Former Minister and UPFA provincial councillor Najeeb A Majeed was sworn in as Chief Minister of the Eastern Province on Tuesday, ending a week-long drama on government formation. United People’s Freedom Alliance won enough percentage of votes to win 12 seats in the 37-member province. Coming first in terms of vote share, it got an additional two seats. Of this, only one winner — former Chief Minister Sivanesathurai Santhirakanthan alias Pillaiyan — is an ethnic Tamil.
To cross the half-way mark, the UPFA still needed the support of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC). The SLMC — part of UPFA at the national level — contested the elections on its own to garner a higher vote share. It was accused of rousing communal sentiments in the run-up to the campaign.
Mr. Majeed belongs to the Sri Lanka Freedom Party — the fulcrum of the ruling UPFA. Mr. Pillaiyan — a former Tamil Tiger child soldier and poster-boy of Sri Lankan model of reconciliation — has been made a Presidential Advisor.
In the opinion of Tamil National Alliance (TNA), the UPFA had been in power in the Eastern Province since 2008, and was, in the current elections, defeated.
TNA leaders held that 22 seats were garnered by those who opposed the ruling combine. Of this, TNA was the largest, with 11 seats; SLMC came next with seven and United National Party chipped in with four. Hence, the TNA argued, it was its right to form government, and staked claim. It offered SLMC the post of Chief Minister.
On its part, the SLMC claimed that it was “thinking” and “considering various options” for more than a week. Some SLMC leaders were against the party supporting the UPFA. Asath Sally. who contested in the SLMC in the east, for instance, was quoted in Sudar Oli as saying supporting the government amounted to betraying people’s mandate. “The people of east want the party to join TNA which is prepared to give one bonus seat to the party. Every vote that Muslims of east gave is against the government and people want the party to join TNA as it has promised to give a bonus seat in northern elections even if the party fails to get any seat in northern elections,” he said.
Meanwhile, TNA leader R. Sampanthan met President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Tuesday. A TNA release said the President congratulated Mr. Sampanthan on coming a “good second” in the election. “Mr. Sampanthan stated that if the elections had been free and fair, the TNA would have come first,” the release added.