LTTE-enforced boycott lost Ranil the presidency in 2005

LTTE-enforced boycott lost Ranil the presidency in 2005

 24 October 2014


By D.B.S.Jeyaraj

“Hegel remarks somewhere that all great, world-historical facts and personages occur, as it were, twice. He has forgotten to add: the first time as tragedy, the second as farce.”
– Karl Marx

Karl Marx expanded famously on Friedrich Hegel’s remark about “history” occurring twice and stated that history repeats firstly as tragedy and secondly as farce. If a recent development in Sri Lanka runs its full course as intended, then one may very well say history repeats itself in Sri Lanka as a tragic farce or farcical tragedy when it comes to Ranil Wickremesinghe.

With a presidential election being anticipated early next year, an atmosphere of déjà vu is in the air. The propaganda knives of the Rajapaksa regime are out already in a hasty bid to slash and draw first blood. The  decision by the General Court of the European Union to annul  sanctions against the LTTE on the one hand, and the visit of Ranil Wickremesinghe to Britain on the other, are being used  by Govt propagandists to project an impression  that the opposition leader in league with Tiger elements in the Tamil Diaspora has conspired to remove the EU ban on the LTTE, thereby endangering Sri Lanka’s security, territorial integrity and sovereignty.

The propaganda that is being churned out in various forms ranging from posters to ministerial pronouncements is perhaps the opening gambit on the 2015 presidential poll chessboard. If  Ranil Wickremesinghe comes forward as expected to contest as the chief opposition UNP candidate against President Rajapaksa, more propaganda in a similar vein is likely to follow. The thrust and theme of Govt propaganda will most likely compare and contrast both candidates, projecting the president positively and the opposition leader negatively. Mahinda will be portrayed as a hero and patriot while Ranil will be depicted as a traitor and anti-national.

What is blatantly unfair and unjust in this comparison is that this propaganda about Ranil being a Sinhala traitor colluding with the LTTE  is simply untrue. It may be recalled that the campaign against Ranil during the 2005 elections was also on similar lines with accusations being bandied about of an “Ali-Koti” secret pact. The Tiger organization and the elephant party were involved in a conspiracy to make Wickremesinghe president was the charge. The alleged mastermind behind this “Ali-Koti Pact” canard was Mangala Samaraweera. Today he is with Ranil in the UNP.

What actually happened at the presidential hustings in 2005  was almost the opposite of the allegations levelled against Ranil. The man accused of conspiring with the LTTE to win actually became the victim of a Tiger conspiracy and lost. The LTTE and the TNA together called for a  boycott of the  2005 presidential poll in the predominantly Tamil areas. The LTTE  lurked behind the scenes and enforced the boycott through violence and intimidation. Several lakhs of Tamil voters kept away from the polling booths. In a fair and free election, the bulk of these votes were expected to have been in favour of Ranil. As a result, Wickremesinghe was deprived of around 250,000 to 300.000 Tamil votes.

“Against that backdrop, the LTTE found that despite their covert signals the Tamil people were planning to support Wickremesinghe overwhelmingly”

The presidential poll was of crucial importance to all minority communities then. Mahinda  Rajapaksa and his hard-line cohorts posed a grave threat to their interests. The need of the hour was for the minorities to rally firmly behind the comparatively minority-friendly candidate as a counterpoint to the perceived threat of a  Sinhala  Buddhist hard-line juggernaut threatening to crush them underfoot.

Many minority community parties like the  Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, the Ceylon Workers Congress, Up Country Peoples Front,  Democratic Peoples Front (then Western Province Peoples Front) were all aligned with Wickremesinghe. Even the Catholic Bishops indicated indirect support.  The stances adopted reflected the thinking of the minorities then. The Sri Lankan Tamils like the Muslims, Plantation Tamils and Catholics felt Wickremesinghe was the better of the two major candidates or from another perspective, the lesser evil.

