Discourse on the NPC Elections

by three US members of the Tamil diaspora, April 29-May 1, 2013

From T.K.

The 13th Amendment has been discussed in great length here and elsewhere as nowhere near  power devolution of any kind for Tamils.

However, the insertion of it in Tamils’ path TODAY cannot be termed as about ‘nothing’. Even the parliament and judiciary cannot withstand the Sri Lankan presidential system, so why do we make much ado about the nothingness in the 13th Amendment?

As we are all know, the pretext to this 13th Amendment is going to be the Northern Provincial Council elections which – if and when it is actually held – has to be won by party or representing parties representing larger Tamil aspirations and they must win it decisively. Anything short will serve as a huge propaganda tool for the GoSL and disaster for all Tamils, home and diaspora.

Prof. Guruparan’s article itself acknowledges that nothing else is possible (from Govt of Sri Lanka) and concludes by saying “if we are thinking of what is only possible, the options are very limited within the status quo. To be pragmatic should not be a call to learn to live with the oppression.”

There will be many opinions and strategies on this, and please allow me as well to give this suggestion.

It may be in our best interest to come out now and support and DEMAND the govt of Sri Lanka for the Northern Elections to be held as REQUIRED BY UNHRC RESOLUTION.  We should also reinstate our position regarding Accountability and supplemental mandates included via HC Navi Pillay’s stands.  We may also emphasize that ongoing violations such as land grab will have to be stopped and Tamils on the whole will seek to strengthen the Northern Provincial Council to address such issues of the past, present and future through international remedies – something of this sort need to be our call NOW.  This may even discourage the govt in holding the election NOW and give us time to seek international remedies, but even if held will work towards it.

If the need be, we need not support the 13th Amendment per say and also not instill a view that contesting in it or voting in the Provincial elections as “politically suicidal”, particularly if we want to see credible and viable candidates come forward on behalf of Tamils, we need to stay clear of the inadequacies of the 13th Amendment but rather carry forwards as diaspora partners of our sisters and brothers in our homeland, in WINNING THE ELECTION DESISIVELY. We just cannot afford anything else.


From P.P.


Hi T.K.,

A very important and critical debate is missing on this topic.

Let’s ignore the fact that we are now begging for something that has been part of the constitution since 1987.  The fact is that the state, with a straight face, is talking about the selective implementation of the constitution to a people based on ethnic criteria. And then that that group is begging for it without being able to articulate this duplicity is the sorry state of our politics.

  • What is the TNA’s election platform?
  • What mandate are they seeking from the people?
  • What will they promise to deliver to the people as a result of winning this election?

People of Eelam need to know the answers to these questions. And that is what TNA should be talking about.

So far all I have heard is that “we have to win so Douglas does not win.”

But if the outcome of the election is the same regardless of Douglas or the TNA, which is nothing tangible will come out of it for the people, why is so important to win this impotent election?

Is that all the TNA has been able to achieve since 2009 that they will be better at delivering nothing than Douglas was?

I have been and am a strong advocate for the TNA, but I have become more frustrated with the way the TNA has been conducting itself.  I have not, so far, seen a clear articulation of an alternative.

Sivaram will be turning in his grave.  He brought about the TNA collective with a strategic vision of that being the political voice of a struggle.    All TNA struggles for now is trying to figure out how to get a Sinhala Buddhist constitution restored for the Tamils with no other alternative articulated.


From T.K.


Hi P.

1) Why Tamils’ side Needs to win:

The only position that I take is that whatever international attention Tamils get is very temporary and all powers seem to have more interest in restoring normalcy with the Sri Lankan regime and any regime for that matter.

The human rights constituency of the USA – namely visible through HRW, Amnesty and also ICG etc. are pushing for accountability of the 2009 stages of the war, however the Sri Lankan state has been biting every bullet.  From the first Killing Fields movie then to the new release of Balachandran pix have all come to pass. The Tamil position largely rests on the UNHRC approach. And we need to make the most of it.  Simply, if the Tamil side doesn’t win each and every bogus ballot the GoSL is putting on, the Rajapaksa regime can argue that national reconciliation and integration are intact, no external solutions needed.

2) Six decades of Quest and TNA Platform:

Tamil quest for self-determination has been on for six decades as we all know, and all sacrifices have only produced this 13th Amendment, which is implemented everywhere in the island except in the North. The TNA platform has been there in the many elections held since May 2009, and its stand on a “Political Solution” can be found here:


Click under “Manifesto” and there is information about “Abandoning the Unitary Model – Shared sovereignty” etc. in the pull down menu.

