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Monday, April 22, 2024

It would be disastrous for Tamils if the government grabs the Northern Provincial Council

 Dr Kumar David

I will deal with the long overdue provincial council elections in the Northern Province, a political storm that has broken out as a consequence of an electricity price hike imposed with effect from 20 April, and two minor issues.
There is a vigorous campaign in the media, no doubt the government is pulling the strings from behind, that it is dangerous, undesirable, or whatever excuse one wishes to trot out, to hold provincial council elections in the Northern Province.
The irony is that the Provincial Council system was created so that the Tamil areas could have a degree of self-administration, and the Tamil North is the only province in the country that has never had an elected provincial administration!

There is a fifty-fifty chance that the government will dish out some cock-and-bull excuse and rescind the Northern Provincial Council (NPC) elections. Nothing can be put beyond its craft and cunning, its sordidness and duplicity. But this leaves us with a fifty percent chance that elections may be held in September, and if so the TNA will win. So says everybody even government henchmen. It is perfectly obvious that this is why the government desires to scuttle the elections if it could get away with it. After the bloody nose in Geneva and the promises of NPC elections in September reluctantly extracted from it by the international, one section in the government is afraid to rescind the elections. Extremists, monks on the warpath and the militarised fascistic factions want to give the Tamils a kick in the teeth and squash the elections, hopefully in eternity.

Authoritarians are totalitarians in that they survive on control of the totality of power; even one pocket of resistance is perilous for autocrats. The Rajapakse Government is in panic about even one Provincial Council escaping from its control and becoming a point of challenge. The whole apple cart can be thrown into turmoil. The regime’s instincts are right, and conversely it is precisely for this reason that it is important that the Tamils win control of the NPC. This is a foot in the door; it opens a way to confront the would-be dictators. Every chink in the armour – electoral defeat, economic setback, or spotlight on graft and abuse – is another abscess through which to drive the dagger and twist the blade. An independent PC with a mind of its own, not kowtowing at the beck and call of the Rajapakses, is not a chink but a gaping tear in the armour. Defeating the regime at the NPC elections has a value that cannot be exaggerated, for the denizens of the province, and nationally.

It is true that provincial councils, elected provincial administrations, and chief ministers, are statutorily near impotent. Decision making can be wrested away and exercised by a governor who is no more than a puffed up yes man of the president. It is also true that PCs are miserably funded and after Divineguma their resources further depleted. However, control of the NPC will give Tamils pole-position to prosecute the fight for greater autonomy; statutorily impotent but politically potent! This regime must be prevented from grabbing this political instrument and taking it away from elected representatives of the Tamils. It would be disastrous for Tamils if the government grabs the NPC.

Tamils cried themselves hoarse all over the world that they are denied an instrument of self-administration – albeit an emasculated one – and have demanded an elected council. Notwithstanding the limitations of the PC system, internationally, it would be a gross contradiction if the Tamils pull out of the NPC elections and hand over the council to Rajapakse’s agents.

The programme of the winning Tamil party must focus on two aspects; usual or conventional programmatic issue (education, agriculture/fisheries, transport/communications and demilitarisation are priorities) and the politically vital issue of using the Northern Provincial Council (NPC) as a platform for pushing forward real devolution of power to Tamil areas.

 Taken form the article Sri Lanka: Elections, Electricity Prices, and odds and ends published on South Asia Analysis Group


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