Hi UNCC-STAND members,
Several people had asked about what the latest presidential election means for the Tamils.
In a nutshell – things have not changed for the better for Tamils. In fact things turned worse for a lot of the Sinhalese who opposed Rajapakse.
These are the issues:
Is this election is even valid? Pres. Rajapakse, defying the constitution, called for this presidential election two years early. Presidential elections are to be held every six years, yet Rajapakse re-elected himself just four years into his first term. He wanted to win riding the current wave of Sinhalese “patriotism” and the euphoria of winning the “war on terror.” He knew if he waited two more years, when the reality of his dictatorship sinks in, it would not be too easy to win.
The Election Commissioner, Dayananda Dissanayake, resigned in disgust at the conclusion of the election. This speaks volumes. See the drama that unfolded after this in the Sri Lanka Guardian article below.
There was a low turnout from the Tamils and other minorities. Some reasons:
1) Tamils found it reprehensible that they had to chose between the person who ordered the massacre of their loved ones or the person who happily carried it out.
2) Intimidation at the polling stations. Several polling stations had grenades thrown at them.
3) Almost 100,000 Tamils still being held in detention camps, most unable to vote. Most of the 200,000 released have not been allowed to go back to their home towns. Did they get a chance to vote?
4) Resignation by the Tamils (from decades of discrimination) that no matter who is elected, Tamils will never be treated equally.
5) Even considering the low turn out, it is interesting to note that the challenger handily won all the Tamil districts in the Northeast. This shows that the Tamils are desperate for a regime change and have rejected Rajapakse’s doctrine of “unified Sri Lanka.”
Now that Pres. Rajapakse has wrangled another term it will be the same old song for the Tamils.
1) There will more forced colonization of Tamil areas so Sinhalese can claim there really is no Tamil homeland.
2) In the pretext of developing the war torn Tamil areas, there will be a whole slew of hotels and resorts, owned by the Sinhalese, build on Tamil coastal land.
3) In the pretext of improving the economy for Tamils, there are several garment factories being built, owned by the Sinhalese and foreign companies, resigning Tamils to becoming low-wage, low-class, slave laborers. In the pretext of improving harmony between Sinhalese and Tamils, more Sinhalese are being bussed into work in these factories. And Sri Lanka claims Tamils and Sinhalese are working harmoniously together.
Parliamentary elections will be next. Tamils fear further disenfranchisement at this election too. Historically the Northeast districts had elected Tamil Members of Parliament (MPs). Tamil MPs face increasing obstacles in representing their constituents’ wishes. They are intimidated or barred from speaking out about the Tamil grievances. When the 300,000 Tamils were illegally detained in concentration camps at the end of the war, the Tamil MPs were not even allowed to go into the camps and visit their constituents. Sinhalese MPs and those who did not question the government were allowed in.With forced colonization in full swing, Tamil voting power, even in the Tamil districts, are being diluted on a daily basis.
Rajapakse announced to the world that Sri Lanka has conducted a historic “democratic” presidential election. The world may applaud and congratulate him. We Tamils call this a joke. Is this democracy?
Thanks for reading this. Please pass it on.
Heavy underworld drama at the President’s Office
Sri Lanka Guardian – Feb. 3, 2010
‘It is now confirmed, the Election Commissioner (EC) Dayananda Dissanayake and his wife were held in captivity at the President’s office Temple Trees to agree to the President’s demand to cover up the heavily debated election fraud that produced the favourable results for President Mahinda Rajapakse. ”
“According to very reliable information from a source close to the President, the Election Commissioner Dayanada Dissanayake and his wife had gone to meet the President on his invitation on Monday (1/2) evening. At the lengthy meeting, Dayananda was asked to withdraw his resignation and to make a public statement that the election was conducted in a free and fair manner without any fraud as claimed by the opposition.”
“With the full glare of publicity Dayananda Dissanyake went on to praise the conduct of the Presidential election and also announced that he is withdrawing his resignation.
At the time of filing this report Mrs Dissanayake is still in captivity and it is unclear when she will be released.”
Sri Lanka: Historic Election Results Dash Minotity’s Hope
IPS News – Jan 29, 2010
‘The rhetoric of a unified country under the Sinhala Buddhist flag has always swung Sri Lanka’s elections in favour of the Sinhala politicians. But the minorities have voted very differently,” explained R. Bharathi, editor of ‘Sudar Oli’, a leading Tamil daily. “There is absolutely no doubt that Rajapakse’s slogan has been rejected by the minorities, the Muslims and Tamils.”
“The lack of political maturity in Sri Lanka is obvious. The voter cannot go beyond the rhetoric of the politicians. As long as the economic needs of the individual are looked after, there is no attempt by the voters to insist on addressing minority grievances, which is what should have been seen in this election by voting for a change,”
Crackdown on media continues
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) – Jan 31, 2010
“This wave of post-election violence could cast a lasting stain on the start of President Rajapaksa’s second term and bodes ill for the political climate during the coming years,” said Reporters Without Borders, which highlighted an increase in election violence and censorship in countries such as Iran and Tunisia in its latest press freedom roundup.”
“It is quite normal for journalists and privately-owned media to side with a candidate before and during a democratic election but it is unacceptable for them to (be) the victims of reprisals once the elections are over,” the press freedom organisation added.
“Police and unidentified groups have been targeting the media, especially media that supported the leading opposition candidate, Gen. Sarath Fonseka, every since the announcement of the result, which some opposition sectors including Fonseka are disputing. Sri Lanka’s five main journalists’ organisations have issued a joint statement condemning the “post-election media suppression.””
Rights groups criticize Sri Lanka govt after vote
AFP – Feb 2, 2010
“Victory against the Tamil Tigers followed by a historic election should have ended political repression in Sri Lanka, but instead we have seen a serious clampdown on freedom of expression,” said Amnesty’s deputy director for Asia-Pacific Madhu Malhotra.
“A pro-opposition newspaper was raided, several websites supporting Fonseka were blocked while Prageeth Eknaligoda, who wrote for the Lanka e-news website, disappeared on his way home from work two days before the election.
Sri Lankan journalists have given Amnesty a list of 56 of their colleagues who face serious threats, including some attached to state-run media organisations.
The independent Centre for Monitoring Election Violence reported more than 85 post-election incidents, including two murders and several assaults.”
Sri Lanka Opposition Complains of Government Pressure
The Washington Post, 2/1/10
Sri Lanka Says 12 Army Officers Sacked after Election
Wall Street Journal, 2/1/10
Sri Lanka’s president on Monday sacked 12 senior military officers over what one army source said were fears of a coup after last week’s presidential elections.
Government Moves against Media Raise Fears for Sri Lankan Democracy
Times Online, 2/1/10
A crackdown on media organisations has raised fears for democracy in Sri Lanka days after President Rajapaksa’s disputed re-election.
Sri Lanka Police Arrest Staff of Election’s Loser
New York Times/Associated Press, 1/29/10
The police raided the office of Sri Lanka’s defeated presidential candidate on Friday and arrested 15 of his staff members, after officials accused him of plotting to overthrow the government and assassinate his victorious rival.