The Batticaloa Elections

The much heralded "democratic elections" to Local Government Bodies (Prādesheeya Sabhā) in the Batticaloa District of the Eastern Province have now been held. There have been conflicting interpretations of the results and these have been invariably wrong with very few analyses giving the real implications of the results for the future of the Eastern province, and the devolution debate in general. This blog will attempt to give a more realistic interpretation of these results. The full results are given at the end of these comments.

The Mahinda Rajapakse (MR) government has hailed these elections as a triumph of democracy after the liberation of the Eastern Province from terrorism. The patriotic lobby has duly echoed these sentiments, and they have been expressed in the Press in SL. It has been claimed that the elections passed off peacefully and in an orderly way. There were no foreign observers as has now become fashionable in elections in many countries, and of course no incidents have been reported to the police. Given the heavy security presence this was not unusual.

The following may be said about the political parties that contested, or did not contest, these elections.

  1. The TMVP which won all the councils is the splinter group from the LTTE which was set up by Karuna after his rupture with his former boss Prabhakaran. Due to internal conflict Karuna and been allowed to go into exile in the UK. His departure was facilitated by GOSL of MR who is said to have given him a diplomatic passport under the false name of "Gunawardene"and a false occupation. Karuna is now in jail in the UK and his trial has brought much discredit to GOSL. After Karuna's departure Sivanesathurai Chanthirakanthan alias Pillaiyan, another terrorist who cut his teeth in the service of the LTTE has become the leader. Even thought the TMVP professes to have entered the democratic process it is still basically a terrorist outfit carrying arms.This would be elaborated later in this blog. Despite it controlling most of the Councils, all of them with a two-thirds majority, it got only 30 % of the registered voters.
  2. United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFL), which mainly contested the Batticaloa Municipal Council is said to be the TMVP in a disguise. The reason why the TMVP operated under a false facade was to give the impression that the GOSL of MR was also involved in the election and in fact won the Batticaloa Municipal Council. This will not deceive anyone but those who want to present the election as being a multi-party election when in fact it was confined only to the TMVP with the Muslims presenting a feeble opposition. In the event all the members elected under this label were TMVP members with one exception.
  3. The Independent Group. This is largely a common front by the EPRLF of Douglas Devananda, TELO and some other Tamil independents. They are all "reformed" terrorist groups. It is well known that Devananda hopes to be the Chief Minister of the Eastern Provincial Council if and when this is set up and elections called. But the poor showing of the Independent Group shows that Devananda's open collaboration with the MR Government does not have much favour with the Tamils of the East.
  4. The SLFP the ruling party of MR did not field candidates. This is surprising because MR claims to have liberated the East, Surely the liberated people of the East would have flocked in droves to vote for their liberator? More than anything else the failure of MR to field a single genuine candidate, let alone win a single seat, shows the hollowness of the claim that it was he who liberated the East. What the people of Batticaloa distict has said in the election is that they consider the TMVP to be their liberators. But even this can be shown to be a false concluson.
  5. The JVP which has been off and on the ally of MR too did not field any candidates. If they had fielded any candidates their fate would have been no different to any candidate that MR would have put forward. Their constituency is the chauvinistic Helas, and there were only 127 registred Sinhalese in the area where the elections were held.
  6. The party of the monks, the JHU too did not dare to front the people. Despite this the JHU too hailed the Batticaloa elections as a demonstration of democracy. Despite this Pillain would not allow a single monk to live in safety in the East. What monks live there in the "liberated" East do so under the heavy protection of the security forces.
  7. The main opposition party the UNP too did not contest the elections. For this the GOSL and the patriots had been attacking them for supporting the LTTE by their "boycott" of the elections. Curiously these same patriots do not blame the SLFP, the JVP or the JHU, who also did not contest the elections, for supporting the LTTE by "boycotting" the elections. Why the UNP did not contest the elections was for the same reason that the other parites did not contest. They are not regarded with favour by the racist Tamils.
  8. The only non-Tamil group to contest the elections was the Muslims. They are a minority in the area in which elections were held, and they did not get a single seat. However the situation may be different in other parts of the East where the Muslims hope to form their own state.

