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Tamils and Elections 2010

Choices, Threats, Delusions

Dr. S Sathananthan, December 25, 2009

Indeed, the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) stalwart R Sampanthan vigorously urged Tamils to vote for Kumaratunga, whose sycophantic minion Neelan Tiruchelvam extolled her as the “symbol of peace”. The response from D Sivaram (Taraki) during a meeting with Tiruchelvam in a western embassy was short and to the point. He dismissed Tiruchelvam’s opportunistic veneration of Kumaratunga and told him: “Tamils can have the satisfaction of deciding the winner, but of nothing else”.

What should Tamils do? The answer is obvious. Those who wish to vote for either of the main Sinhalese candidates in the upcoming 2010 presidential election could do so. But they must keep clearly in mind that they will get nothing in return. Irrespective of who wins, the current ethnocidal policy of the Sinhalese State vis-à-vis Tamils will continue unabated.

What must Tamils do next? They must build anew a political party and put out to grass the assorted collaborators and quislings who pass off as Tamils’ representatives and are a grotesque blot on the Tamil political landscape today.

What about the ongoing hullabaloo over the Tamil people and the presidential election? Allow me an explanation.

Sinhalese supremacists have consigned post-Nandikadal Tamils’ political aspirations to what they fondly believed is the dustbin of history. But they are shocked to discover the results of the election hinges once again on the decisions of Tamil voters. And they worry the utterly ruthless war they unconditionally backed have turned the Tamil people into an irreconcilable enemy. Victory has consequences also for the victor.

Most Tamil “pundits” are still reeling from the fallout of the military defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and are hopelessly disoriented. They are spewing out “advice” on the need to avoid, and learn from, past mistakes; one of them warned, “Tamils must not play a sectarian role in the presidential election”. But have Tamils been “sectarian”? Tamil voters across the country participated in every presidential election, bar the one in 2005, which most Tamils in the north and east ignored. But Tamils living in the rest of the island did participate, if for no other reason than non-participation would have marked them out as “LTTE-lovers”. So, it is arrant nonsense to imply Tamils have been “sectarian”.

Are Tamils ignorant of the relevance of “national politics”? That clearly is the import of homilies delivered by some Tamil pundits: “Participation in national politics is absolutely essential”, one asserted superfluously. When and how often have Tamils eschewed such participation? He helpfully explained boycotting the 1931 State Council elections and the 2005 General Elections rained untold hardships on Tamils; and alleged: “The factor common to both boycotts, and to all those in-between, was that they heaped needless suffering, yet continuing, on the Tamil people.” Did Tamils reject participation in national politics in the “in-between” 74 (yes, seventy-four) years?

The vast majority of Up-Country or Kandyan Tamils could not, of course, participate in elections until the late 1980s because Sinhalese chauvinism snatched away their voting rights. The Low-Country or Ceylon Tamils living outside the northern and eastern provinces unflinchingly participated in national politics; they voted predominantly for either the Sinhalese United National Party (UNP) or the equally Sinhalese parties on the Left. The Tamil Congress came a poor second. Ceylon Tamils in the north and east voted for the Federal Party (FP) as a defensive-protective reaction to the growing Sinhalese hegemonism to which the main Sinhalese parties subscribed unabashedly. Indeed, the UNP “rewarded” Tamils for their votes by organising the 1958 Pogrom, during which the party’s Sinhalese paper Siyarata’s banner headlines urged Sinhalese: “Kill, kill, kill”.

What of the 1931 boycott? Universal franchise is laudable, but its effects must be gauged in context. There was national parity between Tamils and Sinhalese, as the two nations on the island colony, prior to 1931. But Sinhalese hegemonism denigrated that parity as “communal representation”, which phrase is drawn from the north-centric Brahmin-dominated Indian historiography presided over by Jawaharlal Nehru that papers over the existence of more than 30 different large, historical nations in the region called India today. The introduction of universal franchise in Ceylon re-categorised the two-nation colony as a monolithic polity, set the stage for Sinhalese majoritarianism and effectively re-classified numerically smaller Tamils as a “minority” for the first time in their long history. The decisions of the Jaffna Youth Congress and the Colombo-based “old guard conservatives” were crucially influenced by this new and potentially dangerous demographic reality. Those who eulogise the advent of universal franchise in the abstract have woefully missed the wood for the trees.

And how do Tamils benefit by participating in national politics? We are told by the same Tamil “pundit” that “a decision not to vote or to effectively spoil their vote would also be carrying a message to the two leading candidates that they need not take Tamil concerns into account”. Has the contrary been true? Has Tamils’ participation in presidential elections induced the winning Sinhalese candidate to accommodate Tamil concerns? The short and long answer is NO.

