How the Opposition parties are trying to cope with the postwar developments on the political front is interesting. Pitted against a government preening itself on a spectacular victory over terrorism, they have had to look for new issues or recycle the old ones which they failed to market at previous elections. Their problem is that their fervent hope that President Mahinda Rajapaksa would commit political hara-kiri on the military front was dashed. The UNP thought the LTTE would never collapse the way it did and the JVP believed that President Rajapaksa would buckle under international pressure and let go of Prabhakaran. The TNA is only running around like a headless chicken.
The Uva PC polls could not have come at a worse time for the Opposition which has obviously lost its bearings. It is a supreme irony that the UNP, which claimed not long ago that the war was `unwinnable` and the government was only expending troops and resources in vain, has had to eat its words. Its leaders have granted that the war is over and are seeking a mandate to manage the economy. Unfortunately for them, their ability to run the economy has come to be judged by their economic performance between 2001 and 2004. They failed the test miserably and people voted them out of power in 2004.
That particular period was characterised by the UNP-led UNF government`s shameless capitulation to terrorists, subjugation of the country`s sovereignty to the international community, mega corrupt deals involving the sale of vital public assets such as the Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation, which was declared illegal and null and void by the Supreme Court and the ruination of key State institutions like the CWE. A huge resource squeeze was put on the State sector, which, as a result, lost its capacity to generate employment. In short, the UNF government`s economic performance turned out to be the very antithesis of what people had seen under previous UNP regimes or the polar opposite of what they expected of a UNP-led government. Their disillusionment with the present UNP and its leadership has repeatedly found expression in resounding mandates for the UPFA at all elections since 2004.
The JVP is trying every trick in the book to halt its downhill journey. All its doomsday prophesies having gone wrong, it is now trying to conjure up the bogey of Indian expansionism once again. It has suddenly developed an allergy to the 13th Amendment! While campaigning in the Uva Province the other day, JVP General Secretary Tilvin Silva launched a hysterical attack on the 13th Amendment and demanded that the government scrap the Provincial Council system forthwith as President Mahinda Rajapaksa had promised a homegrown solution.
JVP leaders may try to flaunt their opposition to the PC system to project themselves as being more patriotic than President Rajapaksa, who has defeated terrorism, but the discerning will see that it is only a case of sour grapes. Rathu Sahodarayas forfeited their right to oppose the 13th Amendment when they contested PC polls in April 1999, having plunged the country into a bloodbath in an abortive and disastrous bid to thwart the establishment of PCs in the late 1980s. The SLFP became a partner in crime by supporting the JVP`s anti-devolution frenzy initially and boycotting the first ever PC election.
The JVP has re-launched its anti-PC campaign, as it has pathetically failed to retain its strength in PCs, as evident from the ignominious losses it has been suffering at PC polls in the North Central, Central, North Western, Sabaragamuwa and Western Provinces. The same fate awaits it in Uva and the South.
True, President Rajapaksa promised an autochthonous remedy and the government is now blowing hot and cold on the issue. But, could there be anything one hundred per cent home-grown in modern politics? Take for example the JVP`s utopia, which is Marxist in character and therefore far from home grown. If we are to take this `home-grown` business to an extreme, then we will have to reject almost everything that we have adopted during the past few millennia including the great religions including Buddhism, which has its origin in India. First of all, we will have to reject democracy and revert to our own monarchy. If it is purely home-grown political structures that we seek, then we will have to do away with parliament or political parties including the JVP. (An attempt is being made in some quarters to convert the Republic of Sri Lanka into a kingdom with Mahinda Rajapaksa in the throne!)
The 13 Amendment is not something that can be wished away or discarded like an old shoe. It has become part of the basic law of Sri Lanka and Provincial Councils have come to stay like an unwanted baby. If we can find a viable alternative to them, there is no reason why we should not do so. But, we are not likely to achieve that feat in the near future.
Above all, in the devolution exercise, Sri Lanka cannot afford to ignore India`s interests as spelt out in the 13th Amendment. It may be recalled that the PC system contains both the floor and the ceiling India has set for Sri Lanka`s devolution. The implementation of the 13th Amendment was also the basis on which India extended her support for Sri Lanka`s war on terror.
What the JVP is suggesting is to put the cart before the horse. It wants PCs scrapped posthaste without any alternative in sight! Similarly, there should be no inordinate rush in making or amending constitutions. Festina lente should be the rule `make haste slowly`. The dust has hardly settled on the warfront and there is much more to be done by way of humanitarian work before the political causes of the conflagration are addressed and a solution is attempted. It is only after people of the North are resettled, rehabilitated and politically empowered that their voice could be heard. All these years what we have heard is not the voice of Tamil people but that of their elitist leaders who want to be on a par with their Sinhala counterparts in Colombo by hook or by crook. Terrorists hijacked the agenda of the Tamil elite and the rest is history.
The All Party Representative Committee (APRC) has become a farce for several reasons. It has become a ventriloquist`s dummy in President Rajapaksa`s hand and therefore lost its credibility in the eyes of Tamils. APRC Chairman Prof. Tissa Vitarane is a respected academic and one of the few decent politicians in this country but his track record as an inveterate Trotskyite who openly advocated appeasement and betrayed his aversion to the majoritarian line of thinking and the fact that he became the darling of the western powers supportive of the LTTE have made him and his outfit unacceptable to most Sinhalese. Therefore, it is only wishful thinking that the APRC, which also lacks representation of some key stakeholders, will be able to formulate a feasible solution. Most of all, the APRC process has not factored in the postwar situation where the LTTE has been eliminated from the equation in.
The time has come after 30 long years for the government and the Opposition to take a fresh look at the problem with a view to making a concerted effort to eliminate the politico-economic factors that led to the emergence of terrorism, without resorting to dilatory tactics or trying to take back what has already been given by way of devolution.
Now that the JVP has chosen to contest the Uva PC polls on a platform of opposition to the 13th Amendment, it behoves Rathu Sahodarayas to suggest their solution without taking refuge in rhetoric and prevarication. Taking part in elections to Provincial Councils while opposing the 13th Amendment is like gobbling beef while condemning the slaughter of cattle! The JVP finds itself in a protrusive contradiction as always.