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Development in full swing:

UPFA makes inroads in North

The March 17 Local Government (LG) polls, which recorded a landslide victory for the ruling UPFA Government, is the best example to show the world that the people of the Northern region have been convinced that the government has treated them equally.

They, who were denied of many rights including the right to exercise their franchise under control of the now defunct LTTE came forward to cast their votes to choose their own representatives in free and fair elections held after three decades.

The North which failed to reap the benefits of development and remained backward for decades, had been connected to the mainstream development process even while the humanitarian operation was going on in 2009. The Northerners had earlier witnessed how their so-called ‘sole representative’ the LTTE misused money allocated by the State for the region’s development.

However, they are now witnessing themselves the true development in place with new roads, bridges, State buildings, hospitals and many other vital development projects to make the North yet another hub of the country.

As the saying goes that nothing could hide the truth, now the Government is reaping the benefits of what it had sown just two years ago despite the malicious and false propaganda by some anti-government political parties to discredit the hard-earned victory - not only the winning of a battle against terrorism but also winning the hearts and minds of the Tamils and Muslims in the North and the East.

Before 2009, holding an election in the LTTE dominated North was an ‘impossible game’, since the anti-LTTE political parties contesting against the LTTE proxies did so at the risk of their lives due to LTTE violence. People trampled under the LTTE were denied their right to franchise and were forced to vote for the candidates of LTTE’s choice. They virtually lived at gunpoint.

The recent LG polls, showed a progressive increase of UPFA votes in the Tamil dominated North compared to the previous polls - Presidential and General elections.

Rishad Bathiudeen Vinayagamoorthi Muralitharan

Local Government elections were held in Mannar, Vavuniya and Mullaitivu districts for 10 local government bodies. An analysis of the votes cast at the LG polls and General Elections clearly indicate a progressive increase of votes for the UPFA.

In the three districts - Mannar, Vavuniya & Mullaitivu, the UPFA received seats in each of the following local bodies - Mannar Urban Council, Mannar Pradeshiya Sabha, Nanattan Pradeshiya Sabha, Mussali Pradeshiya Sabha and Manthai Pradeshiya Saba in Mannar; Vavuniya North Pradeshiya Sabha, Venkalachettikulam Pradeshiya Sabha, Vavuniya South Tamil Pradeshiya Sabha and Vavuniya South Sinhala Pradeshiya Sabha in Vavuniya and Manathai East Pradeshiya Sabha in Mullaitivu.

Political analysts said that the voters in Wanni have endorsed the UPFA and its political interest to develop the region and also implement reconciliation in the post conflict era. “ Over 27.31 percent of the Wanni voters did cast their vote for Presidential candidate Mahinda Rajapaksa and at the General election this number had increased to 35.07 percent. At the recent LG polls the UPFA vote base has been increased by 39 percent and a clear, pro-UPFA bent is evident in Wanni now”, they said.

Minister of Industry and Commerce, Rishad Bathiudeen, who ran the ruling UPFA’s LG polls campaigns in Wanni, said that the increasing amity among ethnic communities in Wanni coupled with the massive development initiatives in the region by the Government have contributed to this growing trend.

“I was the first to have expressed confidence in Mahinda Rajapaksa and crossed over to the UPFA Government in 2005 as the President has a clear vision to develop the country, especially the North and the East, and also for reconciliation among all communities. From that very day, there was no looking back”, he said.

Minister Bathiudeen said despite attempts by some political parties and religious leaders at leading false propaganda campaigns against the government and some campaigns to arouse communal disharmony in the North, the people who enjoy the spirit of peace and development brought by this government, have reposed their trust in it.

“However, the election results show that the voters were not moved at all by such propaganda” he said adding that the reconciliation efforts by the government have been able to pave the way for thousands of Tamil speaking Muslims, who were chased away by the LTTE, to return to their villages after long years of displacement.

“Today however the Tamils in the region are welcoming the Muslims back to the North and are willingly working with the Muslim community without showing any degree of indifference”, the Minister said.

