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Beyond Presidential Election 2010

By Daya Wijesinghe

(February 27, Colombo, Sri Lnaka Guardian) Just as a large number of patriotic organizations, we too endeavoured, within the limits of our resources, for the victory of Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa. Just as they, we too are happy to congratulate him on his victory.

If somebody or some organization promotes a candidate at an election and if that person wins, there is a responsibility to the voters, on the part of those who recommended that person, to ensure that he or she meets the expectations of the people. We have been motivated to write this letter to the media, as we too have a share, however small, of that responsibility to the public.

One could get a clear understanding of what the electorate expected of Mr. Rajapaksa by delving into the manner in which the election campaign progressed and by examining the election results. Subsequent to defeating the LTTE, Mr. Rajapaksa had a very high poularity rating in the country. Even traditional UNPrs voted for him at the provincial council elections. The opposition political parties, which were desperate, made a shrewd move in the political chess game by getting Gen. Sarath Fonseka to contest for the presidency. As a result it was possible to direct a part of the hosannas of the people for crushing terrorism, away from Mr. Rajapaksa. Besides, at the beginning, the focus of Mr. Fonseka's campaign was the promise of good governance and rule of law, sans corruption and thuggery. Further, Mr. Fonseka was connecting the high cost of living as a result of which people were suffering, to corruption in the government. This made room for the resentment of the people over corruption and thuggery that was submerged under a wave of patriotism, to rise again.

At the initial stage of the campaign it was apparent that Mr. Fonseka's popularity could even surpass that of Mr. Rajapaksa. It is no secret that even the governing parties were rather disturbed by this trend. Yet this trend later began to change. The causes were; the arising of doubts about the patriotism of Mr. Fonseka (the main reasons being the white flag story and not rejecting outright the demands of the TNA, like Mr. Rajapaksa), doubts concerning his honesty and sincerity (Hi Corp deal and making promises that are impossible to keep, such as increasing the salary of government servants by Rs.10,000/-) and his showing of characteristics of a dictator rather than the affable qualities that should be the hallmarks of a democratic leader.

The other matter that is evident from this presidential election is that if the public belief in Mr. Fonseka as an honest person and a patriot grew without wavering, his popularity would have continued to rise and he would have most probably been elected as the president. We could therefore surmise that while the people despise corruption and thuggery, they considered the protection of the unitary state to be more important. They were wise enough to consider the high cost of living, under which they are suffering so much, to be of lesser priority than the future of the nation.

When analysing the election results, it is clear that the people who thus decided to vote for Mr. Rajapaksa are those close to the national ethos, found in greater numbers among the rural masses. It is they who have the potential to create a righteous society based on the values of our ancient and unique civilization. Their political ideas are considered as primitive and tribal by most of those in Sri Lanka who value western concepts. One such learned professor wrote to an English daily newspaper, attributing views against separatism of a bright young national minded journalist, who had studied in a prestigious American university also, to "village idiocy". He further stated that the political thoughts of this journalist are "so tribal in spirit and so insular", that he felt that this journalist is not fit to visit the particular university even as a tourist, leave alone studying there. What we have to understand is that this is not an instance of a person swollen with pride insulting another as one of inferior intellect. Rather, this is generally the manner in which those who have been influenced by Western thinking, look down upon those nurtured in the national ethos. Still, it is now clear that even the likes of him could live without fear today, only because the masses who grew in the national ethos were not only brave enough to sacrifice their lives for the country, but also have the ability to see through the local and foreign conspiracies against our nation.

