by Kumarathasan Rasingam, June 25, 2017
Tamil National Alliance [TNA], a loose group of four parties, Ilankai Tamil Arasu Katchi [ITAK] Tamil Eelam Liberation Organization [TELO], People’s Liberation of Tamil Eelam [PLOTE] and Eelam People’s Liberation Front [EPRLF] was formed in 2001 with the blessings of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam [LTTE} leadership. TNA then always followed the decrees of LTTE while speaking for the Tamils to the outside world and in Parliament. The TNA’s leader, Sampanthan has been at the helm directing the fortunes of Tamils as well as controlling the often rebelling and dissenting members within the alliance. He has been successful in maintaining the brittle alliance without break-up, though dissenting views often appear to lead the break-up. TNA is sustaining its survival due to the charm of Sampanthan and after the election in 2015 it emerged as the second largest group in Parliament, thanks to the coalition of major rivals, the UNP and SLFP, opting to unite and forming an uneasy coalition Government, dubbing it as a Government of ‘Good Governance”. TNA openly called on the Tamil voters to back the SLFP-UNP combination for the sake of a prospective “government of Good Governance,” particularly meeting the demands of the TNA for a just and permanent political settlement based on a Federal System of government and to defeat the dictatorial Rajapakshe regime.
TNA extended its support unconditionally to the coalition Government without any written agreement or pact. When Sampanthan was asked by the former President Chandrika Kumaratunge as to why he did not insist on a written agreement, TNA leader frankly admitted the earlier betrayals of written agreements and pacts. It is an interesting question to ask Sampanthan whether an oral or mutual understanding or consensus is stronger than written ones or whether he knew the fate of this oral understanding to suffer the same death.
It is thus becoming a relevant matter to query Sampanthan as to why he should go on continuing his meaningless support when the net result would be disappointing with deceiving outcome.
If one looks at the track record of TNA from 2015 to today as the representative of Tamils and donning the role of the official opposition party, the performance of the TNA is surely souring and hurting the dignity of self-esteem and self-respect of the Tamils.
After more than two years, and with various promises made by the President Maithiri and Prime Minister Ranil, the Tamils are still faced with hordes of problems following the war which ended in 2009.
The release of all political prisoners as promised is yet to be fulfilled and TNA also seems to have left it high and dry as it is.
The release of lands occupied by the security forces in the North East is another promised matter which is still hanging in balance and there is no likelihood it will ever happen as demanded by the Tamil leaders and TNA.
In Jaffna district, a total of 4800 acres [4200 acres belonging to civilians] is still in the hands of Army while in Kilinochchi district a Total of 1600 acres of lands is occupied by the Army.
The Army Commander as well as the President has already declared their stand by confirming that there would be no reduction on Army personnel or release of private lands occupied by the security forces. After the defeat of LTTE in 2009, there is no justification to hold on to these lands as there are no signs of any militancy to pose threat to the state or security forces.
TNA’s achievements during this period of ‘Good Governance’ reflect a sorry state of affairs marked with contradictions, inconsistencies, wavering and lack of courage and determination.
Besides the failures to release the political prisoners and seized lands, there are also failings of TNA on many other issues.
TNA leadership failed miserably to identify and join with the peaceful and voluntary protest campaigns of the traumatised people who are searching for the disappeared, while crying for information as to whether they are alive or dead, so as to end their continuing and agonising suspense.
It is to be noted that TNA leaders however marked their attendance as visitors, while the protesters are left alone to continue the protest campaign without any official undertakings to investigate same and reveal the truth and statistics of those disappeared. In this respect, TNA leadership has neither cared to compile the details of those missing nor demanded quick answers to the questions of how, when, where and by whom the estimated 146,679 missing persons met their fate, a figure compiled by Mannar Bishop Rayappu Joseph.
TNA’s wavering stand on war crimes investigation and international mechanism started with a bang and has now ended with a whimper with no prospect of international mechanism or a credible international mechanism accepted by TNA. By co-operating with the Government and supporting the extension of two year period to implement the UNHRC’s Resolution 30 of October 2015, TNA has effectively became a complicit party to the slow death of this resolution in the years to come as indicated by the past and present foreign ministers.
