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Winning isn’t everything

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa has still many battles to fight and win.

india Updated: Jan 27, 2010 21:41 IST

This is an election that could have gone any way. It was fought between two war heroes, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his former army chief Sarath Fonseka. Both men can claim credit for the end of the war in Sri Lanka. But now that Mr Rajapaksa has been declared the victor by a handsome margin, it is clear that the Tamil minority vote did not play a major role in the electoral process. Not by a long shot. However, with such a major mandate, Mr Rajapaksa can play a very important role in national reconciliation. There are many unresolved issues that Mr Rajapaksa has not addressed. He conducted the war against the Tamil Tigers in a ruthless manner. A very large Tamil population caught in the crossfire is still in temporary camps with very little facilities for a return to normal life. Mr Rajapaksa has many problems that he will have to deal with. One is the economy, which is doing well, though there are a huge amount of jobs going down the the tube thanks to a wrangle with the European Union. Health and education, which were once strong points in Sri Lanka, have not been looking up in recent times. The textile industry is not doing too well and this will mean that many jobs will be lost. Mr Rajapaksa cannot be unaware of the fact that there is a considerable amount of anger at his nepotistic behaviour. Just about every one in the government is from the Rajapaksa family.

But the issue that will now have to be settled is that of Sri Lanka’s Tamils. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) is now history. But the issue of devolution, namely the 13th Amendment, is still on the cards. This was mooted by Rajiv Gandhi and never really took off. It is not unreasonable for the Tamils to expect some sort of resolution to the problem that has been festering for decades.

The Tamils are really caught between a rock and a hard place. It would seem that at the moment, it is in no one’s interest to come to any agreement with them. The Tamil demands are not totally without reason. It would be in Mr Rajapaksa’s interest to see that these are fulfilled. Since he now has unprecedented power in his hands. It is very much in the interest of the Sinhala majority, which both major candidates professed to uphold, that a proper reconciliation is effected. The military victory that his army has secured should be very soon turned into a political accord very soon for an equitable solution for all in the island nation.