The recent no-confidence motion in Sri Lanka’s Northern Provincial Council (NPC) in Jaffna, moved by a section of the Council members against Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran, has brought the deep divide in Tamil nationalist politics to the fore.
(Text of a Press Statement Issued by the Canadian Tamil Congress on August 7th 2015)
The Canadian Tamil Congress (CTC) strongly urges Tamils and all citizens of Sri Lanka to exercise their right to vote at the upcoming Parliamentary elections.
The presidential election of January 8th, 2015 was a turning point in the recent political history of Sri Lanka. Voters turned up in large numbers and voted for change and a new beginning.
While Canada and other members of the international community acknowledged and welcomed these changes it is the duty of all responsible Sri Lankan citizens to ensure that these tenuous beginnings are consolidated without giving any chance for their reversal.
Although many issues of the Tamil people including land rights, political prisoners and disappearances were not addressed as expected, the election did bring about early signs of goodwill, as reflected in some actions that were taken by the current government. CTC believes that these positive developments, together with new-found political optimism, can be further strengthened after the August election.
The resolution of the Tamil problem will invariably involve meaningful negotiations between the Government of Sri Lanka, the elected representatives of the Tamil people, and other relevant stakeholders. In this context, Parliamentarians elected by the Tamil people will have a major role to play. One strong united voice speaking for Tamils will have a significant impact at these negotiations.
The Tamil National Alliance (TNA), under the responsible and experienced leadership of Mr. R. Sampanthan, has earned the recognition and respect of not only the Tamil people, but also other community representatives in Sri Lanka and international community members like Canada, USA and India. He has carefully and consistently articulated the concerns, grievances and aspirations of the Tamil people
CTC works closely with TNA, and our partnership has been crucial in some of the diplomatic achievements made in Canada as well as at the UNHRC in Geneva. TNA’s Secretary for Legal and Foreign Affairs, Mr. M.A. Sumanthiran’s advocacy skills, experience and expertise has been beneficial to both CTC and TNA when meeting various government officials in Canada, Geneva and other parts of the world.
CTC firmly believes that a strong mandate given to the TNA to represent Tamils in Northern and Eastern Sri Lanka will strengthen our position during negotiations. Together with a victory for the progressive forces that advocate democracy and good governance in the South, the chances of achieving a negotiated political resolution, accountability and sustainable reconciliation in Sri Lanka will more likely become a reality.
Sections of the Tamil Diaspora are on a virulent campaign against the TNA. Most Tamils abroad are not engaged in politics, because it is dirty and dangerous. Slanderous stories are put out against those not in agreement. Fear of being labelled, leaves the field open to virulent sections of the Diaspora to speak on behalf of all others.
In the US this mantle of Tamil leadership has defaulted to Tamils for Obama. As fair-weather friends, they were Tamils for Clinton when Hilary Clinton seemed likely to win the Democratic Party nomination in 2008 and then, when Obama did, they re-Christened themselves as Tamils for Obama. Now, in 2015, as Obama’s term is ending and Hilary seems likely to be the Democratic Party nominee and ultimately president in Jan. 2017, they wrote shamelessly to her on 10 May 2015 signalling their willingness to turn-coat again: “We are Tamils for Obama. We would like to remind you that before the nomination was settled in 2008, we were Tamils for Clinton. We are still here and eager to offer our support again. We were among your supporters before, and we haven’t changed our minds.”
C.V.Wigneswaran, who became Chief Minister of Sri Lanka’s Northern Province in 2013 thanks to the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), appears to be drifting away from the party which propped him up.
“Election mania spreads rapidly in the country with Parliamentary polls being scheduled for August 17th 2015 and the Tamil inhabited areas of the Northern and Eastern provinces are also afflicted. Currently the premier political configuration of the Sri Lankan Tamils is the Tamil National Alliance(TNA) consisting of the Ilankai Thamil Arasu Katchi (ITAK), Eelam Peoples Revolutionary Liberation Front(EPRLF), Tamil Eelam Liberation Organization(TELO)and Peoples Liberation Organization of Tamil Eelam(PLOTE). The TNA contests elections under the House symbol of its chief constituent ITAK. At the 2010 Parliamentary elections the TNA contesting as ITAK won 13 seats in both provinces and was entitled to a national list seat also.The TNA hopes to increase its parliamentary tally in the 2015 poll.”
“The election campaign of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and the Tamil National People’s Front (TNPF: Gajen Ponnambalam’s new outfit) in the North-East has re-animated the discussions on the political solution to the national question. While the major political parties in the South have rejected federalism, the federal solutions presented by these two fronts include the recognition of the Tamils as a nation or a nationality, their right to self-determination and the merged north-east of Sri Lanka as their homelands.”