It is therefore vital that the national ethos is protected and nourished for the well being of our nation. For this purpose it is essential to protect the mother tongue and Buddhism. The mother tongue is under serious threat not only from the FM services that are popularizing singlish but also from the Education and Higher Education Ministries. We feel that the respective ministers are responsible for this more than the higher officers of the two ministries. Instead of having the medium of instruction as the mother tongue, and teaching English well as the second language to raise its standard among the students, they are following the disastrous policy of making English the medium of instruction. As a result, new words will not be created to meet the demands of commerce, science, technology, law, etc. Then it would be difficult to discuss matters relating to those fields without mixing English words. Corruption of the language and the decline of it's use would be inevitable. In international schools too steps should be taken to improve the standards and use of Sinhala and Tamil, as well as making students appreciate the nation's history and cultural heritage. Furthermore, effective legislation should be brought to stop conversion of Buddhists to other religions through unethical means, not only for the purpose of protecting Buddhism but also to safeguard the national ethos that protects the country.

Another important aspect of the Presidential election results that deserves our attention is that the vast majority of the Tamils who voted, cast their votes for Mr. Fonseka at the behest of the TNA. It's leaders were hoping to have Mr. Fonseka elected and through him to have further powers devolved to a combined Northern and Eastern Province, thereby creating the necessary political space for making further demands towards achieving the goals of the Vaddukoddai resolution. In the event of Mr. Fonseka not acceding to their demands after being elected, they could work towards the rejuvenation of a militarist separatist campaign here and abroad, claiming that it is not possible to win their political rights through peaceful negotiations with the Sinhalese as in the instances of Bandaranaike/Chelvanayagam and Dudley/Chelvanayagam pacts. What they do not admit is, just as in this instance those previous agreements too are private agreements between the signatories, achieved through political manipulation and arm twisting. Hence the people cannot be expected to honour those.

We should clearly understand the reality of the Tamil separatist problem. The root cause of this problem is the fact that the Tamils in the world, amounting to around 80 million, do not have a sovereign and independent country of their own. Hence, they hope to establish Eelam in the Northern and Eastern provinces, and thereafter with the help of the Tamils all over the world, to bring the whole country under their control, just as Jews were able to drive away the Palestinians and establish Israel.

Separatist politicians try to show that their struggle is an attempt to overcome the injustices they are being subjected to by the Sinhalese. But their true intentions are quite apparent from the false history of the country given in the Tamil separatist websites. According to those, the original residents of Sri Lanka are Tamils. With the arrival of Prince Wijaya in the 6th century BC, the invading Sinhalese have chased the Tamils away to the Northern and Eastern parts of the country and the former have established kingdoms in the rest of the country. Though this story is utterly inconsistent with archeological findings, rock inscriptions and the writings in chronicles, it was taught to Tamil youth even prior to the rise of the terrorist movement. We have reason to believe that this false history is still being spread among Tamil students by those teachers who were collaborating with the LTTE during it's heydays.

It is not surprising for the Tamils who are mentally affected by the fact that they do not have a sovereign country of their own, to support separatism, or their youth to sacrifice their lives for same, as long as they believe that they have a right as well as the ability and opportunity to create that country in the Northern and Eastern Provinces. It is also not surprising that however much the government develop and devolve power to those areas, with a view to winning them over, the moment they find an opportunity to trek the path towards the creation of a separate state, for them to turn their backs on the government. This is amply evident from the way they voted this time.

Our Tamil brethren could be weaned away from this separatist mentality only through a committed long term effort having clear cut objectives. The first should be, clearly impressing upon their minds that there is absolutely no possibility for the creation of an Eelam or a self governing unit which could be strengthened through ever more devolution until it metamorphoses to the state of Eelam in the future. It is important to understand the many strategies adopted by the Tamil separatist politicians. From the beginning they resorted to the practice of bargaining for political powers to the Tamil majority areas with the two main political parties by showing the strength of the decisive block vote of the Tamils in the context of the Sinhala votes being equally divided among the two main parties. The other strategy was to promote separatist terrorism while depicting the ensuing bloodshed as resulting from an ethnic war and to prevail on the governmentd through Western states to initially grant self governance to the Northern and Eastern provinces. With the ending of Tiger terrorism at the Nanthikadal lagoon, and since it is no longer possible to create conflicts among the ordinary Sinhala and Tamil people, they are fast loosing the ability to prevail on the government through Western states to forward solutions based on devolution of power, claiming Tamils are being killed. Therefore the option available for the Tamil separatist politicians, is to bargain with the two main political parties as before, for devolution of power by offering the Tamil block vote.

