We had a Presidential Election last month. Some of you my friends who are not Sri Lankans may not know much about it. OK, I'll give a brief explanation.
There were two main candidates along with 11 or so clowns. Those two were, then prime minister Mr. Maninda Rajapakse and former prime minister Mr. Ranil Wickramasinghe. Who are these two guys?
Mr. Mahinda Rajapakse was the prime minister of the UPFA (United People's Freedom Alliance) government. He was from the SLFP (Sri Lanka Freedom Party) which was the biggest political party in the alliance. Then president Mrs. Chandrika Kumarathunga was also from the same SLFP. The SLFP held the presidency from 1994 till now and held the government also from 1994 till now except from end of 2001 till April 2004. Mr. Mahinda Rajapakse had been a member of parliament since the early 70's and was became a minister in 1994. Then the People's Alliance (PA) which was the coalition in which the SLFP was the biggest party at that time lost the government to UNP (United National Party) headed by Mr. Ranil Wickramasinghe at the end of 2001. Then once again, the President Mrs. Kumarathunga used her power to desolve the UNP government and called for elections in April 2004. Then SLFP forged a new alliance with the so called JVP (Peoples' Liberation Front) and it was called UPFA. They managed to win the election and Mr. Rajapakse became the prime minister. Then were does the war fit in? OK I know this is confusing. I'll give all this in point form.
1948 – Sri Lanka wins independence. UNP (United National Party) comes to power.
1956 – Former UNP member, S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike who split from UNP and formed his own party SLFP (Sri Lanka Freedom Party) wins election and becomes prime minister. He makes Sinhala (majority in Sri Lanka) the official language. Some people believe that the sort of nationalistic agenda of Mr. Bandaranaike sparked the Tamil (minority in Sri Lanka) nationalist and separatist movement. But I believe the policies of Mr. Bandaranaike paved the way for a lot of underprivileged Sinhala people to achieve a better level of education, jobs and living standard. Mr. Bandaranaike tried to solve the ethnic problem that was brewing up but the hard line nationalist supporters who helped him to come to power prevented him.
1959 – Mr. Bandaranaike is shot dead by a Buddhist priest.
1961 – Mr. Bandaranaike's wife Sirimavo Bandaranaike becomes prime minister.
1971 – Mrs. Bandaranaike becomes prime minister again after loosing power in mid 50's. JVP (Peoples Liberation Front) who calls them selves Marxists starts an armed revolt against the government in spite the fact that Mrs. Bandaranaike's government was also pro socialist. The rebellion is crushed. The JVP members were either killed in battle or put in prison.
1972 – Mrs. Bandaranaike's governement declares Sri Lanka as a Republic.
1977 – UNP wins election in a landslide and opens up the economy. UNP also freed the jailed JVP members. (This was regarded as a step to put pressure on Mrs. Bandaranaike.)
1978 – Mr. J. R. Jayawardene, the UNP prime minister becomes Sri Lanka's first executive president after changing the constitution.
1982 – During local government elections, UNP supporters runs havoc in Jafna, the biggest town in the Tamil dominated north. They burn the library and several other buildings.
1983 – LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam) an armed Tamil militant group which was gaining support after the 1982 incident in Jafna, kills 13 army soldiers and sparks a backlash against tamil civilians in the south. 100's of Tamil civilians are killed and property looted and burnt. UNP blames several political parties including the JVP and bans them for the riots but most people (including myself) believe that UNP was the main culprit. The war officially begins between the government and Tamil rebels.
1985-1987 – The JVP starts its second rebellion.
1987 – UNP government signs a pact with Rajiv Gandhi, the prime minister of India to send troops to fight the rebels in the north so that the government can fight the emerging rebels in the south. Partial devolution of power is initiated through provincial councils.
1988 – UNP prime minister Mr. R. Premadasa becomes the president defeating Mrs. Bandaranaike in presidential elections. The JVP rebellion escalates.
1989 – Rajiv Gandhi is defeated in Indian elections.
1989 – The JVP leaders are captured and killed. The rebellion dies away.
1990 – R. Premadasa supports LTTE to fight rival Tamil militant groups who were supported by India and Indian Peace Keeping Force. This forces Indian troupes out of Sri Lanka. LTTE starts attacking Sri Lankan forces again.
1991- Former Indian Prime Minister Mr. Rajiv Gandhi is assassinated by an LTTE suicide bomber.
1993 – President R. Premadasa is assassinated by an LTTE suicide bomber. Prime minister D. B. Wijethunge becomes President.
1994 – Ms. Chandrika Kumarathunga, daugher of Mr. and Mrs. Bandaranaike first wins general election from a coalition of parties called the peoples' alliance (PA) which is dominated by SLFP and then goes on to win the Presidential election. Her mother Mrs. Bandaranaike becomes prime minister. A peace deal comes to effect between the government and the LTTE.
1996 – LTTE breaks ceasefire and starts 3rd Elam war. The government captures Jafana town and gains ground. LTTE holds on to a part of the country south of Jafna peninsula and north of Vavunia. The government controls most of Jafna peninsula cut off from the south by LTTE controlled area.
1998-2000 – Sri Lankan government looses ground to LTTE. Almost looses Jafna town.
2001 – LTTE attacks Katunayake International Airport. The economy falls.
2001 – UNP wins general election. Mr. Ranil Wickramasinghe becomes prime minister. Declares ceasefire with LTTE. Saves Sri Lanka from economic dissaster.
2003 – President Kumarathunga takes back key ministries from Mr. Ranil Wickramasinghe's UNP government claiming the UNP government gives in to the LTTE too much and there is a threat to national security.
2004 – SLFP of Mrs. Kumarathunga allies itself with the JVP (which by the way, tried to kill her mother and take over power in 1971) and dissolves parliament and wins election blaming the UNP is trying to split the country.
2005 – Mr. Laxman Kadiragamar, the foreign minister who is a Tamil by ethnicity and opposes LTTE is killed by a sniper at his residence.
2005 – Presidential election is held. Mrs. Kumarathunga can't run again since she has held the post twice. The SLFP, JVP alliance (UPFA) puts Mr. Mahinda Rajapakse as the candidate who is also supported by the JHU, a buddhist extremist party while the UNP puts Mr. Ranil Wickramasinghe. The UPFA claims Mr. Ranil Wickramasinghe is allied with the LTTE to break the country in to two. The UNP wants to create a federal state. The LTTE prevents voters in the north and east from voting. The few who voted, cast their votes to Mr. Wickramasinghe and his Federal proposal. In the south Mr. Wickramasinghe looses marginally. Mr. Rajapakse wins by 180,000 or so votes. The number of votes prevented by the LTTE exceeds 700,000 in Jafna district alone. LTTE has helped Mr. Mahinda Rajapkse to win the election falsifying the claim by Mr. Rajapakse's camp that LTTE supported Mr. Wickramasinghe and his UNP.