Sectarian Perspective

The LTTE, however, was unhappy about this natural proclivity on the part of Tamils in particular and the minorities in general to support Wickremesinghe. Viewing the situation only from its narrow, sectarian perspective the LTTE preferred a Wickremesinghe defeat and a Rajapaksa victory in 2005.

There were many reasons for this perplexing approach. The most important one was that a hard-line government in Colombo was seen as more conducive to a possible outbreak of war. It was felt that international opinion would be firmly opposed to such a regime if and when war erupted. This, in turn, was expected to be beneficial for the LTTE.

On the other hand, the LTTE was resentful and suspicious about Wickremesinghe. It was worried about the overwhelming Tamil support for him. It did not want a replay of the 1994 scenario where Chandrika Kumaratunga came to power with tremendous Tamil support. The Tigers also feared Wickermesinghe’s international clout. The Tigers feared that in the event war escalated,  the world at large would support Colombo if Ranil was at the helm. It was felt that an amenably flexible president like Ranil would also reduce the scope for the LTTE to cite valid reasons for resuming the war against the state.

There had been simmering dissent in Tiger circles for long that Wickremesinghe’s ceasefire was a calculated device to weaken and debilitate the LTTE in the long-run.  It was described as a “Samaathaanap Pori” or peace trap by pro-Tiger opinion makers.

This LTTE stance to some extent was one where the perceived interests of the Tigers diverged from the real interests of the Tamil people. The ordinary  Tamil people did not want war and so preferred the best possible candidate who they thought would avoid war and talk peace and power-sharing with the LTTE.

Common sense and past experience decreed that Wickremesinghe was the better of the two in that respect. It did not matter whether Wickremesinghe would deliver or not. Given  Rajapaksa’s standpoint and those of his allies, Wickremesinghe was certainly the better of the two from a general Tamil peace perspective. Actually it was a case of Hobson’s choice then for peace-loving Tamils abhorring war in supporting Ranil’s candidacy.

The LTTE, however, had a different perspective to that of the Tamils at large in 2005. For the militaristic Tigers, Mahinda Rajapaksa was the better option than Ranil  Wickremesinghe. The interests of the LTTE took precedence over that of the welfare of the Tamil people. Wickremesinghe was more dangerous in a war situation as opposed to Rajapaksa. While sections of the Sinhala electorate thought that a southern veeraya like Rajapaksa was sending shivers down the Tiger spine but the reality at the 2005 presidential poll was different. Though Ranil was decried by his adversaries as a weak traitor,  tt was a victory for  Wickremesinghe that posed a grave threat in the LTTE perception. Given a direct choice the Tigers preferred Rajapaksa as they had misjudged him badly and thought he would function as a “weak and ineffective” president when faced with war.

Ironic Contradiction

This led to an ironic contradiction. The Tamil people wanted a president to talk peace with the Tigers and prevent war while the Tigers wanted a president who could disrupt peace and bring about war. In such a situation the franchise of the people became a casualty. This was the crux of the matter in 2005.

Against that backdrop, the LTTE found that despite their covert signals the Tamil people were planning to support Wickremesinghe overwhelmingly. This then led to a situation where the Tigers were forced to target Wickremesinghe more directly. Senior leader K.V. Balakumaran openly attacked Wickremesinghe and made it clear that he was the more “dangerous” of the two. Political Commissar S.P. Tamilselvan followed suit. The Tiger and pro-Tiger media launched an intensive offensive against Ranil. The UNP was described as more dangerous than the SLFP. The SLFP was a “seerikkadikkum naaham”(hissing cobra which gave warning before it bit). The UNP was a “seeraamal kadikkum pudaiyan”(the viper which stung silently without giving warning).

A parallel exercise undertaken indirectly was an orchestrated campaign urging Tamils to desist from voting. Since the international community was observant and a ceasefire was in progress, the LTTE could not openly call for an election boycott then. So a number of front organisations notably student outfits took up the cry.

