10th September 2000
The main reason for the upsurge in violence during election time has been the poster campaign. It has become virtually impossible for the Police to maintain law and order during election time and soon after, because the violence that is sparked off by the poster campaign gathers momentum and spreads like wild fire destroying life and property.
It was for this reason that our legislators, after the 1978 hustings, enacted provisions of law prohibiting the display of posters, photographs and cutouts of candidates. These provisions as detailed under section 74 to 74 of the Parliamentary Elections Act No. 1 of 1981 were brought in to enable the Police maintain law and order.
But alas, our legislators, especially those in the governing party, kept bullying the police into inaction, and carried on the poster campaign breaking the law that was introduced for the greater good of the citizenry.
It is disgusting to see that even the Justice minister belongs to the category of law-breakers. His posters are seen everywhere in public places in and around Colombo including Parliament Avenue. His photograph stares at the House of Parliament wherein the law to ban posters was enacted. It is still more ironic that the posters call on the people to vote for G L Pieris for – a clean– intelligent – leadership. How clean it is to resort to unlawful activities, apart from the environmental pollution caused by these posters, is a question the learned Professor is called upon to answer. As for his intelligence, none would dispute that of him.
But where is the WISDOM expected of the learned professor that would make him a statesman very much wanted in these times? Even the most dishonest person can be intelligent and clever whereas WISDOM is, "knowledge of what is true or right coupled with just judgement as to action". In this context, words of advice by late Canon R S De Saram, former warden St. Thomas' College, at a prize giving in the late fifties, comes to my mind. The advice was – " Beware of politicians who are very clever, but have no wisdom."
A proper understanding of the law regarding the prohibition of posters etc. will show the serious ramifications it has in the law and order situation. Section 74 (4) of the Parliamentary Elections Act provides further, " Every offence under this section shall be a cognizable offence within the meaning of the Code of Criminal Procedure Act No 15 of 1979. Section 35 of the Code of Criminal Procedure provides that, "Any private person may arrest any person who in his presence commits a cognizable offence or —, and shall without unnecessary delay make over the person so arrested to the nearest peace officer".
With the power of arrest thus conferred on private persons, Section 23 of the Code of Criminal Procedure which deals with "Arrest" confers further powers provided in Section 23 (2: " If such a person forcibly resists the endeavour to arrest him or attempts to evade arrest, the person making the arrest may use such means as are reasonably necessary to effect the arrest". That being the law of this land, our lawmakers should act with responsibility and show some concern for the well being of the people and not trade violence as a catalyst for political support. There is no point denouncing violence while at the same time resorting to an unlawful poster campaign .
Jaffna is, in an electoral sense, an abandoned district, or has been so, as far as the Sinhalese are concerned.
Of course there is the PA and the UNP, which Mr. Anandasangari would like us to believe are "Sinhala" parties, in the fray. But then again the UNP has fielded a Tamil list of candidates while the PA has chosen to contest under the auspices of the Eelam People's Democratic (sic) Party, which has to be read as an open acceptance of the Eelam ideology on its part. Even the JVP, often labelled as "the Left party with Nationalist tendencies," does not have a single Sinhalese candidate in its Jaffna list. I forgot, we are talking about the "traditional homelands of the Tamil people", so I guess the question of Sinhala candidacy should not arise! But this time around there are two groups who have come forward to counter this "self-evident piece of logic" with an unwavering query: "why not?"
So let us consider the importance of Jaffna in general and in terms of the upcoming election in particular.
Let us start with a little arithmetic. According to the system of proportional representation, any given district does not have a specific number of seats. Rather, the number of seats is allocated in accordance to the population of each district. According to the Elections Commissioner, there are 622,331 voters in the Jaffna District. As such the relevant number of seats is 9. However, after the Riviresa Operation, the total population of Jaffna is less than 500,000. Even if we were to consider 350,000 of these to be voters, the number of seats apportioned in parliament would be 6 or 7.
On the other hand, there are over 400,000 Jaffna voters who have become permanent residents in the districts of Colombo and Gampaha since the last census was carried out in 1981.
At least 200,000 of them have been entered in the electoral register in these districts. Accordingly, these Tamils from Jaffna, in practical terms, get to send at least two representatives to parliament from the western province. And the PA and the UNP, taking out their pocket calculators, figured out that they are in some way beholden to these back-door, seven to eight vote MPs for their political future. So much for discrimination!
Contrary to Eelam propaganda, the Jaffna peninsula has for centuries been a part of the Sinhala Buddhist civilisation. The indelible story of the Sinhalese in the region has been carved in gold and stone, the wanton destruction of archaeological sites by the LTTE and its Eelam minions and Goebelsian, Anthropology notwithstanding. The very name Yapanaya is coined from the Sinhala words "yaavunu" and "pana", or the "landmass that is linked", meaning "peninsula". To this day, there are no Tamil names for "Ali Mankada" or "Madakalapuwa". There is further linguistic evidence attesting to the fact that the Tamil people did not live here for 30 centuries as is claimed by Eelam mythmakers.
Tamil belongs to the Dravidian family of languages, as do Malayali, Kannada and Telegu. Whereas these three languages evolved along different directions despite the geographical proximity of their speakers, "Tamil" in Jaffna is only marginally different to Tamil in Tamilnadu, clear evidence of the relatively more recent arrival of Tamils in the island.
Quite apart from the high military stakes involved in wresting control of the region from the LTTE, Jaffna is also important because this is the one place in the island where clinical ethnic cleansing has taken place. The Tamil "genocide gonibillas" and their brethren in mythmaking dens like the ICES keep mum about these things. They have to, I guess. The last six Sinhalese civilians in Jaffna were murdered by the LTTE and their bodies hanged in front of the Jaffna bus halt on October 9, 1987. About 40,000 Muslims for whom also this place was a "traditional homeland", were evicted within two hours by the LTTE in 1991, the brutes tearing off the earrings of little girls and letting children and old people die of thirst.
It is in the light of these facts that it is refreshing and indeed encouraging to see parties like the Sihala Urumaya coming forward to speak of the cultural heritage of the Sinhalese people in the North. Furthermore, given that neither the PA the UNP nor the JVP for that matter are interested in fighting this war to a finish, even the ordinary Tamil people, whose liberation must necessarily begin with their liberation from the LTTE, share some common ground with these parties.
Come October 10, we will have another chance to check the numbers. Perhaps some qualitative change would have taken place by then. Let's see how good the LTTE is at mathematics and how it will play with the electoral process.
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