Provincial Council elections on May 10
Stage set for final showdown
stage is set for the final showdown on May 10 in the Eastern
Province. The Provincial Council elections in the east, which
will be held for the first time since the creation of provincial
councils, will get underway next Saturday and a huge number of
voters close to one million will cast their votes in three
Eastern Districts – Digamadulla (Ampara), Trincomalee and
The two main political parties have set-up alliances with
political parties in the periphery to contest this election with
a number of other smaller parties and independent groups,
including the JVP and EPDP, contesting for the provincial
First eastern election
The provincial councils were created under the 1987 accord
between Sri Lanka and India and the first ever elections were
held soon after that for the amalgamated north and east. In the
circumstances, this is the first time an election for the east
is being held.
The ruling UPFA as well as the opposition UNP have launched
house to house campaigns in these three districts to grab power
in the province. The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) is not
contesting since it feels that the elections are not valid under
a de-merged east.
TNA General Secretary R. Sampanthan in an interview with this
newspaper last week said that the Tamils would not accept the
de-merged east as a legally carved out province since the
de-merger contravenes an international accord signed between Sri
Lanka and India.
In his view, he said, that the government should not contravene
such an agreement, which is part of international law now.
However, it is said that the TNA is discreetly supporting the
UNP candidature in all three districts though Sampanthan had
pronounced that his party would not support any political entity
which is contesting this election.
The TNA appears to be confused or it is perhaps employing a
political ploy, since it has not openly called for a boycott of
the elections, if it considers that carving out the east from
the north is a seriously flawed decision.
If the TNA’s position is that the elections are not valid and it
is not the legal right of the government to hold an election for
the east alone, then the political analysts say that it should
have made it known to its people and called for a boycott. But,
in this instance, it is not happening, which means that there
could be other plans devised by the TNA.
The government is of the view that the TNA is silently
campaigning for the UNP in all three districts. However, the
pertinent question that arises from this is as to whether the
Tamils in the east would support an election of a Muslim chief
minister from the Eastern Province.
If the Tamils support the UNP unconditionally and elect a Muslim
chief minister, some analysts think that it would entrench the
Muslim leadership in the east, which would create a problem for
the government when arriving at a final solution under the 13th
Amendment to the Constitution.
The government is obviously looking for Indian support to arrive
at a final solution to the ethnic crisis and it is the desire of
the Indians to have the two provinces merged when arriving at a
final solution based on the 13th Amendment.
Installing a Muslim as a chief minister would certainly create a
problem for India since there would be serious impediments
affecting such moves.
In this backdrop, India does not want the opposition to win this
election, which would mean that a Muslim would be at the helm.
On the other hand, even if the government wins and M.L.M.
Hisbullah is installed as Chief Minister, Hisbullah in turn has
to fall back to the original SLMC position, where they agreed to
work in a merged north and east with non-contiguous councils for
the Muslims in the east.
Chief ministerial stakes
If the government emerges victorious, it is more likely that a
Tamil civil servant would be appointed as aChief Minister,
dashing the hopes of Muslims who worked for the government.
At present, the Muslim vote is divided between the UNP and the
UPFA. A majority of the Muslim votes are likely to go to the UNP
and it appears to be the case in Ampara and Trincomalee. The
government could win this election mainly on the Tamil vote from
Statistics clearly show that there is a tough fight in both
Digamadulla and Trincomalee Districts while the government will
have a cakewalk in Batticaloa. The Muslim vote, it is said,
would be divided on a 65%-35% basis between the UNP and the UPFA.
It is the Batticaloa Tamil votes that would carry the government
to victory. In that scenario, it is inevitable that the
government would appoint a Tamil Chief Minister.
Such a move would make the government look good in the eyes of
the international community and it is the fervent wish of the
Indians to instal a Tamil Chief Minister with a view to finding
a final solution in a merged north and east.
The Tamil vote base in all three districts is slightly higher
than the Muslim vote base though there are more Muslims than
Tamils according to census data. Therefore, unless a Tamil Chief
Minister is installed in the east, it would be a rather
difficult task to find a lasting solution under the 13th
If the UNP emerges victorious, it would be a comparatively
difficult task to find a final solution based on the Indo-Lanka
Accord, and a Muslim Chief Minister would mean that India’s
dreams would be shattered.
What is still unresolved is as to why the Tamils should vote for
the UNP to elect a Muslim chief minister, which will not pave
the way for the Tamils to find a solution to their problems.
However, in reality it appears that in Trincomalee District,
there is a swing towards Rauff Hakeem in majority Tamil areas,
perhaps due to the fact that Hakeem is encouraging more Tamil
settlements in the cleared areas south of the Trincomalee Port.
It will be interesting to see how the Tamils would vote at this
election or whether they would keep away without exercising
A victory for the UNP means the government would face a serious
setback after having liberated the east from the clutches of the
LTTE and having done so much development work in the area in the
aftermath of the liberation. However, that is yet to be seen.
A proper analysis could only be possible if a free and fair
election is held devoid of violence, rigging and intimidation of
voters. It is the hope of many that there would be a level
playing field for all political parties contesting this election
to woo the voters on the basis of their policies.