Tamils voted en masse for Chandrika Kumaratunga in the 1994 presidential election. She won handsomely and promptly abandoned the pre-election promise to “seek peace at any cost” and declared henceforth her new government would “seek peace not at any cost”. She floated numerous so-called devolution proposals from mid-1995 to the draft Constitution in 2000. But each one was hamstrung by procedural requirements – must be adopted by her party, should be accepted by the Parliamentary Select Committee, has to secure two-thirds majority in parliament, win approval at a referendum, etc – all deliberately crafted to ensure the initiatives did not see the light of day. Anyone with even cursory knowledge of Sinhalese chauvinist politics and the strategic role of the Buddhist clergy would easily see through this duplicity. And all this treachery after the LTTE Leader had offered towards the end of 1994 to drop the demand for Tamil Eelam in return for an acceptable solution within a united Sri Lanka.

Indeed, the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) stalwart R Sampanthan vigorously urged Tamils to vote for Kumaratunga, whose sycophantic minion Neelan Tiruchelvam extolled her as the “symbol of peace”. The response from D Sivaram (Taraki) during a meeting with Tiruchelvam in a western embassy was short and to the point. He dismissed Tiruchelvam’s opportunistic veneration of Kumaratunga and told him: “Tamils can have the satisfaction of deciding the winner, but of nothing else”. Those Tamil “pundits” who delude themselves that the winning Sinhalese presidential candidate would go against the hard Sinhalese Right, flushed with military victory, as well as challenge the pathologically anti-Tamil Buddhist clergy in order to reciprocate Tamil votes are surely weak in the head!

That these Tamil “pundits” are politically challenged in the extreme is evident in many instances. They eulogise S Thondaman and Mohamed Ashraff as leaders “who effectively participated in national government at the highest level and greatly contributed to the welfare of their communities.” “Pundits” are blind to the colossal suffering inflicted on the Up-Country Tamils under the Sirima-Shastri Pact; that they received their Sri Lankan citizenship rights from JR Jayawardene in the late 1980s because he and his Sinhalese chauvinist cohorts moved desperately to deny New Delhi the claim of protecting “Indian nationals” as an excuse for intervention. As for Ashraff, again Tamil pundits dodge the fact that he floated his “sectarian” Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) and demanded a Muslim majority province in the south-east. In addition to promoting his personal political agenda, it was an uncompromising denunciation of the Sinhalese leadership’s refusal to accommodate Muslim interests.

Bringing up the rear is another “pundit” who pretends to conjure up policy alternatives. He has taken over from Neelan Tiruchelvam as the American administration’s cat’s paw in Colombo and worked with equal treachery against the LTTE-led Tamil National Movement. So, the Indian Government through its Department of IT arranged for his web site to be paid off with the Manthan Award. Not surprisingly his reaction to the upcoming election is to sing “Tweedledum vs Tweedledee”.

The approach of Sinhalese supremacists is to spin mindless gonibilla stories. Their main hope is to frighten Tamils, that they have no friends either in India or the West, that Tamils have no choice but to accept whatever the Sinhalese rulers toss at them. A rabid Sinhalese chauvinist – recently cashiered from a foreign posting and grovelling again for a similar outing at taxpayers’ expense – had hilariously demanded Tamils submit: “Tamils must sell something Sinhalese will be willing to buy at affordable price”. What if Tamils do not eat their greens as ordered? He dredged up the gonibilla story. “If India with its 70 million Tamils”, he intoned, “could not be budged from its stance of low key but decisive support for the Sri Lankan state, surely there is no chance of leveraging any strategically significant Western support for Tamil nationalism, given that the main Asian partner of the USA is India?” And he seriously expects the Tamil nation to pick up the marbles and go home! A Sinhalese blogger found these ahistorical ranting “erudite”!!

Other Sinhalese chauvinists who fed, nurtured and groomed the fascist monster in Colombo as long as it devoured Tamils are now facing the Frankenstein syndrome: the monster is turning back on them. So they are exhorting Tamils’ help to be rid of it and promising its replacement will be as docile as a pussycat. The not-so-hidden threat is that Tamils will pay dearly for not backing the Sinhalese chauvinists. Does this make any sense at all?

The bottom line: Sinhalese supremacists are alarmed that the genocidal war they prosecuted and the Tamil blood they bayed for and got may have turned the Tamil community into an irreconcilable enemy. For their own peace of mind they demand Tamils signify their political surrender by voting for and accepting the diktat of the Sinhalese leadership.

25 December 2009