The above comments show that even though the elections may be characterised as "democratic" they are hardly multi-party elections. They are basically racial elections orchestrated by the TMVP. Even the TULF, which like the TMVP are against the LTTE did not contest the election. Some other obvious aspects of this elections are:

The above analysis shows that even though the elections have been hailed as a triumph of democracy they can in reality be called a triump of terrrorism. This follows from the realization that the TMVP has a history of terrorism not second to the LTTE. Their pretence to be democratic is a hollow pretence. When Karuna executed the 800 policemen who had surrendered peacefully under Premadasa's cease-fire he committed perhaps the only Sabranitsa style massacre in Sri Lanka. Pillaiyan would have been at his side when te dis this. The TMVP still carries arms and uses the same methods that the LTTE uses in the Vanni to dominate the people of that area, including child recuitment. But the TMVP has realized that the open terrorism of Prabhakaran is doomed to fail in this age of the War against Terror. They feel that a more restrained use of force is likely to yeild them results, particularly when there are fools at the helm of GOSL who can be persuaded to do what the separatists want under the guise of devolution.. Their ultimate goal is no different to that of Prabhakaran. The high proportion of voters who did not cast their vote would be an indication of the fear of the TMVP is voters go aginst this party. In this sense the election can hardly be considered a true democratic test.

The TVMP may also be following the example of the JVP which entered the political scene as a terrorist group. After two failed insurrections which saw more Sinhalese killed than have been killed by the LTTE in 25 years of terrorism the JVP donned the garb of a democratic party and has now become a minority force supporting the present GOSL. But if they were to gain a majority in their own right the JVP will revert to their to their old terrorist goals creating a kind of state terrorism. This is precise the intention of the TMVP, but of course in the areas of Tamil dominance in the East. If JVP terrorists can rule the South they will have no compunction in sharing the Island of Sri Lanka with the Tamil racists who will rule the North and East under the Eelaam banner.

The true intentions of Pillaiyan can be seen if we examine his victory speech (also given below). He says that the people of the East have spoken and everyone must respect their views. In fact it is only a minority of registered voters who have spoken for Pillaiyan and how many of them would have done so fearing reprisals from Pillaiyan, who is in reality the only authority for most of the East, we do not know. Those whom Pillaiyan expects to respect the election outcome, flawed as they are, include not only the LTTE but also GOSL. In fact Pillaiyan's call to "respect the political aspirations of our people" is a message really directed at MR. MR will have revelled in the military help he has got from Pillaiyan for the "liberation" of the East. But very soon he will be called to repay his debt. But neither he nor his patriot supporters will like the payment that is expected by Pillaiyan.

Pillaiyan says that his people were "subjugated" for "several decades". Clearly this subjugation did not come from the LTTE but from the Sri Lankan state. The TMVP split from the LTTE only recently, in fact only after the CFA had been signed. The several decades he speaks of is the period since independence. This is exactly the rhetoric of the LTTE and most other separatist Tamils. Thus there is little difference between the LTTE and the TMVP so far as the final goal is concerned.

Pillaiyan's immediate goal is revealed in his statment that "the 13th amendment of the Constitutions should be carried out." He says that this "should be the the main focus of the government and is important for gaining the confidence of the Tamils". Whether he already has an agreement with MR to do this is not known. If so this could be a new CFA rivalling the now defunct CFA which MR upheld longer than anyone else. But Pillaiyan knows that the Provincial Council for the East is only the first step in his march to a separate racist state in the East. Elections for the Provincial Council of the East are said to be planned for May or June 2008. Pillaiyan hopes that he can pull another coup like the Batticaloa elections. It might be a little more difficult as the Muslims will not give in without a fight. As usual the Sinhalese will be mere bystanders in this titanic struggle. The JHU will cheer from the sideline.

The Batticaloa elections mark a clear shift by MR from Prabhakaran to Pillaiyan. It will be recalled that at the time of his election to the Presidency Mahinda Rajapakse was committed to a negotiated settlement with Prabhakaran. In fact it has been claimed that he won his election because of the support of Prabhakaran who interdicted the Northern Tamils from voting in the election. MR's committment to Prabhakaran is seen in his statement that he was prepared to "walk the extra mile" to talk to the Vanni terrorist. But this did not work out as Prabhakaran rejected any such overture. This was clearly seen in the Mavil Aru incident.when irrigation water for farmers in the East was turned off by Prabhakaran. Military action then became ineveitable. Henceforth it was the army that dictated policy towards Prabhakaran. The resulting hostilities with the LTTE saw many gains in the East culminating in the capture of Thoppigala. This was possible because the TMVP had long been fighting the LTTE for supremacy in the East and now joined with GOSL to defeat the LTTE in the East. This advanced the covert alliance of GOSL with the TMVP a step further. Soon a conflict developed between Karuna, the founder of the TMVP, and his lieutenant Pillaiyan. MR threw his support behind Pillaiyan and helped Karuna to flee the country providing him with the bogus passport. The Batticaloa election cements Pillaiyan's control of the East and also MR's dependence on him. But this will pose many difficulties for MR as Devananda on whom he has relied so far for Tamil support also hopes to make East his fiefdom. The elections showed that Pillaiyan clearly has more support than Devananda. One way out for MR is to include the TMVP, the EPRLF, TELO, and his own rump (if he can find any candidates to run for him) under the UPFA banner for the Provincial Councils election. If this plan will succeed is still to be seen.

