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Asian Tribune is published by E-LANKA MEDIA(PVT)Ltd. Vol. 20 No. 82

The Presidential Election and the Ethnic Problem

[b]The Presidential Election and the Ethnic Problem[/b]

By Tisaranee Gunasekara

[b] “The rock is still rolling.”[/b]
[b][i]Camus [/i][/b]([i]The Myth of Sisyphus[/i])

It is an article of faith with the LTTE that Tamils are Tigers. This identification may or may not be acceptable to a majority of Tamils; it is certainly taken as axiomatic by a large (and an influential) segment of the Sinhala political and civil society. Consequently many a well meaning Sinhalese who support devolution of power to the Tamil people equate this support with backing formulas which would concentrate all power in the hands of the Tigers sans elections (such as the ISGA), thereby disenfranchising the Tamil people and dealing a death blow to Tamil democracy, because of this simplistic belief in the Tamils = Tigers formula.

Similarly a large proportion of those Sinhalese who oppose the Tigers also oppose devolution of power to the Tamil people; many of them deny the very existence of an ethnic problem and would agree to no more than administrative decentralisation to the North and the East; for them there is no appreciable difference between extensive devolution and separation; in their eyes the Oslo Declaration and the ISGA are one and federalism is Eelam.

The result is the creation of the worst kind of polarisation concerning the ethnic problem among the Sinhala polity and civil society. Those who favour devolution want to devolve all power to the Tigers and those who oppose Tigers also oppose devolution. This divide has impeded politico-military resistance to the Tigers as well as the search for a political solution to the ethnic problem; and it is likely to play an extremely deleterious role in the upcoming Presidential election.

The ideal for the country would be a Presidential candidate (and subsequently a President) who will be anti-Tiger and pro-devolution, who will oppose the LTTE from the point of view of a united Sri Lanka and Tamil democracy. But the way things are shaping up, it is unlikely that there would be such a candidate. Ranil Wickremesinghe is openly pro-LTTE; as President he is likely to pursue a policy that will benefit the Tigers to the detriment of both Sri Lankan unity and Tamil democracy. Mahinda Rajapakse seems confused about the whole issue at best (but then he seems confused about so many issues). When he talks about peace one gets the feeling that it is appeasement he is talking of while when he talks of being anti-Tiger the impression is that this would involve opposing enhanced devolution to the Tamil people; from his utterances so far it seems as if he is for negotiations with the LTTE while at the same time supporting the unitary state.

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