3) What mandate the TNA seeks from the people:

TNA has campaigned based on the “Manifesto” mentioned therein. The vote has been resoundingly for TNA.  However the TNA members are “Legislators” and not necessarily “Liberators”, though they are being forced to take that role:

  • Firstly, due to internal pressures and diktats from the GoSL which turns from issue after issue and by bringing up new ones too, and making the TNA deal with those new issues rather than on the protracted political solution or the TNA position on it.
  • Secondly, external build up created by sections of diasporic campaign(s). That is, diaspora orgs giving multiple Tamil voices equal or at times more prominent time than for TNA in media and other forums though TNA received higher people’s mandate more than once.  For  example, Diaspora orgs want to believe Rev. Rayappu Joseph needs to be heard more than Rev. Thomas Savundranayagam.

Ultimately, both internal and external factors push the TNA to run in all directions and seemingly without visibly possessing or executing a Tamil peoples’ mandate.

4) What will they promise?

Now that the GoSL as well as diaspora has cut out the work for them, at best if I am a TNA member in the running, I will say that “I will work towards keeping international support and attention on the Tamil side.”  And I believe it was one of the core arguments TNA made coming out of this year’s UNHRC resolution.

However, the matter of “land grab” is going to loom prominently if the election is held in the next few months.  According to news from their today’s protest regarding land grab, theTNA says they will go forward seeking legal remedy in Sri Lankan court first and then seek international avenues.

Related news in Tamil here:


I guess people living in Eelam has been asking these questions and voting for them as well.  However, impediments are drawn on the way TNA conducts itself apart from GoSL manipulations, but disturbingly by external factors from people of Eelam living outside of it. How? Most importantly by refusing to recognize that people such as Rev. Thomas Savundranayagam also live in Eelam. We refuse to hear such voices and believe more viable approachs available for Tamils are that of “Jaffna Civil Society” and “TNPF” only.

5) Why Douglas should not win:

Yes, even if nothing tangible arrives, will Tamils in the North-East be better off with a thuggery administration?  Not only to keep Douglas from winning, Tamil parties need to field candidates who can raise the self-esteem of the war weary Tamil people and bring about cultural-heritage renaissance and instill Tamil prowess and pride.

All candidates in Tamil parties are there and only capable of talking about “self-determination” at some point.  Tamils now failing miserably in education and new infra-structures enabling and facilitating marriages across ethnicity and opportunities of moving out of North-East for economic betterment.

But if we keep reading articles about something that we already know, that 13th amendment has nothing to offer, and create the fear of “political suicide” for candidates to run under it and voters to stay away from it, this “most important election” will only elect Douglas.  And that can also give official certification that Sri Lanka’s version of reconciliation is perfectly underway.

6) Alternatives:

What are the alternatives and is any better political outfit going to emerge?

The Tamil Nadu student campaigns are very important support for us, but still “emotional” not a “livelihood threat” of everyday citizen of Tamil Nadu such as “imposing Hindi.” It may have higher spikes and lows and these factors have to be stronger and – most importantly – sustained to rally India’s powerful to our side. This may not be just a Tamil Nadu student movement alone but rather their recent attempts of India-wide campaigns gaining full strength and non-Tamil Nadu parties supporting.

Without it, how else any political outfit inside Eelam will gain more strength than existing ones?

The following is a call by Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam of TNPF, just last Wednesday, 24th April,
“Just 25 miles away, across the sea, there are 70 million people in Tamil Nadu prepared to give their voice for our struggle…At the same time, the Tamils living across the world who constitute the global Tamil Diaspora, should also come forward to strengthen this struggle by taking it forward in their countries, demonstrating their strength, as they voiced for us during the last phase of the war”

(Though just demonstrating with high numbers alone is not going to deliver anything, as we learned in 2008-2009)

7) TNA & Sinhala Buddhist Constitution:

As far as the TNA being a “political voice of a struggle” is hardly there today due to the drastic alteration of the situation than it was prior to 2009.  Now there is useless “structural unity” in the name “TNA” without a “functional unity” which actually is manipulative by several factors, including diaspora and thereby creating an atmosphere that several alternatives are possible for TNA to stand other than what they voice as Members of Parliament that upholds a Sinhala Buddhist Constitution.

The missing “functional unity” may be hallmark of a “Registered” party as well, making that process and ruckus about “registering” too an exercise in further dismantling our political base.

As an “alternative” anyone can call for something larger such as “ISGA” – “Interim Self Governing Authority.”

This has been placed on the table now and has already been denied by GoSL; for it to  happen, it will again be through an international process. It could even be the UNHRC, but no one powerful enough sees a crisis at hand to stop and rush towards it, until the process that is already underway will spin and produce unsatisfactory outcomes and unintended consequences. But that cannot be the fault of the TNA. As the TNA is at the Tamil political helm today, it has to be in the ballpark fielding while all the global powerful players strike their interests.  It is the job of us diaspora spectators who need to set the mood right in the field.