Ordinary folk such as S. Sivanesan, a teacher in a government school in Jaffna, says, “We will vote for candidates who are willing to speak on behalf of the Tamil people and their causes. They should be able to help people affected by the war and not able to resettle in their respective land. That’s our immediate need. It has to be done.”
This is the backdrop on which we are going for the general election in August 2015. Again, I want to stress on the significance of the minor party politics in the parliament. Whenever, a major party secured undue power, they chose to do divisive and Nationalistic politics brewing a polarization between North and the South. The antidote seems to be a strong minor party block that appreciates the need for good governance, rule of law, democracy, and National reconciliation. Traditionally, minor conventional leftist parties and the Muslim Congress have settled down to conform with the ruling party in exchange of ministerial positions. Therefore, that block should come from minor parties that have traditionally stood by their principles. Due to this reason, I would dream of that block to come from TNA and JVP with a strong will to defend above National priorities and to hold the major parties accountable for it, so that they will do more of that politics to win over the vote base of minor parties than doing more of Nationalistic and divisive politics. Having said that, I would strongly urge JVP to abandon their traditional tactics of waiting till a disaster happens to make their point, and to be a more active driving force in the opposition with determination to engage positively.
The TNA calls upon the voters in the electoral districts of Jaffna, Vanni, Trincomalee, Batticaloa and Ampara to unitedly and overwhelmingly exercise their franchise in favour of the TNA, contesting under the name of the Ilankai Tamil Arasu Kadchi and the “House” symbol and thereby democratically endorse, to the fullest degree, policies of the TNA enunciated here in regard to vital issues of fundamental concern to the Tamil and Tamil speaking Peoples as set out in this Manifesto.
This Manifesto is issued by the TNA comprising of ITAK, TELO, EPRLF and PLOTE.
The UN Human Rights Commission’s decision to investigate violations and the huge loss of life during the last months of the war concluded in 2009 was a significant victory for the victims.
The dignity of the victims required that the truth must be told without fear or favour, and processes of justice and restoration set in motion. And the wrong was not all on one side.
Dignity also demands that we await the verdict of the judges with restraint and reverence for the name of justice.
But in Jaffna, all hell broke loose over the coming UNHRC report in an orgy of mud-slinging, recrimination and effigy burning for Tamil leadership spoils.
Some academics in Jaffna University led by taking on themselves the task of identifying and upbraiding ‘traitors to the race’ in a return to dangerous heroics. MPs Sampanthan and Sumanthiran were excoriated for attending the Independence Day function.
The first shot in virtually christening the coming UN report a ‘genocide report’ was fired by Northern Chief Minister Justice Wigneswaran on 10th February 2015 in the Provincial Council resolution he advanced.
The opinion held by a sizeable portion of the university teachers was not to politicise the coming UN report, so as to allow Sinhalese to read it with an open mind. There was no opposition to delay, as requested by the new government. But this moderate stance got lost in the rush of events. It was presented to the media on 13th February as the University Teachers demanding the release of the report as scheduled in March.”
“Tamil National Alliance(TNA)Leader Rajavarothayam Sampanthan MP and TNA National list Parliamentarian MA Sumanthiran won many hearts and minds by participating in the official Independence day ceremony held in Battaramulla on February 4th….”
If opposition leaders are to live up to the hopes ignited by the Sirisena presidency, it is now crucial to prioritise a mode of governance marked by the new President’s stamp. The worst-case scenario is indeed a government in which President Sirisena will be relegated to passively adopting a Wickremesinghe or Bandaranaike agenda.
“This incredible electoral manoeuvre with a massive minorities vote worked to dislodge the Rajapaksa regime and open up democratic space, but the Opposition’s campaign was silent on a number of crucial issues including, demilitarization, the national question and an equitable economic programme. The critical question is whether a credible political process could be initiated to address the grievances of the minorities. But a sustainable political solution will require a national consensus. The picture of the Sri Lankan electoral map show a clear North-South divide in the districts voting in majority for Sirisena and Rajapaksa. In this context, any political process has to address the concerns of the Sinhala South as much as the grievances of the minorities.”
As the D Day in Sri Lanka is approaching there is a hot debate on whether the decision of the TNA to go with Maithripala Sirisena is in the right direction or not. Till 21st of November 2014, he had supported all the policies of Mahinda Rajapakse without ever raising an eyebrow. It was sheer opportunism that brought him to the election fray with the support of Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga (CBK) and Ranil Wickremesinghe.
The question is of great relevance and grave significance at a time when the United Nations Human Rights Commissioner’s office is investigating alleged human rights violations, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Sri Lanka in terms of a resolution passed by the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.