Sri Lanka Northern Elections: Deciphering the Tamil Voter Mentality

Sri Lanka Tamil Voter

– by Shenali D Waduge –

No critic can say Sri Lanka is moving to ‘authoritarian’ rule given that a free and fair election has been held, the people of the Northern Province has voted for the 2nd time since the defeat of terrorism in 2009. What is important at this stage is to decipher the voter mentality of the Tamils and to wonder how many of them are ‘separatist’, ‘racist’ or ‘castetist’ because they have placed their vote in a party that would use the vote of the people to interpret things that suit their party and their party only.

Did any Tamil voter remember 5000 soldiers who died to save them?

What is upsetting about the vote results is not that we are surprised that the people voted for the Tamil National Alliance but that no Tamil seems to have spared a thought or cared about 5000 heroic soldiers who braved fire, landmines and harsh weather to bring to safety close to 300,000 Tamils from the clutches of the LTTE and the scores of other soldiers who took care of them thereafter. These soldiers were sons, husbands and fathers to children who now have no one to call a father. As defenders of the nation they had to only eliminate the enemy – the LTTE but they went an extra mile to bring scores of malnutritioned, wounded and starving Tamil men, women and children to safety. Many of these men handed whatever food provisions they had with them for their own consumption – have these very human and touching offerings not meant anything for the Tamils going to vote? They did not need to place their lives on the line but they did so because they had a very clear vision and mission from the Defence Secretary downwards and that was why the conclusion to the war victory was called both a War on the LTTE and a Humanitarian Rescue Operation coupled together.

Are Tamils not thankful to the development and freedom they enjoy?

Anyone visiting the North immediately after the war victory would have seen the state of the North. Despite so many NGOs and humanitarian organization collecting thousands of dollars from kind hearts abroad there was absolutely nothing to see of any work that had been done by them. The North looked as if nothing had changed since the 1980s and after making USD300m annual profits LTTE had only sophisticated bunkers, posh offices, a swimming pool in the middle of the jungle and nice houses for the mahaveer families. That LTTE did not share their wealth appear not to have been a problem to the Tamils of the North for never had they questioned the LTTE on why no roads were built, why no electricity was given, why children could not study properly and now with freedom handed over nothing that the Government does seems to be enough. Is it because the Tamils feel that the Government is compelled to do what they did post-LTTE defeat? But the Government is also compelled to look after the rest of the provinces too and the South has still may roads, many infrastructure that has yet to be even addressed and even after showcasing the state of areas through private television programs the State has preferred to concentrate on the North diverting even the funds of the South to the northern development from loans taken. Who pays these loans – it is not the Government it is the majority populace and their needs have not been taken care of.

When Tamils were themselves subject to taxes, inserting their names and particulars on LTTE databases to regularly get monthly reimbursements – all that ceased with the elimination of the LTTE. Now Tamils are able to take the bus from Colombo and reach Jaffna without any fear. That freedom was given not by the TNA but by the armed forces and the Government. The Tamil people may like to remember though too late that the TNA never asked the LTTE to release Tamils kept to be used as human shields, TNA never gave a bag of rice even and the TNA never wanted the LTTE to be defeated.

If there are crimes taking place in the North such as rise in liquor consumption, abuse of women and rape it is not done by the army. Rapes, abuse are all now part and parcel of the peace dividends and committed by members of Tamil families upon their own. Many a time these crimes have been attempted to be brushed on the army but the army has been alert enough to find the culprits and end the spread of fabrication and lies spearheaded by the TNA and taken to the international podium by local stooges and biased humanitarian organizations.

Are Tamils ‘Separatist’

There are some questions that need to be asked. At times it is better to call a spade a spade than to wait until someone has the pluck to do so. For many years we have kept to the logic that All Tamils were not LTTE but ALL LTTE were Tamils. This was because we still believe many Tamils did not agree to the murderous ways of the LTTE. But then the question arises whether they disagreed with only the methodology applied by the LTTE but the objective was agreeable to them. So again we need to ask how many Tamils wherever they live actually think or believe the Tamils should have a separate land of their own. The answer to this separate land the Tamils need to accept is not in Sri Lanka because it was some imported Christian called Chelvanayagam who came to Sri Lanka and infested the minds of the Tamils with this idea. The roots of the Tamil language, Tamil culture are found in Tamil Nadu and that is rightfully where a separate Tamil Eelam finds its place and that can be legally argued as well, for the ‘self-determination’ term is applicable to when British offered former colonies this option and Sri Lankan Tamils may like to read a bit of history and discover that Tamils in India demanded an independent state on the grounds that India was never India until the British for their own convenience converged territories and boundaries and declared a new nation called India.

