By V. Anandasangaree –
The matter very widely discussed today among the Tamil people and among the Tamils living in various countries, is that the Tamils in Sri Lanka need an alternate leadership. This gives me a great surprise. I can understand if those who do not know the history of the country speak like this. But those who know the history talking like this looks not only humorous but also gives a lot of pain. I wish to take you all to the nineteen seventies. The Parliament that met in 1970 adopted a new Republican Constitution to replace the Soulbury Constitution, according to a mandate Hon. Sirimao Bandaranaike got from the people, when she came to power. It is to this Parliament that I also got elected for the first time as Member of Parliament.
Since a lot of matters had to be discussed at length, I want to make a brief speech. Two prominent lawyers Hon. G.G. Ponnambalam and Hon. S.J.V. Chelvanayakam both of whom were King’s Councils, jointly formed a new Political Party, named the All Ceylon Tamil Congress, to give evidence before the Soulbury Commission, which was appointed to make recommendations for constitutional reforms in Sri Lanka. On behalf of the Tami people, both these lawyers, along with several other intellectuals were elected to the first Parliament at the General Election held in 1947. Unfortunately due to difference of opinion between these two great leaders, a section broke away under the leadership of Hon. S.J.V. Chelvanayakam and formed a new Party called the Federal Party. Between 1949 and 1970 a lot of incidents, good and bad took place. The mandate given by the people to Madam Sirimao Bandaranaike, to draft and adopt a Republican Constitution, sent a shock wave to the Tamil people.
Can we ignore the TULF founded by Hon.S.J.V.Chelvanayagam
Realizing what was in store for the Tamil people in Politics, Hon. S.J.V. Chelvanayakam putting aside his longstanding enmity with Hon. G.G. Ponnambalam, visited his house and told him that they should get together and cannot be divided anymore, for which Hon. G.G. Ponnambalam agreed. Forgetting their enmity they decided to merge both their parties and formed a new party named the Tamil United Front at Trincomalee on 14th May, 1972. On the spot members of both parties also got together forgetting their differences. When this news reached all parts of the world, Tamils living all over, displayed their happiness with enthusiasm. The Tamils forgetting their political differences continued to function as Tamil United Front and later changed the name of the party as Tamil United Liberation Front. To emphasis on the unity, the President of the TULF Hon. S.J.V. Chelvanayakam shared his chair with Hon.G.G. Ponnambalam and with the leader of the Upcountry Tamils Hon. Sowmiyamoorthy Thondaman. It is the party that they formed, still functioning as the TULF which cannot be bought over by anybody. Without changing its policy the TULF is still functioning according to the wish of the leaders. As for me being a founder member of the party I have made available my services to the Tamil people.
Now I wish to ask from everybody only one question as to whether they can find a better leadership than the one founded by leaders like Hon. S.J.V. Chelvanayakam, Hon. G.G.Ponnambalam and Hon. S. Thondaman for several years to come. Leadership is different from chairmanship. That is why I requested my good friend, a Law College mate and retired Judge, Justice C.V. Wigneswaran, to accept the Chairmanship of the TULF. I have faith in him and I am prepared to keep the President’s position of the party vacant for a specified period.
Some time back I happened to read an article about the Tamil National Alliance, authored by a Tamil from Switzerland. He and many others had written very damaging articles about me. In his article he had mentioned that, “At the Election held in 2000, TELO and TULF got together and elected only eight members to Parliament. At the Election held in 2001 in the North and the East jointly obtained 14 seats and earned the name as Political leadership of the Tamils. That year for the first time the Tamil National Alliance contested the Elections on the symbol of the TULF.
After that Mr. V. Anandasangaree leader of the TULF took away its symbol and as a result the TNA was compelled to contest on the Federal party ticket. If Mr. Anandasangaree had not taken away the symbol of the TULF as if TULF was his own property, the Federal Party would have been nowhere. Up to now he would have been the president of the TNA and also could have been elected as a Member of Parliament. We welcome him back to the TNA”.
