17 April, 2024


Political Potpourri

By Dharisha Bastians

Dharisha Bastians

The Tamil National Alliance is in crisis. Not only are internal fissures threatening to tear the coalition of Tamil parties asunder, the question of what the TNA stands for in the post-conflict stage, with regard to questions of statehood and separatism are now back in the fore.

The alliance’s main constituent the Illangai Tamil Arasu Katchi (ITAK) held its 14th Convention in Batticaloa last week, at which sentiments were expressed which have hindered rather than helped the cause of the Tamil community that is still struggling to have its grievances addressed three years after the conclusion of the military conflict. 

Speaking at the convention TNA Leader R. Sampanthan expressed sentiments that have ruffled feathers nearly everywhere. There were expressions about statehood and sovereignty and homeland – and Sinhala hardliners have latched on to Sampanthan’s constant emphasis on the concept of an ‘united’ Sri Lanka while others have taken objection to his claims of ‘exposing’ the Sri Lankan government before the international community, and his articulated belief in the fact that the Tamil people have found allies in India and the US. Sampanthan has further stoked the flame by claiming that the US authored resolution against Sri Lanka was a “victory” for the Tamils because it signalled international condemnation of the Sri Lankan government and recognition of the fact that the international community realizes that the Sri Lankan government “has committed the crime of extermination against our people, and that it continues to deny them their political rights.”

While Sampanthan’s audience at the convention was a political and predominantly Tamil one, he could not have had many doubts as to how his statements would play both nationally and internationally. The government is under pressure from the international community, especially India and the US to restart discussions with the TNA on reconciliation and power sharing. Last week engaging in a live Facebook chat Q&A Session, US Assistant Secretary of State, Mike Posner said that his government was keen to see the demilitarization of the north and reengagement with the Tamil parties on finding a permanent political solution to the ethnic problem in Sri Lanka. Needless to say, reengagement with the TNA remains a top priority for the Indian government which fosters the TNA’s cause, recognizing the party as the single largest representative of the Sri Lankan Tamils.

For its part, the ruling UPFA government is struggling with internecine conflicts with regard to reengagement with the TNA and also the scope and nature of the final political power sharing agreement that the international community is now pushing hard for. The ruling coalition is also a potpourri of political parties, that include the hardline Sinhala nationalists, the single largest Muslim party, at least two Tamil parties that continue to wield a small but significant share of influence in the island’s north and east, estate parties and several parties of the old Left that have long since lost a voice. Naturally, in this regime that has adopted a hardline against the LTTE and the Tamil cause, both together and separate from each other; the Sinhala nationalists make the loudest noise and make demands upon the government that it finds difficult to ignore. The TNA Leader’s recent statements will only cement these difficulties, making reengagement more difficult even as President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government must balance the fears and propaganda of the Sinhala hardliners against the crying need to provide a solution to the Tamil national question.

But a third and somewhat removed player in this complex situation finds itself in a stickier position than ever. Undoubtedly, Sri Lanka is becoming one of New Delhi’s biggest headaches in the South Asian region. An increasingly belligerent government in Colombo, intent upon hoodwinking its friends with false promises is a difficult enough case. Yet it has continuously interceded on behalf of the Tamil community with the Sri Lankan government, pushing endlessly for discussion, reengagement and a permanent political solution to the problem that did not end when the guns fell silent in 2009. Statements like the TNA Leader’s – expressed publicly and extensively circulated online – hurt New Delhi’s credentials and perpetuate perceptions about connivance between Sri Lanka’s Tamils, New Delhi and Washington DC, that finally do nothing to further the cause of national reconciliation and bridging the divide between the Sinhala and Tamil Communities.

Whichever way it is analysed, New Delhi is finding itself in an unenviable position with regard to the Sri Lankan situation. It was recently appointed a member of the Troika of states that will review Sri Lanka’s case at the Universal Periodic Review that is forthcoming in October/November at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. As the country with the most influence, it will not only have to balance its historically good relationship with Sri Lanka but also ensure that the international community does not think New Delhi is letting Colombo off the hook too easy, especially after India’s eleventh hour diplomatic manoeuvre in Geneva in March to have the US resolution against Sri Lanka watered down. It is fast losing popularity with the Rajapaksa administration in Colombo that is now seeing India as part of the larger international nexus of powers that want to see some changes in this tiny Indian Ocean island.

