Now it’s the Tamils | Daily News

Now it’s the Tamils

Former Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, it appears, is well launched on his campaign to woo the minorities. First it was the Muslims who were hosted to Ifthar. At the time we wrote in these spaces that the Rajapaksas were trying to make amends after having angered the Muslim voters by their indifference towards the Aluthgama incidents and mob attacks on Muslim businesses. Now the former Defence Secretary has turned his attention to the Tamils. On Friday Rajapaksa met Colombo based journalists of the Tamil print and electronic media at the Viy(p)athmaga office in Pitakotte. During the powwow he had stated that economic empowerment of all communities was his answer to reconciliation, as reported in an English daily on Saturday.

He also told the Tamil media persons that the Rajapaksa government undertook rapid infrastructure development soon after the conclusion of the war to improve the living standards of those directly affected by the fighting. Rajapaksa had also told the newspaper how glad and appreciative he was to have received the opportunity to have met the Tamil media and Tamil political parties.

If Gotabhaya Rajapaksa thought that by meeting Tamil media personnel he can influence the Tamil voters he is indeed due for an awakening. The Tamil community has not forgotten how they were made to feel a conquered race by the jingoistic conduct of Gotabhaya’s brother, in the immediate aftermath of the war victory. The former Defence Secretary told the Tamil journalists that the affairs in the North should be carried out by the Chief Minister in terms of the 13th amendment to the constitution. However, Mahinda Rajapaksa, in a hectoring “throne speech” in parliament, in the first flush of the war victory thundered that although he was in favour of devolution for the Tamil people it will be devolution strictly on his government’s terms and not that which had been planted here by outsiders, thus, effectively rejecting the 13th amendment. In any event Mahinda Rajapaksa was not a great fan of the 13th amendment and was in the forefront of demonstrations against 13A from the very outset.

This duplicity of the Rajapaksas are not lost on the Tamils.

When Gotabhaya says that the Rajapaksa government took prompt steps to develop the North and improve the lot of the war affected people soon after the conclusion of the war he certainly is seeing the wood for the trees. The Tamil struggle, from the very outset, centred on the determination of that community to look after their own affairs, which also means developing their own areas by themselves. It is for this reason that they had been keeping on demanding some form of autonomy which the Rajapaksas are still against granting them. This is clearly being reflected in the views expressed by persons of the calibre of Sarath Weerasekera and Kamal Gunaratne, the types who will call the shots if Gotabhaya becomes President. The likes of Wimal Weerawansa and Udaya Gammanpila, firm Gota allies, too does not miss an opportunity to describe 13 A as a sellout, which no doubt will be taken cognizance by the Tamil community.

The Northern Tamils too are unlikely to forget the state of siege they were subjected to soon after the war, with victory parades held ad nausm and war rhetoric thundered from political platforms by government ministers, giving the impression that the victory was against an alien army as against a set of misguided youth from one’s own country, not to mention the marshal songs composed that added salt to wounds of the Tamil community. The Tamils of the North will also remember the insult they were made to endure when Mahinda Rajapaksa, in a sense of pique, at being denied the opportunity to address the Oxford Union, due to a demonstration by Tamis in London, issued a presidential edict banning the singing of the National Anthem in Tamil, in schools and government offices in the North.

Nor are they to forget the sentiments expressed by Rajapaksa soon after his election defeat that he did not consider the debacle as a setback since he was done in by the Tigers. parajayak hetiyata piliganne ne mokadha mawa peredduwe uthure koti, a clear message that to Rajapksa -and by extension Gota -what matters is only the majority community in the South, while the Tamils in North were a disposable commodity.

No doubt, the recently held LG poll results have caused Gota to grasp the dire need of wooing the minorities, if he, as a prospective presidential candidate, were to have any chance of victory. The Feb.10 poll results gave the pohottuwa only a 41% vote share and this, as the former Defence Secretary and the pohottuwites well know, is the furthest they can go.

With the government now getting its act together and an election oriented budget now being speculated in the media, things can only go downhill for whoever comes forward from the pohottuwa to contest the next presidential election. It is difficult to see the minorities, voting for Gota, or any other opposition candidate, in sufficient numbers to obtain the magical 50% + 1 vote. 


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