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The Tna Tsunami Re-balancing the Equation

The Tna Tsunami Re-balancing the Equation

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Published by Thavam

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Published by: Thavam on Sep 22, 2013
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07/30/2014

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- on 09/22/2013 The TNA victory has shown that Sri Lanka remains a functioning democracy;that it functions when there is competition; and that with or without the17th amendment and even under the tightest military supervision, thegovernment can be electorally defeated.Having won the war, the Government has lost the peace in the North (andearlier, parts of the East), while it continues to lead impressively in post-warpolitics in the more populous two- thirds of the island. The TNA’s electoral tsunami has many dimensions and implications. TheUNP’s meltdown is a far simpler matter. The TNA’s sweep denotes theresounding political and ideological defeat of the Government’s model of post war rule in the North. Paradoxically, the sweep was also possiblebecause a war was fought to a finish against the Tigers, without which thedemocratic space would not have re-opened, elections could not have beenheld and the TNA candidates would have in all probability beenassassinated.When the post-revolutionary Sandinista government lost power in 1990,having won in 1984, it was said by analysts that the very fact that power
 
could be transferred openly and peacefully to the Opposition for the firsttime in Nicaragua’s modern history, was itself a victory for the NicaraguanRevolution. Similarly, the very holding of a Northern provincial councilelection in a peaceful and relatively free and fair manner, is a by-product of the war and the defeat of the Tigers by the Sri Lankan government, stateand the armed forces.It is true that the holding of the elections was due to external pressure andblandishments by India and Japan respectively. However, India itself couldnot hold an election in the North in 1988 and had to cobble together a jointslate. The first North-East provincial council was constituted through enelection in only one province, the East. It was the decimation of the Tigersas a military force by the Mahinda Rajapaksa administration that made therestoration of a competitive electoral process possible. Thus the political picture in the overwhelmingly Tamil North is almostexactly what it was before the war. The clock has been put back manydecades to the dominance of the Federal party or ITAK. However the degreeof political dominance of the TNA is far higher than it ever was for the pre-war ITAK because of (i) the convergence that the TNA represents (ii) theelimination of many political currents by the LTTE’s policy of slaughter (onecan only imagine an election in which the undiminished EPRLF, PLOT and TELO contested) and (iii) the unenlightened post-war model of rule installedby the regime.So what of the morning after? The government and the TNA have torecognise the political reality unflinchingly. What is that reality? It is thatboth the North and South are politically and ideologically uni-polar. Tamilnationalism is here to stay and dominates the mood of the North, whileSinhala nationalism or more correctly populist nationalism dominates theSouth and is as durable. The Government’s model of rule has lost someconsiderable legitimacy in the North and has to change. The flip side is thatthe TNA and the Tamils in general have to grasp that the Rajapaksaadministration and more especially President Rajapaksa himself (thecampaign in the South was carried by a re-energised Mahinda Rajapaksa) isthe only game in town for the foreseeable future. The TNA and the Government must find a
modus-vivendi
, a way to co-exist. The government must not place the TNA administration under siege andmust instead try to help it evolve in a more constructive and moderatedirection, softening it up rather than permitting radicalism and politicalmilitancy to influence it from within and without. The Government mustrecognise that the shift in the centre of gravity of Tamil politics from theDiaspora and Tamil Nadu to the TNA and the Northern Council is a positive
 
thing. The government must also realise that the best deal available is thatwhich can be cut with the TNA and that behind and beyond the TNA lie theweight of 80 million Tamils as well as the influence they carry in India andthe West. The TNA for its part must understand that its main interlocutor is inColombo; that the Northern Council must not be seen as a beachhead forpan-Tamil nationalist politics, least of all of a secessionist project. The TNAmust not regard itself or the Council as equal negotiating partners in abilateral discussion between two countries, or one country and another inwaiting. The realities of the government’s – and more especially thePresident’s –undiminished popularity in the vastly more populous two thirdsof the island as well as the strength and presence of the armed forces –which, in a heightened perception of threat can always be expanded up tothe 300,000 mark which Gen Fonseka had argued for and MahindaRajapaksa had turned down in the immediate aftermath of the war. The Northern vote has politically and psychologically altered the post-warbalance. It has re-empowered the Tamils. This is a therapeutic and almostinevitable re-balancing. The Government must recognise and respect thenew equilibrium. However, the Tamil side must understand that none of thismeans that the massive historical reality of a decisive military defeat in aprotracted war has been reversed. In terms of power, that victory remainsand constitutes the dominant reality. The pro-Prabhakaran, pro-Tiger political rhetoric that marked and marredthe TNA’s electoral campaign imposes limits on the possible. It has re-awakened memories and provided a glimpse into the project of pan-Tamilnationalist politics and the Tamil nationalist mindset. No state can beunaffected by this revelation. The invocation of Prabhakaran’s ghost has areal-world political price tag. No leader whose popularity and legitimacyderives not only from his manifest appeal among the Sinhalese majority buthis achievement in defeating the Tigers, is going to kiss and make up withthe TNA on the morning after. A chill will have set in between Jaffna andColombo; South and North.At this stage of history, no political discussion can involve thetranscendence of the 13th amendment. All effort has to be on theimplementation of the amendment. The absence of trust probably meansthat this implementation will be graduated. Having proved its electoralstrength the TNA must not try to fast track the macro-political processwhich will prove even more contentious after the political ‘holographicprojection’ of Prabhakaran than it was before. There is much to be done inthe form of consolidation and development at the local level, within the

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