women –single mothers and widows
" do we have the will ability and plans to develop our people and our areas. Or are we going to continue looking inward and create excuses for doing nothing "
Can we help then develop? Can we help unleash the dormant skills and talents of this community?
Can we not tap into the resources of the world-wide Tamil Diaspora whose knowledge, imagination and finances, which in an earlier era was used for destructive purposes.
Can we not use these resources to develop this courageous body of women who are trying to fill the void created by the death of a husband, son or brother? Many of them still depend more or less on goodwill and their own ingenuinity to take their lives and that of their bereaved families forward.
In the UK new avenues of employment-based education have taken off… In fact there are over 43 fields of recognised employment-based fields of education which are recognised and operative. Among them are the hospitality industry, hair dressing, beauty culture, electrical and digital courses waiting to be developed.
Let us recall a few facts:
The distasteful fact that during the ‘so-called liberation struggle’ Tamil militants killed more civilian Tamils than did the Sinhalese.
The self-styled sole representatives of the Tamils ethinically cleansed Mannar and Jaffna of people who held islamist belief,
During the last days of the war it was the leader of self-same ‘sole representatives’ of the Tamil people while holding thousands of innocent Tamils hostage as human shields at Nanthikadal attempted to save himself through the efforts of the international community.
Let us not forget how some among our people served ‘soda’ to all and sundry when the ‘sole representatives butchered members of TELO in Jaffna.
These are shameful memories, but the events did occur and our people –probably in fear of their own lives-- did nothing to stop them.
Therefore it is time to make all things new at this critical juncture.
It is the duty of the newly elected Provincial Councilors led by the ex-judge of the Supreme Court Mr. Vigneswaran who though politically a novice has in his team a band of honest and hard-working politicians like D. Sidthadthan Linganathan and many others who can help guide him to develop the quality of life of this once dignified and upright community, putting the past behind and ensuring that there will never again be occasion where villains will be white-washed and portrayed as heroes.