Ilankai Tamil Sangam

Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

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In the Name of Peace

Kotte, Sri Lanka

25 October 2005

Press Release


President Chandrika Kumaratunga has a newfound affinity for the United National Party (UNP) presidential candidate Ranil Wickremasinghe. She met Wickremasinghe yesterday allegedly to discuss cooperation between her Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and the UNP.

What urged Kumaratunga to make common cause with her party’s traditional opponent?

Protecting the family’s political future

In our Press Release of 18 October, The Action Group Of Tamils (TAGOT) analysed how SLFP presidential candidate Mahinda Rajapakse outmanoeuvred Kumaratunga.

“His pact with the JVP and the support he garnered from JHU are very likely to ensure his victory. Kumaratunga’s ploy to keep her family’s political prospects alive for the next presidential election is in serious jeopardy. A victorious Rajapakse will consign all of them to the dustbin of history.

That would suit the JVP just fine. It is in the JVP’s interest that Rajapakse wins and puts the Bandaranaike clan out to grass.

So Kumaratunga is moving to undermine Rajapakse’s chances of victory by demanding that he publicly commits himself to federalism.

Obviously Rajapakse will not do that. And Kumaratunga knows it well. So, she is raising federalism to underline the fact that Rajapakse, by rejecting it, is defending the existing Sinhala unitary State.

Her transparent intention is to turn Tamil and Muslim voters against Rajapakse and reduce his chances of victory.”

However, Kumaratunga knows she cannot rely solely on alienating a majority of Tamils and Muslims from Rajapakse. Although the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) announced the organisation would be neutral in the upcoming presidential election, rumours trickling in from the Tamil-majority NorthEast Province (NEP) indicate a possible last minute shift in favour of Rajapakse.

And information from Sinhala electorates clearly point to a swing in favour of Rajapakse. His deals with the Sinhala-extremist Jathika Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) and Sinhala-fundamentalist Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) are bearing fruit.

So Kumaratunga must strive harder to sabotage Rajapakse’s election campaign and protect her family’s political future. She has to turn substantial sections of Sinhala voters against Rajapakse.

For this purpose, Kumaratunga levelled two major charges against Rajapakse.

First, she claimed Rajapakse is violating SLFP’s policies on federalism and devolution of power to satisfy the JVP. "We cannot allow this noble party, the SLFP, to be liquidated by extremists," the President railed at a meeting in Kandy on the 24th.of October.

Evidently she would like the Sinhala voter to forget that she allied with the same “extremists,” the JVP, last year to form her current government.

Second, Kumaratunga alleged that prospects for “peace” have been fatally undermined by Rajapakse’s pact with the JVP. Of course, under her Presidency there were no peace prospects in the first place that could be undermined (TAGOT, 18/Oct/05).

SLFP – UNP truce

Kumaratunga used the two accusations to prepare the Sinhala population for her consultation with Wickremasinghe yesterday. On the previous day Kumaratunga vehemently cried out to save her party and rescue the so-called “peace process.” The consultation was supposed to serve both ends. It was supposed “to consider the possibility of cooperating to end a simmering ethnic conflict” and, by implication, to tar Rajapakse as the saboteur who is undermining a possible Kumaratunga-Wickremasinghe anti-LTTE alliance.

The Sinhala south could fall for Kumaratunga’s rather clever ploy. After all, the south has yearned for the SLFP and UNP to get together and eradicate the Tamil/Chola “threat from the north.”

But “cooperating” only during the last 20 days of her dying Presidency? “Cooperating” to resolve the Tamil National Question that both parties helped to create and which they aggravated by fanning the flames of Sinhala-Buddhist chauvinism for more than half a century?

Clearly there is more to this than meets the eye.

Kumaratunga’s intention is to engineer Rajapakse’s defeat at the presidential election by projecting him and his ally, the JVP, as the opponents of a potential Sinhala-patriotic alliance between her SLFP faction and the UNP to crush the LTTE. With him out of the way, she believes the Bandaranaike clan’s political future and its grip on the SLFP would be secure.

Wickremasinghe is grasping at the opportunity to exploit the division within the SLFP to split that party, weaken Rajapakse’s SLFP faction and improve his chances of victory. He hopes that, in the process, Kumaratunga’s faction too would be emasculated beyond repair.

Whether or not Kumaratunga can cobble together an alliance with Wickremasinghe remains to be seen. But we can be certain that, after the election, the SLFP (what remains of it) and UNP will go back to their traditional hostility towards each other.

Nevertheless, this three-cornered and unprecedented struggle for power may assist the international community to recognise the utterly moribund nature of the Sinhala leadership.

TAGOT hopes that the international community is now able to see the semi-feudal Sinhala leadership’s pathological incapacity to resolve any of the outstanding political problems of the country.

The Action Group Of Tamils (TAGOT)

Dr S Sathananthan  Ph D