On the contrary: Sri Lanka

Most commentators have observed that the instability created by the split verdict of the Sri Lankan elections will have an adverse impact on the peace process.

I disagree.

President Kumaratunga’s ragtag band of leftists, nationalists and monks will form a shaky coalition that has to get on with the mundane realities of administration. Significantly, the left-wing Sinhala nationalist Janata Vimukti Perumuna (JVP) has found itself close to the corridors of actual power. Hitherto it was one of the most strident opponents to concessions to the LTTE. The realities of being in government will blunt its more extreme elements and will drive it to moderate its pitch. In any case, the main difference between Kumaratunga’s United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) and the JVP is over the administrative nature of reconciliation with the Tamils – devolution or decentralisation.

This election has brought the LTTE into electoral politics again, through its surrogate Tamil National Alliance. Besides, the LTTE has to reconcile with a split within its ranks when Karuna, one of its commanders, broke away from the Prabhakaran clique. The schism within the LTTE is likely to show up in the internal politics of its surrogate. The LTTE has no choice – there are no takers for its ‘freedom fighter’ image anymore. External funding is drying up, both because the struggle has lost its hold over the Tamil diaspora and because of greater scrutiny over sources of terrorist funding after 9/11. The only long term option open to the LTTE, regardless of its protestations, is to change into a political outfit. The mandate it received in the current election only reaffirms this.

Therefore, there will be some instability as the various groups jockey for position. But the peace process is not lost, as almost all players have no other choice. But there is a possibility for a major messing up of the economy, given the mixture of populism, Marxism and economic nationalism that runs across the ruling coalition. The most unfortunate outcome of this election could very well be the undoing of the responsible management of the Sri Lankan economy by the outgoing government.

Related Link: Disturbing Mandate in South Asia Intelligence Review Vol 2 No 38 | Muddling Mandate in Outlook Magazine