From P.P.


Hi T.K.

I agree with point 1 below but with a qualifier.  The powers that be are interested in patching things up with the Sri Lankan state now they have succeeded with Burma.  But they are fully aware that is not possible if the lingering issues are at least pretended to be attended to.  The only reason that Sri Lanka is in their radar is that the GoSL is not even willing to pretend anymore.  And the powers do have a strategic interest in Sri Lanka but now have no moral anchor to attach that interest to: Making that strategic investment vulnerable.  The peak of Genocide in 2009 was such that it could not be kept hidden even with the best efforts.  I think we both agree that the provincial election is a ploy to create that pretentious moral anchor.

Why should it take a UN resolution to do something constitutional is still missing.  Now that the world knows the Constitution is not accountable to the Tamils, would the UN and the powers be around after the TNA wins the elections to continue to demand other constitutional things?  Or would they go away saying they got Tamils to win the elections and their job is done? If that so, would Tamils be better off after the elections with no one to turn to and as the Yoda ;-), is saying, having legitimized the election?

The manifesto and the mandate

Unfortunately I couldn’t access the manifesto. But I would say, following TNA interviews and statements whereever possible, I never clearly understood their stand.  I get the sense theirs is a calibrated restraint in their public statements.  I agree with you that there are outlets and individuals who would target the TNA.  But to me it is more about them not wanting to upset certain powerful quarters by speaking the truth.

I see the elections through the same lens.  I have not seen the TNA say categorically that the 13th amendment will not work for Tamils.  And this election will be to get a mandate for a new dialog around the restructuring of the state.

On your points 2 and 3, about the 6 decades of “legislation”, are the core of the problems.  The GoSL turning from issue after issue, and bringing up new ones are their time-tested, proven-to-work strategies.  It has been happening since 1921 ever since Sinhalese took power.  Tamils have been shut out of any kind of meaningful legislating since then. And as Sivaram argued, that meaningful political space for Tamils never existed in Sri Lanka.  Why would the TNA, after 6 decades of struggle, want to take the same exact route and try to convince us the outcome this time will be different?

What I meant by alternatives are also, out of the box, new and bold ideas from the TNA themselves.  There were ideas proposed to them

  •  such as having the East and North provincial administrations caucusing together. There is nothing unlawful about that. The GoSl cleverly put an end to that by calling for elections in the East earlier and making the TNA scramble for a plan.
  • Using the elections to actually get mandates from the people on subjects that are considered taboo by the powers.  No one should object to such a democratic process.
  • Put someone completely out of the left field as a CM to show the ineffectiveness while preserving the TNA “brand”.  1988? (not sure) elections come to mind, when a coalition of EROS came to power with a nod from the tigers who rejected the system.

I am personally not against the elections, but I would like to see TNA cleverly “exploit” the process, the same way the powers are doing it, to move the ball down the field, as opposed to kicking the can down the road.  That maneuvering seems to be missing.  I am resigned to the outcome that the TNA will contest the elections without setting the right expectation.   The TNA will win it. And then will be stuck.  People will be frustrated with the TNA and the leaders will be seen as ineffective, out of touch.  Realizing people are not happy, and no other party is in play, TNA politics will turn into who can retain the CM posts in future impotent elections.  A game plan and outcome in favor of the GoSL.


From K.T.

In my opinion, the best option TNA has is to reject the NPC election but field candidates from the civil society on independent tickets and back them up. The group should have their CM candidate from the EAST (not necessarily Justice Vig).  The election manifesto of this independent group should send a strong message to the International Community. This will also avoid the divisions within the TNA party and possibly will broaden their support spectrum. LTTE has proved this strategy successfully at least twice in the past. They got the overwhelming mandate for the core demands(Thimbu principles) in 2004 through TNA in a GOSL-conducted election and had rejected 13th amendment in 1988 via EROS. The decisive victory for the students’ party (EROS) in 1988 was considered a slap on the faces of both the governments of India and Sri Lanka. Unknown faces from EROS were elected on Independent tickets for Sri Lankan parliament but they never attended the parliament. Walking into the trap is not the only way to play this NPC game. We have seen on Indian TVs how TNA’s support for Fonseka was manipulated by GOSL via Su.Samy. Senior leaders in TNA may have a fear that the decisive victory for the Civil Society may sideline them (once again) but if LTTE entertained this fear in 2000’s, TNA wouldn’t have existed in the first place. They have to sacrifice their selfish interests for the betterment of the Tamil nation. Powers would want the TNA directly participate in the election and hand over powerless NPC to TNA and wrap up the Tamil issue but we cannot afford to sit and watch this game.

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