Reviving the Federal Party amounts to great betrayal of the leader Chelva
Truth will have to come to light one day. I never ran away from the TNA . That accusation applies only to Mr. Mavai Senathirajah and not to me. On two occasions, much against the wish of many, it was I who was responsible for his election as nominated Member of Parliament. As a result of this many are still angry with me. Mr. Senathiraja who was so greedy for power, having his eyes on the Chairmanship of the party, at the 2001 election wanted to be the main candidate at the election held in 2001. Since his request was unreasonable, no one took notice of his request. On his own he selected two candidates from our list and canvassed support for the three of them. I kept silent. However at that election I polled 36,000 votes and came first out of nine elected while he polled only 33,000 votes. His disappointment compelled him to become petty in his activities. I gave in to a lot of his demands. At that time an article authored by Taraki (Sivaram) brought to light that many Tamil Organizations, Political parties and many such others got together and decided to contest the 2004 election under one umbrella, one policy and a common symbol. At this time when arrangements were taking place to contest under one banner, Mr. Mavai Senathirajah and Mr. R. Sampanthan, without anybody’s approval and on the orders of Mr. Thangan tried to revive the Federal Party, 28 years after its founder died and contested the elections in 2004 under the symbol of the Federal party the ‘HOUSE’. Mrs Mankaiyarkarasi Amirthalingam also condemned Senathirajah for trying to revive the Federal Party. I never ran away with the TULF symbol. It was when Senathirajah and R. Sampanthan tried to take it to Ampara, I had prevented it. As arranged by Taraki and Tamil Organizations, if all had contested under one umbrella and under one symbol the ‘Rising Sun’, all the 22 would have won the election democratically. Like the TULF candidates in 1977 all these candidates would have won with very good majority. At that time even the All Ceylon Tamil Congress was prepared to contest on the Symbol of the TULF. When the results of the 2004 General Elections came out the guns of the Tigers would have been silenced. After that talks would have started with the government and ceasefire would have been declared. Arrangements would have been made to commence peace talks. An article authored by Taraki that appeared in an English Daily on 11-02-2004 is referred to here.
According to Taraki, “The Tamil National Alliance has been made out to be more than what it actually is. If not for a variety of external pressures, it would have imploded at inception. Contrary to the chief myth about the TNA that it is managed by the Liberation Tigers, some of its leading politicians have had no scruples in running with the hare and hunting with the hound. Even the name ‘TNA’ was imposed on the quarrelsome bunch by the Tamil media, much to the chagrin of the TULF and the ACTC, which preferred to call it the ‘Alliance of Tamil Political Parties’. The dominant image of the TNA as the political paw of the Tiger is deceptive.
The attempt to portray TULF President Anandasangaree as the villain of the piece is very wrong. At least the man speaks his mind”.
Everyone be they Tamil Organizations or Taraki or LTTE all wanted only unity
“These lobbies felt that all Tamil parties and groups in the northeast should be brought under one Tamil national umbrella regardless of their deep divisions and regardless of their long association with the military and allegations of rights abuses.
Karikalan, a senior Tiger leader in the east, told a delegation of the Thamilar Marumalarchchi Kalaham in Batticaloa that the LTTE had no objection at all to the TELO and the EPRLF joining the alliance but was very keen that the two groups should be brought under the Tamil National umbrella as soon as possible. He was also eager that PLOTE too should join the TNA. This was at a time when PLOTE, EPRLF and TELO were officially working with the Sri Lanka army in intelligence and counter insurgency operations in the northeast”.
Mavai Senathiraja’s blunder
Since Mr. Mavai Senathirajah contested the election on the symbol of the Federal Party the ‘HOUSE’ against the wish of Taraki and other Tamil Organizations, Tamil people lost everything. 22 of them got elected to Parliament in the most undemocratic way. Mr. Mavai Senathirajah who lost the election in the morning got declared elected in the evening. Because of Mavai Senathiraja’s foolish actions the war dragged on for another five years. As a result several thousand (some say between 50,000 – 100,000) lives, some of which were children, mothers, expectant mothers, disabled persons, elders, young girls and boys and many such others. Not only that the leader of the LTTE, his family, wife and children, combatants and in short the entire freedom movement had been destroyed. Thousands of houses and several billion worth of property got destroyed. For all these who should be held responsible. The answer is very well known to everyone.
The only option the partners of the TNA alliance have is to join with all others
Apart from all these what we want is a change in leadership or change of chairman. If it is only change of chairman we are prepared to give way for a suitable person. But if it is the leadership I don’t see any other suitable leadership other than the one jointly led by M/s S.J.V Chelvanayakam, G.G. Ponnambalam and S. Thondaman. Even the alliance partner of the TNA can join the TULF realizing the mistake they made by joining the TNA. But for the mistakes made by the leaders of the Federal Party, their rank and file can join the TULF. Since the alliance partner of the TNA the EPRLF, PLOTE and TELO cannot be held responsible for the mistake of the TNA, they have a moral duty and responsibility to join the TULF only. They should have worked with the TULF from the very beginning. Furthermore any other political party can join us in the interest of the Tamil community. The biggest mistake Mr.R. Sampanthan made was to call for unity of all Tamil Parties and did nothing to bring them together. It is clear that he was not honest and sincere in his call for unity. We are not immortals. We are anxious to see an end for our ethnic problem before we breath last. Therefore my invitation to join us applies to all. The TULF is ever ready to fulfill the ambitions of people like Prabhakaran, Taraki and members of various Tamil Organizations. The TULF is ready to contest the forth coming elections on the symbol of the TULF the ‘Rising Sun’. All can join our party without any party differences. We will not show disrespect to any political party for the sake of Tamil unity. Those of the TNA continue to cheat our people. The people are still on the roads struggling to win their rights. Without taking serious interest in matters like missing persons, their relatives, struggle to re gain their lands, the release of the political prisoners and many such others. It is very clear that the TNA is working according to the government’s agenda. Those who can’t solve the problems of the people they must quit the positions they hold.
