By A Tamil Diaspora Activist -
The most popular Tamil National Alliance (TNA) MP is not Sampanthan, or, Sumanthiran despite serving in its front facing function. The later does not have a constituency or even a democratic mandate. Instead, a cabal of Colombo based Tamil lawyers foisted him as a national list MP on the party. Nor, does he enjoy the confidence of his TNA peers with the exception of Sampanthan. In fact, many view his intentions with deep suspicion. However, all this is irrelevant, as the discourse that permeates Tamil political circles is what happens in the post-Sampanthan era in the not too distant future.
The honor of having the largest following within the TNA belongs to Sivagnanam Sritharan. Not only does he enjoy the confidence of the masses but is also viewed by the diaspora as standard-bearer for the Tamil right to live with equality and dignity. His family sacrificed blood and treasure for this –Brigadier Theepan, a legendary LTTE commander was his brother-in-law. Sritharan himself stayed behind in the “no-fire zone” till the very last to render support to his constituents while they were slaughtered. These are attributes that lend himself a level of credibility that his urbane peers like Sumanthiran lack. In fact the latters relative silence on the egregious human rights violations perpetrated by Sri Lankan forces during Eelam War IV was deafening.
This is also not missed by the Rajapaksa regime, and, is the reason why he is subject to ongoing harassment by the state’s security establishment. The reduction in his security detail, and, thus placing his life in mortal danger is one such example. The planting of explosives in his office is another. So concerned was Sritharan of the imminent threat to his life that he appealed to his colleagues and his party to raise this issue. Yet his calls were met with silent antipathy.
In exasperation he personally appealed to the British High Commission and the Embassy of the United States of America (US) in Colombo. They responded to his pleas by making representations to the regime. In addition, he wrote to the Indian High Commission to draw attention to his plight. He also pleaded with the diaspora who promptly brought it to the attention of the British Foreign & Commonwealth Office minister responsible for Sri Lanka. Several members of parliament have been briefed on his predicament and so have officials in the US State Department. If harm were to befall him, questions would be asked in several legislatures across the world.
The irony in the inaction of the TNA’s Colombo based appratchiks is obvious to everyone. It is no secret that, that their preferred successor to Sampanthan is Sumanthiran. Sritharan’s popularity across the religious and caste divide, and, global appeal is a significant obstacle to this. And, his elimination by the Rajapaksa regimes national security establishment would remove a formidable obstacle to enthroning Sumanthiran at the helm of the TNA.
Sampanthan and Sumanthiran need to be aware that if harm were to befall Sritharan and even if their consciences’ forgave them, their electorate or the global Tamil diaspora would most certainly not for raising this issue aloud in all forums.