Even as Sri Lanka gears up for its next big battle in Geneva, current Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva, Tamara Kunanayakam who was given transfer orders to Cuba effective 1 July has decided to quit diplomacy and reject the offer. Kunanayakam who was a proponent of offensive diplomacy against the west and believed that Sri Lanka did not adopt a hard enough stance in Geneva this year, was replaced with career diplomat Ravinatha Ariyasinha who is currently serving as Ambassador to Brussels. Kunanayakam’s departure is a big blow to several big-name political appointees in diplomatic missions, who believe she was checkmated by career officers at the Ministry of External Affairs, who have allegedly declared war against politically appointed diplomats to Sri Lankan missions overseas. Kunanayakam in a scathing letter to External Affairs Minister G.L. Peiris a few weeks ago, flatly refused to take up transfers in Brasilia or Havana, saying the governments of those countries would not look kindly upon their stations being used as punishment transfers for Sri Lankan diplomats who have fallen out of favour. The letter was leaked in the local press, leaving Kunanayakam with little choice other than to decline the President’s offer of another diplomatic posting to Havana.

Minister Peiris was in the limelight again this week, when he summoned British envoy John Rankin over remarks contradicting President Rajapaksa’s Victory Day speech. In his video, ‘Ask the High Commissioner’, Rankin challenged President Rajapaksa’s statement pertaining to troop deployment in the North, in his address to the nation on 19 May.

It is clear that ahead of the UPR in Geneva, the Western diplomatic corps are moving to gauge for themselves the events unfolding in Sri Lanka, particularly with regard to reconciliation, demilitarization and of course accountability, which remains a key focus area for the international community. During the Australian High Commissioner’s recent visit to the North, she is reported to have met with Jaffna Bishop Thomas Soundaranayagam, who bears strong opinions about the treatment of the Tamil people and the way in which the Sri Lankan government has approached the problems of the North in the post-war phase. This information gathering will likely be communicated to capitals across the world ahead of the Geneva session in October/November.

For the Sri Lankan government, as it races to reengage the world and prepare for scrutiny of its human rights record for the second time in seven months, the clock is ticking on concrete action.

Courtesy Ceylon Today

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Latest comments

  • 0

    Hearing Sampanthan grand standing one realizes the extent to which the northern Tamils have been let down by their own leaders. First it was the LTTE then the murderer Devnandan and now its the old fool Sampanthan.I feel sorry for the long suffering people of north east, living under the Rajapakse jack boot and represented by the TNA’s Smpanthan, an doddering old fool who should be sent to the geriatrics ward for talking nonsense.
    Thirty years of war has rendered Lanka’s political culture rotten to the core and we need to get rid of that generation of politicians who think in rigid and racist terms. It is time for a new and moderate leadership for the Tamils and indeed for all communities of Lanka. Indeed its is time to get rid of the old rotten to the core political leaders of all political parties who have combined to make for a rotten political culture, and used the war and hate speech for their political gain: from the war criminal Rajapakse and his Mervin SIlvas to the power hungry anti-democrat Ranil Wickramasinghe, to the doddering leftists in the DEW, Vasu etc. the sycophant Rauf Hakkem of the SLMC and his lot as well as the pathala Ranawakas and Weerawansas all need to be purged. Some of the younger crowd of politicians also stink and need to be ousted! We need a strong and moral civil society leader to launch a campaign for a clean political culture in post-war Sri Lanka!

  • 0

    Sampanthan seems to be in seventh heaven with the backing he gets from Hillarious Clinton. He is all high demands and own agenda does’nt seem to care about anyone else. Come November fate of theHillarious one may not be all that funny and no one still does’nt know what stance the new administration will take on this issue.
    Even otherwise the Americans including the Hillarious one are only interested in their own agenda and not the Tamil People of Sri Lanka.
    They are well known to use people and dump them when they of on use any more. Thats what they did to Shah of Iran,Gaddafi,Saddam Hussain,Mubarak,Pakistan and many others.
    They will drop the Tamil cause like a hot potato once their targets are achieved using the Tamil problem.
    Then we can see how high and demanding Sampanthan is. This is the same mistake Prabakaran made putting all the eggs in the western basket and Sampanthan seems oblivious to it.

  • 0

    The successive governments since Independence in 1948 cheated the Tamil Leadders. After all promisses and agreements by the Sinhalese leadership backfired the Tamils did not have other alternative to protect themselves from the brutal Sinhala regime and the end result is the creation of LTTE. It is the brutal sinhala regimes are responsible for the creation of the LTTE. Even now after all these
    sufferings, deaths, humilation the brutal sinhala regime is in the same position in humilating the Tamils. the time is changing.
    War Criminals all over the world are apprehended. It is time for justice. Before the end of 2012 there will be some end of the Brutal regimes in the world. Time for judgement by almighty GOD. No one can eacape.

  • 0

    Two facts cannot be changed: 1. the diaspora is there to stay and no
    chnage will take place until and unless the Regime comes out with a
    reasonable solution. Gotas latest words are no different to SF s ealier remarks about tamils.

