Ellusive Unity & Eroding Aspirations

Of the Tamils of Sri Lanka

by Thambu Kanagasabai, LLM – London, Former Lecturer in Law, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka, August 25, 2021

There is no doubt that unity is the most uttered and much used and abused word by the Tamil politicians and leaders who took control of the political destiny of Tamils since independence in 1948. It is also a history that Tamil leaders and parties on various occasions moved to form united fronts like the Tamil United Liberation Front [TULF] in 1976 and Tamil National alliance [TNA] in 2010 mostly due to compelling circumstances. The united parties and their leaders, however, were not prepared to sacrifice their interests and give up their leadership or dissolve their parties to forge a one united Tamil party or front under one flag.

The in-fighting among the parties persisted leading to the birth of new parties and the total number of Tamil political parties now stands at 17, all of them clinging to the mesmerizing words “Tamil” and “National” in their names. These catching words serve as the hooks and nets to lure the imagination of the people and draw their backing and votes.

The question arises as to how far and to what extent they have committed themselves to sacrifice their lives and interests with dedication and sincerity to struggle and advance the lingering causes of Tamils and mitigate their sufferings due to the genocides in the hands of Sri Lankan Security Forces since 1958.

If one looks at the performance of the Tamil nationalist leaders, a blank and empty record of performance only stares at one’s face. It is not necessary to list the several issues of Tamils which have been steadily accumulating for the last 20 years.

Instead of confronting their issues with unity, there is only palpable disunity as to who should be the only leader of Tamils, which party should lead. In addition, there is disunity and disagreement as the priority of issues to be taken, disunity as to with whom talks have to be conducted, disunity as to the composition of delegations and its members for any talks with the Government. There is also disunity as to the core demands and as to the political proposals for talks, Unitary, Federal, Confederation, Self-rule for North and East or full implementation of the 13th Amendment.

The current and main actors of Tamil  parties are the Tamil National Alliance {TNA] led by R. Sampanthan, the Tamil National Peoples’ Front led by Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam and the Tamil Makkal Munnani led by C. Wigneswaran. It has to be stated that the aged long-time leader of the TNA has almost relinquished his leadership role to the double-role dashing, controversial Sumanthiran.

One would have observed the recent eruption of hostility and rivalry between Sumanthiran and Wigneswaran accusing each other with press statements and interviews while Wigneswaran also lambasted the TNA as well. While our supposed saviours are pulling each other’s hair out in public, the Tamils are fully feeling abandoned and losing their hopes and confidence for the emergence of a just and acceptable political settlement. When the rats are fighting among themselves, the cats celebrate the easy consumption of their prey.  In this respect the divide and rule policy of Sri Lanka is playing its role efficiently, having its grip and hold on Tamil leaders.

However, the leaders are united in releasing separate statements and conducting interviews and dashing out well-prepared, eloquent speeches in the Parliament and outside with a feeling of smug satisfaction to have tackled the problems of Tamils without any ground action.

The cumulative efforts and consequences of the disastrous and  destabilizing actions and conduct of the Tamil leaders are far-reaching, damaging and debilitating the causes of Tamils while elating the Sinhalese leaders and Governments with comfort and ease to proceed undeterred with their agenda of Militarisation, Sinhalasisation and Buddhisistion. Even the proposed new Constitution incorporating an acceptable political settlement looks a remote possibility, while there are moves afoot by Buddhist Clergy and by extremist and hardline Sinhalese Parliamentarians to get rid of the 13th Amendment and/or Provincial Council system from any constitution or otherwise.

To sum up, it can be stated that the aim of the Tamil leaders is to defeat their Tamil rivals and keep them at bay, but not tackling the burning problems and agitating for a permanent political settlement. To achieve this sinister goal, the Tamils leaders appear to be determined to do whatever possible, for themselves.  Tamils as a race and their survival is neither a priority nor are they held in the minds of these politicians. The intention, thinking and conduct are only focused on this ulterior motive and matters of self-interest.


Today, the Tamil race is at the edge of its extinction. Any hope for a Saviour has evaporated while chauvinism and majoritarianism is in full swing from the Sinhalese politicians, political parties and some Buddhist Monks who are steadily progressing towards the obliteration of Tamils’ traditional and historical homelands {North and East of Sri Lanka] and their distinct characteristics.


Sinhalisisation and Buddhisisation has led to the loss of a major portion of the East  and is moving from Vavuniya to further north following Vanni. Tamils have realized that no Saviour or courageous sincere leader is in sight to save them from the ongoing structural genocide.


Viewing this desperate situation, what is needed now is some sort of transitional political arrangement to ensure the survival of Tamils and preserve their identities.


Since the Tamil leaders have miserably failed to confront these damages and realities which are staring in their faces, the burden is obviously transferred to the civilians, activists, organizations and University Students.to form a united front and launch mass agitations, protests, boycotts and satyagraha {like Ghandian style] campaigns in a peaceful and non-violent manner. It is better late than never. The Tamil voters have to act wisely to elect young, sincere and dedicated leaders while forcing the present  leaders for permanent retirement.


The disunity, complacency and inaction Tamil leaders have led to the entry of South political parties , UNP, SLFP and SLPP in the North, particularly in the Jaffna District and improving their vote bank resulting in Parliamentary seats where TNA won 9 seats in 2015 elections and was able to secure 6 seas in the 2020 elections.


While Wigneswaran is insisting on the condition of the “Confederation” for any talks with the Government, Sumanthiran, the de-facto leader of the TNA claims the solo right to speak on behalf of all Tamils. It is a puzzling statement which needs his clarification as to when and how he obtained this mandate to proclaim himself as the leader of entire Tamils. Otherwise it can be dismissed as a pure gimmick.


What the late leader and father of the Tamil Nation lS.J.V. Chelvanayagam prophesised is now proved to be true when he said in 1977 “Only God can save the Tamils”. However, it appears even God cannot save the Tamils unless it happens swiftly to halt the extinction of the Tamil race in Sri Lanka.


It is reported that a meeting of Tamil National leaders was held  recently and a decision was made to act unitedly and not individually. It is hoped that this last unity will sustain at least for some time with the leaders leading to the formulation and presentation of united demands listing the urgent issues regarding immediate actions and solutions for the Government, if at all the government invites the representatives of all major Tamil political parties for official talks.


It is hoped that unity will survive and prevail among the Tamil leaders forsaking their rivalries and unitedly place the core and immediate demands for consideration and acceptable solution by the Government.

No Responses to “Ellusive Unity & Eroding Aspirations”

  1. S Siva

    Great article!
    Tamils are great in their academic and other professions but not in politics except in Singapore.

    Eelam Tamil politicians have deceived or misled or their incompetence or fooled the Tamils after several pogroms, race riots, ethnic cleansing, state terrorism and Genocide committed by the successive Sinhala Buddhist Apartheid racist governments for several decades. It is shameful that after all these heinous crimes committed by the accused war criminal governments, Tamil leaders are unable to convince the International Community, International criminal Court and Powerful nations to intervene militarily, conduct a referendum to create or separate the Tamils as they lived prior to colonial invasions and occupation.

    No moral, ethical and honest leader who truly believes in Rule of Law and Justice will be talking the Sri Lanka accused war criminals but to global leaders who have the same values and principles. Tamils have to reject corrupt and incompetent leaders and TNA has been again and again failing the Tamils.

    Tamils have to seek close ties and support from non-Western Powerful and former Colonial countries as they too continue to fail on Accountability and Justice, in order to win their dignity, respect, justice and freedom.