The Sri Lankan presidential election that was held on Thursday, 17th November 2005 has produced a result that is of supreme irrelevance to the Tamils of the country. The Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse of the UPFA has won the race receiving 4.88 million votes or 50.3% of the total cast to become the Sinhala nation's fifth President. He has beaten the former Prime Minister and UNP candidate Ranil Wickremesinghe who received 4.70 million votes or 48.4% in a close-run race . It is reported that most Tamils did not cast their votes in this election. The Election Commissioner has put the voter turnout at some 75%.
This election should have been Ranil Wickremesinghe's opportunity to build bridges with the disenfranchised Tamil community by pursuing a programme for equality, justice and peace for all citizens of the country. It is obvious from the figures of votes reported that he had a significant proportion of the Sinhala electorate supporting his policies for economic development and racial harmony and that he lost by a wafer thin margin. When considering that his rival Rajapakse by his virulent anti-Tamil stance had forfeited the right to Tamil votes, Wickremesinghe could have harvested the votes of all reasonable and moderate Sinhalese and as well as those of a majority of the Tamils and other minorities, if he had only shown some statesmanship and political fortitude. But he and his senior cohorts like Moragoda and Dissanayake tried to outbid the devil himself by claiming during the hustings the dubious battle credits for sinking Tiger supply ships and for turning over the treacherous Karuna and his brigands. Sinhala triumphalism was to be his path to electoral glory. They also paraded the hoary chant that they had got the LTTE in the vice of Western governments and international public opinion. Wickremesinghe had still to learn the lesson that prosperity and leadership need courage and vision, and he has now paid the price for feebleness and chicanery. He has once again lost his chance to become President of the country and there is no doubt that he will now be cast on the scrap-heap of politics where he will be remembered as a good but weak man who was always out- manoeuvred by his old contemporary in politics, Chandrika Bandaranaike.
The new president Rajapakse took a hardline against the Tamils by entering into a pre-election agreement with the extreme Sinhala racist party, JVP, which has consistently advocated no political compromise with the Tamil parties and supported a military campaign for the annexation of the traditional Tamil homelands within a unitary Sri Lanka . He also allied himself with the chauvinistic party of the Buddhist monks, JHU, which has campaigned relentlessly for the domination of the Buddhist religion and the Sinhala race in the fabric and politics of Sri Lanka .
Mahinda Rajapakse, on the other hand, as the outgoing Prime Minister in the government of President Chandrika Bandaranaike had previously supported the continuation of the Cease Fire Agreement with the Liberation Tigers. He had also been a vocal supporter of the P-TOMS agreement with the LTTE to deal with the administration of foreign funds for tsunami relief in the north and east. But the principles and consciences of Sinhala leaders are like those of Faust, available to trade with the devil of Sinhalese racism and political opportunism. Rajapakse saw no dilemma in shedding his previous support for these watershed agreements for communal amity and constitutional progress.
He has now won the prize that he has always wanted and is an undeserving second-rater for the position. His attempts to siphon out some of the tsunami funds for his private account will besmirch him forever He had feared that because of his low birth and his undistinguished background, the more sophisticated Bandaranaikes would keep him out on this plum position.
The Tamils have no cause for celebration but have to view these events with circumspection and alarm. The madhouse of politics in Sri Lanka is once again in their hands of the inmates of the asylum. Rajapakse along with the JVP and the JHU have got the time bomb in their hands and can summon the roll of the war drums. It is up to them to engage in racist war cry and to shatter the fragile peace that has prevailed in that blighted country for nearly three years. Or, it is up to Rajapakse to abandon his ill-gotten friends of the extreme racist fringes and go forward in peace to implementing the Oslo accord and to restart peace talks.
The Tamils have been but innocent bystanders in the national politics of Sri Lanka since independence. There will not be a single Tamil in government this time again except for a few quislings. The Tamils will not want to be marginalised for ever and it is up to Rajapakse to grasp this opportunity to pursue peace with justice and prosperity or to reap the harvest of dragon's teeth that he and the country will inevitably sow if he is hell-bent on a destructive Sinhala majoritarian and anti-Tamil course.
Tamil Writers Guild