By Malinda Seneviratne –
President Mahinda Rajapaksa did not invite seemingly estranged leaders of coalition partners such as Champika Ranawaka and Wimal Weerawansa to accompany him to the swearing-in ceremony of newly elected Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He did not invite his Prime Minister or any other seniors in the Sri Lanka Freedom Party. He didn’t even invite the Leader of the Opposition, Ranil Wickremesinghe. Instead, President Rajapaksa invited the Chief Minister of the Northern Provincial Council to accompany him to Delhi. Wigneswaran declined.
The context is important. Wigneswaran’s party, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) spares no opportunity to run to Delhi to whine and dine. In fact the TNA fired off a congratulatory message to Mr Modi no sooner the Bharatiya Janatha Party (BJP) won the election, expressing hope (yet once again) that Delhi would interfere on behalf of the TNA (to exact from Rajapaksa ‘peacefully’ what Velupillai Prabhakaran failed to obtain through terrorism).
Wigneswaran has trotted out the lamest of excuses and in doing so has conceded all brownie points at stake to the President. Wigneswaran claims that had he accepted the invitation it would ‘give a false impression to the international community that the Northern PC and the Central Government had a strong relationship’. The international community, so-called, was not born yesterday and Wigneswaran ought to have known this. Worse, this ‘back-off’ only ‘shows-off’ Wigneswaran and the TNA.
Wigneswaran is but a leader of a province and can claim to speak for less than a third of the Tamils living in Sri Lanka. As such, there is little grace in tossing aside a presidential invite. If only it was just that and nothing else! The truth is that Wigneswaran, the invitation-decliner, veritably salivates when receiving invitations from close associates of Prabhakaran now domiciled in various parts of Europe and North America.
As for relationships with the center, strong or otherwise, their status has a lot to do with who Wigneswaran’s friends are and what he chooses to be blind to. There are definite moves to resurrect the LTTE and the TNA’s conspicuous silence on this clearly indicates tacit approval. In that context it is certainly generous of the President to put all that aside and invite Wigneswaran to accompany him.
It appears that Wigneswaran would rather toe the LTTE line than help promote goodwill with the entities that disgruntled sections of the Tamil community would ultimately have to deal with, in this instance represented by the President. He might think ‘I snubbed him,’ but in reality he has indicated that reconciliation of any kind is anathema to the TNA, a red flag to a bull so to speak.
All things considered this is pretty puerile on the part of the former Supreme Court Judge. It would appear to some that this is a clear indication of who really controls the Wigneswaran and the TNA: pro-LTTE extremists in expatriate Sri Lankan Tamil community and their local representative, the true leader of the TNA by default, Suresh Premachandran.
The quick slide to political redundancy has to be seen as mirroring a pandering to extremists by an earlier generation led by Appapillai Amirthalingam and the TULF. Wigneswaran knows how that story played itself out. Perhaps it is too late. Perhaps he has no choice.
Whatever the truth may be, one thing is clear. The President got to look magnanimous and Wigneswaran turned up looking a spoiler. Modi didn’t invite Wigneswaran. He invited Rajapaksa, scoffing at those who protested the move. Someone has missed a trick here and it is not Mahinda Rajapaksa.
*Malinda Seneviratne is the Chief Editor of ‘The Nation’ and his articles can be found at www.malindawords.blogspot.com