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
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.