Nevertheless, the TNA comes with a lot of bag and baggage, its entry to politics itself controversial with the LTTE placing them in the Sri Lankan parliament to do their bidding at the political level which the LTTE could not given its status quo as a banned international terrorist movement. TNA is shrewd enough not to claim openly for a separate state for it knows well that the rest of the country is not willing to buy their notion of the rest of the Tamils living as they are. No sooner TNA calls for a separate state the majority populace will demand that the Tamils living in the South also join their ‘people’ in the North and it is something that Tamils should now think about and ensure that the TNA is not allowed to promote separatism but turn a new leaf (if possible) and govern the North sans separatist ideology.

Are Tamils ‘Racist’

If we are to accept that most Tamils are not for separation despite voting for the TNA, it then brings us to the question, are Tamils ‘racist’. By racist we are implying that Tamils do not wish to vote for anyone else other than a Tamil whether the candidate or party is right or wrong. This same accusation is put to the Muslims in the manner they vote for the Muslim Congress. They have also voted for the UNP given that the platform of the UNP has always been to voice only for the minorities. If by the same logic, people claim the Sinhalese are racist – they would need to count the votes of Sinhala political parties to nullify that claim.

Nevertheless, if Tamils or Muslims are ‘racist’ in the manner they vote, the whole ‘integration’ ‘reconciliation’ ‘multiculturalism’ bogeys become a joke. They are good for western forums where what is discussed is never what the agenda is about.

The fact that in every polling division the TNA has received over 80% of the total votes certainly makes us to wonder whether people voted for TNA based on its separatist agenda or simply because TNA is a Tamil political party and the Tamil people wish to vote for ONLY TAMILS. This would lead to a very precarious situation if so. In fact, whether Tamils voted based on separatism, racism the end result is that the TNA would use this as it sees fit irrespective of what the Tamils actually thought when casting their vote.

Are Tamils ‘Castetist’

In thinking of desiring a separate land have Tamils also thought of the differences that prevail between them and how far every Tamil is prepared to live according to the high class/low class, caste/low caste system that prevails rigidly amongst Tamils. Even in Colombo, Jaffna Tamils do not share the same cups of tea with Tamils of Batticoloa, Tamils of Jaffna would never marry anyone from the East and marrying a Tamil from the Estate community would lead to being shunned from the family forever. This feature is often hidden under the carpet but this factor is essential to understanding the trend changing in the expat community. A good look at the manner the Tamils voted for their government- in-the-sky – the TGTE shows that despite the numbers voting being hardly representative of the number of Tamils living abroad the new generation of Tamils are not interested in following the rigid caste system as many are even marrying foreigners too. Most probably once the older generation carrying the caste factor ages with time this may disappear or it may also gather momentum for caste factor has always been a tool to keep people enslaved and politicians are excellent at keeping such factors alive to make use of for their own existence.

The election analysis cannot omit mention of the UNP having contested the North and also taking note of the harangue made about Prabakaran not allowing Tamil voters to vote to secure an election victory for Ranil Wickremasinghe at the 2005 presidential election. However, UNP known to be always pushing the interests of Tamils and Muslims only have faced their ultimate embarrassment with the present Northern Provincial Council votes. 

In all of the 10 polling divisions of Jaffna the highest vote given by a polling division to the UNP has been 173 votes and 35 postal votes.

In Kilinochchi district too, the UNP has secured just 53 votes and postal votes account for just 1 vote.

In Mannar district, the UNP has 180 votes with just 7 postal votes.

In Vavuniya, UNP obtained 1,704 votes and 65 postal votes.

In Mullaitivu UNP secured 195 votes and just 2 postal votes

This is a stark contrast to when UNP aligned with Sarath Fonseka at the 2010 Presidential Election wherein the Sarath Fonseka camp also had the blessings of the Tamil National Alliance. The entire north voted in cohesion for Sarath Fonseka, the former army commander giving him a resounding victory over President Mahinda Rajapakse at the 2010 Presidential Election just months after the War victory. Comparison of the election results of 2010 against the present Northern Provincial Council election results reveal that even the displaced voters of Jaffna and Vanni voted for Sarath Fonseka over Mahinda Rajapakse – though the logic behind that is somewhat difficult to understand given that Gen. Sarath Fonseka was the army commander that led the army to victory and eliminated the LTTE.

The present election leads us to question exactly how Tamils think because we continue to think that they cannot be thinking like the TNA – which is why the questions were posed to ask Tamils whether they are separatist, racist, castetist or all. If so, how would they propose to live in harmony. The gauntlet is certainly in the hands of the Tamils for it is they who now decide whether they lead the TNA to its separatist ways, it is the Tamils who will decide what type of rule the TNA will follow. It is in the interest of the nation and its people that we urge the Tamil people to help the TNA remove itself from its current separatist ways and get them to serve the people first as elected officials and ensure they all move to reside in the North amongst the people of the North and not remote control governance living in the South.

Someone in the Tamil community need to now start grooming new young leaders who will decolonize the minds of the Tamils from this brainwashed notion of Tamil Eelam because there is no such thing in Sri Lanka – it is a political tool being used to fool the Tamils.

As for the Government there are some pending inactions that need to be now taken up for consideration without delays for political advantage as the interest of the nation must come first.

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