Still, the detectable tendency as far as the Tamil people were concerned was to vote and vote for Ranil. This was due to a realisation based on common sense that Wickremesinghe had to be supported to prevent anticipated  Sinhala  Buddhist hegemony and the resultant war. Whatever the LTTE desired, the ordinary Tamils grasped shrewdly that it was in their best interests to back Wickremesinghe. It was not as if Ranil was a positive choice. But compared to Mahinda, the people preferred Wickremesinghe.

So the Tigers had to raise the ante further. They were compelled to call a news conference on November 10, 2005, after a joint meeting with their minions, the Tamil National Alliance. It was announced there by Sampanthan that the “people” had decided to boycott polls. The LTTE-TNA were simply expressing “their” wishes.

Voting Pattern

In the keenly contested elections, Mahinda  Rajapaksa polled 4,887,152 (50.29%) votes while Ranil Wickremesinghe obtained 4,706,366 votes (48.43%). Ranil lost to Mahinda by 180,786 votes. Had the LTTE not enforced the boycott the result may have been one of Mahinda losing to Ranil. The voting pattern at the poll indicated that the majority of Tamil and Muslim votes had indeed been cast for Ranil. Thus in a bitterly cruel irony, the man accused of conspiring with the LTTE to win the election was in reality defeated by the Tigers themselves.

This writer then was almost a solitary Tamil voice crying out ahead that a boycott should not be enforced. After the result, this writer was the only Tamil who warned the LTTE  publicly that the result brought about by the boycott would backfire on the Tigers themselves. Tigers and pro-Tiger elements riding the crest of a euphoric wave paid little heed and as was customary launched a media attack on this writer. Ultimately this writer was proved right when the Rajapaksa  Government defeated and destroyed the LTTE.

Given the current context where Ranil Wickremesinghe is once again being vilified on a baseless charge of conspiring with LTTE elements, it may be of interest to revisit the not so distant past once again. Why and how did the LTTE  and TNA in 2005 sabotage  Ranil Wickremesinghe’s chances of victory and helped defeat the man who removed the LTTE prescription and was prepared to explore even federalism? What are the reasons that led to this ill-advised move by the Tigers which in the final analysis boomeranged on the two-legged felines themselves? How was the boycott that disenfranchised countless Tamil voters enforced by the LTTE?

The 2005 LTTE-enforced boycott was ostensibly to demonstrate to the world at large that the Tamil people were disillusioned by presidential candidates and had nothing to gain from a new president. The Tamils belonged to “Tamil Eelam” and were unconcerned about Sri Lanka was the message sought to be conveyed then. Though the decision to be neutral and boycott polls was supposedly a people-based decision and it was obvious that the LTTE directed the events. It was also clear that the LTTE did not want one particular candidate namely Ranil Wickremesinghe to win.  In effect the LTTE wanted the pro-peace Ranil to lose and not be elected as executive president. The reasons for the LTTE stance were rather interesting.

The LTTE  had initially stated that it was neutral in the presidential stakes and would play no role in it. It said the Tamil people were free to exercise their franchise if they desired so or they could refrain from voting. The Tamil people were politically mature and would act appropriately the LTTE said.

Groundswell

As time went by the LTTE detected a groundswell of support among Tamil people for the United National Party (UNP) candidate Ranil Wickremesinghe. The LTTE then changed its stance slightly and began berating both  Mahinda Rajapakse and Ranil Wickremesinghe. Both had failed the Tamil people and were unworthy of Tamil support they said.

In spite of all this, the visible trend was a rising tide of Tamil votes for Wickremesinghe. This spontaneous Tamil support for Ranil gathering momentum then was due to several reasons. Foremost among them was the perceived hawkish policies of  Mahinda Rajapaksa and his pacts with the hard-line Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) and Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU). The Tamil people abhorring a return to war, felt quite rightly that a victory for Mahinda would hasten a resumption of armed hostilities.

There was also a feeling of gratitude for Wickremesinghe. It was he who de-proscribed the LTTE and entered into a ceasefire with the Tigers. Besides Ranil advocated negotiations with the LTTE and was in favour of exploring a federal solution. His economic policies were also attractive to Tamils.

