By S. Sivathasan –
The hour produced the man. The nation endorsed his credentials. The leader of choice Maithripala Sirisena, who scored a resounding victory is now President by right.
The nation has spoken loud and clear. The mandate is unmistakeable. Cleanse the past and build anew. All join in the process the Government would say. Respond positively, Tamils would urge of the TNA.
Change of Tack
The caption of the article, is the critical question for the Tamil leadership. A response cannot be evaded after the common collective has scored a landmark victory. Tamils have made their contribution, setting aside their past disappointments. When a community, very much in a mellowed temper thrusts its tested leadership into the corridors of power, it certainly has an expectation that their trust be respected.
Can the leadership veer from the circuit of power and opt for the habitual barricade? The time is now to redeem a pledge, though unwritten it may be. The ethnic question vexing the nation for so long needs to be resolved by the TNA, with goodwill prevailing all round. It is constrained to do it, not by being with the government, but by being of it.
At a moment when right has triumphed, should weird doubts arise? Tamil leaderships have been weighed down for decades by unfortunate experiences. Distaste for power developed from independence to now, much among the Tamils, though not with the forceful and the percipient. Leaderships sensitive to mass sentiment and unresponsive to compulsive needs paid a price. Both leaders and led were badly affected for at least two generations.
Patience for Incremental Advance
One generation lost itself in the sedate philosophy of non-violence. The other wasted away in impetuous violence. No results were yielded by either. The next has to veer from both and the onus is on the leadership. Strategy and tactic, with diplomacy for kinetics and TNA as the vehicle, have now set out on this arduous journey. The first mile is covered in the last five years. Destination is a generation away. Impatience is not a sorter of matters. By being in a hurry neither the young nor the mature can do much.
If we take Donoughmore times as a watershed, over eight decades were wastefully spent. A congenital frailty with us Tamils, made for continued failure. ‘Accept no solution unless it encompassed all issues and was perfect on paper with the last comma in place’. With such a mindset, never can we get out of our misfortune.
Thondaman and his Strategies
In 1998, as Thondaman and I approached the former Senate Building for a meeting with Lakshman Kadirgamar, Thondaman pointed to the steps and said “It was here that we had our prolonged sathyagraha against the Citizenship Laws”. Besides a display of protest, it was fruitless as we all know.
In 1960, he walked into the 151 member legislature as an appointed MP. It was the first step in moving towards the power centre, after deprivation of rights. In 1978, he entered the very citadel of power as a Cabinet Minister and continued to be there for 21 years with a brief interregnum of 3 months. Even with disappointments he persisted till he succeeded. ‘Accept what is given, not failing to pursue the rest’ was his golden stance at all times.
Ho Chi Minh’s pragmatism at the Geneva Conference in 1954, was to accept though under duress, North Vietnam and then to capture South Vietnam in 1975. They both compose a single Vietnam and an integral economy.
Tamils kept themselves away from warmth and went into winter cold from 1956. They opted for some stepped down power for 3 years in 1965, which failed to light even a single bulb. All bulbs or no bulb was the prescription for our own darkness.
Trade Union strength ensured ascendancy among his people and Cabinet membership conferred power and a status to be heard. More importantly he got a ringside view of the twists and turns of the governmental machine. His voice had greater receptivity in Colombo not to mention Delhi. These are the ways democracy works. In addition, he sharpened his nuances and honed his skills as to which button to press and when.
JR’s Speech – 1994
At a felicitation dinner for Thondaman JR spoke; “I am asked why I gave citizenship to Indian Tamils. I restored them their rights because I want their votes” he said. What does it convey? In political calculations one is worth nothing unless one is a voter and a voter is never noted unless he has voted. This truism, a fundamental in politics is yet not known to some Tamils who continue to talk about the merit of not voting. How asinine some can be even after eight decades of tragic failure!
Thondaman told me several times, his contribution to his community would be deemed as nil had he not restored his people their citizenship and their vote. Sampanthan too has led the Tamils most adroitly. As great is the leadership which is acting in concert with foresight and circumspection. Having come to this stage and if Tamils try to be wise by disfranchising themselves (not voting) now and hereafter, it will be unpardonable. Infinitely worse is to shy away from power with modesty misplaced.
Insider Voice is Always Heard
In the charmed circle, it is the insider who commands most attention. Better still when he has linguistic ability. Being best with forensic skill and trilingual capability. These are assets to couch substance in. Most important is the substance itself gathered over the years and mellowed by experience. Above all is acceptability by the powers that be.
Mr. Sampanthan meets the bill for the occasion. With over three decades in the legislature, sponsoring and spearheading the cause of the Tamils, he made himself a patriarch of the community. Of late he has become one so for all communities. If he enters the inner circle of governance, he will do so as an ‘Elder Statesman’ pressed into service for the nation’s good. From his contribution to people’s solidarity, the fall out is sure to benefit the minorities immensely. A strong buttress with breadth of vision is already in place to share responsibility with him, map out a course and to move forward.
