Tension has dissipated and the Eastern Province is limping back to normal. However, much needs to be done, if a repetition of the unfortunate events that led to the recent eruption of violence which cost a few lives is to be avoided. A hartal was on in Eravur against the disappearance of two Muslim civilians at the time of going to press and all political and religious leaders must make an urgent intervention to prevent it from getting out of hand.
Newly elected Chief Minister S. Chandrakanthan and PC Minister M. L. A. M. Hisbullah demonstrated their potential to act as real leaders when they met at the Kaththankudy mosque the other day and took prompt action to defuse tension and reassure the public.
There is a compelling reason for Pillaiyan and Hisbullah to patch up differences and join forces. They need to do so not only for the sake of the people of the East but also for their own sake. For, both of them have become targets of some evil forces bent on destabilizing the East again and rendering it rudderless for anarchy to set in.
Pillaiyan s meteoric rise to the Chief Minister s post has exploded the LTTE s claim of being the sole representative of Tamils and shattered Prabhakaran s Eelam dream. The installation of Pillaiyan in that high post has also given the lie to the much flaunted claim that devolution is only a dream and there is no alternative to the LTTE s terrorism in dealing with the Sri Lankan state. His election has facilitated the full implementation of the 13th Amendment, the remedy that India has prescribed. But for him, the LTTE would have been able to successfully block the implementation of that solution and continue to demand an ISGA, a halfway house between federalism and Eelam.
By entering the democratic mainstream and agreeing to devolution under the 13th Amendment, Pillaiyan has antagonised not only Prabhakaran but also others who dream of an Eelam without Prabhakaran they want Prabhakaran to get Eelam and perish so that they could enjoy the fruits of his labour. Prabhakaran believes in direct action unlike others who are more sophisticated and wily. They have embarked on a subtle campaign to confer pariah status on the TMVP and destroy it politically to remove an insurmountable obstacle in the path of the LTTE in the East. They are flinging up their hands in horror and asking how on earth a man like Pillaiyan could function as Chief Minister. The TMVP and the LTTE, they very wilily point out, use terrorism, as evident from the presence of child soldiers in their ranks, killings and abductions. Therefore, they argue, the TMVP is not qualified to wield political power. Strangely, they who bay for Pillaiyan s blood and demand that he be denied the right to run a provincial council seem to have no qualms about advocating that Prabhakaran, who has refused to give up Eelam and is committing heinous crimes such as attacking civilian targets, like buses and trains, be granted a federal state on a platter! (Last evening, he indulged in ethnic bloodletting once again by having an office train blown up at Dehiwala.) Pillaiyan became a bad guy for them only after he broke away from the LTTE and became amenable to a political solution.
Thus, Pillaiyan s biggest challenge is not so much avoiding Prabhakaran s death squads a task that he claims to be equal to but denying the Tigers in democrats clothing opportunities to target him on the human rights front. The only way he can keep them at bay is to bid farewell to violence and behave as a true democratic leader. By retaining child combatants and using violence against civilians and his political opponents, he will only promote the cause of his enemies.
Hisbullah blundered by staging a rebellion after victory, demanding the Chief Minister s post. In so doing, he only lent himself as a cat s paw to his political enemies to further their interests on the pretext of helping him secure that position. They sought to use him as a battering ram to attack the winning coalition in a bid to scuttle the Eastern PC even before it began to function.
The government, too, dithered over the question of appointing the EP chief minister and a situation was unnecessarily created for an internal dispute of the ruling UPFA to be given an ethnic twist. Some extremist elements in the East cashed in on the political uncertainty Hisbullah s rebellion had brought about and triggered communal clashes by gunning down a TMVP provincial leader. That their goal was to set the East ablaze and make it ungovernable was clear. Unless Hisbullah had realised the gravity of the situation and the futility of his struggle and finally agreed to co-operate with Pillaiyan, the situation in the East would have deteriorated further.
Redemocratising the East is an arduous journey along a treacherous path where the enemies of democracy are waiting in ambush. The success of the Eastern PC hinges on the ability of Pillaiyan and Hisbullah to work together and prevent such unfortunate incidents as were reported recently from occurring in the future. It is up to them to decide whether to make common cause and help rebuild their province or to go for each other s jugular and sink together in the process, dashing the hopes of the people who voted them to power. The choice is theirs!