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Friday 26 September 2014

Uva and devolutionary politics

The Uva provincial Council has been won by the SLFP. Though officially the candidates contested under the UPFA it was SLFP all the way from the day of nominations and the other constituent parties except of JNP of Wimal Weerawansa and some Tamil parties were not to be seen in any of the two districts Badulla or Moneragala. Even the JNP did not support the SLFP in Badulla having decided to go it alone in that district. However, what has to be noted is that in Badulla district the SLFP (UPFA) polled more than 51% of the valid vote in the Badulla district. In the Moneragala district the SLFP obtained around the magic number two third of the vote.

It is clear that at a Presidential election the SLFP (UPFA) would obtain much more than the required percentage of 50% both at Badulla and Moneragala. If the SLFP could poll around 51% in the Provincial Council elections at the Presidential elections where the candidate would be none other than Mahinda Rajapakse, whatever Sarath Silva has to say between now and then, and what the good governance Bhikkus have to say on the common candidate , no soothsayer or a so called Political Analyst is needed to predict the outcome. Ranil Wickremesinghe is no match for Mahinda Rajapakse and the Rajapakses would be there at least until 2020.

It is true that the UPFA did not do well at the Uva Provincial Council elections compared to 2009 elections. However, 2009 elections were held soon after the Nandikadal victory, and it cannot be considered as a normal situation by any stretch of imagination. The 2014 elections have to be compared with that of 2004 and the SLFP has not lost its mass base during the last ten years.

Even then it has to be kept in mind that the Nandikadal victory continues to influence the decisions taken by the people at elections and the SLFP receives the nationalistic vote that was in favour of defeating the LTTE terrorists in 2009. It is not the norm that the party that “won a war” should be returned to power soon after the war as Churchill would have confessed in relation to the Labour victory after the so called second world war.

The English voters and the others did not think that Churchill was fit to govern England and its colonies not only in British Isles but in the rest of the world. Most probably if Churchill came to power India would not have gain independence from the English and the voters in England and its colonies in the British Isles did not want to continue with the “empire” on which the Sun never set.

What is important to note in Sri Lanka is that the Sinhala people as well as the Tamils living outside the Northern Province do not endorse the 13th amendment. It is only in the Northern Province, if at all, the people may be in favour of the 13th amendment, but there is no clear cut verdict on this. The TNA and the Illankai Tamil Arasu Kadchi (ITAK – so called Federal Party though ITAK means Lanka Tamil State party) appear to be the only parties (ITAK is a constituent of TNA) that are in favour of devolution of power to the Provincial Councils more than that is envisaged in the thirteenth amendment as even the APRC (All Party Representative Committee) members somewhere in 2008 signed a document to the effect that the relevant clauses of the thirteenth amendment would be implemented, clearly implying that not all the clauses of the said amendment would be implemented.

This incident took place after a  stormy session of the APRC where devolution of police and land powers to the Provincial Councils was discussed. The APRC could not come to a decision as there was no unanimity regarding the issue. However, India had wanted some kind of statement on the issue and finally the APRC members and the Party leaders met with the President to “iron out” any differences if it was possible.

I was a member of the APRC and I remember at the meeting with the President, some ministers such as Nimal Siripala de Silva were for more devolution but the President indicating that he was not in favour of devolution of land and police powers to the Provincial Councils. Finally the APRC members signed a document, mainly for consumption of India, that the relevant clauses of the thirteenth amendment would be implemented. Needless to say that the relevant clauses would have been be decided by the government of Sri Lanka and not by the government of India.

At the Uva Provincial Council elections in the Badulla district some Tamils contesting as UPFA members have been elected as members of the Provincial Council and it is very likely that the young Thondaman who was nearly killed as a result of a motor vehicle accident would be appointed as a minster of the Provincial Council. It is very unlikely that the people in the Badulla district gave their preferential votes to Thondaman in order to devolve more powers to the Northern Provincial Council as a solution to the so called ‘grievances” and “aspirations” of the TNA and some other Tamil politicians in the Northern Province.

It is also significant that the minsters Nimal Siripala de Silva and Dilan Perera lost their respective electorates Badulla and Haliela. These two ministers are known for their devolutionary politics and though Dilan Perera for all his policies in favour of the thirteenth amendment have come under the wrath of Harin Fernando, Nimal Siripala de Silva has been showered with praise by the person who thought that he could become the Chief Minister of the Uva Provincial Council.  In spite of his devolutionary politics it is very unlikely that Dilan Perera worked for the UNP under the table,  but people have other stories to tell of the other minster from Uva.  

Harin Fernando is not a paragon of virtue, as none other than Sajith Premadasa would  testify, and if not for his unauthorized vehicle demonstration after the election, Haliela incident would not have taken place and a proper inquiry into the entire incident should be held. Hiran Fernando behaves as if he as a battalion of 173,000 who can be brought to the street at any time. As Dilan Perera has said Hiran Fernando would be luck to bring 5000 people to the streets. In any event when Fernando talks of briniging 173,000 people to the streets he is having some other plans and not democratically ousting the newly elected administration of Shashindra Rajapakse. Moreover, Hiran Fernando has said he together with the JVP leader in the province would make sure that Rajapakse would not have a peaceful time at the Provincial Council meetings.

Dilan Perera should think hard of his devolutionary politics and unlike Nimal Siripala de Silva has a long way to go. Perhaps Perera has a friendly chat with Thondaman on devolutionary politics and take a decision without much delay and work for the betterment of Haliela people in particular and Uva peasants in general and of course for the SLFP that is certain to be in power under Mahinda Rajapakse at least until 2020. 

Nalin De Silva