Aversion to Mainstream
A set of adverse antecedents from Sir P Arunachalam’s loss of trust in the twenties to Donoughmore experience in the thirties and failure at redemption by Soulbury in the forties, bedeviled the Tamils. They composed the baggage, that was deposited with independence. It required the boldness of a Suntharalingam to be in the first cabinet with Sittambalam. GG Ponnambalam’s entanglement in fishery pursuits and the way Tamil parliamentary vote was used to disfranchise the Indian Tamils, was a tragic commentary of our times. It taught us all Tamils the dangers of collaboration, insincere and self-centred.
From that date to this, with the exception of M Thiruchelvam, every Tamil who cooperated with the government worked against the community. They were all ‘used’ for narrow sectarian purposes and never for National Consolidation. The noxious title of TRAITOR stuck and stuck appropriately. Successive governments considered or offered only inconsequential Ministries to Tamils.
If there is no trust in any Tamil, it should be said so. Then they would take a course most viable for their future.
If there was trust why was a portfolio like: Education, Health, Public Administration, Irrigation or agriculture never offered?
Why was developed irrigable land not given to Tamils, particularly in multi billion rupee Mahaweli?
Since the war, even owned land in North East, is nibbled by day and swallowed at night.
Why no public sector industries in North East after early fifties?
Why should state sector employment of 1.2 million be kept at a negligible fraction of legitimate expectation?
These and infinitely more acts of marginalistion are crying to be rectified. For affirmative action;
Cannot Sampanthan or Sumanthiran handle an important Ministry with distinction? It is this reluctance for consideration of parity in delivering according to expectations, that makes the stream of Tamils keep away from joining the mainstream.
Sea Change on 8th January 2015
The people – A stormy week in January 2015, has brought forth a cataclysmic change for the good, on the 8th. The people whose rights were denied and freedoms suppressed, now have hopes of a fresh beginning. Tamils whose fate it had been to face pogroms and wade through blood have contributed decisively to supplant a regime of tyranny. The Muslims on whom the evil eye of mis-governance had fallen, created a new turf to fight their battle from. Sinhalese who suffered oppression for long have used their strength in numbers with deadliest effect.
Moment of Triumph and Opportunity
Parties, the political expression of aspirations, awoke to their ‘do or die’ obligations. Through an act of rare unity, they moved together, acted in concert and have accomplished the imponderable. Turbulence is now past and a smooth flight is looked forward to. Hopes are sky high.
Triumph in 2015, is most striking since independence. Society is pulled back from the verge of doom. The nation has had opportunities with every sweeping victory. 1956, 1970, 1977, 1994 and 2009. Each one of them was swept aside. Now is a chance to build anew. It will take half a century for those aggrieved, alienated, marginalized and forced into foreign climes to say with the poet “This is my own, my native land”.
Breaking the kumbam or celebrating kumbabishekam, to use Mr. Gunadheera’s words, lies with the leadership. Let those who triumphed, be worthy of the mission.
soma / January 9, 2015
Dear mr Sivanathan, you lost no time in rolling the ball again. OK.
in order to proceed with a practical, rational discussion on the subject
it is important that the category of population group known as “Tamils” in the context of a “political solution” is clearly identified.
Can you kindly tell us when YOU use the word “Tamils” which of the following sub categories are included:
1) Tamil speaking Hindus and Christians in the Northern Province
2) Tamil speaking Muslims in the Nothern Province
3) Tamil speaking Hindus and Christians in the Eastern Province
4) Tamil speaking Muslims in the Eastern Province
5) Tamil speaking Hindus and Christians in Colombo / Wellawatta
6) Tamil speaking Muslims scattered in various pockets among Sinhalese in areas outside Nothern and Eastern provinces
7) Tamils of recent Indian origin in up country Estates.
Rajash / January 9, 2015
Simply all Tamils.
Taraki / January 9, 2015
‘Simply all Tamils’
Only when it suits you. Other times you wont sit at the same table to eat.
Javi. / January 9, 2015
“”Other times you wont sit at the same table to eat. “”
they are just like you aadambera dosa vaddai which you like and ofcourse with rajash special sambar and a new song – export item to family – 5ft long.
Johnny Johnny Va Mama Tamil
soma / January 9, 2015
I am quite serious about this. That is precisely the question. I have been struggling to get this clarified for some time but every one evades the question including you. Can you please refer to the 7 categories I have listed above and tell me that your “simply all Tamils” include all 7 categories or not. Tamil political writers evade the question sensing the next obvious question on their way. How do you formulate a political solution covering categories other than 1 and 4?
Ponnuthurai / January 10, 2015
Sorry to say that within 24 of the new President elected because of the Tamil vots, once again divide and rule has started.