It was also realised that Wickremesinghe depicted as a traitor to the Sinhala people by his opponents for his dovish policies faced the risk of losing Sinhala votes on account of this. The thinking sections of the community believed that it was, therefore, necessary for Tamils to vote for Wickremesinghe in large numbers to offset this disadvantage.

“Against that backdrop, the LTTE found that despite their covert signals the Tamil people were planning to support Wickremesinghe overwhelmingly”

Rajavarothayam Sampanthan

“Tamil residents in North-East are fully aware of the conduct of the two major Sinhala parties. They have been through and suffered through periods under these parties’ governance. We know and understand Tamil peoples’ frame of mind. We have no doubt that they are in full agreement with our thinking,”  Rajavarothayam Sampanthan told the media then.

“We discussed in-depth and exchanged our views on the situation related to the elections and what historical significance our participation in the elections is going to be for the future of our people,” he said.

“There was no doubt in any of the participants’ mind that the Presidential election will not produce any positive shift in the Southern Polity’s thinking and approach that will in anyway result in any progressive advance towards resolving the Tamil question. That is why we decided that it is a futile exercise to show any interest in the elections,” Sampanthan told the media at that time.

In spite of the attempt to depict  it as a people’s boycott, Sampanthan gave the game away when he said that,  “the people were in agreement with OUR thinking.” It was clear that the decision to boycott was not a groundswell reflecting the wishes of the people but one being imposed from above by the LTTE  on the Tamil people to which the TNA played second fiddle.

Despite these moves, the Tigers had to officially maintain a position of ‘detachment.’ The fiction that the people were going to boycott was publicised to a great extent. It was necessary to pay lip service to the notion that the Tamil people were free to decide whether they wanted to vote or not and that the people would choose wisely was hinted at heavily. Unfortunately for the LTTE, the Tamil people were still of the opinion that they should vote in large numbers for Wickremesinghe.

With rival groups like the EPDP and Karuna faction urging and encouraging a large  Tamil voter turn out, it was becoming a matter of prestige for the LTTE. The anti-LTTE comments made by Navin Dissanayake at a meeting in Ginigathena and Milinda Moragoda in a newspaper interview caused further complications. It was now becoming necessary to enforce a boycott and deprive Wickremesinghe of victory. Ranil and the UNP had to be taught an unforgettable lesson was the Tiger line of thinking.

Day of Mourning

It was now out in the open and the Tiger hand behind the boycott call was becoming exposed. A call to declare election day, a day of mourning and for people to stay indoors was made through a student front. Even public servants on election duty were asked to stay at home.

The pro-Mahinda elements had earlier been accusing Wickremesinghe of a tie-up with the LTTE and charging that the Tigers were going to deliver the Tamil vote en bloc to Ranil. Now they changed track and began gloating over the fact that the Tigers were now trying to sabotage Wickremesinghe. It was comical indeed to see people reverse their stances overnight and in the process expose the venom they had against  Ranil Wickremesinghe.

Wickremesinghe’s well-wishers and sections of the international community were aghast. Many lines of communication were opened with Kilinochchi. Several international community representatives and local politicians appealed to the LTTE. Representations were made to Anton Balasingham in London.  Former Up Country People’s Front Leader  Periyasamy Chandrasekaran went to Kilinochchi. After meeting Tamilselvan he returned to Vavuniya and spoke on the telephone with Wickremesinghe. He then went to Kilinochchi again to meet the LTTE political commissar. Some TNA parliamentarians also took up Wickremesinghe’s case.

As a result of these efforts, the LTTE hierarchy in Kilinochchi gave an assurance that the Tigers would not strictly enforce a boycott. They would merely call for a boycott but not adopt any further action to actually instil a boycott. They would leave the matter entirely to the people. They would not stand in the way of voters wishing to exercise their franchise.

