19 September 2012

Shed all illusions, politics won the East

Azath Salley, formed Deputy Mayor of Colombo who contested under the SLMC (Sri Lanka Muslim Congress) ticket at the Eastern Provincial Council election is unhappy.  He claims that the SLMC betrayed both Tamils and Muslims in the East by aligning itself with the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA).  Not many would care what Azath Salley thinks at this point, but unhappiness is not his preserve. 

Only the winners are happy.  The losers trot out excuses/explanations or, like Tissa Attanayake, twist themselves and arguments into grotesque shapes to claim that there are victories in defeat.  The East was a toss-up in the sense that no single party could emerge outright victor.  Everyone knew that almost everyone was talking to almost everyone else even before the election took place, even as they vilified each other at political rallies.  Azath Salley may or may not have talked with anyone, but then again he was not in a position, even then, to demand audience and have pronouncement listened to. 

So there are winners.  Those who were elected are happy.  Those who are in the ruling coalition are happier.  Najeeb Abdul Majeed of the UPFA and the only Muslim member of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party to be elected is the happiest of the lot.  He is, after all, the Chief Minister. 

Rauff Hakeem is not as unhappy as Salley but he is certainly not yelling ‘hurray!’  His is consolation-joy.  Had the SLMC been offered the CM post, there would have been a fight as to who should be nominated.  Whoever got it, that person could become a political threat to Hakeem’s leadership, he would have calculated.  This is better.  More so because it was an SLFPer and not someone associated with party-rivals or ex-party rivals.  It could have been worse, of course, for the UPFA could simply have coaxed a couple of SLMC representatives and TNA representatives to defect and thereby obtain a working majority.

The Tamil National Congress is unhappy because the Muslims sided with the UPFA (dubbed ‘Sinhala Buddhist Chauvinist’ by the TNA despite all the evidence to the contrary) and not the ‘Tamils’.  The TNA leadership was also worried about defections   Party leader, R. Sampanthan in fact claimed that bribes had been offered for defection and that some of the elected representatives had been intimidated with a view to get them to defect. 

Let’s not talk of the UNP and the JVP.   We could talk of missed opportunities.  For example, there was the option of going for an all-party affair.  As of now, the TNA which has clearly won the support of the Tamils en bloc, has nothing left to chew on but sour grapes.  Perhaps this is the price one plays for being chauvinist, but then again, considering the number of votes they secured (a little less than what the UPFA got), it’s a hard loss to take. 

The biggest losers are the voters.  They listened to impassioned and communalist rhetoric by the TNA and SLMC and voted ‘ethnically’.  Today, after the horses have been dealt, there’s no talk of mosques being attacked or Muslims encroaching on lands that of archaeological importance etc. 
Much has been made of the Tamils rejecting the Government, by showing overwhelming support for the TNA.  Well, in 1977, they supported the we-will-get-you-the-moon manifesto of the TULF, let us not forget.  A vote for the TNA should not be read as some kind of nostalgic longing to the LTTE or an endorsement for yet another armed insurrection.  It can just as well be read as simple and simplistic tribalism: Tamil votes for ‘Tamil’ party, Muslim votes for ‘Muslim’ party and Sinhalese vote for Sinhalese candidates/parties. This does not mean that these people hate those who belong to other communities or that they would prefer a pre-Nandikadaal Sri Lanka. 

But the people have ceased to count. That’s the bottom line.  It’s about who gets to be the Chief Minister and the other goodies that can be consumed for ‘conceding’ the CMship. 

Politics (in the narrowest sense of that work) rules.  As it did. And as it will well into the future.  Now that is a winner. All the way.    

Sorry Mr. Azath Salley.  



Ranil J said...

Some international elements will also be unhappy. There was visible movement by some European players to group "Tamil speaking" in to one group - to blow up the numbers (12 to 18) and isolate the Sinhalese. That s why Pillayan and Hakeem were invited to Switezrland some time back.

Sri Lankan ethnic dynamics are different to what Europeans perceive it to be, perceived based on ethnic/religious dynamics of their own societies..