It is this old strategy that the Tamil National Alliance followed in supporting the candidature of Mr. Fonseka. However, it did not succeed this time. That is because Mr. Rajapaksa received the great majority of the Sinhala votes. If Sinhala votes are to remain undivided in future elections as well, for separatist demands to be unsuccessful, it is imperative that the main drawbacks of the Rajapaksa administration, viz. corruption and lawlessness, end. Until such time the UNP extricates itself from the Western clutches and mindset, people of all races and religions who value the protection of the unitary state, durable peace and prosperity, have no other option but to strive to uplift the country by enabling the SLFP and other parties associated with it to govern. It is indeed a pity, that the JVP, because of the short sighted and opportunistic policies of it's leaders, have denied themselves the invaluable role it could have played as an effective opposition party. We believe that the loss to the nation resulting therefrom is much greater for the nation than for it's cadres.

The second item in the weaning away of Tamils from separatism is teaching them the true history of the country, which should be done through school curriculum as well as the media.

Thirdly, rather than strengthening divisive ethnic identities by bestowing special rights to a particular race in a province, where that race is in the majority, the common Sri Lankan identity should be strengthened by ensuring equal rights and opportunities to all citizens throughout the country, irrespective of race and creed. The fact that about 20% of those Tamils who voted, favoured Mr. Rajapaksa is an indication that already a considerable number of Tamils have rejected separatism and that they would be happy to join hands with the majority in the journey towards a prosperous future. Mr. Rajapaksa was able to get a majority of the Christian vote, because over a period of time many of them gradually migrated towards the national ethos, in spite of the efforts of some leading Christian clerics, especially those who favour the separatist cause, to keep their faithful within a closed Anglo-Christian culture. Hence it should not be a difficult task for Mr. Rajapaksa to win over a majority of the Tamils and the Moslems in the future.

Still, he would not be able to do it through Tamil and Moslem politicians who are so used to corruption and thuggery. Again, the all pervading issue of good governance enters the picture. When injustices that happen to all the people in general, by an administration under the whims and fancies of politicians and their henchmen, happen to members of a minority community, it would be interpreted as one caused in view of their minority status. This is the mentality of minorities even in the so called Western five star democracies.

The proportionate representation system has made it difficult up to now for a single party to get a clear majority in the parliament. Further, powerful Western countries have been conspiring to topple the government. Hence, Mr. Rajapaksa had no option but to give ministerial appointments even to corrupt MPs and turn a blind eye to their dishonourable conduct. But the fact that Mr. Rajapaksa gave a ministerial post to a person who was appointed as an MP by President Chandrika Bandaranaike when that person lost the election, and the fact that the police remained inactive against his acts of thuggery, is a clear indication that Mr. Rajapaksa cannot be expected to ensure good governance out of his own free will.

However, the people should be careful not to join hands with power hungry politicians and foreign funded NGOs in the hope of achieving good governance. It is with the Lankan patriotic movements here and abroad that are not associated with political parties, the maha sangha and such clerics of other religions, that the people should work with for that end. Patriotic movements should also no longer restrict themselves to defeating separatism, but should give leadership to the people in prevailing on the country's political leadership to rid the society of corruption, thuggery and to ensure the rule of law, as well. President Mahinda Rajapaksa is quite sensitive to the wishes of patriots, unlike to those of political parties with ulterior motives. That is not only because his popularity is bound with the patriotism of the people, but also because he is a person who truly enjoys acceptance by the people.

Nevertheless, if Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa ensures that the coming parliamentary election is conducted free of thuggery as well as abuse of political power and privileges, it would be an indication that he is really going to keep his word on good governance during his second term.

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