Militarisation in the North is aimed not only at imposing a non-consensual peace on Tamils but also atimplementing a project of demographic re-engineering…military cantonments would break the contiguity of Tamilvillages in the North and act as control centres and as symbols of dominance. They would form expanding Sinhalaislands in a contracting Tamil sea…And the Sinhala soldiers and families can become an excellent first line of defence against any Tamil struggle for political rights and democratic freedoms.”
The primary concern, then, is the manner in which the military and the Sinhalese population will be used by thestate during the election. During the days leading up to the Eastern Provincial Council elections last year, a groupcalling itself the ‘blue force’, threatened Tamils who came to place a vote for the TNA. Given the significance of theNPC election, a rise in such activities can be expected.The second concern is related to the electoral numbers game. There is a distinct possibility that the government willresort to ballot stuffing and other forms of election rigging techniques. While moving enough Sinhalese to the Northbefore the election to independently effect a substantial electoral gain is unlikely, the Sinhalese vote couldnevertheless be decisive when combined with the Muslim vote in these areas. The rapid pace at which newSinhalese settlements are being created only validates such fears. The result would spell disaster for the colonisersand the colonised alike, possibly leading to anarchy and bitterness: resources are scarce, and the Government’splans neither go beyond grand promises to the Sinhalese populating the North, nor evince any long term plans or means for their welfare.Implications of TNA’s Internal ConflictsThe internal politics of the Tamil National Alliance also adds an interesting dimension to the NPC election. An articlethat appeared in Thinakkural sums up the matter in detail:
TNA’s internal conflicts are not ideological clashes: they are strictly related to power. It is evident that SureshPremachandran wants to become the leader of the TNA, after Sampanthan. However, Sampanthan, and thus theITAK, is pushing Sumanthiran as the next leader. For Suresh, it is securing public opinion in his favour [that] iscrucial. Therefore, becoming the Chief Minister of the Northern Provinceis an essential component of Suresh’sgame plan. However, in the existing administrative framework of the TNA, it is the ITAK that nominates candidates;unless the alliance is registered as a separate political party before the NPC elections Suresh stands no chance of being nominated. The real intentions behind the constituent parties’ demands to register the TNA will come to lightwhen the Northern PC elections arrive: if the nominee is someone else, Suresh will break away from the TNA totest his luck.”
The reality is such that the ITAK and the constituent parties can achieve very little as individual political entities.Here, the role of the Indian Central Government is also worthy of attention. When the TNA visited India lastOctober, the Central Government reportedly emphasised internal unity.
As for the Indian Central Government,the primary factors that underscore the need for a coherent strategy as regards the Lankan Tamil question areTamil Nadu and China. If protests in south India rage unquenched, it will cause many headaches for the CentralGovernment. The last thing the Congress needs is a fully hostile Tamil Nadu before the General Election next year.China has already become the principal foreign investor in Sri Lanka, and the influence of the Asian giant istangible. China’s growing power over Sri Lanka clearly undermines India’s role as the regional super power. Additionally, for India, the 13
Amendment carries an emotional dimension to it as well. A split in the TNA will landIndia in a rather precarious situation: that is, it will be pushed to take sides. In light of India’s recent track recordwith regard to Sri Lanka, it can be assumed that it will back the ITAK. The damage a split will cause, domesticallyand internationally, will be horrendous. Domestically, the Tamil vote will split up and cause severe harm to (what isleft of) Tamil political power; internationally, it will give the impression that Tamils are divided and their aspirationsdistorted. It is, therefore, only logical that the constituent parties, including the ITAK, somehow stay together.The smaller constituents of the TNA have gained much ground over the past few weeks. Leaders of the four smaller constituents, in late February, unanimously agreed to register the TNA by the end of March, with or without theconsent of the ITAK. In effect, this was an ultimatum. The decision, naturally, forced the ITAK to reconsider itsstance on the matter and prompted several compromises from its hierarchy.