[We do not usually post such very political pieces — written in the inimitable South Asian take-no-quarter style — but since the next parliamentary election will be so crucial, we hope this article will at minimum start the dialogue. We will be encouraging the author to provide our readers next his ideas for what is a strong potential slate of candidates which will be able to deliver on a Tamil national agenda. — Ed.]
by K. Anaga, June 12, 2020
Members of the same political parties very often play a Different Ball Game at different times to suit their purpose. Quite a few of them lose their sense of equilibrium once elected and feather their own nests at the expense of the voters, on the basis, ‘my need is greater than yours.’
TNA MP, Abraham Sumanthiran belongs to the same category, supported by Mr. Rajavarothayam Sampanthan a father figure for Sumanthiran, so much so, that one cannot go against the other despite probable differences. Sampanthar will be lost without Sumanthiran and vice versa. It is very clear that both are now keen to safeguard their position in the political arena, rather than sorting out the problems of the Tamils. This appears to have been pushed down to the bottom, of their agenda, if it still has a place in their agenda.
Sampanthar was not much in the news, prior to the demise of the Prabhakaran/LTTE. It is said that Sampanthar was never keen in North /East coming together despite the fact that he was a member of the Ilanka Tamil Arasu Kadchi (Federal Party)as he was not very sure of his position in that party hierarchy.
When the LTTE was defeated militarily, his actions and inactions revealed that he was the happiest Tamil Politician, along with a few others, who could not have come to limelight as long as the LTTE was holding the reigns.
During the 2005, elections he was not very happy to bring to the forefront, the LTTE sympathizers. Unfortunately, for him, the LTTE was holding the floor and whether he liked it or not, he had to play second fiddle, and keep his position as the party leader of Tamil National Alliance. (TNA)
One cannot understand the reason as to why Sumanthiran said in his interview, that TNA was formed in 1949, when in fact it was the Illankai Tamil Arasu Kadchi which was inaugurated in 1949, about 14 years prior to Sumanthiran’s birth and 19 years before he came to live among the Sinhalese.
The author of this article lived with the Sinhalese neighbours for over 70 years happily, but, without losing his identity, reciprocating cordiality, exchanging food and attending functions. Children were in and out of each other’s house without any ‘curfew’.
The tears shed by them during the attack on us by the ‘Sinhala Only’ political mobs in 1958, 1977, 1983 could not wash the sins of those mobs, despite their effort to do so. This was realized by them subsequently and confessed, that it is impossible to change the mass mentality ‘set on fire’ by the ‘Sinhala only’ politicians. My family went through these riots and is fortunate enough to live to tell the tale.
It appears that initially Sumanthiran wanted to find a place in politics, without any real cause to achieve except for some personal glory. On his own he could not have found a place. Despite his claim that he has a long standing association with Sinhalese, he was not apparently invited by any Sinhala political party to join them and contest elections. It is evident that his flirtation with JVP did not bring in the desired results for him. Perhaps the parties knew that he cannot be trusted. As a Tamil, even with the Sinhala mindset, he cannot find a suitable Sinhala political party to sponsor him. So he selected the TNA as a stepping stone to rub shoulders with Sinhala political parties. Maybe, he thought he could be in the news, if he continues to flirt with them, while being in a Tamil party, rather than joining them.
A few TNA supporters thought that he will make the party stronger when he joined. Instead he made the party weaker and made himself stronger by adding an all important ‘feather to his cap’ by ‘engraving’ two alphabats P.C. at the end of his name.
He is not capable of promoting himself like Luxman Kathirgamar, whose association with Sinhalese gave him a place in the government, where he serviced them at the expense of the Tamils. But Sumanthiran’s effort to be another Kathirgamar is not easy, as he belongs to a middle class family. Luxman, a product of Oxford, belonged to the upper class, resided in Colombo 7.
Not that I underestimate the brains of Sumanthiran, who would be much more dangerous to the Tamils. His trilingual ability to communicate, would take not only the Tamils and Sinhalese for a ride but even the Muslims together with the remnants of other races, who had left the shores of Srilanka for good, as they rightly assessed that ‘the coming Sinhala/ Buddhist colors were not good’.
