By Thambu Kanagasabai –
This article focuses on the performances of Tamil National Alliance [TNA] since its monopoly role in Tamils’ politics and issues from 2010 as endorsed by the late Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam supremo Velupillai Prabaharan. This article analyses the past performance of TNA and the present directionless, compliant, complacent and lack lustre leadership of Tamils who are now left in a state of limbo and are desperately in need of an alternative young, sincere, dedicated, energetic and devoted leader replacing the aged present action less and time passing leaders for retirement.
This is a demanding indispensable need which has to be met without any hesitation as time is running out for the Tamils to ensure their existence and survival in Sri Lanka in the face of a menacing increased and accelerated agenda of Buddhisisation, Sinhalisiation and Militarization in progress which is cleverly and openly executed by an all powerful President with the support of hard line chauvinistic Buddhist clergy and communalistic Sinhala politicians.
The first period of 2015 to 2019 saw the beginning of the rule of Rajapaksas’ family who ruled while unleashing authoritarian tendencies keeping the opposition and Tamil political leaders at bay without any threats from them. The Tamil leaders also adopted a submissive attitude and mostly remained as silent spectators for the politics and policies of Rajapaksas.
The period of 2015 to 2019 dawned with the introduction of “Good Governance” to do away with the “Bad Governance’ of Rajapakshas’ and usher a Maithiripala Srisena – Ranil Wickremesinghe’s prosperous peaceful Sri Lanka. TNA embraced and trusted the “Good Governance” crusaders with TNA leader Sampanthan openly declaring his trust on them, not mindful of the past deceptive record and history of the Sinhalese leaders and Governments. Five years went on smoothly for the “Good Governance” so also meekly and quietly for TNA and Tamils who were fed with hopes and later experienced the let downs and disappointments.
The promised new Constitution did not materialize and also the promises for more powers to the North and Eastern Provincial Councils were also remained as hollow and empty, even though Sampanthan became the official opposition leader and promised political settlement before every Deepavaili festival since 2016, 2017 and 2018. Only Deepavali festivals went without any constructive political moves for the Tamils.
It is appropriate to to recall the main political pledges made by the TNA in its 2010 election manifesto:
1. Right of self-determination for the Tamils.
2. A merged North and East with power sharing arrangements under a federal constitution.
3. Release of Tamil political prisoners and general amnesty to all others detained without charges and their prompt release.
Also some of the main matters of immediate concern mentioned by TNA were:-
a) Meaningful demilitarization in the North and East with the return of the military to the pre war situation as it existed in 1983 including the removal of armed forces and military apparatus.
b) Compensation for the loss of lives and for all those maimed and those who suffered losses.
It is all the more pathetic to note the unbelievable silence of TNA to launch an awareness campaign for the people in the South and mobilize the support of both Tamils and Sinhalese to endorse federalism, besides pressing the government to take a meaningful steps towards a federal system justifying its position morally, legally and politically suitable for Sri Lanka.
TNA has also unreasonably failed to fully identify itself with the peaceful protesters campaigning for ‘the disappeared and missing’, ‘political prisoners’, and release of lands seized by the security forces’. TNA has now opted and chosen the role of spectators and as random face showing participants instead of acting as leaders to spearhead these campaigns. It appears that the affected Tamils as a whole are now brought down and forced to the position to initiate the protests and fend for themselves on their own as long as they can survive braving the heat, dust, cold and rain.
There is no doubt that this weak and aimless leadership of TNA has emboldened the government to proceed with its own agenda of Buddhisisation and Sinhalaisation in the North and East of Sri Lanka [The historical and traditional homeland of the Tamils].
As for the Tamils, there is no gainsaying of the fact that all the Sinhalese leaders are united in pursuing the agenda of Buddhisiation and Sinhalisation but only disunited as to the intensity and scope in their pursuit of communal campaign with each one out classing and out beating the other to capture the political crown.
It is incomprehensible to note that the TNA leader has not achieved anything concrete so far after the lapse of 12 years.
Their failings and omissions have to be highlighted for the sake of information.
1) TNA has neither passed a resolution confirming the ‘GENOCIDE’ nor there is any statement made to this effect so far. TNA by this unpardonable blunder have only weakened the Tamils cause in the United Nations, UNHRC and International Community while discouraging the West also to desist calling the war crimes as GENOCIDE. TNA has so far failed to employ its resources to collect all forms of evidence to support the crime of genocide to help the UNHRC and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Sumanthiran’s statement that there is insufficient evidence to prove the allegation of genocide defies logic and sense before making any efforts to collect, present and submit them so as to stick on to this allegation until all efforts are exhausted to prove it. While genocide is asserted by Tamils all over the world, the unwarranted damaging statements of Sumanthiran have undoubtedly vitiated the Tamils’ claim of genocide and also damaged the causes of Tamils while jeopardising the chances to defend it at any judicial or public forum to uphold accountability and justice. On the contrary, his statement has created a much needed escape route to Sri Lanka to stultify this accusation of genocide.