It is pathetic to see 'patriots' praising the victory of Pillaiyan as a triumph of true democracy. This is simply because of their blind worship of the President. Just a couple of quotes would suffice. Vishvanath Abeyruvan wrote " The government has every good reason to preen itself on the polls outcome both politically and militarily. It has gained a tremendous boost for its southern political project by clearing the Eastern Province and successfully conducting an election in Batticaloa, besides bagging the Batticaloa Municipal Council." The claim that the Batticaloa Municipal Council has been "bagged" by GOSL is absurd when all but one of the members elected are stooges of Pillain. The UPFL is pure (I do not know what the other sole member represents, no doubt some other Tamil separatist. The Nizam of Matara wrote: "the government has successfully held the elections for the local government bodies covering the liberated areas in the East with enthusiastic participation of the voters and without a single event of violence. The government has successfully convinced the masses that their destiny lies in the ballot and not in the bullet." As mentioned earlier the areas where the elections were held were never undder the control of the LTTE to be liberated, and merely holding an election under the TMVP gun is not a triumph of democracy. Even the JHU monks chimed in with their priase of MR and TMVP terrorist. They do apparently realize that no monk will be able to show his face in Pillain's territory unless he is under heavy protection or is a stooge of Pillain. On the Government front Minister Boggles has touted the Batticaloa elections as a great triumph for democracy sufficient to trump the US State Department's latest human rights report where the TMVP and the MR regime are presented as some of the greatest violators of human rights in 2007.

So MR and and the patriots can sing the praise of democracy in SL. But the greatest democrat they can produce is Sivanesathurai ("Pillaiyan") Chanthirakanthan.

Results of Local Government Elections held in the Batticaloa district (10 March 2008)

The election was held to elect members for nine local councils. The voting figures are given below. The TMVP came into power in eight of the nine councils. The UPFA group that won the Batticaloa Municipal Council was also comprised of TMVP members sans one candidate.

Party Votes Seats % of Regd. voters
TMVP 73,005 61 30.35
Independent 31,745 15 11.73
UPFA 21,749 16  8.04
Muslims Congress13,301  7  4.91
Elavar Democ.Front  1,417  1  0.52
TOTAL 151,217 100 55.90

The ethnic demography of the area is as follows:

Tamil 237,477
Muslim 29,339
Sinhala 179
Others 1857

UPFA- Votes Obtained - 14,158- Percentage - 77% - Seats- 11
INDEPENDENT GROUP I(PLOTE,EPRLF,EPDP) - Votes Obtained - 9,601 - Percentage - 36.46% - Seats- 6
MUSLIM CONGRESS - Votes Obtained - 1,788 - Percentage - 6.79% - Seats- 1
EELAVAR DEMOCRATIC FRONT - Votes Obtained - 427 - Percentage - 1.62% - Seats- 1
Other Parties have No Seats

Valid Votes -26,331 (90.32%)
Rejected Votes -2,822 (9.68%)
Total Polled -29,153
Registered Electors -54,948

TMVP - Votes Obtained - 15,851 - Percentage - 63.65% - Seats- 10
SL MUSLIM CONGRESS - Votes Obtained - 3,479 - Percentage - 13.97% - Seats- 2
INDEPENDENT GROUP I (PLOTE,EPRLF,EPDP) - Votes Obtained - 2,485 - Percentage - 9.98% - Seats- 1
UPFA - Votes Obtained - 2,478 - Percentage - 9.95% - Seats- 1
Other Parties have No Seats

Valid Votes - 24,904 (88.47%)
Rejected Votes - 3,245 (11.53%)
Total Polled - 28,149
Registered Electors - 45,336

TMVP - Votes Obtained - 12,299 - Percentage - 47.42% - Seats- 6
SL MUSLIM CONGRESS - Votes Obtained - 5,218 - Percentage - 20.12% - Seats- 2
UPFA - Votes Obtained - 4,249 - Percentage - 16.38% - Seats- 2
INDEPENDENT GROUP I (PLOTE,EPRLF,EPDP) - Votes Obtained - 2,820 - Percentage - 10.87% - Seats- 1
Other Parties have No Seats

Valid Votes - 25,934 (89.87%)
Rejected Votes - 2,922 (10.13%)
Total Polled - 28,856
Registered Electors - 41,858