The history of the complete derailment of democracy of the Tamil people
Everyone knows the truths. The truth is in 2003 the TULF Member of Parliament in the TNA Mr. Mavai Senathiraja on the orders of a LTTE leader Mr. Thangan tried to revive the ITAK which was defunct from 1974, two years before and 26 years after the founder of the ITAK Hon. S.J.V. Chelvanayakam died. That member without anybody’s approval, maybe either on his own or with the backing of an unidentified group, replaced the TULF from the TNA with the ITAK and contested the General Election as TNA candidates with the Symbol of the ITAK ‘House’ at the election held on 02nd April 2004 and won 22 seats including two national list seats, defeating all the nominees of the TULF which had 14 members in the earlier Parliament.
The gravest crime the said Member of Parliament committed at this election was to bring discredit to a great leader the late Hon. S.J.V. Chelvanayakam who founded the ITAK and was committed to non-violence, by reviving the ITAK on the orders of one Mr.Thangan who was an LTTE cadre, 26 years after his demise of the founder Hon. S.J.V. Chelvanayakam. A demand to annul the election and call for re -voting by the candidates and the election monitors was turned down on the grounds that there was no provision in the Election ordinance for re- poll. As a result fraudulently elected 22 members of the TNA were allowed to sit and vote in Parliament for a full term of six years with their disqualifications over- looked. The members so elected were 10 percent of the total membership in Parliament which is 225. It is very unfortunate that a Parliament elected for six years on 15-12-2001 was prematurely dissolved in two years without any justifiable reason. The Prime Minister who was elected for six years was allowed to serve for only two years. I was elected for six years as a member but due to pre- matured dissolution I could serve for only two years and could not enter Parliament up to now, since my defeat in 2004. The position will continue to be the same not only for me but for all TULF candidates for many more elections including local ones to come. In my opinion, if no remedial action is taken by the Election Commission soon, that will be the end of democracy with the forthcoming local elections.
The efforts taken by me to save our people
I always wanted the LTTE only to mend their ways and never wanted to have them eradicated. If we have contested the 2004 general election as desired by the LTTE, Taraki and other Tamil Organizations on the Rising Sun symbol of the TULF our desire would have been fulfilled. The combatants also would not have been got eradicated. But the Federal Party without giving the LTTE sound advice, only encouraged them for all their doings and now want the LTTE cadre tried for war crimes. In January 2009 I pleaded with the TNA either to save the innocent people or to quit Parliament. I wrote to Thamby Prabhakaran not to earn the curse of three hundred and fifty thousand innocent people. I wrote to the Ex President to contact some friendly countries and with their help to have all released including the combatants if necessary under a general amnesty. In April 2009 the Indian Foreign Secretary Shri Shiv Shankar Menon had written to the TNA to meet him at Delhi for which ten members of the TNA got together and informed him to stop the war for them to meet him in Delhi. I condemned the TNA for not meeting the Indian foreign Secretary who might have had some way of saving the people trapped in Vanni. When a British Parliament delegation visited Sri Lanka at the tail end of the war, the TNA members of Parliament had informed the delegation that the Indian general election will be over soon and that they were expecting some disaster to take place. In fact that happened resulting in the death of several thousands. The TNA was fully aware of the imminent danger those in Mathalan were facing. On the 29th March 2009 the President Mahinda Rajapaksa invited all political parties to discuss various problems. The TNA failed to attend. But I attended that meeting with some other party members. At that meeting the President said that another 85 thousand people only were left in Vanni. But I pointed out that there were more than 350,000 people still in Vanni. The President refused to accept my figure, got angry and left the meeting angrily shouting at me. On another occasion at the meeting with Basil Rajapaksa, he admitted in the presence of TNA Parliamentarian that he did not know the actual number till I mentioned about the presence of 350,000 people still left in Mathalan.
*Speech delivered by S.V. Anandasangaree, Secretary General TULF at the Annual Convention of the Party held in Jaffna on 2017-08-07