This was unadulterated  LTTE doublespeak but the UNP chose to believe it then. I recall telling former “Sunday leader” editor Lasantha Wickrematunge not to be deceived by the Tigers. He dismissed my warning lightly but was later apologetic when the LTTE bared its fangs.

UNP Leadership

The UNP leadership also opted to take the Tigers at their “word”. Wickremesinghe did not want any direct dealings with the LTTE on the question. All that he wanted then was for the LTTE to refrain from forcibly implementing a boycott. Ranil was confident that if the choice was left in the hands of the Tamil people, they would vote for him. The UNP was sure that the Tamil people would vote in large numbers for Wickremesinghe if the Tigers did not impose a boycott.

So some Colombo newspapers ran stories of a change of heart in the LTTE. At that time the LTTE  mouthpiece Tamilnet wanted an interview with Wickremesinghe to “clarify” the position. Ranil very correctly refused to oblige the Tiger website but gave an extensive interview to a Colombo newspaper and television explaining his stance. Wickremesinghe took great pains to explain his position clearly on the Tamil question. This eased the minds of many pro-tiger Tamils who were troubled earlier by the comments made by Milinda and Navin. In the process of reaching out to these pro-Tiger elements, Ranil alienated some Sinhala voters.

“Buses had been arranged for voters from LTTE-controlled areas to come to government-controlled areas and vote in the cluster booths set up in border areas.”

It was against this backdrop that the enforced boycott took place amid intimidatory violence and terror. The LTTE that had assured “non-interference” in the poll broke its promise in typical fashion. The LTTE launched a vicious campaign to prevent Tamils from voting thereby damaging Ranil’s chances of victory. Despite claims to being the sole representatives of the Tamil people, the LTTE had to unleash a  terror campaign then against innocent civilians to enforce what it called a “purakkanippu” or boycott of the presidential poll. While posters and leaflets calling for a boycott were widely circulated a systematic campaign of violence and terror also began prior to election day.

A series of explosions took place. In Jaffna, grenades were thrown at five EPDP party offices on the eve of the polls. Grenades and bombs were also thrown at police patrols, army sentry posts, vehicles, etc. A  youth was tortured and beaten to death publicly at the Hindu College grounds. In Batticaloa a sub-postmistress who allegedly refused to hand over polling cards was brutally hacked to death. A climate of terror prevailed.

This terror continued from the early hours of the morning on election day. Bombs were thrown at government offices, polling booths, security posts and vehicles. Tyres and palm fronds were set on fire at key junctions and roads. Roadblocks were set up. Youths roamed the streets looking for potential voters. The LTTE motorcycle squad patrolled roads. People on the roads were threatened. Many old people going out to vote were assaulted. Vehicles including buses were stoned or set on fire. Civilian voters and officials were injured in deliberate grenade attacks on polling stations. A few people returning after voting were set upon. One man had his inked finger cut off. The message was unmistakably clear – DONT VOTE.

Serious Charge

The  Sri Lanka Democracy Forum in a statement issued then levelled a serious charge. It said “LTTE cadres appointed by the New Left Front as polling agents (normally used in elections to challenge fraud can only be appointed by a party with a candidate in the elections), were used by the LTTE to intimidate voters inside polling booths and to identify voters who could then be targeted for retribution.” This was indeed a dangerous development.

Buses had been arranged for voters from LTTE-controlled areas to come to government-controlled areas and vote in the cluster booths set up in border areas. With a Tiger enforced boycott none dared to come. In this climate of fear, only 1.5 % had voted in the Jaffna District.

The Kilinochchi division completely under Tiger control had only one person who voted. Officials and journalists mobbed this solitary voter who claimed he had travelled by motorcycle, car and bus. It was however felt the man had been sent deliberately by the Tigers to survey the situation. The only vote cast from Kilinochchi was for Ranil Wickremesinghe. Funnily enough, the election staff finished counting this single ballot only at 9.13 p.m. which meant it took five hours to count one vote.

