10 September 2012

Horse-trading options in the East

It was bound to happen, given ethnic composition, a tendency for voters to be communal minded and unabashed communalism on the part of vote-seekers.  The East got split with no single party obtaining a clear majority. 

Drought, poor governance, inflation, education crises and other factors that were predicted to impact outcome, appear to have been non-factors.  The North Central and Sabaragamuwa Provincial, as expected by most, went to the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA).  In Sabaragamuwa, the ruling party has improved on its slice of the vote, but marginally.  The United National Party has polled more votes than it did in 2008 and secured 3 extra seats, which is a positive development.  The big loser here was the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), which was unable to hold its single seat and losing some 8000 votes.  In the North Central Province, the UPFA’s share dropped from 20 seats to 19.  The UNP also lost a seat.  The JVP retained its solitary seat but polled more votes than it did in 2008.  No major surprises there.

Back to the East.  The UPFA (14 seats) emerged overall winner but sans a clear majority.  The Tamil National Alliance (TNA), which kept away in 2008, as expected wrested some seats from both the UPFA and UNP (down to 4 from 15), the latter suffering from the political divorce from the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC), which secured 7 seats this time.  The TNA ended with 11 seats.  The JVP lost its solitary seat in Trincomalee to its break-away rival, National Freedom Front, led by Wimal Weerawansa.  The SLFP-led UPFA snubbed the NFF at nomination time, and the result shows that it cost the ruling party, which had to concede first place in Trincomalee to the TNA.  Anyway, it is now open season for bartering.

Given that the SLMC is a constituent member of the ruling party, it is logical that a UPFA-SLMC combine would rule the East.  True, the SLMC leaders were berating the Government during the campaign, but sadly all that comes under ‘necessity of the moment’ and consequently have no bearing on post-election trading.  The SLMC would probably have to leave the ruling coalition, if it was to align with the TNA (and perhaps the UNP). 

A TNA-SLMC tie-up is theoretically possible.  The implications for communal polarization of course would be drastic.  The UNP, given that it is in the opposition and given a woeful track record in communicating justification for decisions taken, would not dare deal with the TNA.  The TNA believes that since it got the biggest slice among the opposition (and because the ruling party didn't get an outright majority), it should get the first refusal in selecting Chief Minister.  That's of course bunkum, because the opposition did not contest together. 

And yet, the unlikely, but perhaps best option for healing wounds and moving forward in a post-conflict scenario, would be for the UFPA to be magnanimous and go with the TNA, offering the latter the Chief Minister’s post. 

It would be the right signal to all communities, all citizens and the rest of the world, including those sections of the international community and pro-Tamil Eelam expatriate Tamils.  It would say, ‘The past is done away with; this is the foundation for a New Sri Lanka of trust, co-existence, harmony and prosperity’.  

The TNA, for all its pussyfooting while the LTTE was around, remains a democratic party albeit not averse to playing the communal card.  But that is not something other parties are innocent of either, including the constituents of the UPFA, including the major shareholder, the SLFP, from time to time.  

It is time for Sri Lanka’s political parties to grow up and the citizens to follow suit.  Politicians are not known for magnanimity or humility.  Let them surprise us all and bring back ‘hope’ into the overall political equation.



sajic said...

Are you sure a TNA-SLMC alliance would be a good thing? Given past history it could be a very great risk. The senior players wont live forever.

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