LTTE supported Rajapakse presidency?
The decision of the Tamil Tiger rebels to force the Tamil voters in the North and East of Sri Lanka to boycott Thursday’s presidential elections has led to international condemnation.
Only 8524, just over one percent (1.21%), out of 701,938 registered voters exercised their democratic right in the Jaffna district.
Sporadic violence such as grenade attacks and burning of tyres were reported in the rebel-held areas.
The United States has condemned the" interference in the democratic process," adding that it meant that "a significant portion of Sri Lanka's people" were unable to express their views.
But why did the LTTE decide to force the Tamils in the rebel-held areas not to exercise their fundamental democratic right?
Analysts believe the rebels feared the policy adopted by the opposition leader Ranil Wickramasinghe in solving the ethnic conflict would have checkmated the LTTE in front of the international community.
“It is clear that the Tamil Tigers played a crucial role bringing Mahinda Rajapakse into power,” says Lionel Bopage, a former General Secretary of the Peoples Liberation Front (JVP).
Mr. Bopage, who left the JVP after the party adopted a hardline policy towards the Tamils’ struggle for a separate state, is of the view that the LTTE is trying to gain international sympathy by indirectly helping Prime Minister Rajapakse’s victory.
In his election manifesto, newly elected President Mahinda Rajapakse promised to solve Sri Lanka’s national question under a “unitary structure”, making a u-turn on the widely agreed federal solution.
But the opposition leader Mr. Wickramasinghe, who negotiated the Cease Fire Agreement (CFA) with the Tamil Tigers in 2002, promised to find a federal solution which is also accepted by the rebels.
Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) led by Chandrika Kumaratunga and Mr. Wickramasinghe’s United National Party (UNP) have mutually agreed the federal structure as the basis to find a long lasting solution to national question.
“It would have been very difficult for the LTTE not to accept a federal solution under Wickramasinghe presidency as Mr. Wickramasinghe also commands a good international support,” comments Lionel Bopage.
“But the Tigers will be in a good bargaining position in front of the international community to achieve their final goal of separate state when Mr. Rajapakse with his hardline Sinhala nationalist coalition in power.”
But some analysts disagree.
BA Cader, former General Secretary of the Upcountry Peoples Front (UPF), says the LTTE did not believe Mr. Wickramasinghe was genuine in his efforts to find a lasting solution to Sri Lanka’s national question.
The UPF, which represents the Tamils of the Indian origin living in Central Sri Lanka, strongly supports the Tamil Tigers.
“Tigers lost their faith on Mr. Wickramasinghe as he created an international safety network against the LTTE while in power,” says Mr. Cader, “But Mr. Rajapakse is a new leader who has never been in a position of power in practical sense.”
Mr. Rajapakse was appointed ceremonial post of Prime Minister of Sri Lanka in April 2004, but has never actively participated in the peace process.
It was former President Chandrika Kumaratunga, and Mr. Wickramasinghe while he was the PM in 2002-2004, dealt with the peace process and the Norwegian-led mediation.
Mr. Cader says UNP-led government’s alleged role in creating a split in the rebel organization may also have played a crucial role in LTTE’s decision.
Former Minister Milinda Moragoda has told Sri Lankan media that the UNP government “created the right environment” for the rebellion by senior LTTE leader, Col Karuna.
The LTTE themselves may be looking for a fresh start with somebody like Mr. Rajapakse, according to BA Cader.
But Mr. Rajapakse should himself emerge as a pan-national leader, he says, as opposed to being a "prisoner" of Sinhala nationalist and extremist parties.
“From now on Mr. Rajapakse shouldn’t consider himself as a Sinhala Buddhist, but a Sri Lankan, if he is genuinely willing to solve the problems of the minorities.”