Colombo Telegraph

In Jaffna Exit Boycott Enter Fifth Column

By S. Sivathasan

S. Sivathasan

Tryst of Tamils with Boycott

It is 135 years since Mr. Charles Boycott entered the English vocabulary and also the dictionary. ‘Boycott’ as noun and ‘to boycott’ as verb. As a term it connotes a finer shade and more to the word ostracize or spurn or set aside. For 85 years the idea has plagued the Tamils with its rampant use and devastating damage. It ravaged Tamil politics from State Council elections. Ever active, it dealt a mortal blow to Tamils in 2005. It stalked unerringly till December 2014 and demised in January 2015. When political ineptitude of the Tamils invaded the scene even in a fragmented form, Mr. Boycott showed his head. But the ghost too seems exorcised from January 8, after 85 years.

Scourge of Fifth Column

Yet, poor satisfaction for the Tamils. A curse goes off but a scourge comes in. Boycott is replaced by Fifth Column – a group from within to undermine the larger interest. Oh fate, oh fate, what malevolence have you in store for the Tamils? So asked Bharathi our renaissance poet, in helpless anguish. Boycott philosophy, in its final gasp made its last try in 2013 Provincial and 2015 Presidential. It is now ditched.

In its place have mushroomed from June 2015, cancerous elements ruinous for the Tamil cause. What are they committed to? Acting the Fifth Column – to eat up from within. Who are they? Single digit MPs of 1994 and their ilk, who came into limelight amidst the havoc of boycotts. Tamils of little consequence decisively rejected by the mass of the people time and again. Anti-social elements who terrorized voters in times past. The most venal are status seekers who piggy backed on the TNA, only to find their impossible ambitions unfulfilled. Yet others who had a monopoly over violence with immunity guaranteed by the state previously are at their last try. They now seek to enter the fray as spoil sport to weaken Tamil representation. Voters have to rise to a man to relegate them to limbo. Unless cauterized in time, they will become malignant and turn again into destroyers. At what moment do they raise their head? When the TNA has surged forward as sole authentic voice, widely acknowledged by the Tamils.

Influencing the Mainstream

At a point of time when the more pragmatic forces in the country seek to come together and move forward, it is solidarity that is needed on the Tamil side. Of still greater importance is on the Sinhalese side, where the ruling coalition will be established. If the UPFA is considered noxious and toxic, the more potent, politically conscious formations, the UNF and JVP have to veer from it. From the other ethnicity, TNA needs to do the same. Both are happening in a big way. But that alone wouldn’t suffice. They have to align themselves in a wholesome alliance with the UNF currently in the ruling seat. It is pointless nick picking on the UNF or its leader. Alternative is Hitler is well known.

Which are the parties moving forward? TNA in the North and JVP in the South. This can take shape after the election next month. But before August 17, they should have the snowballing effect consciously extended to them by the electorate, in order to grow from strength to strength. As of now their seat count may be estimated at 30 plus; a formidable number to seat or unseat a government or to make for a two – thirds. Mr. Sampanthan speaks of a settlement in 2016. Chief Minister Wigneswaran speaking in San Jose, USA on July 4, the time is propitious for talks and peace.

Strengthening TNA is Strengthening Tamils

A strong formation in the North East is the TNA which is targeting twenty seats. This TNA is now capable of working for political stability in the region and in the country. Its avowed policy is an amicable settlement in an undivided nation. All Tamil votes in significant numbers and in a substantial majority would virtually amount to a referendum granting fullest authority to the TNA to negotiate with a sense of power. It is also an advance stamp for the settlement that is reached.

Any individual or group acting in a manner to lower the seat strength of the TNA would engage in acts inimical to the political advance of the Tamils. It is here that the Tamil polity battered for long, needs to respond to the call of the TNA leadership with a turnout of an unprecedented 85% plus turnout. Insincere spoilsports, intent on no more than mischief are no less than Fifth Columnists, deserving of social ostracism.

JVP’s Changed Stance

Gathering support and surging forward at a steady tempo in the South is the JVP. Electorates are sure to favour a leadership that displays pragmatism founded on plain honesty. The leader Anura Kumara said with rare discernment that the armed forces of the state are very powerful with better training and superior arms. JVP had therefore renounced violence as a means to capture power. No longer would they stand on the two stools of Bullet or Ballot and fall between both. Unambiguous choice is parliamentary democracy and the future sails will be trimmed appropriately. In the same breath Anura Kumara stated that JVP does not entertain any more, thoughts of world revolution. So, romantic illusions are publicly set aside. It may be too delicate for a leader to make such pronouncements explicitly and precisely. But he has done it.

Fundamental Policy Pronouncement of TNA

In a similar vein and with a keen sense of the possible and achievable, the Tamil leadership TNA has in measured steps covered a long distance in just six years. It made bold to declare its policy forthrightly in its Manifesto thus. “To exercise our right to determine our destiny to ensure self-government in the Tamil Speaking North-East of the country within a united and undivided Sri Lanka”. The declaration is unequivocal. The TNA elaborates its stance further. “The principles and specific constitutional provisions that the TNA considers to be paramount to the resolution of the national question relate mainly to the sharing of the powers of governance through a shared sovereignty amongst the Peoples who inhabit this island”.

Continuous Failure Spurs Change

In what background did this position come about? A 67 year history of bitter fruitlessness from 1948. Till 1977, unproductive non-violence. Then 32 years of destructive violence, which has eliminated all faith in armed rebellion. Both have pushed us two generations back is the widely held perception. The last 6 years certainly took the leadership and the people into an environment of introspection and a rebirth. It was certainly not an easy one. Hence the unfailing marks of the forceps in a difficult delivery of the 2015 Manifesto. An unsavoury past riddled with failure is now clearly repudiated. Political wisdom, self-reliance, strategic alliances within the national polity and pragmatic moves not as experiment but to succeed are likely to be the prominent features of future Tamil politics. People’s unity, voter solidarity and seat strength are basics. They are fundamental for August 17.

Two important political formations in the North and South have grappled for long with realities. With considerable pragmatism they have come to appreciate the art of the possible. The flexibility with which they have resiled from their past conveys the promise of a better future. The humility and the candidness with which they have announced their new stance is amazing. Equally praiseworthy is their timeliness.

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