A PC poll in the North
The government's plans to hold provincial polls in the
North within a year or so are welcome news in view of the
immense good these elections could do from the viewpoint of Sri
Lanka's democratic development. Right away, it needs to be
pointed out that the latter concept should not be confused with
material advancement pure and simple, although the degree to
which a democracy matures qualitatively bears a relation to a
polity's economic empowerment too.
However, it is the qualitative improvement of a country's
democracy which is denoted essentially by democratic
development. The Provincial Council system of this country has
proved a contentious question over the years but it cannot be
denied that the potentialities of the system are immense and
that we are yet to exploit these strengths to the fullest. The
PC system helps in making people's empowerment a reality in this
country and to the extent to which it does this, the position
could be taken that the PC system helps in democratic
development or maturity.
Therefore, Minister Dullas Alahapperuma's recent statement to
the effect that a PC poll is slated for the North over the next
year or so is good news for those sections which desire the
democratic development of this country. The statement is also an
effective rebuttal of those sections of the Opposition which are
of the view that the government is fighting shy of holding PC
polls in the North. The government would not need to fear any
polls of this nature as long as the needs of the people of the
province are ensured. This, the state is endeavouring to do
through the development effort.
But laying the bogey of separatism to rest is a number one
need of the Sri Lankan state. One of the means of achieving this
is the empowerment of our communities and the PC system would
prove effective in this effort, provided the system is nourished
and energized to meet the aims for which it was created.
Personal and group empowerment is what democratic development is
all about and this is why PCs cannot be dismissed as valueless.
Separatism emerged explosively in the North-East on account
of the perception among some that personal and group empowerment
was totally lacking. Holding the PC elections successfully in
the province and giving the people of the province the
opportunity to fend for themselves, to even a degree, through
elected provincial representatives, within the framework of a
united and geographically whole Sri Lanka, would help in ending
the phenomenon of separatism permanently. Accordingly, genuine
democratic development would enable the people of the North-East
to see that parties, such as the TNA, are redundant.
Meanwhile, the long-established democratic parties of Sri
Lanka or those which see themselves as national entities need to
expand their influence in the North-East if the project of
national unification is to be advanced.
If separatist parties made inroads into the hearts and minds
of people, it is because the national political parties did
little or nothing to build and expand on their support bases in
the North-East. Perhaps, they did not send out the message with
the desired loudness and forcefulness that they were for the
totality of Sri Lanka. Perhaps, their policies in
conceptualization and implementation did not drive this message
home, even though they did speak the message.
It is time to take stock and reverse any detrimental trends.
Those parties that see themselves as national political parties
must eloquently speak the language of unity and do their utmost
to take the North-East public along with them. Reportedly, some
youthful sections of the North-East are for the SLFP and the
UPFA administration. These sections must be taken aboard and
nurtured into a regional leadership that will help in defusing
the bogey of separatism.