Eastern PC polls: Shameful conduct of the shameless

Once upon a time there lived a Great Mudliyar, who had a sprawling coconut estate. However great he may have been, he was at a loss as to how to prevent womenfolk of the village from stealing his coconuts. He did his damnedest to keep those comely thieves at bay but in vain. Thieving went unabated. Finally, one of his hangers on came to his rescue. And he solved the problem once and for all the following morning itself. How did he accomplish that daunting task?

All that he did was to patrol the estate in his birthday suit.  The poor thieves who came to gather easy nuts bolted helter-skelter never to trespass on the Mudliyar’s property ever again. So, who says shamelessness doesn’t pay? It works magic not only on coconut estates but in politics as well. What is going on in the Eastern Province in the run up to the upcoming PC polls is a case in point.

Frenetic kerb-crawling for political call-girls aka coalition partners is now on. The government, intensely desperate for bagging the Eastern PC is making overtures to the SLMC, which left it high and dry a few moons ago at the third reading budget vote last December. Its pullout from the government ranks, albeit at prior notice, triggered a process which would have culminated in an ignominious defeat for the UPFA but for the JVP’s volte face.

The SLMC left the SLFP-led PA government in 2001, causing the Kumaratunga government to crumble and to be replaced by a UNF regime. In 2005, it went all out to ruin the then Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’s chances of becoming President. SLMC leader Rauff Hakeem, while announcing his decision to back UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe in the presidential race, bragged that he would never bet on the wrong horse. Having lost the bet and his face both after the race, he later joined the Rajapaksa government, with no contrition, to become a minister. Last year, he first voted for the budget after its second reading and thereafter opposed it at the third reading! Among the reasons he gave for his last minute U-turn was an alleged raw deal the Eastern Province Muslims had got from the government. Then, the SLMC started making a hue and cry about Pillaiyan’s violence at the recently concluded LG polls.

How on earth could the SLMC even consider discussing an electoral alliance with the ruling UPFA which has as a partner the Pillaiyan’s TMVP? How can it ever think of controlling the Eastern Council with the help of the very government that it opposes tooth and nail in Parliament? It cannot be fish in Parliament and fowl in the PC, can it? Most of all, the conditions in the East, we reckon, remain the same as they had been prior to the LG polls, which the SLMC contested on its own. It is also doubtful that the SLMC believes the Eastern Province Muslims are getting a better deal from the government for it to negotiate a pact with the UPFA once again.

The SLMC has said it will coalesce with any party that will accede to its demand for the Chief Minister’s post! In other words, it won’t give a tinker’s damn about Pillaiyan or the treatment the Muslims are getting from the government if its demand is granted! Its only concern is the high post. We neither oppose nor support the SLMC’s demand for the CM post. But, what should be of concern to political leaders in the East at present is not who will appoint whom as CM but who will do what for the Eastern people whose lives have been shattered by war. Their focus should be on a meaningful programme of action to uplift the living conditions of those people rather than positions and political mileage.

The SLMC demand harks back to the condition that the JVP laid down for joining forces with the UPFA at the 2006 LG polls. It demanded control of a large number of local government bodies to be won. The government refused to capitulate to the JVP’s whims and the Rathu Sahodarayas went it alone only to have egg on their face.

However, one cannot but fully endorse the Opposition’s demand that the Pillaiyan Group be disarmed. The East, on the government’s own admission, is now safe. After all, it is so confident of the security situation there that it has begun shifting the STF from some locations for re-deployment in the North. (The army will move into those areas.) If the armed forces are in total control of the East and the Tigers have been rendered toothless—the government insists that it is not brazening it out— then the argument that the Pillaiyan Group should be allowed to carry arms in self-defence is untenable. The present phase of the anti-LTTE campaign must necessarily be purely political and developmental and aimed at demilitarisation.

However, it is not only in the East that armed groups must be dealt with. In other parts of the country, too, including the Wanni, no one must be allowed to carry arms for whatever purpose. Those who want Pillaiyan disarmed must demand that other armed groups, too, be stripped of weapons, if they are not to be branded as a bunch of either hypocrites or Tiger sympathisers.  What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander!

It is unfortunate that the interests of the Eastern people do not seem to figure on the agendas of political parties eyeing the Eastern PC. All of them, including those flaunting their ethno-religious labels, are striving for only one thing—political expediency. They won’t baulk at anything in their sordid campaigns to achieve that end and, as it is rightly said, shamelessness is the name of the game in politics.



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