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Beyond Sri Lankan Provincial Elections

Beyond Sri Lankan Provincial Elections

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Published by Thavam

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Published by: Thavam on Sep 30, 2013
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09/30/2013

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SEEMA SENGUPTA
Monday 30 September 2013
 As a large majority of the sizable 715,000 eligible voters from Sri Lanka’stroubled north went into makeshift polling booths to cast their preferences for electinga 38 member provincial council on September 21, India’s influence was written allover.From a five member election observer team led by former election commission chief N. Gopalaswami to transparent ballot boxes imported especially from India for use inpolls, New Delhi seems to have invested heavily on this democratic process which isexpected to usher a renewed hope for genuine reconciliation. With a 72 million Tamilpopulation of its own who shares the grief of their Sri Lankan brethren and theimminent threat of China making inroads into Sri Lanka through strategic investment,India does have a vested interest in setting things straight in the island nation.Moreover, it is the India-Sri Lanka accord of 1987 — inked by President J.R.Jayawardene and Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi — that forms the basis for creating acouncil system to devolve power to provincial levels. India, having provided moral andlogistical support to the ethnic Tamil movement in Sri Lanka, which later turned violent,somehow believed that the model of decentralized local self-governance could bringthat elusive peace in this war-ravaged nation. Hence, New Delhi put subtle pressureon President Jayawardene to delegate effective power to Tamil dominated northernprovince and at the same time seek a referendum to ascertain whether the citizens of the east prefer to merge with the north. Despite stiff resistance from the then NationalSecurity Minister Lalith Athulathmudali, Jayawardene went ahead with his plan toissue presidential proclamation for enabling the merger of northern and easternprovinces into one administrative unit in 1988.However, this formula flopped after the bete noires, Sinhalas and Tamils, joined handto defeat what they believed to be Indian imperialism in South Asia. For the footsoldiers of the Indian security establishment who were in the thick of things in northernSri Lanka, trying to restore some semblance of order, those were nightmarishmoments. Having bore the brunt of a violent backlash from both sides of the divide,most of them would indeed like to erase those turbulent days from memorypermanently. Now that India is once again exerting her influence to broker a just deal,

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