Graham_Williamson_94529_200A TIME TO REJOICE OR BE FEARFUL?

The spectacular yet narrow victory for the Sri Lankan Presidential challenger Maithripala Sirisena over the incumbent Mahinda Rajapaksa (51 to 48%) provokes more questions than answers.In the short run, The Tamil’s nemesis (MR), the man who presided over their genocide in 2009, an unprecedented militarization of the north, and turned a blind eye (at best) to countless abductions of Tamils, political opponent’s, and journalists, has bitten the dust. There is now more chance that his legacy will end up being a seat in a war crime trial in the Hague.

In the long run, however, will the new President bring relief to Tamils?

The main Tamil party in Sri Lanka, a coalition called the Tamil National Alliance, with a heavy heart, called upon their brethren to vote for the challenger, partly as revenge and partly hoping for relief from oppression. Although the turnout in Tamil areas was lower than the last local elections and some voted for minor candidates, the vast majority did follow the TNA’s call. Indeed, Sirisena won nationally by 450k votes. The increased Tamil (inc. up-country brethren) and Muslim (who voted for him too given recent Buddhist attacks) vote compared to the last election in 2010 is at least 500k! Clearly, Sirisena won because of their increased vote!

Yet, the challenger was hardly a radical or offering Tamil’s relief. He was the Defence Secretary in the war, General Secretary of the President’s party, with a Sinhalese rural nationalist background. The reasons he gave for standing was that the country was heading towards a dictatorship with rampant corruption, nepotism and a breakdown of the rule of law. All very well but nothing about the Tamil situation. Indeed In the run up to vote he said he wouldn’t demilitarize the north, wouldn’t offer devolution to the North and East as per the 13th Amendment (of the Constitution), wouldn’t be offering a deal, wouldn’t cooperate with the UN investigation into war crimes or surrender Rajapakse and his family if asked.

Of course, this might have been for the consumption of Sinhalese nationalist voters, without whom he felt he could not win. Many in the Tamil Diaspora feared that one dictator would be merely replaced by another and that Tamils will get little relief. Worse still, pro-Sri Lankan voices in the West might claim that now the ‘bad guys’ were gone everything will be OK (as they erroneously stated after the end of the war in 2009!).

Maithripala Sirisena owes Tamils and Muslims a reward for their vote, without which he couldn’t have won, let us pray that Tamils won’t be left, again, sadly disappointed.

G. Williamson
Nations without States

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