Deputy Minister of Resettlement Vinayagamoorthi Muralitharan said though the TNA boasts of receiving the highest number of votes in the North, more people have voted for the UPFA.

“This is the first time after 30 years that people in the North have voted for the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP). During late Prime Minister Srimavo Bandaranaike’s regime the SLFP had a vote base but later we lost it due to LTTE’s influence. We are happy that we have regained it under the leadership of President Rajapaksa, he said.

Minister Muralitharan commended the Tamil and Muslim voters for voting for the SLFP as it was the only political party that could bring development to their doorstep. He said people in the North who have begun to realise the clear development policies of the President have said that the TNA could not deliver the goods.

“If you go through the final results you can see the TNA has topped the LG polls in the North but more than half of the people have not cast their votes. LG bodies play a very crucial role in village development and the TNA cannot spearhead development. The LG polls did not bestow much power to the TNA”, he said.

Minister Muralitharan said that the people battered by the LTTE and lost their future due to the 30-year long terrorism, will not be brainwashed by the TNA’s negative propaganda to arouse hatred against the government.

“The TNA still wants to propagate racism in the North and they called the SLFP as a Sinhala dominated political party. If so how could Minister Alavi Mowlana and I be Vice Presidents of that party. SLFP is a multi national party and people of the North have gradually understood that the TNA propaganda is false and revengeful. They can’t mislead the Northern people any more”, he said.

He said the TNA had won the L.G. polls with a little margin but the UPFA had shown a steady increase of its vote base in the North.

The Minister said the Muslims in the East who had been completely convinced of the development and freedom installed by the government had voted for the UPFA while the UNP had lost their strongholds in the East.

The Tamils in the North have gradually abandoned the TNA which still propagates violence and communalism rather than promoting ethnic harmony to ensure a peaceful future for the Tamils.

“People know that the TNA could not deliver anything for the benefit of the Tamils during the past so many years and they will fail to do so even in the future. They together with the LTTE pushed people back to the stone age and destroyed the future of the Tamils. Now they don’t want anything other than development and a secured future for their children.

They will not allow the TNA or any other movement to destroy these hard-earned achievements. They have reposed their trust in President Rajapaksa as he has a clear vision and a strong commitment to develop the North”, he said.

Minister Muralitharan, the former trustworthy bodyguard of LTTE leader Velupillai Prabahakaran, said within the next two to three years the mindset of the Tamils who had voted for the TNA would change as they watch the rapid development and peace in the country with their own eyes.

However, political analysts said that there was a very low voter turn-out in those LG areas, which were dominated by the LTTE earlier. They said the people’s faith in the TNA is fast losing as they are not interested in voting. Compared to the voter turn-out, it appears that half of the registered voters have not exercised their franchise.

The other factor, according to the analysts is that when the votes received by the Sri Lanka Muslim Party (SLMP), which is now a government alley, are added the UPFA’s vote would further increase. It has captured a significant part of the each LG body in the North.

The total votes received by the UPFA in Mannar at the LG polls were 18,974 as against the 7,431 votes at the last General election. For the first time in 30 years the UPFA has received Tamil votes from the Manthai East, whose people were disconnected from the rest of the country and also lived under the jackboot of the LTTE.

“The UPFA has won three seats in Manthai East Pradeshiya Sabha, which was a totally LTTE dominated area. Isn’t this itself enough to show that people have started reposing trust in the government within a short period of two years?” he asked.

The March 17 LG polls clearly indicate that the UPFA, is now making inroads and convincing people in the North after the three decade long conflict.

The Government says it would do a lot to develop the region and also bring reconciliation among the communities, which looked at each other suspiciously due to the picture of hatred by the LTTE.

The North has a long way to go and its people, who are slowly railling round the UPFA government, are gradually defeating the remnants of the LTTE and those who mislead them by claiming they were the sole representatives of the Tamils.

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