The interpretations and attributions of the local government election results in the Northern and Eastern Provinces by the ruling United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) are interesting and also strange. UPFA leaders wanted the Tamil people to vote for it while there were allegations by the Tamil political parties that the ruling coalition used state power and muscle power to achieve that end. However, when the election results were released with the main Tamil coalition the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) bagging almost all local councils in the predominantly Tamil provinces they craftily developed an argument to give credit to itself for the hard-fought TNA victory.
UPFA leaders began to say that the victory of the TNA in the Northern and the Eastern Provinces falsified the allegation that the UPFA rigged the election. In other words they argued that their candidates would have won, had they rigged it. This contention gives rise to two more arguments that would be detrimental to the rulers themselves.
If ruling coalition’s defeat in the north clears its leaders and the candidates of malpractices at the election, it is that an admission of rigging by it in the southern parts of the country where almost nowhere one could see the propaganda materials of the Opposition parties? Also Couldn’t an Opposition political party win at an election irrespective of malpractices and misuse of power by a ruling party? Actually that was what happened in the north, ruling coalition misused the state resources, yet the TNA won.
Whether the voters used their franchise taking the policies of the parties into account, as the ruling coalition claims, is another point to look into. If the leaders of the government stick to their point that the policies mattered most, they will have to admit that the contention is more applicable to the North and the East as the TNA fought without state patronage. The best case study to determine whether people voted for policies might be the election for the Tissamaharama Pradeshiya Sabha where the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) that was twice successful before being defeated at the election held in March this year, pushing the former rebels to the third position in the council.
Compared to the other Local Government bodies in the country, whether it was administered by the UPFA or by the main Opposition the UNP, the Tissamaharama Pradeshiya Sabha had been an exemplary case. The plunder by the contractors in that area was minimal and misuse of state resources by the leaders of the Sabha was relatively low. Yet the JVP lost, posing a question as to what the people really need an election for and what really makes them to vote for a particular party.
Had the UPFA, –by calling the Tamils to vote for its candidates — which is considered to be a national party, genuinely believed that the Tamils in the North and the East must reconcile in a manner that the people would vote at elections without considering the ethnicity of the candidates and the political parties, that would have been great. Also its leaders’ condemnation of the ethnically inflammatory language by some of the TNA leaders is agreeable. However, one would strongly doubt as to whether the government created a situation in the North where people, fresh from a thirty-year bloody ethnic war, would vote for national or so-called national parties.
The leaders of the UPFA while calling the people of the North to vote for national parties, rather than voting for the ethnic parties or regional parties did not want the UNP and the JVP to do the same. Those two parties were repeatedly accusing the ruling party for hindering their political activities in the north as the case in the south had been. JVP blamed even the security forces in this regard. It would be difficult, unless through a referendum, to determine whether the people of the North endorsed the call by the TNA for a political solution including police powers either, as the same Tamil people had voted the TULF as well as the EPDP (in the guise of the UPFA) into power in some local bodies. Also the political solution is a vague concept in the minds of the people even after nearly three decades of its introduction into Sri Lankan politics.
Tamils’ voting for the TNA was purely a matter of identity; they still see the politicians from the south as aliens. It would be difficult or impossible to persuade the Tamil people to voluntarily vote for national parties unless the government in power speaks to them in “Tamil” as some of the private sector corporations already do and makes the effort collectively.