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Mahinda takes Tamils on merry go round for the world to see

[MISC, Friday, 17 July 2009 07:29 No Comment]

By Satheesan Kumaaran

350.0.1.0.16777215.0.stories.large.2009.02.24.tmmll85012282 In the aftermath of the LTTE’s military defeat, some of the Tamil-speaking people in the northern parts of Sri Lanka rush to the polls to elect representatives to their local councils. This election is a ruse, Sri Lanka’s false face of democracy to the world. Even if we were to concede that government elections are an aspect of democracy, it is a tiny part devoid of free media and freedom of speech, with the ratio of one military officer for every ten Tamil persons. Colombo wants to show the world that political stability and democracy have been restored so that they will prove both that the ethnic strife has dissipated and to cover up the genocide accusations. They want to show the world that all people of the island are Sri Lankans and they all embrace Sri Lankan democracy. However, Colombo uses the Tamils as scapegoats and is taking them for a ride. The Local Councils will look after the removal of rubbish bins, destroy stray dogs, and try keeping the toilets clean. If the huge rubbish mounds in Colombo are anything to go by, then we can imagine what kind of work these local councils would be engaged in.

The tragedy is that Colombo rejects the fundamental rights of Tamils and has treated the entire Tamil community as terrorists even in the aftermath of the LTTE – GoSL war in Vanni, where nearly 300,000 Tamils have been incarcerated in the Nazi-style camps in Vavuniya. Despite confining the Tamils in the razor-wired camps, Colombo claims that it is seriously concerned about the plights of Tamils and they want to educate the Tamils in democracy.

Elections a waste in the Northeast

It is pathetic that the government does not allow free movement of media access, even to the NGOs and INGOs, for the fear that these organizations will bring out the miseries of the people living in the military controlled areas. Instead, Sri Lanka claims that they are educating the Tamils in democracy.

Tamils are again taken for a ride as they were in the past on several occasions. In the past when the Indian Armed Forces infiltrated the Tamil homeland, they too conducted such elections and they put forwarded their loyal militant-turned-political parties and even ten year old Tamil children were taken forcefully, had their heads shaved, and put in the camps of the militant organizations such as EPRLF, ENDLF and EPDP so that in case if they happened to join the LTTE, they could be identified and killed. However, the Tamils rejected all these militant groups as well as the Indian Armed Forces except the LTTE because the other organizations acted against the interest of the Tamils, while the LTTE was receiving a red-carpet welcome from the Tamils. Varatharajah Perumal of EPRLF became the first Chief Minister with the introduction of 13th amendment of Sri Lanka’s Constitution as per the Indo-Lanka accord, which legalized the joining of the North and East of Sri Lanka as a single entity known as the “Northeast”. However, Varatharajah Perumal and his associates fled the country to India for safety because Tamils rejected them. Perumal and associates are still in the protection of Indian taxpayers and their whereabouts are still kept confidential for fear that they will be killed by the LTTE.

As it is the history of Eelam struggle, Sri Lanka’s president, too, makes such a move to hold elections after claiming that they have defeated the LTTE militarily in May 2009. Colombo announced that they defeated the LTTE and the time is ripe for Tamils to hold the elections as it would help bring democracy to the Tamils in the North who experienced terrorism in the past three decades. The irony is, Colombo failed to acknowledge that it was Colombo that terrorized the Tamils who are now defenceless and who will have no choice but to live within the military culture introduced by the Sri Lankan Armed Forces.

After the war was over, Colombo announced that 174 candidates from six political parties and two independent groups are vying for 29 seats in the Jaffna Municipal Council while there are 15 seats in the Vavuniya Urban Council for the 135 candidates from six political parties and three independent groups. The Elections Department will set up 85 polling stations in Jaffna and Vavuniya on August 8. The question is who and what the election staff would be. The record of the government has been involved in the rigging of elections since the Development Council elections in 1981 in Jaffna where the election staff was appointed from among carpenters, tailors, labourers, and criminal elements taken to Jaffna from the south coinciding with the burning of the Jaffna Public Library.

The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) credible to the Tamils submitted its list of 29 candidates contesting the Jaffna election. The TNA announced that S.N.G Nathan would be its “principal candidate” for the list for Vavuniya. In Jaffna, the three-party coalition consisting of EPRLF Varathar front, PLOTE, and Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) tendered its nomination list with Veerasingham Anandasangaree as its principal candidate. The ruling United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA), United National Party (UNP), Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC), and two independent groups, one headed by Abimanasingham Manickasothy and the other formed by displaced Muslims of Jaffna, filed nominations.

