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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2734

Partnership against Terrorism Wins East as Pillaiyan Delivers Blow to “Blossoming” Ranil-Rauff Coalition

By Philip Fernando in LA for Asian Tribune

Terrorism failed. Unity and ethnic partnership message of President Mahinda Rajapaksa was heard very well in the East. UPFA secured a majority and according Asian Tribune analysts Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims rallied to form a viable administration. Pillaiyan would most likely be the Chief Minister once the preference votes are counted. Talk of David and Goliath! The new kid on the block gave a deadly blow to the Ranil-Rauff coalition. Pillaiyan - Chief Minister of the East?Pillaiyan - Chief Minister of the East?

The “blossoming coalition” as dubbed by a Sunday paper in April when Ranil and Rauf met, could not thwart the growing support to government’s effort to bring about democracy to the East. Ranil tried several stunts: But the voodoo curse remained. He has lost elections like nine pins in a bowling alley. The East escaped his grasp too. (See election results in full elsewhere on Asian Tribune),

Ranil chanted his favorite mantras. “Thoppigala is a jungle, let there be thousands of Sunday Pola meetings, I can paste wall posters better than Somawansa, let us smash pots and pans with a vengeance, Banks don’t lend money to Sri Lanka and UPFA had a secret pact with the Tigers, Rajapaksa is a dictator." Those and many more flops failed. Ranil has adjourned to the quietness of the political barracks and lying dormant for now. Pillaiyan announced during the campaign “lands confiscated by the Tiger will be given back to the Muslims”. That was a master stroke.

The analysis here took into account the dynamic of the East arising like Phoenix from the ashes of a terrorist war. Ranil-Rauff coalition completely misjudged it. This is Pillaiyan’s very first foray into national politics, the baptism of fire that promised him the stature he needed. He out-foxed Ranil and Rauff brilliantly. There is no stopping him in his march to fame. The western diplomat who protested that elections should not be held in the East must be eating crow now.

The Easterners have decisively smashed attempts to let LTTE creep back into the Eastern Province. They were adamant that the terrorists should never ever be allowed to raise their ugly head again confirming Presidents call that the LTTE would never gain a foothold in the East again. What they had suffered was immense pain. They witnessed hosts of many armies invade in their homes, raped their women and abducted their men and children. There had seen armed groups belonging to the LTTE, EPDP, EROS, EPRLF, PLOTE, the Indian Peace Keeping Forces (IPKF), and the Karuna Faction. This is over for good now.

It is fascinating to read how the Ranil-Rauf coalition came about. Here is what the political column of that Sunday paper which had the scoop on the UNP-SLMC coalition described it on April 6th under the heading-- UNP-SLMC alliance holds edge in east.
There were several meetings between Opposition leader, Ranil Wickremesinghe, SLMC leader, Rauff Hakeem and India's High Commissioner Alok Prasad. It was only thereafter that Wickremesinghe had flown to New Delhi to attend a wedding reception of a family friend after which he conferred with Indian Foreign Secretary Shiv Shanker Menon. Thus goes the theory that the new alliance had the 'blessings' of India.

Meanwhile, on the government side, one of the prime movers behind the exercise, Basil Rajapaksa, senior Advisor to the President and the man who is personally spearheading development programs in the East, won over Hisbullah, a one-time Mangala Samaraweera protégé. UNP-SLMC was caught napping. They huddled for talks. The issue was who was going to be the chief minister. The UNP believed that it should be Naushad Majeed of the UNP and no one else. Others had other ideas. Again they were surprised to hear that Hisbullah had gone across to the Government side.

The next day the SLMC emerged with a strong response: Hakeem, Basheer Cegu Dawood and Hassan Ali - all Members of Parliament - would resign their seats in parliament and contest the Provincial Council elections. They wanted the trio be permitted to lead the respective Districts, Hakeem (Trincomalee), Cegu Dawood (Batticaloa) and Ali (Ampara) in the Alliance. The UNP Tamils protested at the demand to make the Muslim Congress trio the District leaders, but Wickremesinghe was able to explain to them the wider interest in allowing this. He said that after-all; the SLMC leaders had sacrificed their parliamentary seats for this. Now is looks like a major blunder on hind sight, of course.

The UNP-SLMC Alliance then agreed that the two parties will campaign separately, the SLMC in the Muslim villages and the UNP in the Tamil villages. The UNP has also put forward some former MPs Sinnamaru, Sinna Thowfeek, Sunil Shantha Ranaweera etc, to Trincomalee, Galappati and Daya Gamage for Ampara, Arasaratnam Sashidharan to Batticaloa. Once again, this strategy was not successful on hind sight.

Underneath all this was the belief that the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) would 'unofficially' back them. Officially, the TNA has declared that they were shunning the elections on their theory that it was wrong to be a participant in an electoral process, the objective of which is diametrically opposed to such fundamental principles and a reversal of what the Tamil people has stood for, during more than the past half a century." Blunder number three-either you participate or get into the fray, saying one thing and then secretly participating was damning. .

In a three-page statement the TNA said "No other Government since independence has inflicted such immense harm on the Tamil people as this Government has done in the past two years. The Tamil-speaking people should not fall into the dangerous trap that is being laid to bring about their downfall in their areas of historical habitation. This is an election at which through the visible or invisible fire and muscle power of the TMVP and Government armed forces, President Rajapaksa hopes to implement his insidious political agenda." Once again, the people felt otherwise.

The nominations came and saw in Batticaloa, 14 registered political parties handed over nominations. Four of them rejected were Muslim Liberation Front (MLF), Eelam People's United Front (EPUF), United National Alliance (UNA) and the Tamil United National Front (comprising TULF, PLOTE, EPRLF - Sitharthan Group, the LSSP and the Communist Party. Nineteen independent groups were also contesting.

In the Batticaloa Distrcit 14 political parties handed in nominations. One of them was a purported political wing of the LTTE calling itself Viduthalai Pulikal Makkal Munnani (Liberation Tigers People's Front or LTPF). The LTTE, however, denied it had entered the fray. But some analysts believed that LTPF has the backing of an influential section of the Government in order to show that LTTE too had embraced the political process and was entering the democratic process through the EP polls. Sixteen independent groups were also contesting. In the Ampara district too, 14 political parties submitted nominations. However, three were rejected. Also contesting were 26 different independent groups.

So the Sunday newspaper commented “Down in Kataragama, Opposition Leader Wickremesinghe was breaking coconuts, while in Colombo and elsewhere, his party organizers and followers were breaking pots and pans. The Opposition seems to feel that the Eastern Province elections will be the turning point to the Government's popularity in the country. Something like the Provincial Councils victory of the Southern Province in March 1994 was the turning point for the then almost invincible UNP Government.” Sometimes good intentions of men and mice end up empty. Basil Rajapaksa and Pillaiyan were better soothsayers and definitely superior political campaigners than most inside Ranil-Rauf coalition were willing to concede. Thoppigala is definitely not a jungle but a tailor-made launching pad for Pillaiyan. .

I repeat here the prophetic words of Pillaiyan given to a Asian Tribune a month ago. “When I suggested that they need to work hand in hand with the other political parties representing Tamil, Muslim and Sinhala communities, it meant we would always work with them as long as they work for the people of the East; the East requires democracy and not dominance by outsiders.”

- Asian Tribune -

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