Hold LG polls in N-E

Amendments to the Local Government Ordinance are said to be on the cards to provide for inter alia election petitions and postponement of the polls. Provisions to be introduced for election petitions are salutary, given the way in which elections are fought here. This is a long-felt need. At present, those who fail to be returned at local government elections, due to violence and malpractices, are denied recourse to the law.

But the proposed provision for postponement of the polls smacks of a move to accede to the LTTE demand that mini polls be not held in the north and east. This demand is puzzling in that it was only the other day that a general election was held in those areas with the LTTE throwing its weight behind the Tamil National Alliance (TNA). It is ironical that even those TNA members who were returned at that election are campaigning against the mini polls.

The TNA is said to be under pressure from the LTTE not to contest the LG elections. Given the servility of the TNA leaders to the LTTE, they will be more than willing to do Prabhakaran’s bidding.

The people in the war-torn areas are no doubt relieved by the on-going truce and yearning for revival of democracy. Elections at the grass roots are the best way to rekindle democracy. Local government authorities are also essential for rehabilitation and reconstruction purposes. When Jaffna was regained and local government elections were scheduled, there was opposition from the LTTE and its apologists. Various excuses were trotted out and arguments put forward to halt the elections. But they were held and the local bodies are functioning there despite two mayors, Mrs. Sarojini Yogeswaran and Mr. P. Sivapalan being killed by the LTTE.

Peace and democracy go hand in hand. If it is peace that the LTTE really wants, then there has to be a democratic environment. The LTTE must be told in no uncertain terms that it cannot interfere with elections.

True, with a ceasefire on, the LTTE will have unprecedented problems if elections are held in areas under its control. There will be election monitors, both local and foreign, media personnel and many others visiting these areas. This kind of exposure to the outside world may not be to the liking of the LTTE, whose main advantage in the on-going conflict is to operate from an infiltration-free unknown territory. But this should not be a reason for stalling an election.

The Tigers are now cooing and all gaga over peace, we are told. If their intentions are genuine for peace and a political settlement, then they will have to prove their bona fides by being amenable to an electoral exercise.

On the other hand, for the past two decades, we have been conditioned to think of the country without the north and east. Most of the surveys, censuses and other studies have excluded these two provinces. This was, of course, due to practical difficulties but this kind of exclusion augurs well for the cause of separatists.

Elections are no doubt viewed by the LTTE as extending of the government’s writ. This may also be a reason why the LTTE does not want an election at this juncture for it can be construed as the writ of the government infringing on its control at a time it wants to bargain from a position of strength. Whatever the LTTE and apprehensions and resultant inhibitions may be, elections must be held in all parts of the country for the well-being of democracy.

Acceding to all demands of the LTTE will amount to giving in to terrorism. Making peace must not be mistaken for placating the terrorists. Prabhakaran must be told that he cannot have the cake and eat it.

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