Unlike Sumanthiran, Late Raviraj used his knowledge of Sinhala language successfully to convince some of the Sinhalese the need for a Federal Constitution/Set up, in Srilanka, for all to live cordially. It is said, in that process he was gun down, allegedly, by the soldiers. Like other similar cases, culprits are at large.
One cannot understand as to why Sumanthiran is eager to be duplicate copy of Kathirgamar, knowing very well as to how Kathirgamar was treated by the Sinhalese before his alleged murder.
It is suspected that a few of the Sinhala politicians/racist, who were aspiring to be the Prime Minister, apparently, aided and abetted the murder, though Kathirgamar had a very faint chance of achieving the position. It would have been Similar to the Parrots waiting in hope for the cotton seed, the green fruit to ripe to enable them to consume. (Illavu Katha Kili)
Abraham Sumanthiran appears to have condemned the armed struggle of the LTTE/Tamils. Yes, nobody likes an armed struggle, but he has failed to trace the sequence of events which led to the armed struggle. If not, for the intervention of the world against the LTTE, the war against the Tamils would not have been won and a settlement would have been reached. Abraham Sumanthiran should have expressed the disappointment of the Tamils to the world powers, who participated in the war and sought remedies, at least from India and Britain. Instead, Abraham appears to have supported Srilanka at the UN sessions in Geneva, to go slow against the genocide inquiry. Britain was Responsible for merging the Sinhala and Tamil Nation, who had different kingdoms when they Captured ‘Ceylon’. As an able ‘twister’, Abraham should explore the possibilities of representing matters to International Court of Justice?
Maybe the world powers did not want to create another Israel in Tamil Eelam?
Kathirgamar and Nalaka Godahewa
I would like to refer to the Speech delivered by Nalaka Godahewa, at the 36th session of the UNHCR in Geneva on 27th.September 2017, with reference to Kathirgamar, as reported in the Daily FT of 28th September 2017 under the caption “Discrimination in Srilanka – The reality”.
“Every Srilankan government since independence has had high profile Tamil ministers in the cabinet. A very good example would be our Foreign Minister Lakshaman Kathirgamar. When he was killed in 2005 by the Tamil separatists, Kathirgamar was a strong contender to be the next Prime Minister of Srilanka. Who knows- he could have even been the president of the country had he lived”.
Of course Godahewa had reasons to rush to Geneva to give this speech as he was a supporter of Mahinda Government and in that process he tried to satisfy the Yahapalanaya government to mitigate the problems faced by him over ‘various deals’ under inquiry initiated by the Yahapalanaya government.
A reply to Godahewa appeared in the Daily FT of 6th October 2017, under the Caption “Discrimination in Srilanka: Myth or Truth?
I reproduce the excerpt of the matters relating to Kathirgamar, which may or may not open the eyes of Abraham Sumanthiran .
“Lakshman Kathirgamar was considered a ‘good bat’ by the then government for defensive batting to distort facts to the world with regard to discrimination heaped on the minorities in general and the Tamils in particular. This he did well to the satisfaction of his masters. However Kathirgamar would have been respected by Tamils too if he brought to light the problems faced by the Tamils as well, in the hands of the successive governments. Instead, he was keen to satisfy the Sinhala people only.
In appreciation, suggestions were made by certain individuals in the government to ‘appoint’ him as the Prime Minister. He was never a contender. He was only an intended contender, but tenderly dissuaded from doing so, because he was a Tamil’.
Kathirgamar never had the capacity to fight his way through or make demands, for fear of hurting the Sinhala government.’
Probably, he must have thought a ‘Bird in the hand is worth two in the Bush’ and not to bargain for additional feathers.
Similarly, Sumanthiran too, appears to follow the footsteps of Kathirgamar.
Kathirgamar was neither an elected representative of the Tamils nor the Sinhalese. Sumanthiran, was supposed to represent the Tamils in the last Parliament, when elected but….? Kathirgamar was delegated with powers to cut diamonds with diamond.
A Tamil to Cut the Tamils.
Sumanthiran, seem to have done his duty well towards the past governments especially to the UNP in general and Ranil in particular.
