By TU Senan –
The TNA chiefs are looking for a stunt of some sort to defend their sustained inertia in the context of a profound need for clear leadership for Tamils in Sri Lanka. Of course, the current regime complies – its continued repression of some TNA leaders provides opportunities for them to escape their responsibility. In fact, the TNA leaders intended to keep to the TULF tradition of supporting the right-wing UNP candidate. However, this was spoiled by Maithiripala Srisena’s announcement as an opposition candidate.
Prior to the election announcement, the TNA put time and effort into convincing a section of the diaspora leadership to support the UNP. TNA leaders met some diaspora leaders in a not-so secret meeting in the US. It was made clear that the TNA leaders were ready to compromise on key demands, including the demand for the right to self-determination, and that this was not just a strategy but a political stand that they are taking. Sadly for them, the diaspora organisations are still to the left of the right-wing TNA leadership and refused to give into all that was demanded.
A section of the TNA who dare to speak out are supressed by the TNA leaders. The current leadership spent more time manoeuvring against their opposition within the TNA than actually developing a political strategy to advance the right of Tamils. Creating illusions in the Indian government and western governments is their only consistent policy. This serves no purpose other than to transform them into a tool of the west and India depite the claims that they propagate among Tamils in the North and East – that the west and India are coming to support the Tamils’ cause.
The TNA also have their right-wing allies in the diaspora. Soon after Maithiri entered the opposition scene, some of the diaspora leaders went into paralysis. To this day they are debating ‘what to do’. This section’s pathetic position can be summarised by the following doleful statement from one TGTE personality:
“Please wait for the leaders of the TNA to make an announcement about the party’s decision. Thereafter please obtain the prior approval from the Prime Minister and make a final and decisive announcement through your foreign affairs ministry”.
Such is the juvenile politics that we at times have to deal with in the diaspora. This fight about what to do is not settled yet and is likely to continue through to the day of the election. Mahinda’s cunning plan, of providing so little time for opposition campaigners, also worked in favour of those who want to remain inert. Even if the TNA makes a statement, there will not be enough time to campaign on it.
The Tamil vote is key in the coming election. Using the opportunity – a little break from the repression that is experienced during the election times – the TNA could have worked to mobilise the Tamil masses, not just to take a principled position in the coming election, but also to carry it through after the election.
On this they are a miserable failure. They don’t have any perspective to offer leadership to the struggle of Tamils. If democratic rights are allowed, there is no doubt that the TNA will splinter. The TNA leadership know this. Hence it has invested time in side-lining any possible oppositions and strengthening its right-wing base, recruiting and promoting a clique that includes the likes of Sumanthiran, Wigneswaran, etc.
Why can’t they demand the abolition of the constitution and call for the establishment of a constituent assembly? Why can’t they, at least in words, defend the Tamils’ right to self-determination? Why can’t they put forward the demands to improve the socio-economic situation for all – such as nationalisation of the commanding heights of the economy, including defending free education and health, etc? They don’t share the same conviction as the majority of us who are seeking to end all oppression. Their political ability and ambition is limited to petty games of trying to manoeuvre among governments – which themselves have abominable records of respecting or defending the rights of ordinary people. The TNA leadership call this “Rajathanthiram”- diplomacy.
There are some sections talking about a ‘boycott’, as though this will somehow enhance the struggle. Staying away may help them to maintain their ‘purity’ of Tamil nationalism but in no way will it contribute towards building the struggle. In fact, they are instead merely boycotting their historic responsibility to provide leadership.
Assuming there is no candidate in the election who represents the oppressed masses can only be interpreted as an act of wilful myopia at best, if not outright deception. In fact, we are fortunate to have a candidate like Siritunga Jayasuriya who is clearly putting forward the demand of right to self-determination of Tamils – including separation. His candidacy calls for the withdrawal of the army from the north east; the release of all political prisoners, and many other demands which would enormously advance the situation facing the Tamil masses. He takes this further, offering a future worth fighting for to all who suffer repression, exploitation, poverty, and inequality – he stands on socialist programme of defending public services, living conditions, and all rights, etc.
Siri has little chance of winning this presidential election but his candidacy an opportunity to express the changes the masses hope for and the idea of mass struggle of ordinary people to bring about an end to the misery of the current regime.
Why can’t Tamils register their protest vote by supporting him? Why have the TNA leaders failed to even acknowledge such a candidate is standing in the election? We must begin to understand the class character of the TNA leadership and their inability to provide leadership to the struggle to win our rights.
We should support those like Siri who have maintained a principled programme. Even more so, the election should be used as a spur to mass debate and discussion on how to build an effective and mass opposition to the brutal southern regimes and for a future of rights for all.