A verdict against Provincial councils and Blake

by Prof. Nalin de Silva

(August 27, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) The series on "The artificial stillborn Sri Lankan identity" has to give place to provincial council elections held on Saturday as a response cannot be postponed to next week. The government or the SLFP led coalition has won the elections obtaining about 55% of the vote in Sabaragamuwa and about 57% of the vote in NCP. The UNP managed about 40% and 38% respectively at the two provinces while the JVP managed only a miserable 2.8% and 4.7% at the elections. Naturally the people had completely ignored Blake who seems to be without much work as the Ambassador for USA in Sri Lanka. He spends time on meeting government officials, ministers etc.

It is well known that the western countries in general do not send first rate diplomats to what they call third world countries. Blake may not be third rate though he is the ambassador of USA in a so-called third world country, however in this part of the world the imitator varieties have been trained to treat the western diplomats as semi gods. After all the latter are successors to the governors not only from Britain, but from Netherlands and Portuguese and the so called traditions of the elite classes, which were taught to them by the very same colonialists, have been maintained with some success. So Blakes are known among the educated people, meaning of course those have been educated in English or swabhashas by the system introduced by the British, and they enjoy meetings with election commissioners and others that our ambassadors in their countries cannot even dream of. We do not know what Blake had to tell the good commissioner who apparently cannot retire from service, but whatever it is, Blake is lucky that he was not shown the door by the commissioner. Bullying is a tradition in the schools in the west, and the third rate students whether they are lean or stout are the worst culprits in this respect. In any event whatever they talked the timing of the conversation between Blake and the commissioner has had no impact on the elections, as the results reveal.

It is not my intention to go into a detailed analysis of the results of the elections. The JVP has gone back to the pre 1982 situation as far as the elections are concerned at national level. In 1982 when Wijeweera contested the Presidential elections he obtained around 3% of the national vote. The performance of the JVP is ominous to the country as now they will be convinced that they have to re-enter the revolutionary path in order to capture power. The breakaway group of Vimal – Nandana has not been able to attract many cadres, and the party led by Somavansa – Tilvin – Kumar Gunaratnam seems to be following the usual JVP logic this time too. They may or may not be having some links with the UNP, but they prefer a UNP government to a SLFP led coalition government as they are of the view that a UNP regime would help the "revolution" more than a SLFP led government. What they have failed to understand is that a UNP government would be more ruthless in crushing the JVP than a SLFP led government. If anybody in the Jathika Vyaparaya (National movement) thinks with mistaken pride that he is responsible for the split in the JVP then he simply does not understand politics in general and JVP politics in particular. The split in the JVP is the worst that happened to the Jathika Vyaparaya and with a dedicated cadre the JVP would outshine the more nationalistic breakaway group, though neither Nandana nor Vimal has given up Marxist politics, even without funds from "Japan Saman" and others. However, the methods that they would adopt would not be in the interests of the country, and the Universities are likely to become the "epicentre" of the misguided revolution again. The situation has to be handled with care, and no room should be given to find excuses for recruiting more and more to the cadres. The Chairman, UGC and the Vice Chancellors are going to have an unenviable task ahead, and old crocks who have a vendetta against the JVP in the higher bodies should not be allowed to upset the apple cart.

The UNP fielded two outsiders both apparently Christians as Chief Ministerial candidates, referred to as the gunshot and the oneshot by the opponents. The people in the NCP did not take the candidacy of Major General Perera as that of a war hero and in Sri Lankan politics, unlike in politics of the country of Blake and in India for example, politicians are treated as politicians and not as ex war heroes and actors. People such as Vijaya Kumaratunga were politicians in addition to being actors, and they were treated as politicians by the people whether they liked the policies and/or the acting of the former or not. Janaka Perera and Ranjan Ramanayake do not look like politicians to the voter, and they were not able to attract votes. It was a blunder to field them as candidates and it only reinforced the view that in Sri Lanka we have only national politics and not even "Pradesiya Sabha" politics let alone Provincial Council politics.

The SLFP led coalition has done well at the elections. They have done better in the the NCP probably due to the economic factor that farmers got a better deal this time. Of course the opposition will cry foul, but neither are they upasakas, when it comes to politics. In fact no country in the world including that of Blake holds clean elections as the western democracy is based on not telling the truth to the people. It is something that they have inherited from the so called enlightenment and age of reason. Reason under Aristotelian logic and linear thinking has only pushed belief to another level, and "enlightenment" has managed to keep the people in the dark on this important aspect. Thus we are not surprised to hear people being enlightened on missing ballot boxes at the Presidential elections in USA, and we should advise our ambassador there to have a chat with the election authorities on missing ballot boxes in October in time for the Presidential elections.

As mentioned before, in Sri Lanka even a Pradeshiya Sabha Election is fought mainly on national issues and the Provincial Council elections in the NCP and the Sabaragamuwa were no exception. The SLFP led coalition, in fact, turned it to a referendum on "war" and defeating the LTTE, surely a national issue, while the UNP fought on corruption and cost of living which are again national issues. Nobody was concerned with issues particular to the provinces and even in the elections for the Eastern Province provincial council elections it was not much different. The results of the elections clearly indicate that the people have approved the "war policy" of the government and that they are prepared to "ignore" corruption and rising cost of living if the "war" is being fought to their satisfaction.

While the people have approved the "war policy" of the government, and the government has won on that count, the Provincial Council system has a whole has lost the elections. There is no room for intermediate Provincial Councils in Sri Lanka when there is a "central" government and local government bodies. Though local government elections are also fought mainly on national issues and along national party affiliations occasionally a local issue or two may come up at elections. However, at provincial council elections no local issues crop up as the province is too big for those issues and small for intermediate issues, in respect or relative to the political culture of the country. It is not only the smallness of the country that matters here, but the political culture as well. There is a reason for this phenomenon that many people who blindly follow the western models do not or are not prepared to consider. The fact is that unlike India or Switzerland, Sri Lanka has been ONE country for two thousand four hundred years since the days of the king Pandukabhaya, and they are not mentally prepared to accept Provincial Councils as some kind of intermediate councils. Those who want to forget the history or distort the history of the country with ulterior motives have also been defeated at the elections held on Saturday.

On the other hand everybody knows though some do not accept that even if the Tamils have grievances or aspirations they cannot be solved within a provincial set up. As we have pointed out from the very beginning more than fifty percent of the Tamils live outside the Northern and the Eastern provinces and their so called grievances and aspirations, even if they exist cannot be solved within a provincial council structure. It is not Sinhala supremacy I am talking but the history of the country. The Sinhalas built a nation some two thousand four hundred years ago and a state called an eksesath rajya, which is a form of a unitary state. Today we have to think of a way of accommodating Tamils, Muslims and others in this state and developing the nation that the Sinhalas have created into a Sri Lankan nation, which can be done in the centre itself without devolving powers to useless provincial councils that get defeated at each provincial council election. The king Pandukabhaya has given us the lead and we have a lot to learn from him in the coming years.
- Sri Lanka Guardian