Tamils who once ruled the entire country, later ruled the Jaffna Kingdom and eventually lost it to European colonial invaders 114 years after the Sinhalese lost theirs. The 1948 Ceylon independence opened the door to the loss of language rights; land ownership rights, employment rights and more. Earlier the first blow fell on the plantation Tamils depriving them of their citizenship and voting rights and thereby reducing Tamil representation in parliament by eliminating 7 seats which weakened the cause of all Tamils. The 1st mile post was the Sinhalese Only Act of 1956, with the agenda of a Sinhala-Buddhist state in mind fed by Mahavamsa tales. This process has been methodically continuing since then and still continues unhindered with the Tamil leaders taken for a ride either falling for self-glory or reposing too much trust on the guiles and vileness of Sinhala politicians and leaders whose rivalry has been to capture power using the Tamils as sacrificial lambs and convenient tools.
It is not necessary to list the betrayals and breaches of mutual trust, centering around the various pacts, agreements, accords and promises dished out by the past Sinhala governments and their leaders including, leftist leaders who preached equality and then fell for the plums of office and power, while abandoning their just slogans.
Adding insult to injury, some opportunistic self-interested Tamil politicians also lent their support to the Sinhala governments to enrich themselves, thus endorsing and allowing the governments programs launched against the Tamils. Sensing the threat, Tamils launched their campaign for self-rule from 1924 initiated by Sir Pon Arunachalam. Then came the 50/50 demand by G.G. Ponnambalam who succumbed to the wiles of D.S. Senanayake leading to the rise of S.J.V Chelvanayakam who resisted the Sri Lankan moves targeting the Tamils. His non-violent campaign was also crushed with brutal force. SJV also trusted the Sinhala leadership, Banda and Dudley but as expected, he was betrayed and died leaving the destiny of Tamils in the “hands of God”. S.J.V also lamented the absence of a Tamil Jinnah in an interview with the BBC. Tamils backed the firebrand Amirthalingam who also fell victim to the crafty Sinhala leadership and abandoned the causes of Tamil Eelam, and even federalism.
The dismal achievements of past Tamil leaders fed the growth of militancy among the young Tamils. The result was the formation of many groups and organizations of Tamil youths competing with each other for leadership. LTTE emerged as the strongest and disciplined dominating the Tamil politics from 1978 to 2009. The armed struggle and guerilla tactics willy-nilly expanded to conventional war, which led to LTTE’s defeat backed by twenty-two countries who did not want a LTTE rule or a separate state. With the exit of LTTE, the TNA who were silently following LTTE’s fortunes emerged as the sole representatives of Tamils.
The end of the genocidal war in 2009 multiplied the miseries of Tamils who were left with hoards of issues and plethora of problems needing swift and acceptable permanent solutions, some of which are the presence of 150,000 strong army, non-return of illegally appropriated civilian lands, fate of 1000 of disappearances, Buddhist bigotry, Sinhalisation, displacements, loss of usual occupations and livelihood, mental and physical traumas, release of political prisoners including the lack of a political solution.
Tamils chose TNA and relied on TNA to take up these issues vigorously and aggressively including accountability and justice viewing their open support to Maithiri-Ranil combination. However, the performance and record of TNA in tackling or solving the said burning issues has been almost dismal and depressing. The omissions and commissions of TNA are:
- It failed to press and demand international investigation into war crimes, crimes against humanity etc.
- Failed and abandoned the causes including immediate release of all Tamil prisoners.
- Inaction and failure on the question of reduction of Army personnel in the North and East.
- Sluggish approach to restore the seized lands to the rightful owners, and leaving the agitation in the hands of the affected.
- Carefree attitude to ensure a speedy resettlement and rehabilitation to the displaced thousands.
- A lukewarm attitude towards the humanitarian issue of thousands of disappeared, leaving the grief stricken families to find their own ways and options.
- No concrete political proposal or plan of action as yet to solve the 60 year old ethnic problem.
- Nil action towards the effective functioning of the Northern Provincial Council, like powers over land and police.
- Not enforcing the provisions of Official language in the North and East to ensure the use of Tamil language for all state businesses and communications.
- Failing to sustain and maintain a determined stand to the participation of foreign Judges, Lawyers etc., in the proposed internal special tribunal, to be set up in the future, while supporting this procedure.
- Failing to project a united TNA front thus exposing disunity with contradicting statements and conflicting stands thus weakening the causes of Tamils before the UN and International community.
- Placing undue trust and confidence on the Sinhala leadership, not mindful of the past sixty years bitter experiences of political betrayals and breaches of oral and written pacts, and still nourishing with hopes and trust.
In the end, Tamils are now slowly descending to the position of political orphans without leadership and searching for directions for a clearly laid out programme of action, to solve those issues of life and death.
The need of the hour is a strong willed and dynamic leadership and not a submissive and docile one, as being experienced now. A leadership to lead the people and mobilize them to agitate for the just rights and justice, and not a leadership abandoning the struggles and leaving the leadership to the affected to decide the options and find their own ways and means.
Hopes of Tamils on UN and Human Rights Council to deliver justice and haul up Sri Lanka also appear to be waning after the recent visit of HRC commissioner Hussein who appear to have fallen to the mesmerisms of Sri Lanka’s power wielding persons. He is now insisting on justice from the Sri Lankan judicial system, which he earlier roundly condemned as untrustworthy.
Besides, the much talked and expected political solution will surely be relegated viewing the current political divide among the ruling partners including Ministers, UNP- SLFP rivalry jockeying for popular support to boost their electoral fortunes the mounting cost of living allegations of corruption, nepotism and restrictions on media are some issues which will derail the reconciliation process including even a new constitution.
The reinstated singing of national anthem in Tamil which is allowed in the constitution, the appointment of a gentleman Governor to Northern Provincial Council, the appointment of a Tamil Chief Justice, who is otherwise eligible due to seniority, the appointment of a Tamil Governor to the Central Bank, who happens to be a Tamil friend of Ranil are all just sops and deceptive cosmetic gestures to placate the international community but carrying no weight or fundamental changes in the position on the traumatized suffering Tamils, longing to live as equal citizens with dignity and self-respect.