ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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First Steps in Sri Lanka

A small door has opened with the victory of the Tamil National Alliance.

The Northern Provincial Council election in Sri Lanka, which the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) won resoundingly with over 80% of the votes polled, attracted an unusual level of national and international interest, being the first Provincial Council election to be held in the North since the Indian Army pulled out in 1990. Unresolved questions about the war contributed to this interest in a major way. The election, it was anticipated, would be an occasion where the people would deliver their verdict, and they did so with a voter turnout of 70%. After years of apathy, the public suddenly seemed to believe that an expression of their protest would change things for the better.

The powers of the council, never spelt out clearly, have in practice been whittled down over the years, yet even the token powers it retains over land, and law and order are seen by Sinhala nationalists as a bridge to separatism. The post-war reality, on the contrary, is that the government has taken over large tracts of land, depriving Tamil residents of their land and livelihoods. It has offered Sinhalese families incentives to settle in the North on one-and-a-half-acre plots, while a landless Tamil family is at best entitled to a quarter acre. Behind the massive government expenditure on infrastructure and Sinhalisation lies the neglect of war-affected Tamil civilians, maimed, traumatised and broken families buried under the government’s claim that it fought a war with zero civilian casualties, intimidation and surveillance by the military, and militarisation of all aspects of life.

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