2) TNA has failed to carry on a campaign to prosecute the war criminals either locally or outside or even initiating steps to prosecute them under the Universal Jurisdiction Clause including ICC as they are now calling for. This inexcusable lapse is nothing but inflicting more wounds to the victims of war and to the dead and fallen youths and civilians, thus jettisoning the twin principles of accountability and justice.
3) TNA has maintained inexplicable silence over the ongoing process of Sinhalisation and Buddhisisation. It appears they have left this matter to the affected locals to protest in places where Buddhist Viharas are built and Buddha statues are erected. This silence of TNA could be considered as consent to the Government’s program, justifying the saying that ‘silence is consent’.
4) TNA has so far never initiated any mass and popular protests against the Government for their delay, refusal and denial of justice and remedies for the grievances of Tamils which have been accumulating for the past 72 years, particularly after the genocidal war. Above all, it is a pity that TNA has no agenda or program of action to pursue the goals and aspirations of Tamils. It appears the recent statements of TNA are confirming their abandoning the election pledges of Federalism and North & East merger while accepting the unitary form of Government and endorsing Buddhism’s foremost place in the Proposed Constitution.
It is further disappointing to note the disunited TNA and the subdued and meek opposition expressed by TNA which is not the hallmark in the political history of Tamils. Viewing the TNA’s unacceptable and poor political performance and consequently weakening the causes of the Tamils, who are also ignored by Security Council and United Nations so far, a solemn duty has fallen on the shoulders of students and their leaders to rise up and take control of the politics and destiny of Tamils. Power of students has to be recognized, embraced and accepted by all the Tamils to carry forward the struggle for accountability and justice.
Sacrificing some time and energy for this noble cause will go down in history as sacrifices to save the Tamils from extinction through the process of assimilation which is underway in the North and East. Duty and burden also lies on them to make the Government and the International Community realise the strength of opposition which is now treated by the Government as nuisance or no value. Sam & Suma’s much applauded speeches in Parliament during the debate on ‘Interim Committee Proposals’ focused on the need for an acceptable solution ending with entreating and humble pleas to the Government to consider the importance of solution to the national question. However, it has fallen short without indicating or mentioning the action plan of TNA in the event the Government fails to honor the pleas and deliver an acceptable political settlement proposals, which situation is going to be certain to materialize viewing the past political somersaults of past Sri Lankan Governments’, who have been adept in delivering promises only to be followed by breaches.
Above all whether the proposed new constitution will have a safe delivery without abortion is doubtful and far from certain viewing the rising tide of irrational and communal opposition from various quarters in the South like Mahinda front, Mahanayakes front and other chauvinist outfits and groups who are breathing fire and fury and helping themselves with the bogey of separation as their trump card.
With a wavering and disunited TNA, which is not exploiting its present political strength and status, it is left for the students, Tamil Civil Groups, Intellectuals and Diaspora to lead the Tamils as one force while seeking the support and intervention of the International Community.
It is better late than never for the TNA to initiate and pursue a concerted campaign for the universally and UN recognised people’s right of self-determination which has been kept alive in all the political manifestos of all Tamil political parties since 1976 including the present TNA.
The much expected hope and optimism that the existing historical coalition of major parties in Sri Lanka, UNP and SLFP would bring out a permanent and acceptable political settlement for the Tamils has proved to be an illusion as the reality is that the South political parties will never be able to free themselves from the entrenched ‘Mahavamsa’ mindset and the resultant process of Buddhisisation and Sinhalisisation agenda set in motion from 1948 by the late D.S. Senanayake which is continuing unabated, unhindered, undeterred and uninterrupted in the North and East.
It has to be stated that not a single political promise has been implemented so far despite Tamil leaders’ conciliation moves and cooperation throughout the lat twelve years. It is time for Tamils to act forcefully and demand their political solutions and not simply make requests or pleadings. The New Year statement of TNA leader Sampanthan pledging to achieve our demand with struggles till the end is nothing new but only a repetitive statement made since 2010.
It looks certain that the election pledges of TNA made in 2010 will continue to live as long as TNA leads the Tamils. As for the other two Tamil Parties Tamil National People’s Front led by Gagendrakumar Ponnambalam and Tamil Peoople’s National Front led by Justice Wigneswaran, less said the better as they appear to be self-image boosting parties.
What the Tamils need is not eloquent speeches and occasional statements but ground to earth actions to solve the accumulating issues and long standing grievances of Tamils.
It is relevant to quote Thirukurral no. 448: “This bemoans the fate of a king who will perish without the guard of men who can criticise him, even though there is no one to destroy him.
*Thambu Kanagasabai, LLM London, Former Lecturer in Law University of Colombo, Sri Lanka.