Listen to the people

Monday, 23 September 2013 00:32 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

The people have spoken. But what they have to say not all politicians will be keen to hear. In the north the message was loud and clear with the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) bagging 30 out of the 38 seats and the Government only managing a humbling seven. The Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) managed to get a toehold of one seat but other political parties including the JVP have now become a non-entity in the north, delivering a decisive blow to any involvement they may wish to have in future discussions on power devolution. One could argue that the Government staged its democratic “fight” with the north on the wrong foundation, preferring to ignore long-made promises on power devolution and improving the 13th Amendment. Gestures such as the Commission to Investigate Disappearances and Abductions came too late and the Government’s increasingly defensive attitude clearly won it few voters in this key election. Depending almost entirely on the infrastructure development that it has overseen since the war ended in 2009, the Government did not adequately address the other concerns of the people. As UN Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay observed, the suffering continues in the north with many families still grieving over their loved ones. Sensitive issues such as militarisation of the north, land takeovers and security issues were clearly at play but inadequately dealt with by the Government. On Saturday monitors sounded alarm bells that all was not free and fair with the election, pointing out that the largest number of election violations had stemmed from the north. These included two shootings and two attacks on monitors as well as on a TNA candidate. At least nine serious complaints were made on voter intimidation and harassment with alleged involvement of Army officials. The Army has denied such incidents but it made no difference to voters who turned out in droves. Unlike in the North-Western and Central Provinces, voter turnout in the north touched 75%, showing the passion that people have for showing their true feelings. Ahead of the vote political analysts had emphasised that the Tamil community wanted both development and dignity and that the two parties were forcing them to choose one or the other. If that was the case, then they vehemently chose dignity. The TNA sees it in this light as well with MP M. Sumanthiran underlining the mandate given by the people to his party to continue fighting for their rights. Tamil Nadu has already called for a meeting between the newly-elected TNA and Tamil Nadu fishermen to resolve their burgeoning issues and it seems as though the work of ruling has already been thrust upon its members. Yet the TNA will have to walk a tightrope between the Tamil diaspora, Tamil Nadu, the Government and attracting the moderate Sinhalese population. It will undoubtedly be a testing time for them. President Mahinda Rajapaksa, meanwhile, flew to New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly. He will also address the gathering for the first time since 2011. In the other two provincial council elections, namely in the North-Western and Central Provinces, Rajapaksa’s party has managed to record significant wins while the UNP continues its downhill slide. Yet, number crunching reveals that the UPFA’s support base has marginally declined in some areas such as Kandy, where numbers have dropped by about 2,000 votes in some electorates. But how the UPFA now deals with the TNA will catch the interest of everyone.