Devil is Replaced with Another

Rajapaksa Sirisena

Tamils in Sri Lanka had turned up in thousands to cast their votes against Mahinda Rajapaksa. After a decade of repression the sudden relief of getting rid of this war monger become an immediate feeling of the majority of Tamils in Sri Lanka and in the Diaspora. Having voted to get rid of monstrous Mahinda most will agree that the result makes no major change to their aspirations – one devil is replaced with another.Thousands followed the most anticipated election closely, various likely scenarios were discussed but no-one expected Mahinda’s to accept defeat so silently.Heavy military presence, in the name of keeping a peaceful election, was visible in the north and east. There was a sense of fear which spread among those who went to the polling stations.

There are number of questions still hang in the air. Both China and India had sent in their congratulations. Will the replaced government continue its close ties with them? Newly elected Sirisena has insisted that Sri Lanka will continue to build close ties with China, India, Pakistan and Japan equally. At the same time United State Secretary of State John Kerry expressed their desire to work closely with new ‘regime’. US in the past backed UNHRC led war-crime investigation against Mahinda regime. However, Sirisena now promised to protect Mahinda. The political situation in Sri Lanka is looking uncertain.

US will attempt to sidestep UNHRC war-crime investigation now that war-criminal Mahinda has been removed. Prime intension of the west will be to build strong relations with Sri Lankan state and will attempt to limit China’s influence in the Indian Ocean.On the other hand, Indian Government which also has regional ambitions is celebrating the huge opportunity this opens up for them. Modi was one of the first to congratulate Sirisena.

In a space of few hours Sri Lankan geo-political situation has turned around but for the people in Sri Lanka, nothing has changed. Despite political rivalries both the SLFP and NDF have the same economic and social policies. Sirisena won on both popular and protest votes. The majority of Sinhala people are angry with the ‘one family rule’ and the corruption and misuse of power by the regime. With the 2009 still fresh in their mind, the Tamil and the Tamil-speaking Muslim Community had taken the risk with lesser evil.

Victory for Sirisena came as no surprise as TNA and SLMC supported the common opposition candidate. Despite knowing the limitation of Sirisena in respecting demands of Tamils, TNA leader Samanthan had released a statement saying that the new president needs to address urgently many grave issues including the National Question. As predicted their aim was to seek positions within new government than actually demanding rights and justice.

Some diaspora organisations also will try to make personal gains by this change of government. Multi-national companies, such as Lyca, has been criticised for their investment with Mahinda’s regime. The new president makes excuses available for these self-profit motive orientated companies and like-minded people. The attacks carried out on people will not likely to cease.

Tamil Diaspora demanded that UK Prime Minister David Cameron not to take part in CHOGM held in Sri Lanka. Nevertheless, Cameron did not listen but He had made empty promise that a war crime investigation will be completed by last march. Now his statement congratulating Sirisena is a further indication that it will be further delayed. However, Cameron is becoming unpopular by the day in Britain like Mahinda was in Sri Lanka, in the general election to be held in May he could be kicked out after the huge austerity attacks that he carrying out.

Now that the Sri Lanka elections are over there is a real urgency to build a fight back on the ground level.

Even in this dangerous situation, there are organisation and people working together to build an alternative. In the same election candidate stood for much progressive demands including support for the right to self-determination of Tamils. Siritunga Jayasuriya received 8840 votes among them 1944 were from the north.

During the election campaigns Tamil people were open to his ideas and surprised that a candidate could risk his life and openly support these demands while even TNA doesn’t do that.

Election results alone are do not sufficiently to express the voices of the people. It is a growing fear that pushed people to vote for the ‘lesser evil’ – it doesn’t mean that it is a choice they wanted. If the people feel that there is a possibility of getting rid of Mahinda and at the same time electing a candidate on the right programme they will not have held back to from electing them.

We need a government that represent the interests and the need of the people rather than representing few rich and elite. Let’s unite together to build our strength to establish a society that we want.

Isai Priya

Tamil Solidarity