EPDP office in Vavuniya
The local elections in Jaffna had quite low turnout. In Vavuniya not as much, but still. Jaffna has been under government control for years and people reasonably could vote, so the question is why not. I think a lot of Tamil people legitimately have no faith in the government at all. In fact, a lot of Sinhala and Muslim people feel the same. However, I think we have to move through this apathy if we actually want to accomplish change. Overthrowing the government or separating regions is not the answer to the real problems we all face. Things may suck now, but they’ll only stop sucking if good people get off the sidelines and vote, run, etc.
In visiting camps and hospitals around Vavuniya I felt that one of the biggest problems was one of representation. Simply by virtue of being outsiders with freedom of movement and phones we were able to solve some problems just by connecting needs and people that could deliver. If one place didn’t have enough water we were able to talk to the water guys. If there was a garbage problem in one zone and local government guys in the south were willing to help, we could connect the parties and get permissions. A lot of this is just advocacy work, and it’s what a local representative could do.
If I could give the camps anything it would be elections and representatives, cause then people can help themselves. Half of the problem is not resource shortage but resource misallocation. Half of the problems can be solved with phone calls and pressure. However, these people do not have civic rights, let alone the right to vote. In time, though, they will.
The paradox of Mahinda winning the war is that he ‘liberated’ a bunch of people who probably won’t vote for him. Once they’re resettled they would probably vote for the opposition (if they ever got their shit together). Mahinda won the 2005 Presidential Election by less than 200,000 votes. The LTTE prevented and disenfranchised many more people from voting, and based on prior polling that would have probably swung the election away.
If the IDPs and Wannians are able vote this time then it’s quite possible that a viable opposition candidate can win. Of course, all of this in doubt. I personally do not think an election should be called while so many people are disenfranchised (again) but doing so may be politically expedient. The opposition, also, is somewhat nonexistent.
However, it remains that there is a possibility for power through democracy. I understand that the whole system sucks and it just bombed the hell out of peoples relatives, but it can change. If Tamil people choose to participate, if they align with other groups (up-country Tamils, Muslims, many Sinhalese) there is an electoral math whereby they can push reforms through without A) depending on the south or B) calling for international intervention.
The shame, however, is that many seem to have lost faith in the game at all. If they play, however, it is very possible to win.