    2. The Tamil Voter has yet to be tested,their view of what the Govt. is doing to one category of its Citizens, in view of the pronoucements
    by Politicians and Officials at various times.

    http://www.DBSJeyaraj has a pleasant response to Gotas latest stand. Food for

  • 0

    Finding a durable political solution would keep off the foreign powers from making use the Sinhala – Tamil – Muslim problem of Lanka to safe-guard their own interests. But, since the Independence the Ruling class of the Sinhala nation has been formulating and implementing unilaterally policies and actions based on Sinhala – ‘Theeravaada’ Buddhist nationalism based on the false and imaginary doctrine: “Aryan” – Sinhala – Sinhalese – ‘Theeravaada Buddhism – Lanka with one to one correspondence.

    The Paragraph – 28 of the UN Panel Report has correctly identified it.

    “After independence, political elites tended to prioritize short-term political gains, appealing to communal and ethnic sentiments, over long-term policies, which could have built an inclusive state that adequately represented the multicultural nature of the citizenry. Because of these dynamics and divisions, the formation of a unifying national identity has been greatly hampered. Meanwhile, SINHALA-BUDDHIST NATIONALISM GAINED TRACTION, ASSERTING A PRIVILEGED PLACE FOR THE SINHALESE AS THE PROTECTORS OF SRI LANKA,AS THE SACRED HOME OF BUDDHISM. THESE FACTORS RESULTED IN DEVASTATING AND ENDURING CONSEQUENCES FOR THE NATURE OF THE STATE, GOVERNANCE AND INTER-ETHNIC RELATIONS IN SRI LANKA.”

    The UN Panel Report thus emphasizes that the ‘ROOT CAUSE’ of the problems of Lanka has been its SINHALA BUDDHIST NATIONALISM based on the SACRED DOCTRINE: SINHALA – SINHALESE – BUDDHISM – LANKA with ONE TO ONE CORRESPONDENCE.

    This was further confirmed by the LLRC appointed by the HE Rajapakse.
    The Paragraph 8.150 of the Commission says:

    “The Commission takes the view that the root cause of the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka lies in the failure of successive Governments to address the genuine grievances of the Tamil people. The country may not have been confronted with a violent separatist agenda, if the political consensus at the time of independence had been sustained and if policies had been implemented to build up and strengthen the confidence of the minorities around the system which had gained a reasonable measure of acceptance.”

    The LLRC on one hand has failed to analyze and find out correctly and state WHAT CAUSED THE GENUINE GRIEVANCES OF THE TAMILS!

    On the other hand, the LLRC Report INDIRECTLY justifies the VIOLENT SEPARASTIST AGENDA OF THE TAMILS!

    Under ‘The Different Phases in the Narrative of Tamil Grievances’ the Commission has highlighted in para.8.163 of its Report that:

    “The decisive rift in the inter-ethnic relationship came first with the riots of 1958, then in1977, and culminating in what is known as ‘Black July’ of 1983, and the heinous failure of the then Government to provide adequate protection to Tamil citizens. The problems pertaining to the Tamil Community and their grievances cannot be fully addressed without a fuller understanding of this culture of violence that marred the relationship between the Sinhala and Tamil communities.”


    Though the LLRC Report does not mention specifically WHAT CAUSED THE GENUINE GRIEVENCES OF THE TAMILS, i.e. the real ‘ROOT CAUSE’ of the problems of Lanka, it has come out with some recommendations that would eradicate to great extant the Sinhala – ‘Theravada’ Buddhist nationalism if implemented fully.

    However, the Sinhala Ruling class and the GOSL has consistently refused to implement the recommendations made by the LLRC appointed by HE Rajapakase!

    While dragging the process of finding a durable political solution, the GOSL and its armed forces has been been engaged in the process of implementing some preliminary programs in the NORTH AND THE EAST that would assist the future implementation of the Sinhala – Theeravaada Buddhist nationalism!

    By these, now a stage has been reached inevitably where the politics of Lanka has fallen entirely at the hands of the foreign powers! The only possible way to save our country is to make our country multi-ethnic, multilingual, multireligious and multicultural. Unfortunately, the Sinhala, Tamil and Mulslim ruling classes are worried only about their own ‘interests.’

    In short IGNORANCE of the of the ‘Ruling Class’ and ‘Ruled Class’ is going to plunge our country into political, economic, social and cultural chaos!

    Thus, HE Mahinda Rajapakse, the GOSL, its Ministers, the Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim politicians and the religious leaders making different and conflicting statements are actually aimed at safeguarding their own “Interests.”

    Writing articles in the media on these statements without analyzing scientifically the politics of Lanka would safeguard the “Interests” of the Ruling Class only!

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