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SL Prez' electoral stunner augurs well

The Lankan media hails ruling United Peoples' Freedom Alliance's win in local Govt polls, writes PK Balachandran.

india Updated: Apr 01, 2006 19:18 IST

The ruling United Peoples' Freedom Alliance's stunning victory in the local government elections held on Thursday, augurs well for the peace process in Sri Lanka, the media say.

It is also seen as an endorsement of his "Mahinda Chinthanaya", the manifesto of the rural poor and the indigenous and moderate Sinhala nationalistic forces.

The Tamil minority sees the victory as a mandate to keep the Sinhala nationalist extremists out of the peace process and move faster and more purposefully on the peace front.

The Tamils expect Rajapaksa to initiate and maintain a dialogue with the LTTE on the core political questions underlying the decades-old ethnic conflict, now that he is not politically shackled by the Sinhala extremists.

The Tamils' expectation is based on the rout of the Sinhala-majoritarian forces, represented by the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) and the Jathika Hela Uurumaya (JHU).

Right across the ethnic divide it is agreed that Rajapaksa's popularity is now truly phenomenal.

His alliance's victory also testifies to the fact that his popularity has grown very sharply.

Only three months ago, in November 2005, he had scraped through the presidential election with just over 50 per cent of the votes polled.

And even this slender lead was secured because of his tie up with the JVP and JHU.

But three months later, fighting without the support of the JVP and JHU, he has captured 222 of the 266 local bodies up for grabs.

The United National Party (UNP), which nearly beat Rajapaksa three months ago, secured just 32 councils. The JVP got just one. And the JHU none.

The state-owned Daily News said in an edit on Saturday that the masses had voted for the UPFA's "people centred" development, and against those who were seen as "espousing the interests of specific cultural groups."

They had also voted out those who had stood for a secretive peace process in which decisions were taken by a coterie. The reference was to the UNP.

"No doubt, this augurs well for the future and the peace process," the paper said.

Daily Mirror said that the election had strengthened Rajapaksa's hands in his efforts to solve the "national question", as the ethnic question is known in Sri Lanka.

He had got "all the power and strength he requires" to go ahead with his programme to solve the North Eastern (Tamil) question, the paper said.

But Daily Mirror cautioned Rajapaksa against wholly ignoring the UNP (which was strong in parliament). The paper called for UPFA-UNP cooperation to solve the national question.

The Island daily said that the poll results would intensify the campaign against Ranil Wickremesinghe within the defeated UNP.

And within the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), which is the main constituent of the UPFA, there would be a move to oust Chandrika Kumaratunga from the Presidentship of the party.

Kumaratunga had not only worked against Rajapaksa within the party, but had not campaigned for the UPFA.

The Island said that the JVP had no alternative but to "behave" because a general election was now a "frightening prospect" for it.

The JVP would have to swallow the deadline, which it gave to Rajapaksa to sack Norway from the position of peace facilitator.

"The results have also helped Mahinda to explode the theory that the JVP is swallowing the SLFP up," the paper said.

Tamil view

The Tamil daily Virakesari said that the election results made it abundantly clear that Rajapaksa need no longer bend and cringe before "communal" forces like the JVP and JHU. He could move on the fast track to peace, it said

In the view of another Tamil daily Thinakkural the victory gives Rajapaksa a mandate to go ahead and settle the ethnic question. The people of Sri Lanka expected the President to utilize the opportunity, it said.

The results had cleared the decks for a push towards peace and it was Rajapaksa's responsibility to make use of the opportunity given to him, said Sudar Oli in its edit on Friday.

First Published: Apr 01, 2006 16:11 IST