By not opposing the GST+ concession which was subject to 58 conditions mainly dealing with human rights, and ratification of various UN Conventions, TNA has committed another betrayal to the causes of Tamils, while sending TNA Member Sritharan to Brussels, Belgium along with the Government’s delegation casts doubts on the role played by TNA in Geneva during the GSP+ discussions with the European Union, which fell for empty promises.
Sampanthan’s failure to observe or participate in the annual Mullivakkal Memorial Day on a regular basis speaks of his level of sincerity and grief to the fallen youths & civilians which is not the quality of a leader of the Tamils. His belated and afterthought wily-nily secondary participation this year while shielding behind Wigneswaran failed to impress those present while some created embarrassment for Sampanthan with questions which broke the solemn purpose of the occasion.
TNA’s markedly grave failure is their deafening silence over the agenda of Buddhisisation going on before its eyes and ears. The proliferation of Buddha statutes and building of Viharas in Tamil Areas where there are hardly any Buddhists is going on at a hectic space in the North East. TNA’s inexcusable silence is nothing but a consent to this cultural genocide tantamount to justification of this pernicious agenda which was set in motion since independence. As Martin Luther King remarked “We shall have to repent in this generation not so much for the evil deeds of the wicked but of the silence of the good people”.
TNA as the official opposition party has also buried its constitutional role as an efficient opposition party to engage in constructive criticism which is an unwritten rule in a Parliamentary system of Government. TNA is also wholeheartedly supporting the government for most of its legislation and action while making some noise of opposition to some issues like counter terrorism legislation which has been contemptuously ignored in Parliament and Committee discussions. Its blind support to the budget of the Government is surely a betrayal of the Tamils’ cause when the Government is blessed by TNA to strengthen the Army’s hold on Tamil areas with a massive defence expenditure. This failure of its role as an opposition party has even drawn the criticism of Sinhalese voters and parties who legitimately feel their dissenting voices being ignored and not taken care of. With no signs of any internal revolt against the government, the massive defence expenditure is only to tighten the stranglehold on Tamils.
TNA’s stand on the new constitution is still shrouded in inexplicable secrecy and mystery. TNA which was all for a Tamil Eelam until 2009 dropped this demand in 2010 and opted for a federal system or a regional self-rule. The Election manifesto of TNA is specific on this demand.
It is learnt that TNA has even dropped this federal demand and is now calling for provincial autonomy under a unitary system which in effect means autonomy hanging on the dictates of a central Government. This is the biggest let down for the Tamils whose sacrifices are nil valued by TNA.
In the face of the ultimate goal of Sri Lankan Governments to make Sri Lanka a Sinhala-Buddhist state, by giving up its fight for a federal system or a self-rule based on the right to exercise self-determination to preserve the Tamil nation, TNA has inflicted a mortal wound to the legitimate aspirations of Tamils. Undoubtedly history will record this betrayal as one which endorsed the disappearance of Tamils as a race and nation in Sri Lanka with its ancient history, culture and language. In addition, it will be an infliction of injustice to the thousands of youths who sacrificed their lives and limbs to the cause of Tamils besides the billions of worth properties destroyed during the genocidal war.
Another persistent ill afflicting TNA is the lack of unity and union of minds on the crucial issues facing the Tamils. This disunity is sapping the strength and effectiveness of all Tamils’ demands locally and internationally. It appears that TNA leaders are bent on promoting self-image and glory while falling to the age old tactics and trap of ‘divide and rule policy’ of Government.
TNA instead of drifting like a rudderless boat must set out its agenda of action for the Tamils towards the Government and launch fitting and timely campaigns to promote and pursue it locally and abroad. TNA’s muted silence and absenting from expressing its protest vehemently and vociferously is disturbing and causing suspicion as to where the loyalty of TNA lies, to the Tamil people or to the Government.
It is still not late for TNA to change its fruitless course for the sake of future of Tamils to ensure its existence in Sri Lanka, preventing an extinction through assimilation. It is imperative for TNA to join the voluntary protests of the people already in progress, besides mobilising protest campaigns for the other actions of the successive Sri Lankan governments like the erection of numerous Buddha statutes and constructions of Buddha Viharas where there is hardly any Buddhists,[mostly in the North East where Hindu/Christian/Muslims are in majority and where the Chief Minister of Northern Provide is a Hindu and the Chief Minister of Eastern Province is a Muslim] solely to carve an image for Sri Lanka as a Buddhist Sinhala Country.
