2 February, 2023


Jaffna Challenge(r)s

By Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu

Dr.Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu

Two contrasting insights into reconciliation were on display in the last ten days – one in the field of sports and the other in the field of politics. The former relates to the Carlton Super Seven Rugby Tournament and the latter to the ITAK or Federal Party convention in Batticaloa. The significance of the latter is of course beyond dispute given that it was the party convention of the major party in the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and the speech made by its leader R.Sampanthan has been the subject of columns, editorials and dire conclusions on what it portends for the fate of the nation-state ofSri Lanka. The former may seem trivial by contrast – a sporting event, even tamasha, that attracted the attention of few. Sporting events though have their role to play in reconciliation and are replete with political significance and purpose. The Carlton Super Seven Rugby Tournament was no exception. Joint winners of the tournament was a team called the Jaffna Challengers captained by a young naval officer who also happens to be a son of the president of the republic.

One assumes that the choice of name for the team had some reconciliatory purpose – there were others with regional and provincial titles. This columnist is not clear as to whether any of the other teams had any connection to the parts of the country they were named after. By all accounts the winning team did not – rugby not being a sport to have taken hold in the Jaffna peninsula to date. It would seem to be the case that the choice of team name was either prompted by a desire to introduce the sport to the peninsula and integrate the peninsula into this sporting loop of increasing prominence and profit and/or an act very much in the spirit of the captain of the team’s uncle’s remarks about all parts of the country being accessible to all the peoples of the country, the north being no exception. Yet another victory lap by the winning team before the bewildered population of Jaffna, may well be on the cards. And someone may wave a Tiger flag on this occasion too!

Talking of flags, the highly respected TNA leader Mr Sampanthan is in effect being accused of irresponsible and even dangerous “flag waiving” – by some Tamil nationalists with regard to the Lion flag at the beginning of the month at the joint opposition rally in Jaffna and with regard to the Tiger flag at the end of the month by all – Island patriots, on account of sentiments expressed in his speech at the ITAK convention in Batticaloa. The truth of the matter, as this columnist sees it, is that Mr Sampanthan has to speak to both constituencies and the international community beyond, if he is to lead and hold together his party and his people within a unitedSri Lanka. Once can disagree about language and tone, but should not lose the wood for the trees. Yes he did talk about a future outside ofSri Lanka, about external self-determination and about what could follow from this government not addressing the aspirations of the Tamil people. He did not talk about this, though, as the first option or the preferred one.

In any and every event, is not the point to pull the political rug from under the secessionists’ feet? How irresponsible, dangerous and unreasonable have Mr Sampanthan and his party been in the pursuit of a political settlement of the ethnic conflict since the defeat of the LTTE as evinced by their behavior in the direct talks between them and this government or is it the SLFP – as they are now being told, contrary to the evidence of the letter inviting them to talks which was published in a week end newspaper? Have they not demonstrated commitment and good faith, forwarded proposals – stretching from the Mangala Moonesinghe proposals to the PA 95 and 97 proposals, the August 2000 draft constitution and the APRC Experts Committee report- and made clear that they will participate in a select committee once a consensus is reached between them and the government which can be forwarded to that select committee for discussion with the wider group of stakeholders?

The real tragedy is that Mr Sampanthan had to make the speech at all and in the tone and language he did. It is a measure of the state of reconciliation and unity in the country. To this columnist the speech was about consolidating the TNA position within the Sri Lankan and Tamil polity and the ITAK position within the TNA as primus inter pares rather than as sole representative of the Tamil – speaking peoples mapping out a strategy for secession. In narrow political terms it is about holding the TNA and the Tamil polity together, lest as times goes by and is deliberately allowed to through procrastination and deceit, the Tamil polity fragments into a combination of pitiful incoherence on the one hand and obdurate extremism on the other. It probably and sadly is the case that there are two polities in this context, each delineated by ethnicity and each the mirror image of the other. Mr Sampanthan may well have a similar problem, if not the same, with his hard- core nationalists as President Rajapaksha with his!

The overarching question as always is as to whether the politics of hurt and harm and hate should be allowed to hold the country to ransom?

It should not. Mahinda Rajapaksha has a pivotal role to play in this. Quite frankly, his inability and/or unwillingness to do so, is far more damaging to unity and reconciliation than any interpretation of any speech Mr Samapanthan may make; his willingness and ability to do so immeasurably greater a contribution to unity and reconciliation than any contribution the Jaffna Challengers can make!



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Latest comments

  • 0

    Mr Sampanthan’s speech is the state of mind of his political party and is a matter of his consolidation with the Tamil people in the island. Many Tamil diaspora in an immatured manner was disappointed that he did not call for a separate state, although the radical Sinhalese and the majority of the Sinhalese interpreted it as a call for separatism.