No free and fair elections

TNA Jaffna district MP Mavai Senathirajah has said: “We do not believe that the elections are going to be free and fair. The burning of newspapers on the eve of nominations raises a big question.” He said his party’s priority would be to resettle the displaced Jaffna civilians once it is elected to the Jaffna Municipal Council. He further said: “Our intention is to rebuild Jaffna to its pristine glory with the resettlement of displaced civilians from Jaffna. The Jaffna Municipal Council areas are the worst hit in the Jaffna district. Thousands of people have been displaced from Jaffna Municipal Council limits with their houses and business establishments coming under severe attacks. Therefore, the TNA’s priority would be in re-building the Jaffna Municipal Council to its old glory with all modern facilities.”

In the meantime, Deputy Inspector General of Police Gamini Navaratne, who is in charge of elections, said in response to the growing violence and intimidations that there is no group that exists in the region to cause such problems. However, residents and media outlets say they face severe threats and violence taking place daily, even in broad daylight, but the culprits manage to escape without apprehension by the Sri Lankan security.

The ruling party, UPFA General Secretary and Education Minister Susil Premajayantha, said that people who accept UPFA policies can join the UPFA. Everybody should at this critical point unite to propel the country to achieve the development targets set under the Mahinda Chintanaya. Referring to the Jaffna and Vavuniya local government poll’s nomination lists which included EROS, TELO, and EPDP, representatives of the UPFA Secretary said that President Mahinda Rajapaksa had also stressed recently that all citizens should work for the country’s sinking narrow differences.

The UPFA election campaign in Jaffna is managed by Social Services and Social Welfare Minister Douglas Devananda, while Resettlement and Relief Services Minister Rishard Badiudeen and Vavuniya District Parliamentarian Sumathipala will lead the campaign in the Vavuniya district. Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) leader V. Anandasangaree will contest the Mayoralty of the Jaffna Municipal Council. Anandasangaree said that the TULF was contesting the election with the objective of bringing about a change in the Jaffna political landscape.

It is well known that the EPDP of Douglas Devananda conducted elections in the mid-1990s and killed many opponents, intimidated voters, and was vehemently condemned by opponents because they rigged the elections and won majority of seats. The EPDP is a rejected party by the Tamils. In the recent past elections, the TNA, the proxy party of the LTTE, won the majority vote. The EPDP is collaborating with UPFA and that would be an asset for the UPFA to sweep the seats and thereby impose detrimental actions against the Tamils.

As these elections are being hurriedly done, unknown armed men believed to be the paramilitaries sponsored by the Sri Lankan army threaten the locals and even the local newspapers are receiving death threats, assisted by parties loyal to the government such as the EPDP. Despite promises given by Colombo, Tamil dailies are severely threatened to support the UPFA. A group calling itself the Tamil Front Protecting the Country earlier said in a note sent to newspaper dealers that reporters and other staff, including the security guard, must quit the dailies. The note further said: “Uthayan has been a propaganda organ for terror activities. Since you have ignored our previous warnings, we are forced not to allow newspapers that mislead the people. Those who ignore this will be subjected to the death penalty.”

The Sri Lankan armed forces are escorting the vehicles of the UPFA and its allies and they are pasting posters with the photos of Mahinda Rajapaksa and Douglas Devananda. But, the pro-government militants and the armed forces bring down the posters of opponents even in broad daylight. Also, the armed forces as well as paramilitaries are threatening the volunteers who put up the posters of TNA and others with death.

Sri Lanka is a country where at least 14 journalists and staff at news outlets have been killed by suspected government paramilitaries since the beginning of 2006. Others have been detained, tortured, or have disappeared, and 20 more have fled the country because of death threats. The farcical elections made out to be vital to democracy are in serious turmoil because the freedom of expression has been suppressed by the state and the people have no say publically for fear they will be persecuted by the state armed forces. This is the reality on the ground for the Tamils on the island.

The elections to be held on August 8 in Vavuniya and Jaffna are nothing but a means to hoodwink the global community and thereby weaken the political demands of the Tamils, and further to receive aid from foreign donors in the guise that they are making every effort to restoring democracy to the region the LTTE had terrorised. Also, the government will use its electoral victory in the local government elections in the Tamil dominated North as the mandate for the Mahinda Chinthanaya, and that would easily allow the government to deny the political demands of Tamils for which the LTTE was fighting for more than three decades militarily. However, it is unlikely that the global community would recognize Colombo’s sinister plans though they will soon realize the real face of the Sri Lankan government. Rajapaksa and his brothers who run the state would never grant autonomy for the Tamils, even a federalism that exists in India, because Sinhala extremists would not allow it to happen, and the Tamils who have silenced their guns will have no choice but to rise again with the global support.

(The author can be reached at e-mail: satheesan_kumaaran@yahoo.com)

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