A mass protest campaign either sit-in or satyagraha [Gandhian style] is the need of the hour to free the lands unjustifiably and unnecessarily seized and occupied by the security forces in the North. Lest TNA would have to bear the blame of complicity in the Sinhalisiation aimed at making the Tamils as minorities resulting in serious demographic changes.
TNA is also wholeheartedly supporting the government for most of its legislations and actions when TNA must focus their attention and campaign towards the international community viewing the internationalised awareness of Tamils’ issues and grievances. First and foremost is the issue of accountability for war crimes, etc.
It is worth quoting what the US Ambassador to Sri Lanka Patricia Butenis stated in her memo to State Dept in 2010. “Responsibility for many of the alleged crimes rests with the country’s senior civilian and military leadership including President Rajapakshe and his brothers and opposition candidate Sarath Fonseka” [http: Wikileaks.org Sri Lankan-President-alleged-war-html
Secondly, TNA must pursue its election pledges with no let up, particularly the setting up of a Federal system, failing which it is worth resigning the parliamentary seats and call for a renewed mandate from the Tamils to strengthen the demand.
Sri Lanka’s agenda and fate of Tamils is lucidly and accurately forecast by Gordon Weiss in his book [The Cage -page 227] “The evident brutality of the final phase of Sri Lanka’s war, the treatment of the civilians population, the post war militarisation, the rejection of accountability and the political refiguring of the nation imply a political objective that has little interest in the hearts and minds of those who were ‘rescued’. It suggests, instead commitment to the complete subjugation of the Tamil population by force, and an intention to sustain a grip over this restive group through terror and ethnic cleansing”. Unfortunately judging by the current trends on the ground, an astute sooth sayer might guess that the future for Sri Lanka’s Tamil citizens is bleak”. [page 224]
“Under the guise of development, the Sri Lankan Government is indeed using its Army to control the economy of Tamils majority areas, and to change the demography” [Bourke – Australia – March 2012]
“The extinction of Tamil Tigers has once again made possible the total domination of the narrative by the state” . [Gordon Weiss – Cage Page 225]
There is little doubt the former UN Official Gordon Weiss who worked in numerous conflict and natural disaster zones – like Bosnia, Afghanistan, Darfur and Haiti – has even-handedly analysed the politics and war of Sri Lanka, and it is hoped Sri Lanka will change its destabilising and destructive course and embark on the path of justice, accountability and reconciliation sincerely and honestly with concrete actions and without empty promises and undertakings to the UN and International community.
For the time being, TNA must cease to continue the history of betrayal and breach of trust and promises staining the dignity of Tamils.
Sampanthan’s worry and concern for the survival of this Government rather than the survival of the Tamils is simply unrealistic and just poor judgement.
Illankai Tamil Arasu Katchi’s [ITAK’s] latest distressing episode in relation to Chief Minister of Northern Province Wigneswaran appears to be descending into a full scale crusade to remove a principled person who has risen like a Goliath to challenge the trio [ Sam,Sum,Mavai] of ITAK.
This is nothing but a disgusting spectacle unfolding pitting one group of Tamils against another group of Tamils even calling for Hartal to show the strength as a non-violent struggle. By these actions, the Tamil leaders have plainly, simply fallen into the divide and rule trap of government to destabilize the Northern Provincial Council and paint a picture of disunity, lack of dedication and determination to agitate for the causes of Tamils with hoards of problems facing the Tamils who are still suffering after the brutal war. It is thus unpardonable for the Tamil leaders to waste their time and energy for the sake of self-glory, power and promoting of party interests at the expense of suffering Tamils.
NOW EVEN GOD WOULD NOT BE ABLE TO SAVE THE TAMILS WHO ARE HEADING TO LIVE AS SUBORDINATES AND FACE EXTINCTION IN SRI LANKA.
Sampanthan’s Assertion that “ I have trust on President and Prime Minister to offer solutions and be patient so as not to ruin the present best opportunity”, sounds optimistic, but history points to another lesson which is “never trust Sinhala leaders or Sri Lankan Governments”
“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing’ – Edmond Burke