    As long as it is non violent, that is the right of the people of the NE. The Tamil-Sinhala problem has already been internationalized due to two reasons. 1. War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity. 2. The Tamil diaspora’s agitation and lobbying.

    The UN is already fully involved together with the US. The UN initial investigative report and the UNHRC resolution which will be followed up for further action by the UNHRC and possibly the General Assembly depends on the conduct of the GOSL.

    US not only sponsored the resolution supported by 40 countries and 23 voting in support, and 8 countries choosing to be non committal on this occasion, is quite a majority of the UN members given the opportunity to participate. If it is put to the vote next year in the General assembly, sponsored by US, EU, and India, one will be surprised how many countries will be willing to vote in support of Sri Lanka considering the War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity and non fulfillment of it’s own Siva report, and continuous repression of the minority.

    Eventually, the IC might be forced to intervene, and there comes the external self determination as a last resort.

    US also has a moral, ethical and legal obligation.
    4 US citizens and residents are involved with the war crimes allegations and will be forced to take action by officially conducting it’s own official investigations and legal actions sooner or later. They have their jurisdiction on their own citizens.

    On the Sri Lankan flag issue and Sampanthan, one can be rest assured Sampanthan or any other of the dozen MP’s will be holding on to any flag pole together with Ranil Wickramasinghe or independently. In fact they all will be too scared to stand next to Ranil, being concerned what else will he be handing over to hold on to! They all will stand 10 feet away.

    Jaffna should charge President Rajapakse’s son for using their good name, and allowing Jaffna to be associated with anything called Rajapakse. Like what his uncle said, they believe Jaffna too belongs to them and they can use it anyway and anytime they want. There will be a day soon, when the Rajapakses will be welcomed in Jaffna with black flags if not the Tiger Flags or the Tiger looking flags. But the Parliamentary voting and the Presidential voting speaks for itself, despite Douglas Devananda, Karuna, KP and Pillaiayan canvassed for him. They can add Chandrahassan to the team as well.

    Fonseka too will receive the same treatment in the future due to the war crimes allegations, despite what he may promise. Tamils will not want to be seen willingly supporting a war criminal as President or Prime Minister.

  • 0

    The funny thing is in a very shrewd manner, the article explains how TNA expels caste differences within the alliance and, instead, find an external enemy to focus on and to keep the members within the party as equals but Sampanthan as the leader.

    Another funny thing is any where in the Dravidian history Tamils has not remained constant as much as Sinhalas did holding onto their Buddhist culture. Tamils are very diversified in every way and only thing that hold them together is that they all speak Tamil. To state the same thing with another set of words, Tamils have accepted everything that they came across with. That is very human too. Anyway, this writer suggests that tamils don’t like Rugby. Why, it has to be Tamils only ? If Rugby gets hold in Yapa patuna why not those who like it relocating to there ?

  • 0

    The engineered attack on Sampanthan on his ITAK Convention speech is nothing but a naked attempt to keep the flame of communalism burning in the country by some sections of the Govt and its cohorts. What he said was unless early and serious steps are taken to re-unite the two major communities the Govt makes the obvious result inevitable. The young Tamil voter is showing his/her anger at the non-resolution of their problems, under the very nose of the Army as happened in Orani/VVT recently when 40 copies of the 1972 Republican Constitution was burnt. Sampanthan and Sumanthiran are moderate voices in the Tamil ranks. Sampanthan has given several demonstrations recently such as holding the Lankan Flag and pleading for Sinhal-Tamil reconciliation. Yet he is singled out for attack in the Southern media to keep the anti-Tamil campaign alive. The next tier of the leadership within the Tamil political grouping may not be as accomodative. They may chose more radical alternatives for their right to adminster the Tamil areas – denied under various false and procrastinastic devices by the Gpvt. It is upto President Rajapakse to offer courageous and statesman-like leadership to solve the National Question before further delay. With dangerous and disruptive elements within his fold the task is not easy but it can be – and must be – done.


  • 0

    India is used to terrorism. Why Sri Lanka can not do the same ? Did once, why not a second time or more do the same thing. Probably, a few wars one after the other are needed for Tamils to learn.

    • 0

      Thalavar and others

      He goes the spin doctor again with the service of his big lips. Can anybody enlighten me on his service to our society? All I have been noticing is that Parky preaches rubbish and garbages to please his Westerne masterrs to make his living.

      I am just wondering what constructive contributions Parky has done to SL community?

  • 0

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