Even during the Mahinda’s government Sumanthiran was allegedly considered a personal ‘pet’ of Mahinda, shuttling between Temple Trees and Sampanthar, exchanging Tamil Information.
Mahinda’s concern for Sumanthiran was confirmed, when he allegedly warned him to refrain from going to church on Easter Sunday on 21/4/19, as per press reports.
A genuine concern for the life Abraham Sumanthiran.
This part of the story on Eelaventhan is not to boost his association with the Tamil Arasuk Kadchi/TNA, but to expose the conspiracy of Sampanthar in removing members of his party who failed to fall in line with his thinking.
LTTE appears to have suggested that MK. Eelaventhan be taken into the fold of TNA and an appointed as MP, in 2005, much to the dislike of Sampanthar. Eelaventhan acted as a watch dog and questioned Sampanthar and the TNA, whenever they attempted deviate from scheduled path. This was resented by Sampanthar, whose activities were not acceptable. Eelaventhan, was a respected orator both in Tamil and English. He was associated with SJV and other hierarchy of the ITAK from his school days. I recollect that all the hierarchy of the ITAK attended his wedding and participated in the meals, thereafter.
There was a drought in the TNA for MP’s with good knowledge of English after the death of about five leaders. Eelaventhan replaced them to a certain extent, to communicate in English and Tamil. But Eelaventhan was considered a dangerous watch dog by Sampanthar. He could converse fluently with any foreign delegation as his English also was good as his knowledge of Tamil. This situation was an irritant to Sampanthar as he could not claim to be the only spokes person, who could convey matters to foreigners in ‘Queen’s English’. Further age wise Eelaventhan was only a couple of years younger to Sampanthar. According to my understanding, Sampanthar could not possibly give a knock on the head of Eelaventhan and order him to keep his mouth shut.
Hence, Sampanthan was waiting for an opportunity to unseat Eelaventhan from the Parliament by fair or by foul means. He chose the latter.
There is a Tamil verse by the great poet Avvayar who says:-
‘Odu meen oda uru meen varum alavum vadi irkkumam koku’ meaning, a crane (bird) stands at the shores of a lake, with a pathetic look, ignoring the small fish that pass by and peck at a Big fish for meals.
Similarly Sampanthan waited for a right moment to pull the carpet under Eelaventhan’s feet When Eelaventhan went on an overseas trip on 3 moths leave. He had given a letter to one of his fellow MP’s from Batticaloa, requesting extension of leave, to be handed over to the speaker, in case his return was delayed. The MP in question was reminded over the phone too, to hand over the said letter by a friend, who was in Srilanka. His return was delayed by a couple of days. Sampanthan subtly dissuaded the MP in question from handing over the said letter. Deliberately confusing MK Eelaventhan’s name with MK. Sivaglingam, I understand. Thus, Eelaventhan was unseated due to the conspiracy (‘Kumanthiranayak/Sathi) of Sampanthar. If Sampantahar was sincere, he could have remedied the confusion but avoided it for selfish reasons. This action is clear indication of Sampanthar’s ‘Odu meen oda’attitude, of the ‘koku’ (Crane).
When matter with regard to Eelaventhan’s reinstatement was under consideration, Imam was hurriedly appointed as an MP by Sampanthar to prevent Eelaventhan, securing the lost seat. Thus, Eelaventhan’s physical political saga, ended in Srilanka.
But Sampanthar’s conspiracy was unsuccessful in removing Justice Wigneswaran. Instead Sumanthiran and Sampanthaar together saw to it that the Northern Provincial Council Elections are continued to be postponed, indefinitely, under various pretexts to prevent Justice Wigneswaran assuming power as Chief Minister again. TNA, which clamored for more power to the provincial Councils, wanted more personal power for Sampanthar and Sumanthiran instead, on the basis ‘enakku mooku ponalum paruwai illai, ethirikku sahunap pilai ” meaning, ‘even if I lose my nose, it matters not, as long as it is a bad omen for the enemy’.
This reminds me of what Sir John said in the good old days, while having problems with UNP:-
“I can look after myself from my enemies, but, save me from my friends.”