If Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa thought the spotlight was no longer on his regime despite United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay raising concerns over the human rights of the Tamils, the Sunday results of the Northern Provincial Council elections would have come as a shocker. The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) won 30 of the 38 seats in the elections sending a clear message to Colombo that it was time to give more regional autonomy to the northern areas. The ruling United People’s Freedom Alliance managed to secure seven seats, while the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress won the remaining one seat.
The results are perhaps the worst electoral defeat for Mr Rajapaksa after his government came to power in 2005. Last month, Ms Pillay visited Sri Lanka and did not mince her words in expressing her disappointment at the progress the government had made in integrating the Lankan Tamils in the north of the country even four years after the civil war came to an end. The poll results underline her observations.
The results have placed a lot of challenges in front of CV Wigneswaran, the retired Supreme Court judge and TNA leader who is frontrunner for the post of chief minister of the province. The high voter turnout and the majority the TNA has received is also a sign that the people are not happy with the measures taken by the government in the past four years to improve their lives. Mr Wigneswaran’s view that the TNA is willing to work with Colombo is proof that he has not been swayed by the views of nationalist groups, especially the Tamil diaspora, that is rooting for a separate State. It is to be seen how much Colombo will be willing to cooperate on this issue. The people have reposed their faith in democracy. Now, it is up to both the TNA and the Rajapaksa government to avoid disappointing them.