The results of the US Presidential elections have created shockwaves worldwide. Though several world leaders have extended their support to President-elect, Donald Trump, it will be interesting to observe how the United States works with other nations around the world on various issues.
For Sri Lankan Tamils here and abroad, the defeat of Hillary Clinton does come as a bitter shock for several reasons. For Sri Lanka, like other South Asian nations, the connect to Clinton is more than to Trump, for obvious reasons.
The connect was evident when Hillary supporters including former TNA MP, MK Shivajilingam broke 1008 coconuts for her to emerge victorious at the elections.
Clinton had a fair idea of the developments in the South Asian region while Trump seems oblivious to these developments. In this context, it would be interesting to see how the Asian countries accept and establish a relationship with a future Trump government.
Dependency on the US
The Sri Lankan Tamil political circle has been interactive with the Western political bigwigs, particularly those in the US and the UK. The likes of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and other politicians who towed similar political lines have been highly dependent on the stances of the heads of these countries to ensure international mediation in Sri Lanka’s post-war developments.
The views of the United States on Sri Lanka’s progress in addressing crucial aspects including accountability issues were highly anticipated by these Tamil politicians.
It seems that they would have to adopt a fresh approach even to get the attention of a future Trump government.
Are all lost
Trump’s victory would have a minimal impact as far as the country’s Southern politicians are concerned. Cabinet Spokesperson, Dr. Rajitha Senaratne was quoted saying as a government under Trump would not interfere into Sri Lankan issues when compared to previous Presidents. This may be true since Trump’s election campaigns had indicated that he showed very little interest in affairs pertaining to other countries.
This attitude may be favourable for a section of the country that is against interference. On the other hand, it might not be favourable for the TNA.
The question here is whether the developments in the USA would have a negative impact on its endeavours internationally. It is too early to come to conclusions. However, based on Trump’s views expressed during his pre-election campaign, it is better that the TNA look at how it could change the approach to suit the current scenario.
One of the main reasons why talks between the Government and the TNA had failed in the past was due to the mismatch in views pertaining to international involvement in Sri Lanka’s post-war process.
Even now, both parties are yet to come to a consensus on the formation of the mechanism to probe into allegations of war crimes said to have been committed during the final stages of the war.
The continuous delay in finding a solution to a lot of issues pertaining to the ethnic question would only create further divisions among the people. It is important for the TNA to move away from its dependence on the international community and focus on dialogue with the government. In a way, Trump’s victory could be viewed positively where the TNA would have too much of hope on the role the US would play in Sri Lanka’s post-war environment.
TNA’s involvement in talks would also create a sense of trust among the people of the South. The TNA itself had agreed to assist the government in certain aspects of the country’s post-war development process.
Despite certain reservations pertaining to aspects, such as land grab in the North, continuous detention of Tamils arrested under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and investigations into enforced disappearances, the TNA has more or less backed the government.
However, the level of engagement can be much better.
The international community, including the US will have its own opinion about the process in Sri Lanka. One cannot rule out the involvement of the international community.
However, the extent of the involvement could be agreed after discussions.
However, at the end of the day it is up to us in Sri Lanka to talk among ourselves, argue, debate, and come to an agreement which could be agreeable to all parties.