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this is my nation

 

The crux of the issue though, is not the regional power struggles of the Tamil parties. These parties must realise that, at a time when a war is being concluded, and the entire world is clamouring for a parallel political settlement to ethnic grievances in Sri Lanka, it is imperative that, there be moderate Tamil political representation of a substantial nature. To lack that, would be to let go of a once-in-a-generation historic opportunity, to resolve Sri Lanka’s ethnic question, once and for all    


Anandasangaree

Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan

Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan

Douglas Devananda
 
Whither moderate Tamil representation?

Last week, President Mahinda Rajapaksa invited the Members of Parliament of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) for a discussion – ostensibly, to share thoughts on the political future of the Northern Province, now that the war is grinding to a definite conclusion.

The reply was a deafening silence. The TNA group was, reportedly, divided on the issue. While some MPs saw the invitation as a golden opportunity to reassert themselves in the wake of the downfall of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), others were concerned that they would anger the Tigers, by attending. Hence the ‘no show’.

It is no secret that, ever since the TNA came into being as a political entity, they have been doing the bidding of the Tigers. Some senior members, who trace their roots to the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF), have done so reluctantly, while others have revelled in championing the Tigers’ cause, in and out of Parliament, using - and abusing - the privileges they enjoyed as Parliamentarians of this country.

We cannot lay all the blame on the doorsteps of the TNA for that. The LTTE has a history of brutally eliminating moderate Tamil politicians, who, from their perspective, do more damage than Sinhala hardliners. Therefore, their list of scalps has ranged from Alfred Duraippah to Appapillai Amirthalingam and Lakshman Kadirgamar to Jeyaraj Fernandopulle. That no one is a sacred cow for the Tigers is evident.

But this raises the question of future moderate Tamil representation in any political climate that could emerge after the conclusion of the war. And a foretaste of things to come, can be gleaned from what has happened in the Eastern Province.

In the complicated tri-community politics of the East, the region boasted of a strong Tamil representation, even as late as the late ’70s and early ’80s. This was dealt double blows: the spread of LTTE terrorism in the region meant that, this representation was, at first, subjugated, then eroded and eventually, eliminated; also, the advent of M.H.M. Ashraff, fomented Muslim communal politics in the region, further negating the concept of ‘Tamil speaking’ voters siding with moderate Tamil politicians.
The death of Ashraff and the subsequent hegemony of the LTTE in the region, led to the virtual elimination of Tamil parties from active politics within the province. Thus, when the East was ‘liberated’ by the armed forces recently, there was a huge political vacuum waiting to be filled.

Into this lacuna entered the LTTE breakaway faction, the Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal (TMVP) led by former child soldier  Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan. The TMVP cleverly entered into a ‘no contest’ pact with the ruling United Peoples’ Freedom Alliance (UPFA), and emerged clear winners at the elections that ensued.
Advocates of the TMVP could well argue that, it is indeed a moderate Tamil political party now, and that, it is slowly, but surely, entering the democratic mainstream, and cite the recent handover of weapons as an example of such a commitment.
Nevertheless, there will still be some doubts about the credibility of this party, especially, when its dispute with its former leader Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan is still simmering, and when, it is still equivocal on the issue of granting Police powers to Provincial Councils. Most would, hence, think again, before classifying the TMVP as a ‘moderate’ political party.

Therefore, although peace, the rule of law and democracy may have returned to a large extent to the Eastern Province, the role of Tamil political parties, other than the TMVP, has been craftily usurped by Chandrakanthan’s new fangled political outfit.
One foresees a similar scenario in the North. As long as the TNA remains under the shadow of the LTTE, it would open the doors for other political forces to stake claim to be the ‘representatives of the Tamil people’, and Minister Douglas Devananda’s Eelam Peoples’ Democratic Party (EPDP) would top the list.

In this context, one must commend the fearless stance adopted by Veerasingham Anandasangaree, the present leader of the TULF, for his forthright, outspoken and consistent stand against the LTTE. However, despite the many accolades he has won in the process, Anandasangaree remains a spent force in Northern politics, and it is doubtful, whether he alone, can restore the TULF, to the glory of its heyday.
It is unclear as yet, whether the TMVP would want to enter the Northern arena, a prospect not to be discounted. The party has already tasted the spoils of power in the East, and in the process, earned the goodwill of the ruling party and President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Being a largely East-based party, it is a moot point, whether it could emerge as a potent contender in the North as well, but in the absence of strong opponents, it may well make use of the opportunity, to gain a foothold in the province.
President Rajapaksa has made it clear that, elections in the North will be a reality soon. Given the success of the Local Government elections in the East, it is almost certain that, Local elections in Jaffna will be held first, but, it is also definite that, Provincial elections will follow.

The crux of the issue though, is not the regional power struggles of the Tamil parties. These parties must realise that, at a time when a war is being concluded, and the entire world is clamouring for a parallel political settlement to ethnic grievances in Sri Lanka, it is imperative that, there be moderate Tamil political representation of a substantial nature. To lack that, would be to let go of a once-in-a-generation historic opportunity, to resolve Sri Lanka’s ethnic question, once and for all.