In Batticaloa, armed  LTTE sentinels guarded access roads, bridges and ferry points to prevent people from Tiger-controlled regions coming over and voting. Roadblocks were set up. Fires raged. A Tiger cadre interviewed by a news agency gave a hilarious yet telling performance. He first said that the decision to boycott elections was made by the people themselves. “We had nothing to do with it” the Tiger cadre said. Continuing further he said, “But we will not allow them to vote.”

In some places, people were “persuaded” to burn their polling cards in a bonfire. A few of these demonstrations took place in the presence of European Union election monitors. The EU monitors also withdrew from Chenkalady and Valaichchenai due to the violent climate. Though voting percentages dropped slightly the situation in the East and Vavuniya-Mannar was not as bad as in Jaffna, Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu.

Doublespeak

Even as the LTTE engaged in these activities, the Wickremesinghe camp belatedly realised that the LTTE had betrayed them. Frantic attempts to communicate with Kilinochchi failed. The LTTE in one more instance of doublespeak maintained that they were not interfering, while goons did their utmost to restrict voting. Tamilselvan glibly parroted the refrain that the people were boycotting on their own.

The LTTE claimed the boycott was a tremendous success. Superficial observations by some journalists also supported this claim then. Some came out with blatantly wrong reports that Tamils in Colombo had also heeded the Tiger call and refrained from voting. Tamilnet distorted and exaggerated this observation for its own ends. The facts, however, were otherwise.

“The Tamil voters in Tiger controlled areas of the Wanni mainland were not allowed to vote by the Tigers. This resulted in votes dropping significantly”

Polling divisions within Colombo city and suburbs like Wattala and Dehiwela have large Tamil and Muslim concentrations. Wickremesinghe won well  from all these areas. His majority in Colombo West, Central, North and East were high. If Tamils boycotted in large numbers these results would not have been possible. The margins would have  been much  lower.

The Up Country Tamil vote also was overwhelmingly for Wickremesinghe. This was seen in polling divisions with substantial Tamils in Kandy, Nuwara Eliya, Matale, Ratnapura  and Badulla districts. It was the Tamil majority Nuwara Eliya-Maskeliya polling division that gave Wickremesinghe his biggest majority.

Even in the East, the electoral divisions of Kalkudah, Batticaloa and Paddiruppu voted for Wickremesinghe. Though the LTTE prevented voters in the “paduvaankarai” hinterland west of Batticaloa lagoon from voting, Tamils in the “eluvaankarai” littoral east of the lagoon voted in large numbers.

The LTTE tried to make out then that votes for Wickremesinghe in the East were from the Muslims. This was incorrect. Paddiruppu, for instance, is 99% Tamil. Kalkudah is 65% Tamil. Batticaloa is 75% Tamil. The votes from these eastern electoral divisions for Ranil  in 2005  were more than in the 1999 presidential election. This was the case in Tamil majority Trincomalee electoral division also.

 Muslim Vote

While Tamils who voted in the East were supportive of Wickremesinghe it was the Muslim vote that got divided to a certain extent. While the SLMC succeeded in delivering the majority Muslim vote to Wickremesinghe, people like Athaullah, Ferial Ashraff, Segu Issadeen, Anwer Ismail, Ameer Ali and Najeeb Abdul Majeed, etc. used their personal influence to deliver some votes to Mahinda.

The Tamil voters in Tiger controlled areas of the Wanni mainland were not allowed to vote by the Tigers. This resulted in votes dropping significantly. Yet Tamils in government-controlled Mannar and Vavuniya in the Wanni voted in large numbers. These areas were overwhelmingly supportive of Ranil.

Ironically for the LTTE, the only northern electoral division voting for Mahinda was Mullaitheevu, the Tiger citadel and heartland. While Tamils were prevented by the LTTE, Sinhala settlers in army-controlled Weli Oya were able to vote freely. Thus Mahinda got more votes than Wickremesinghe in the  Mullaitivu district.
It was widely rumoured then that MPs like Sivanathan Kishore and Selvam Adaikkalanathan etc. worked clandestinely to ensure Wickremesinghe got votes. In Batticaloa, the Karuna factor also helped. While Karuna asked people to support Rajapaksa he also wanted people to vote for anyone of their choices. This ‘mixed’ signal strengthened the people’s resolve to vote.

