By Jehan Perera –
The inability of the government to force via its choices, and the appearance of opposition forces supportive of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa gaining ground, has generated concerns about the government’s longer term stability. The defeat of the government’s income bill in Parliament has highlighted the structural weakness of the government. The difficulty that the government has been experiencing in fulfilling its primary election promises, catching the corrupt and passing the 19th Amendment, has eroded public self-assurance in the government’s strength. At the moment the SLFP has a majority in Parliament with 126 seats while the UNP plays the part of a ‘minority government’ with 41 Parliamentary seats from a total of 225 seats. With no the help of the SLFP, the government is unable to get even a easy majority of votes to implement its plans. If the opposition parliamentarians could have their way it would be former President Mahinda Rajapaksa who would be the Prime Minister.
The anxiousness about the government’s stability is especially articulated in the ethnic minority-dominated North and East. Whether in Jaffna, Mannar or Batticaloa the query that people worry about is regardless of whether former President Mahinda Rajapaksa is about to stage a comeback. Those are the parts of the country that delivered the biggest majorities to President Maithripala Sirisena at the presidential elections held four months ago. The Tamil voters of the North and East in distinct had to contend with boycott calls from within the Tamil polity itself. They also had to overcome the apprehension that the incumbent government would take some action that would prevent them from expressing their will at these elections. But the voters there were ready to take risks in voting against the incumbent government since they strongly preferred modify.
Those from the Tamil polity who wanted the Rajapaksa government to continue and as a result named for a Tamil boycott of the elections have been basing their advocacy on a certain logic. They could see the Rajapaksa government was antagonising the international community and wanted this to continue till a point was reached when the international community directly intervened against the Sri Lankan government. This logic is in accordance with a belief in sections of the Tamil polity that absolutely nothing constructive can be anticipated from the Sinhalese-dominated Sri Lankan polity with regard to their grievances and aspirations. Consequently, they appear towards the international community and to international intervention as their only hope of receiving what they want.
The large voter turnout in the North and East at the presidential election, nevertheless, showed that the Tamil voter did not accept the boycott argument. They had currently noticed the devastating influence of an earlier Tamil boycott that took place in 2005. The LTTE imposed the boycott at the point of the gun, reduced the Tamil vote that would have gone to Ranil Wickremesinghe and successfully assisted Mahinda Rajapaksa to turn out to be the president, a position of concentrated energy he held for ten years till his election defeat. Like the present day promoters of a Tamil boycott, the LTTE as well thought that the international neighborhood would support them against the nationalism of President Rajapaksa. The reality was various and the Tamil population on the ground was at the receiving finish.
Hardly anyone in the Tamil polity was willing or capable to oppose the LTTE at that time, when they had been at the peak of their energy and arrogance, shooting dead these who differed from them. Numerous democratic Tamil leaders lost their lives for getting traitors according to the LTTE. One of the couple of Tamil leaders to take a various posture publicly was the Bishop of Mannar, Rayappu Joseph, who with each other with his fellow Tamil Bishop of Jaffna, Thomas Savundranayagam, opposed the LTTE’s boycott. The moral authority and courage of the two bishops was not sufficient to overcome the fear psychosis that gripped the Tamil neighborhood at the 2005 presidential elections in the face of the LTTE’s military energy and the propaganda of Tamil nationalists both locally and living abroad.
In the course of the run-up to the presidential elections of 2015, when the get in touch with of a Tamil boycott as soon as again reared its head, Bishop Rayappu Joseph stepped forward a second time to oppose the boycott contact. He urged the Tamil individuals that the way forward was by participating in the democratic procedure and becoming portion of the process of change that they wanted. This time around, with no LTTE guns to back up the boycott get in touch with, the Tamil individuals rejected the siren get in touch with to remain separate and uninvolved in the electoral process. As an alternative they heeded the contact of democracy and, with each other with their Sinhalese and Muslim co-voters, participated in bringing about the modify they wanted.
The anxiousness that exists in the North and East of the nation right now is about a possibility of the return of the old order, in which the ethnic minorities are mistrusted and mistreated and ethnic majority nationalism prevails. When Tamil political leaders make extremist and Tamil nationalist statements they will only give a boost to these who market extremist nationalism on all sides. As an alternative, the Tamil leadership demands to reassure the Tamil people and give them, and the rest of the nation, the message that they want to participate in the procedure of bringing constructive alter in the nation together, and not separately with the international community. The try of sections of the Tamil polity to utilise the international neighborhood to attain their ends increases Sinhalese apprehensions, is counterproductive and can bring about the quite scenario that the Tamil neighborhood fears.
There is a need for the Tamil polity to convey to the people in the rest of the country their requirements, fears and aspirations. When I met him not too long ago Bishop of Mannar Rayappu Joseph mentioned that it was his intention to engage in this vocation and that he was gathering a team for this goal. At the very same time it is critical that the Tamil polity ought to learn about the needs, fears and aspirations of the others who live in Sri Lanka. The Tamils, Sinhalese and Muslims all need to have to get to know each and every other through dialogue and communication. The government seems determined to function with South Africa on the problem of dealing with the past. It has promised that it will establish a domestic mechanism that will meet international standards. In South Africa, there were numerous who gave leadership to this dialogue, but the particular person who gave the symbolic leadership due to his moral authority was Bishop Desmond Tutu who was appointed Chairperson of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. In African and Asian societies religious clergy continue to get pleasure from a excellent deal of respect, and are also close to the folks.
In Sri Lanka, a single of those who could be a leader in this dialogue of truth and reconciliation is Bishop Rayappu Joseph. A week ago he celebrated his 75th birthday in Mannar at an event that was attended by the Chief Minister of the North, C. V. Wigneswaran who gave recognition to the important part that the Bishop has played in the life of the Northern Tamil neighborhood. He stood in opposition to violence in all its forms and was constantly for a negotiated political solution. He requirements to be recognised for his contribution to supporting democratic institutions when they had been beneath threat. Catholic bishops are required to retire at the age of 75 even though there is provision for extension of service. At a time when Sri Lanka is turning the corner and democratic politics that respects human rights is on the ascendant, it is crucial that a Tamil religious leader of Bishop Joseph’s calibre must remain on in service as an educator and aid to bridge the communal divide by acquiring us to know each other much better.