Democracy in the country reemerged vibrantly with the minorities being the key factor in electing the new President, Maithripala Sirisena.
Unlike in the previous Presidential polls in the Island, all minority political parties apart from the Ceylon Workers Congress (CWC), in the upcountry joined hands shedding their differences in placing their confidence in the new President.
Despite the CWC led by Arumugam Thondaman calling upon the upcountry labour force to support the UPFA Presidential candidate Mahinda Rajapaksa, the people in the hills had decided the other way in boldly electing the new President.
The outgoing President Mahinda Rajapaksa addressing his election rally in Jaffna, a week ago, appealed to the voters in the Peninsula saying vote for the ‘known devil than for the unknown angel’.
Mahinda Rajapaksa while elaborating on the election platform on the post-war development activities in Jaffna, described himself as the ‘known devil’ and sarcastically pointed at his opponent Maithripala Sirisena as the ‘unknown angel’.
Whether Mahinda Rajapaksa claimed himself a ‘known devil’ or not the people in the North and the East had never considered him a messiah in the backdrop of alleged war crimes committed during his regime and their assessment on him had reflected well and truly at the Presidential poll on Thursday (8). Of course, it is remarkable to look into the post-war development activities carried out during the past five years especially in the war-torn Northern Province. The foremost of them all is the resumption of the Yal Devi train service to the Jaffna Peninsula, nearly after two decades.
No doubt the outgoing President Mahinda Rajapaksa will go down in history as a leader who had brought an end to the civil strife which had haunted the Island for three decades.
The silent majority in the North and the East had always been in favour of fulfilling their political aspirations democratically and they even paid a heavy price for voicing views against extremism.
More than the civilians in the other parts of the country, people in the North and the East were directly hit due to the Tamil militancy.
Tamil leaders of the calibre of S.J.V. Chelvanayagam , G.G. Ponnambalam and M. Thiruchelvam had always adopted the nonviolent ways to gain the political rights of the Tamil speaking minorities in the Island. They even entered into land mark treaties with the Southern leadership to settle their political issues. However, those treaties didn’t succeed as a result of the interference of the chauvinist forces.
With the emergence of the Tamil militancy, people in the North and the East were even subjected to disappointments politically and even sandwiched between the warring sides facing enormous humanitarian problems.
Internal displacements, disappearances, executions carried out by the Kangaroo courts, abductions, extortions and suicide attacks had been the order of the day in the North and the East.
The final phase of the war between the LTTE and the Security Forces in 2009 had been the mother of all wars in the three decades of Tamil militant struggle in the Island which had led to deaths in thousands and disappearances in thousands, leaving thousands of more civilians in the North widows, orphans as well as physically handicapped.
So from the post-independence era onwards, Tamil speaking people in the North and the East had seen enough ‘devils’ on the political scene denying their political rights and they had even witnessed the gun toting ‘devils’ who had claimed themselves to be the guardians towards winning their political rights.
From the time the Tamil political struggle had emerged in the country, the North and the East people were craving for an ‘angel’ who could safeguard their political dignity and make them to live with honour enjoying all their political rights.
- Being a military leader who had led the war against the LTTE in 2009, the people in the North and the East supported Sarath Fonseka when he contested against President Mahinda Rajapaksa in 2010 with the expectation of gaining their political rights.
- Former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunge even gained a significant number of votes from the Northern Province when she contested in her first Presidential election in 1994.
Now, again in the seventh Presidential poll in the island on Thursday, the minority voters from the North and the East as well as from the central hills of the Island had supported Common Opposition Candidate Maithripala Sirisena in a magnificent way and it was their support beyond race, religion and region that contributed immensely to making Maithripala Sirisena the winner.
Following the political strategies of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), Muslim parties such the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) and the All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC), had taken their decision to support Maithripala Sirisena by reading the pulse of the Muslims in the country, instead of taking the decision according to the whims and fancies of their political hierarchy in the past.
With Tamils experiencing setbacks in gaining their political rights, Muslims with the atrocities committed against them in the hands of the chauvinist forces in the South last year, had joined hands in voicing for their rights by making Maithri the winner.
So, with the significant backing from the minorities, now the ball is in the court of new President Maithripala Sirisena towards solving their political as well as humanitarian problems.
Since outgoing President Mahinda Rajapaksa, calling himself a ‘known devil’ in Jaffna, the people in the North and the East have given their verdict emphasizing that a ‘devil’ is always a ‘devil’ and because of that they would prefer an unknown angel who could bring them out from all their grievances.