} Lalith Abeysinghe: August 2009

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Jaffna and Vavuniya Local Government Elections-An Eye Opener

Jaffna and Vavuniya Local Government Elections

An Eye Opener

It was indeed a very good move by the authorities to have these elections after a long period, though the situations in these two areas were not fully conducive to have elections.

Any how, it was an eye opener, for the people, parties and the government, if they wish to see through.

First of all, the people were not prepared to participate in the elections. The people of these two places at end of July said that they just were not interested in the elections. They were facing with other acute problems in their day to day life. In Jaffna, the opening of the A9 road, commencement of the bus services to 'South', bringing down the cost of living, allowing free access for their livelihoods including fishing, infrastructural development, getting access to their own houses and soon returning to normalcy were the major concerns of the people. In Vavuniya, people expected the complete normalcy to be returned soon. They were very much concerned with the heavy presence of IDP s in the area, which really disturbed the day to day life of Vavuniya people. People in both places were really expecting to bringing 'full civil administration' to their areas with the commencements of the elections. Only in that aspect, they welcome the elections.

In both places, everybody predicted a low turnout at the elections. The main reason was that the registered voters simply, physically were not there. In both places all agreed that, it will be around 35% turnout in Jaffna and 55% in Vavuniya.

In this context, the real turnout was really encouraging.

The verdict of the people participated in the elections, have sent clear massage to the South. It was not wrong to conclude that the people voted were some what 'politically concerned' people compare to the general public.

Minister Devananda said after the election that he felt defeated and ironically Siddharthan of PLOTE said the same.

Minister Devananda was doing a very good job in Vavuniya and in Jaffna. His dedication to work for the people was amazing. He starts work around 4 am and goes to bed (which is a mat on the floor in Vavuniya and the office table in Jaffna!) certainly after 12 mid night. Most of the people were appreciating his work, service and the dedication. He was able to deliver lots of services with the support of the government.

Let's see the results and the facts involved in these elections.

In Jaffna the Number of registered voters were 100417 + (6004*) * Displaced voters.

The Estimated voter turns out prior to the elections was about 35%
As far as the voting was concerned only 22280 were voted. It was only 20.99%. Out of this figure also, 1358 votes were rejected.

The Election Results of Jaffna read as follows.
-United Peoples Freedom Alliance- 13 members
(Votes 10,602 and 50.67%)
-Ilankai Tamil Arasu Kadchi-8 Members
(Votes 8008 and 37.28%)
-Independent Group -1 – 01 Member
(Votes 1175 and 5.62%)
-Tamil United Liberation Front – 01 Member
(Votes 1007 and 4.81%)
-The United National Party did not have any member but was able to get votes 83 and secured 4.4% of the total votes.

In Vavuniya the Number of registered voters was 24626.

The Estimated voter turns out prior to the elections was about 50%
As far as the voting was concerned only 12850 were voted, which is considerably high compared to Jaffna. It was only 52.18% Out of this figure also, 558 votes were rejected.

The Election Results of Vavuniya reads as follows.

-Ilankai Tamil Arasu Kadchi – 5 members
(Votes 4279 and 34.81%)
-Democratic Peoples Liberation Front -PLOTE – 3 Members
(Votes 4136 and 33.65%)
- United Peoples Freedom Alliance- 2 Members
(Votes 3045 and 24.77%)
- Sri Lanka Muslim Congress-
1 Member
(Votes 587 and 4.78)
-The United National Party did not have any member elected but was able to get votes 228 and it was only 1.85% of the total votes polled.

In Jaffna the UPFA secured 50% votes and in Vavuniya only 25%. The opposition votes suggest that the aspirations and the life of the people was not bread alone.

As mentioned earlier, it was a wise move by the authorities to have the elections in these two places. It on the one hand gives the people an opportunity to participate in politics in a democratic way, though there were many shortcomings at these elections. On the other hand, there is also a message in the results of the election and one has to understand that they are not mere votes but loaded with the sentiments of the people.

There were huge cut-outs of President Mahinda Rajapakse particularly in Jaffna, with his famous statement "there is no minority in this country'. Many people told me that it hurts them a lot. Though the President said this with all good faith and intention, the Tamils in Jaffna feels and understands it in a different way. They asked 'are we even as minority not exists?' This is the error of just translating things with out considering the context and the feelings of the others.

Same thing happened with the Minister Devananda. Many say that the mistake was that the Minister Devananda to contest under the symbol of UPFA, the Beatle. It would have been better, the UPFA contest under the symbol of EPDP in Jaffna and Vavuniya. The first suggest a kind of Southern arrogance and the second suggests the real respect to the local conditions and to the aspirations of the people. Whether the Southern people and the politicians like it or not, the Tamils in these areas have their own way of life, aspirations and expectations. Many people were in the opinion that had the minister contest under the symbol of EPDP, he would have won even Vavuniya and get more votes in Jaffna. It is also to be noted that the elected two candidates for Vavuniya under the UPFA were one Muslim and the other one a Sinhalese. No body should come out and say that the writer is analyzing this on communal lines. In what ever terms it remains a fact.

We repeatedly are making the error. It is just like Chathurika Pieris, a popular Sinhala actress and the malted milk icon suddenly becomes Tamil. Chathurika Pieris is on the billboards in Jaffna too. But she is with a difference. She has a big red 'Pottuwa' on her fore-head and suddenly become a Tamil! It is so unfitting, unnatural and odd. The advertising firms, which are normally more sensitive than the politicians, at least for their own profit concerns, too make the mistake. The malted milk icon for Tamils should be a charming Tamil girl, for whom the "Pottuwa" is a natural part.

Ananda Sangarie, the veteran National level political leader was able to get only 424 votes.

When the TNA tops the result sheet in Vavuniya and come second in Jaffna, no body should think that the voters are pro LTTE and endorse their way of struggling. Almost all the people that I interacted with denounce violence at the first place and they are totally fed up with the war and war related issues. They really are looking for a peaceful life to lead with their families. One TNA MP told me prior to the election in Jaffna, not to expect huge victory for government backed UPFA, as the voters in Jaffna not voting for petty things such as bread and butter but on policies. It suggests that the Tamil people still waiting for an honorable and just political solution for their grievances.

The UNP, claimed to be more Tamil friendly, at least than the UPFA, pathetically show their inability to understand the realities on the ground. The election result is a concern in the democratic circlers, as the UNP is the main opposition party in the country. The message is that, one has to restore the strength and the dignity of the UNP, as it was the largest single Democratic Party in the country. The opposition party is equally important as the governing party to have a meaningful democratic atmosphere. It appears that the UNP is loosing its ground not only among the Sinhalese but also among the Tamils.

We all should be humble enough to understand the messages that come alone with the election results. The people are really fed up with all kind of violence. They even not ready to talk about the elections, fearing that some unwanted thing would happen. The country as a whole has lost three decade of peaceful existence, development and all the other opportunities. Everybody has the responsibility to ensure violence free, democratic, and decent and a cultured society in this country.

The responsibility of the government in this regard is huge, though the others have their own slice.

Lalith Abeysinghe