The much-awaited August 2020 general elections have been completed. A new government elected, and the Prime Minister sworn in. The electoral tidal wave, brought about by the electors saw two of the oldest political parties in the country literally blown away.
The brand new ‘Pohottuwa’ – Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) – of President Gotabaya and Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa swept the United National Party (UNP) and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) into the wilderness.
The United National Party, which until the August 2020 election provided an alternate government to the country, was roundly defeated – not winning a single seat and the SLFP having to contest under the ‘Pohottuwa’ symbol except in Jaffna.
In the North and East, where since the 1977 general election, Tamil and Muslim political parties once held sway, electors gave them a kick up their behinds by nearly halving their share of parliamentary seats. The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) which campaigned on Tamil nationalism, theory of a Tamil Homeland and demand for self-determination was literally hit by a tsunami.
The party which won all seats in Tamil majority areas in the North & East suddenly found their elected members to the present parliament cut down, from 16 seats in the last parliament, to a humble ten in the present body. What the voters of the North as well as in the East have shown is that they are fast tiring of the old and oft-repeated slogans of the TNA and the traditional Muslim parties which were supposed to give voice to their fears and aspirations.
In the Jaffna district, contesting from the Udupiddy electorate – the birthplace of Velupillai Prabhakaran, the late supremo of the Liberation Tigers Of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), voters elected Mr. Angajan Ramanathan of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party giving him the largest number of preferential votes (36,365) in the entire Jaffna District!
A clear slap in the face of all that the late Mr. Prabhakaran and his fellow-terrorists stood for.
In the Batticaloa District, Mr. Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan of the TMVP – better known by his nom de plume Pilliyan, – (the main accused in the assassination of former late TNA MP Joseph Pararajasingham who was a well-known backer of the LTTE), was elected with the highest number of preferential votes – 54,198 – and Mr Viyalendiran who crossed over from the TNA to the SLPP were both elected. Only two TNA members were elected from Batticaloa.
The change in the attitude of the Tamil people to TNA tactics is made even more clear when one remembers, that at the time the late PLOTE leader Uma Maheswaran was a wanted man, and unable to find sanctuary in other parts of the country, it was the ordinary fisher-folk of Batticaloa who sheltered him at great risk to themselves..
Yet, the TNA today was unable to win the electorate. A rejection perhaps, of its blind backing of the past Yahapalana Regime which brought no practical gains to the community.
In a democracy it is said, you can fool some of the people all of the time. But, you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.
The result of the 2020 general elections in the North and the East proves that truism very clearly. It indicates that ordinary Tamils and the Muslims are beginning to realise parochial politics and isolating themselves from the main body politic of the country is not helping their cause. They are tired of the polarisation in the country. The victories of the SLFP in Jaffna and the SJB in Batticaloa highlight this.
The people are challenging their leaders to once again enter the mainstream political process. They are demanding jobs, better educational facilities, irrigation systems for agriculture and the development of fisheries which could be a highly lucrative occupation, provided facilities are available.
This is the challenge facing the TNA and Muslim political parties. Meanwhile, we are beginning to see the birth a new deadly hydra-headed monster which is beginning to raise its ugly head in the North – election manipulation.
People of the North are questioning the delay in announcing the results of the Jaffna district votes. After all, the Jaffna District has a mere three to four lakh electors. Yet the results were inordinately delayed. Charges of election rigging have been made. A particular MP is reported to have entered a counting centre with armed guards.
It puts us in mind of the infamous Wayamba Election and the equally infamous referendum to postpone elections. This hydra-headed monster needs to be stopped in its tracks and the only way to stop it is to cut off its head... not in the literal sense, but to get rid of those who indulge in these nefarious practices.