What Happened at Maruthangeni and Its Consequences

by A. Nillanthan, June 13, 2023

[translated from the original Tamil by Google Translate with minor changes by the Editor.]

The fact that the intelligence department is monitoring the political activities of the Tamil people has been a reality for the past several decades. Especially for the last 14 years, the intelligence department has been monitoring all the activities of the Tamil parties and activists. They are doing it directly and indirectly. They do it threateningly; they do it politely. However, there is no change in the government’s agenda of surveillance of the Tamil people. The situation remains the same even after the end of the armed conflict. Keeping the Tamil people under constant surveillance is an aggressive mentality.

The same thing happened in Maruthangeni. The resulting arrests were aimed at threatening the Tamil National People’s Front. For the past few months, the Front has been opening protest sites that directly clash with the government forces and the police. The government forces and the police, who are enraged by this, may have carried out the above arrests with the intention of making the Front understand its limitations. It may be that the government’s intention is to prevent the party from continuing to fight by threatening the party and forcing its activists into prison, even temporarily. This has already happened to Sridharan, whose two aides were caught under the PTA Anti-Terrorism Act and spent months in jail.

There have been no armed conflicts for the last 14 years. However, Tamil politics is seen as militarized. No matter what kind of struggle the Tamil people take forward, they will have to fight against the government forces, intelligence agencies, and the anti-terrorism law. Thus, there is still an environment where ordinary people are afraid of clashing with the government forces and being pushed under the anti-terrorism law.

Gajendran, who is a member of parliament, was seen sleeping alone on the ground among bushes during a recent anti-vihara [Buddhist temple] protest in Thaiyitti.  He was elected by not less than twenty thousand votes. Why should he sleep there alone on the ground? Where are the people who voted for him and the supporters of that party? It is an area near a high security network. There is a situation that if you go there and fight, you may be arrested. The purpose of the police is to create a situation where Tamils can be arrested if they fight back.

In the Maruthankeni incident too, an investigator knocks down Gajendrakumar, who tries to stop him, and runs away. He is chased by two party members. Other members of the public especially the members of the sports club who participated in the meeting did not dare to chase him.

It is a Tamil reality. Ordinary Tamils are afraid of direct confrontation with government forces and police, intelligence agencies, etc. Why is it so much, on memorial days all church bells are asked to ring. But not all temples participate. Not even a single bell is rung in all houses. Only in party offices are memorial flags flown. Normal, to a point where people are afraid to even pick up a mouse like that.

To get rid of that fear, people must be gathered. There will be fear only as long as they act in isolation. But how many people can be picked up if there is a large crowd? Struggle is lawlessness. It is about filling the prisons. When the public gathers in large numbers, you cannot pick them up and place them under arrest. Only when you act alone can you be picked up.  People are afraid as long as they are acting alone. Gathering is strength. Accumulation only removes fear and creates courage. So the more people come out of their comfort zone, the more people will be mesmerized by the struggle. But Tamil parties do not have suitable programs for that. It is in such a background that the parliamentarians are alone with the government side. Needs to be propped up.

The People’s Front is trying to break that fear and fight. There may be individual adventure in it. However, the above arrest is the result of the government thinking that the party should be suppressed. Beyond all kinds of criticism, it is the Front that has been fermenting Tamil politics for the past few months.

On the other hand, in the background of the Marudhangeni incident, the party’s political opponents and those who are irritated by the puritanical activities of the party present the following criticisms… It is a play, creates contradictions for the Front, and thereby tries to strengthen its support base. If a party that opposes India is strengthened, anti-India can be institutionalized among the Tamil people. Therefore, the work of the government will be made easier.

Apart from this, there is a paper cutting that is being widely shared by the political opponents of the Front. It is a news report containing the views expressed by the TELO movement and Kumar Ponnambalam [Gajendrakumar’s father] during the period when the LTTE movement was banned. Kumar Ponnambalam has expressed support for the banning of the LTTE. They are sharing the above paper cutting with the intention of questioning his loyalty to the movement.

This is a trend that has been strangely emerging in Tamil politics for the last 14 years: creating conspiracy theories against their political opponents. Once there was a bald letter, now there is a Facebook account under a pseudonym. Social media has increased the freedom and audacity to comment on something they know nothing about. So the blind who saw the elephant have become critics. They join forces to slander their political opponents on social media. The proliferation of paper-cutting involving Kumar Ponnambalam is an expression of the same decadent culture of criticism.

The Tamil National People’s Front has also played a big role in developing that culture of criticism. It is the party that is promoting a culture of political criticism that destroys the personality of its political opponents by portraying them as traitors. If someone writes against them, it is the party members who write things like “rice is important” and “if they are hungry”. Political critics are few thousand. It is the party members who write articles for rupees and write that they are laborers on YouTube. The party has played a big role in turning criticism into slander in Tamil politics. Now the same slander is being thrown at them.

We need to confirm whether the paper cutting related to Kumar Ponnambalam is true or false. Sometimes, even if the news is true, Kumar Ponnambala cannot be judged by that alone. His life should be summarized completely. If the news found in that paper cutting is true, then it should be taken as his political position for a period. But later he was killed for his other political stance. If he had taken a political stand at that time to protect his Colombo-centric life and his assets, he might have saved his life. A senior voter said, “Kumar Ponnambalam is a rich hero who gave birth to GG Ponnambalam.”

If you look at the legal activists in Tamil politics, especially if you look at the one who litigated for the victims of the Prevention of Terrorism Act without accepting a single cent of payment, Kumar Ponnambalam’s life is great. People can be assessed only within their compiled life. You can’t judge based on one person’s position of a certain period. A compiled complete view is necessary in anything. In Tamil politics one should be seen whether he has done more charity or business. This also applies to Kumar Ponnambalam. It applies to those who were criticized by the leader as nasty and mean.

However, beyond right and wrong, the Front is fermenting Tamil politics. This will strengthen the support base of the party. The Front is fighting fearlessly. The government has put its hands on the important leaders of the Front thinking that the people should not follow that example. The aim of the government is to make Tamil political activists aware of the limits and dangers of colliding with the government forces, the intelligence department and the police.

Ranil can satisfy the Sinhala Buddhist sentiments through the above arrests. He is working towards next year’s presidential election. He may fear that he will not get the Tamil votes if he runs with the support of the lotus bud. So if he decides to rely entirely on the Sinhalese votes, he will have to put his hands on the Tamil politicians. Also, the I.M.F. The above arrests will also help him to divert the anger that may arise among the Sinhalese people when he fulfills the IMF’s conditions.  

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