TMVP - Votes Obtained - 7,331 - Percentage - 84.11% - Seats- 10
UPFA - Votes Obtained - 528 - Percentage - 6.06% - Seats- 1
Other Parties have No Seats

Valid Votes - 8,716 (88.21%)
Rejected Votes - 1,165 (11.79%)
Total Polled - 9,881
Registered Electors - 12,419

TMVP - Votes Obtained - 10,047 - Percentage - 62.61% - Seats- 7
INDEPENDENT GROUP - Votes Obtained - 5,615 - Percentage - 34.99% - Seats- 3
Other Parties have No Seats

Valid Votes- 16,048 (86.74%)
Rejected Votes- 2,454 (13.26%)
Total Polled-18,502
Regis. Electors-38,386

TMVP - Votes Obtained - 9,373 - Percentage - 71.23% - Seats- 7
MUSLIM CONGRESS - Votes Obtained - 2,816 - Percentage - 21.40% - Seats- 2
Other Parties have No Seats

Valid Votes 13,158 (93.89% )
Rejected Votes 856 (6.11% )
Total Polled -14,014
Regis. Electors -18,759

TMVP - Votes Obtained - 4,644 - Percentage - 52.26% - Seats- 6
INDEPENDENT GROUP I (PLOTE,EPRLF,EPDP) - Votes Obtained - 3,981 - Percentage - 44.80% - Seats- 3
Other Parties have No Seats

Valid Votes - 8,886 (83.19%)
Rejected Votes - 1,796 (16.81%)
Total Polled - 10,682
Registered Electors - 15,771

TMVP - Votes Obtained - 6,371 - Percentage - 81.06% - Seats- 8
INDEPENDENT GROUP - Votes Obtained - 1,401 - Percentage - 17.82% - Seats- 1
Other Parties have No Seats

Valid Votes - 7,860 (80.93%)
Rejected Votes - 1,852 (19.07%)
Total Polled - 9,712
Registered Electors - 14,880

TMVP - Votes Obtained - 7,089 - Percentage - 69.91% - Seats- 7
INDEPENDENT GROUP - Votes Obtained - 3,051 - Percentage - 30.09% - Seats- 2
Other Parties have No Seats

Valid Votes - 10,140 (79.22%)
Rejected Votes - 2,660 (20.78%)
Total Polled - 12,800
Registered Electors - 28,116

Victory Speech of TMVP Leader Pillaiyan

Respect the political aspirations of our people

Eastern people hitherto without proper Leadership and now they have spoken clearly and everyone should respect that decision. Our people have very clearly expressed their deep-felt aspirations in the recent elections for the nine Local Government bodies. These were the very people languishing for several decades without proper political leadership, but they have now chosen their political leadership by making use of this electoral opportunity.

Therefore it is the bounden duty of those who believe in democracy to come forward and support the reasonable aspirations of our people. We are thankful to the people of the East for choosing us to lead them politically. In the elections for the nine local Government bodies, in which nearly 60 percent of the total voters cast their votes to elect 101 members out of which TMVP has received overwhelming support from the people by electing 72 of our candidates for the 9 local bodies and giving us an opportunity with 2/3 majority in each of the elected local government bodies. This was the greatest honor bestowed on us by our people of the East.

We take the trust and confident place on us by the people of the East as a responsibility and duty we should reciprocate to the best of our ability. In my capacity as the Leader of our political organization, I assure them that we will work wholeheartedly to bring about a peaceful, prosperous and harmonious life to our people. At this point time we regret to note that rhetoric of some political leaders and parties amounts to a vulgar attempt to diminish the true victory won by people.

It must be pointed out that they are in their mischievous chicanery and are only abusing and disgracing not us, but our people. The political aspirations of our people are valuable to us, as these were the very people for several decades that were subjugated, denied of education, and social and economic development and continued to lead a life below the poverty line. The decision they have expressed to achieve political leadership is a milestone in their life. Those who fail to respects their aspirations would be committing a historic blunder.

Similarly the Provincial Council elections scheduled for May is another milestone in the life of our people and it is expected to augur well for them. The election is expected to bring about an end to the ethnic issues which have reached the appalling gangrenous stage and thus it would pave the way for devolution of powers at the provincial level. When the provincial administration of the North and East, where Tamils are in the majority and if they are elected to run the administration of the provinces, this would be the best panacea to end the ethnic conflicts once and for all.

With the view to bringing an end to the ethnic conflict, All Party Representatives Committee proposed that devolution of powers based on the 13th amendment of the Constitutions should be carried out. This should be the the main focus of the government and is important for gaining the confidence to the Tamils. That would reflect the good intentions of the government in bringing an end to ethnic conflict and fostering sustainable peace in this country. We are focusing our attention towards our people' welfare now.