It was therefore crystal clear that the Tiger enforced boycott was not a huge success in Govt controlled areas where the LTTE influence was minimal. Votes dropped only in areas under LTTE control or where they retained great influence by maintaining a strong presence on the pretext of doing political work. Even in these areas, the Tigers had to deploy systematic violence to prevent large-scale voting. In all other areas the Tamils exercised their franchise in large numbers particularly in Batticaloa district, Trincomalee, Mannar, Vavuniya, Colombo and the Up Country.

Electoral Districts

The Tamils clearly voted for Wickremesinghe in 2005. It was indeed noteworthy that most of the electoral districts won by Mahinda  Rajapaksa in 2005  were predominantly Sinhala while those won by Ranil Wickremesinghe were districts where the minority communities were in a majority or at least comprised a sizeable chunk.  It was realised then that the  Tamil people if unfettered would have voted extensively for Wickremesinghe. The northern postal votes and voting pattern in other areas indicated this. Serious development of the 2005  election was that of Rajapaksa winning the bulk of Sinhala votes and  Wickremesinghe getting most non-Sinhala votes. The LTTE-enforced boycott favoured Mahinda  Rajapaksa because the Tamils if allowed to vote, would have opted for Wickremesinghe. There was a convergence of interests therefore between the LTTE and Rajapaksa in implementing an effective boycott. The overall majority was 186,000 plus. If the Jaffna, Wanni and Eastern Tamils had voted in full strength there was every chance that Wickremesinghe would have got an extra 250,000 to 300,000 votes. This would have clinched his victory. Wickremesinghe was cheated of success by the LTTE’s betrayal.

Though the Tigers and their minions waxing eloquent then about their success and ability in determining the victor, it was indeed a moot point as to what the total political cost incurred would have been in the final analysis. The minority vote had proved crucial in the presidential elections of 1982, 1988, 1994 and 1999. Massive minority community support was regarded as essential to be elected as President. The LTTE in 2005 changed that unwritten rule of elections by depriving Ranil of  Tamil votes through the boycott.

The LTTE  helped defeat  Ranil and helped install Mahinda in 2005  as president. The Tigers betrayed the man who de-proscribed them and signed a ceasefire pact. The bitter irony for Wickremesinghe then was the fact that it was the ceasefire he enacted which gave the LTTE increased clout in Jaffna.

 Insincere Commitment

With the EU monitors present the LTTE blundered politically in enforcing a boycott. In the first place, the LTTE demonstrated that their writ did not extend to all sections of the Tamil people and that a boycott could succeed in the North only due to terror and violence. The LTTE had exposed their insincere commitment to a negotiated settlement by helping defeat Ranil and enabling Mahinda to win.

Depriving Tamils of the franchise was certainly not a plus point for the LTTE. What was worse was that the disenfranchisement was made possible through a campaign of violence and terror. The Tamils have for long lamented the disenfranchisement of  UpCountry Tamils by a Sinhala dominated government in 1949. It was portrayed as a grave violation of a fundamental right. In 2005  the self-appointed sole representatives of the Tamil people deprived a segment of the North-Eastern Tamils of their franchise through force and intimidation. Though the Tigers did not realise it then, their betrayal of Ranil Wickremesinghe brought about negative repercussions in the long run. The Tigers were to learn, in more ways than one,  that the forced disenfranchisement was a colossal blunder. Their miscalculated move to instal Mahinda Rajapaksa as President in 2005 November through the enforced boycott proved to be fatally counterproductive as the military debacle of May 2009 in Mullivaaikkaal demonstrated effectively.

DBS Jeyaraj can be reached at dbsjeyaraj@yahoo.com

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Writer and Journalist living in Canada since 1987. Tamil activist

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