Monday, September 30, 2013
The results of the three provincial council elections held last week show asharp contrast between the choices of the voters in the Northern Province and those in the Central and Northwestern provinces.In the Northern Province the vote against the governmentwas by a majority of about 80 percent whereas in the other two provinces it was in favour of the government by amajority of about 60 percent. Nationalism was a campaigntheme in all three provinces, which has led to a general feeling that the country is more dividedthan ever after the election.In the Northern Province those who campaigned on behalf of the TNA called for the right of self-determination for the Tamil nation and referred to the LTTE as a freedom fighting group.Inthe Central and Northwestern provinces, those who campaigned on behalf of the governmenturged the voters to cast their votes for the government that had saved the country from divisionand won the war over the LTTE.The result of these elections and the campaign themes, therefore, suggest that the polarisation between the Tamil-majority North and the Sinhala-majority South is acute. This would bode illfor national reconciliation. It would also bode ill for the country’s prospects for developinginto a prosperous state, as a society that is internally divided will be unable to reach its full potential.However, while the case for ethnic nationalism was strong in the North, which has suffered war and discrimination on that account, it was less strong in the South where other issues havetaken centre stage.This was seen by the votes of the people in the two southern provinces.None of the candidates put forward by the government’s nationalist allies won seats, while those put forward by the oldleft government allies did win seats.Therefore, the appearance of ethnic polarisation is not seenso sharply at the community level.Those who move at the community level in the South wouldrealize that the vast majority of people are open minded about a just solution to the problems of the ethnic minorities.Those who work at the community level to create understanding and linkages between the plural and multi-ethnic societies that cover the length and breadth of the country would knowthat the people on both sides of the North-South divide are eager and keen to bridge it.They are eager to show goodwill if given the opportunity. Goodwill at the local level was verywell seen after the great disaster of the tsunami of 2004 when people from one communitywent out of their way to respond to the needs of members of other communities. This goodwillcan also be seen today in community leaders who are prepared to attend seminar discussionsand go on exchange visits to learn about the other.