The day before yesterday night (15th) as I went to Jaffna Town pick up some dinner at the Indain shop Amul, the shopkeeper was concerned whether they should open today in response to the Tamil Makkal Peravai (TMP, Tamil People’s Great Front) call for the closure of all shops in support of the embattled Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran (CVW)s.
Daily wage earners were in silent meditation about survival if everything is closed. My baker wondered if his loaves would have buyers today. The extremist newspaper Valampuri which always has something to say against Christians, had already announced in a special Rs. 10 bulletin that shops will close today.
This morning I had to go to the hospital. Many shops, but far fewer than in usual boycotts, had closed. Patients, after years under the LTTE were quiet about their real feelings but their resentment came through ntrishaws. A lady who had waited long for her Echo Cardiograph could not miss that because of the trishaw charge.
Jeyasekaram, Chairman Jaffna Chamber of Commerce, commented that normally shopkeepers ask them if they should comply with a boycott request but this time they had not been consulted. The Jaffna bus stand had only one bus. Many shops were doing business as usual with one door open. Said a shop keeper, “When the TMP usually has a Sexual Predator from the university who has been detained by the police as their chief speaker, we do not support them but shut our doors in an abundance of caution.”
The Hartal had been totally unsuccessful outside the Peninsula, especially in Kilinochchi and Vavuniya. Rather worryinglyin Jaffna, however, after I left, many campus students turned up for the march, aggressively wanting to smash up things, said Prof. R. Sivachandran, Retired Dean of Arts at Jaffna. He has a grievance against the FP for not giving him their nomination for MP so he says he jokingly told the students, “If you want to be violent then beat me up and out of sympathy I will get my nomination next time.”
Said an Accountant who heads his firm’s branch in Jaffna, Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran is trying to project himself as Prabhakaran’s successor and has cultivated extremism to take over the TNA after Hon. R. Sampanthan.” He added that there has been corruption of various sorts. Accusations were orchestrated by Ananthi (wife of disappeared LTTE-er Elilan). Many of her accusations were meaningless like lack of efficiency but in there were some real charges.
CVW, said a TNA stalwart, was targeting Sampanthan’s loyalist ministers in the NPC: Deneeswaran (nephew of TELO’s Mr Adaikalanathan), Dr. Sathialingam (who has moderated his position from that of his father as the patron of the Vavuniya Yal Ahatru Changam (Be Rid of Jaffna Society) and T. Gurukularajah who is a Christian and absolutely a fan of Sampanathan’s. Thrown into the bag was Minister Aingaranesam who has serious charges against him about being bought by the Chunnakam Power Plant and its dumping oil into the ground water.
CVW then appointed a respectable committee of three, including two retired judges and a retired SLAS Official, to look into the charges. In the meantime, CVW’s Minister Ainkaranesan had hired Tamil men who are experts in their own fields but had no expertise in water testing. This bogus team was put together by an Australian Tamil brought in as a key CVW aid and consultant. The team white-washed Aingaranesam. But once the Inquiry Committee finally came out with its report all that white-washing was exposed. It found Aingaranesam guilty of corruption, and the Tamil Experts who had white-washed him were seen to be without clothes.
Unexpectedly, Gurukularajah was seriously faulted by the Inquiry for not heeding accusations against a teacher who had abused his female student. The Inquiry insisted that he step aside. Sathialingman and Deneeswaran were exonerated. CVW now wavered. He sat on the report and wanted time for appeals. Then he declared that all four Ministers had to resign or go on compulsory leave. That is when things exploded.
The TNA now took the position that once an Inquiry Committee is appointed, there is no choice but to follow through on the report. When CVW balked, 15 members of the NPC filed an FP-inspired motion of no confidence against him. The TMP saw its chance and called for the boycott in support of CVW. The three other parties of the TNA (PLOTE, TELO and EPRLF) stood by CVW opposing the motion.
As I drove back from hospital along Temple Road, I saw a crowd of 50 or so waiting in front of SLFP MP Angajan Ramanathan’s home for jobs. As I passed and came to the Temple there was a similarly-sized crowd (but smaller if the reporters are discounted) waiting in support of CVW. It was a motley group including Prof. Sittrampalam (Vice President of the FP), Suresh Premachandran (EPRLF) and Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam (Tamil Congress). Typically of that crowd, their slogans were more against Sumanthiran than about the corruption noted a friend in that crowd. That friend said that they said of Sumanthiran that he was brought up in Colombo counting how many Sri Lankan wickets fell at a cricket match but was never trained to count the number of Tamils killed in war. To me it showed the real target was Sampanthan. Premachandran has his own agenda, said a TNA official, about using CVW to bring his brother Sarveswaran as Minister if Aikaranesan goes; recalling that when Ainkaranesan of the EPRLF was appointed as minister instead of Sarveswaran, Premachandran ousted Ainkaranesan from the EPRLF.
Said a high Federal Party administrator, this crisis is entirely of Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran’s own making. He said that CVW had been negotiating with the allies of the FP in the TNA on defusing the crisis without speaking to Mavai Senathirajah of the FP and when queried why by Sampanthan, responded that he did not have Senathirajah’s telephone number. The official rhetorically asked me, “What do you say about this Chief Minister?”
Apparently, the crisis has been defused with Sampanthan saying that the Inquiry Report has to be implemented – Gurukularajah and Ainkaranesan will resign but Deneeswran and Dr. Sathialingam will stay since they have been cleared. This official said this seems to be the agreement but CVW did not openly say yes.
We need to wait. While sensible men like Sampanthan are around, the government must settle all outstanding issues with Tamils. Once he goes, there may be only extremists to hold talks with.