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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2765

Dawn of a New Era for People of Eastern Province

By Philip Fernando in Seattle

What a big change a year makes. Last year we were watching somewhat amazed the Sri Lankan armed forces trying to drive out the last vestiges of separatism from the East. Thoppigala got etched permanently into our vocabulary. Yesterday we saw elections to pradeshiya sabhas being held after a lapse of 14 years.

The specter of the ruthless Tiger menace extinguished and democracy starting to take root was rewarding to watch. It is far from over. The people have to be nurtured and given all the tools needed to make a speedy climb back into normalcy. Yesterday's headline said :"Liberation of East Completed, Overwhelming Response by People."

The East has the most amount of undeveloped land in Sri Lanka. It has the capacity to feed the people of Sri Lanka. It is rich in history. We are witnessing the dawn of a new age. The East must get its share of god schools, hospitals reservoirs, canals, and network of roads and services.

It was reported that the Liberation of the East from the clutches of LTTE terrorism is over. People overwhelmingly gave their mandate to the government, repudiating the canards and unfounded allegations heaped by anti-democratic forces and sections of the media.

The faith in democracy just expressed by the Easterners must not be allowed to dwindle. Massive doses of development funds need to be channeled to the area. With that also come the usual complexities and related drawbacks. Bureaucratic bungling has to stop. Development funds allotted for development must not remain under-spent or allowed to end up in wrong hands. The new political alliance headed by Cheuthirakanthn (Pillayan) recognized as head of a new party must aspire to democratic ideals and serve the people.

The people definitely cherished the opportunity to have representative democracy. Tamil Tigers who de-stabilized the region have been driven out for good and separatism died a natural death. The elections also may have driven the last nail in the coffin of the Tamil National Alliance holding proxy to the LTTE. Fifty six percent of the people voted at the elections to nine local government bodies after fourteen years. As usual a section of the media down-played the significance of the historic vote citing some irregularities at few polling booths. To them the glass is always half empty. About 200 people were reportedly turned away for lack of valid IDs. But the elections were conducted fairly well. Some areas had a 78 percent voter turnout. The gloomy forecasters were debunked.

Batticaloa local government elections ended peacefully yesterday with a 56 percent voter turnout. What had been kindled is a spark of hope and desire to complete what the armed forces did so bravely. It is heartening to note that the in the Tamil majority areas, the election was relatively peaceful. Voting stared at a slower pace but caught up during the day. A police force of 6000 officials deployed for election duty ensured security at all times. The voters were allowed into polling centers only after a thorough body search.

The People's Action for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL) also confirmed that the election was held peacefully except for a few incidents reported in Vakarai.

While the government got a feather in its cap, this is not the time to be vindictive or relax the rules of the game. The area must reach its full potential for the country to seal off any pre-emptive return of the dark forces that had a grip on the people. It will raise its ugly head if partisanship and political bickering are allowed to make their nasty presence felt.

The administrative set up must now be geared for a rapid growth scenario and the gradual march towards a major democratic revival in the East. The East needs energetic governance. Let not delays and indecision thwart what has been achieved with blood, sweat and tears. Above all by the ballot box.

The Rajapakse government is justified in sharing the success of the Eastern revival for bringing democracy so fast into the region. The election results justified the President's optimism in holding the elections so soon after the liberation of the region from the LTTE. The armed forces were the unsung heroes. Let us hope that the Northerners would also see liberation soon.

- Asian Tribune -

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