Tamils are – Hindus, Christian and Muslim. There is no need of debate on it.
Until all SL governments started the divide and rule among the Tamils, it remained as it was. There is no explanation needed about TAMIL here.
Anpu / January 9, 2015
“Tamils Within The Circuit Of Power Or At The Habitual Barricade?”
Please stop blaming TAMILS.
Javi. / January 9, 2015
come come JT’s have to say mea kulpa for the begining of the destruction of tamil speaking and siva is justified.
if you don’t accept the truth ow can you expect modayas when they too are often right being modayas . remember modayas usually win. everybody them especially heads and managers for what they are modayas.
CHANAKYAN / January 9, 2015
Do you really think you can stop him in his tracks?
S,Sivathasan / January 9, 2015
The content of what I write is as per my perception and judgement. Who is anyone to say imperiously “stop blaming”?
Anpu / January 10, 2015
My English is not as good as yours.
“Who is anyone to say imperiously “stop blaming”?”
imperiously – Arrogantly domineering or overbearing.
This is what I wrote – “Please …..”
Silva / January 9, 2015
Mr S. Sivathasan,
This election result has proved that without the support of Tamils and Muslims Sinhalese would just perish first politically and then in every other aspect of existence. Had they not voluntarily and very intelligently decided to support MS at this crucial election both Sinhalese and Tamils would have met with enormous amounts of sufferings under the Rajapaksha autocracy. For that Sinhalese must eternally be thankful to them.
Tamils have suffered enormously due to this ethnic issue. So are the Sinhalese though to a lesser extent. But for certain sections of Sinhalese the suffering wasn’t any lesser. Sinhalese must recognize this historical sacrifice and good and intelligent gesture by Tamils/Muslims and take very early steps to heal the wounds, find a solution to their genuine grievances, integrate them into the common psyche of Sri Lankan nation. The psychological trauma, the loss of loved ones and the tears and endless suffering the war has brought to the eyes of all nationalities of conflict must never find continuity from this moment on. Tamils possess individuals of sound qualities and wisdom to work alongside the Sinhalese/Government to work out an acceptable solution. Let this historical moment not be wasted, let every capable individual/collective be committed to create the country which is truly Sri Lanka and mother to every son and daughter on this blessed country.
Vidharshan Perera / January 9, 2015
You all are dumb idiots to comment on a person who have Saved your bloody life from the LTTE, its been more than 30 years for LTTE, did any of the Governments took such kind of step Like this REAL HERO DID??? How many people have been Killed during this Bloodshed of BLOODY LTTE terrorists?? you people have any idea?? Think about it Guys… These days the cost of living is might be high, but your life is secured, isnt so ??? dont you guys feel great about it.
I’m not an UPFA, NDF, JVP But I’m an UNP supporter my Grandfather Hingruwelle Weddik Arachilage Charles Perera was the Mayor in Kollonawa in the years of 1974. So I just wanted let you know whatever the Party is.. doesnt make any difference, But what you did for the country, It matters.
H.W.A. Vidharshan Perera.
Javi. / January 10, 2015
Inside their zone of north east tamils have always fought themselves and that is their prerogative- unable to get together. They definitely were secure from southern Sinhala Buddhist killings as much as Colombo was till 83. Mokade Sages turf acct.
Your UNP or forefathers never fought independence firing guns but hid at Tamil Nadu and assisted the Japenese bomb Colombo Harbour and vicinity- Gune natuva along with JT’s kicked out 1 million tamils off the island as if you are aborigine- no like the west indies all plantation islands were at war and labour was transported- your borrowed name perera does not give you Portugese DNA but South Indian DNA.
“For that Sinhalese must eternally be thankful to them.” Silva obviously has laid it fine.
I think that could have been moderated to thankful but with a full understanding you go in pairs not as a worm in an apple. Apit Colomba kollo baang, before you or the railway bunglows existence and we did not need to cross the river to know before or today.
S,Sivathasan / January 9, 2015
Your judgement is sound and the views are genuinely expressed.
I have listed 5 grievances to cite just a few. Can you pl. comment on each one of them.
Also cite 5 more as you see them. Thanks
M.Yoga / January 9, 2015
You need two hands to clap, I think tamils are partly to be blamed.
Starting from Sir P Arunachalam who did not do his job right, we were not good in explaining the requirements to convince the singelease
or the global arena.
Sir P Arunachalam was not good enough to convince create aliance
between parties, create join venture and ensure for all the tamils what is needed. In general tamils did not have good politicians,speasialy skilled in planning, with action or good policy, especially equality for citizens of Sri Lanka.
I still see soma writing devide and rule politics Tamil speaking Hindus and Christians in the Northern Province etc..
Ram / January 9, 2015
” Patience for Incremental Advance “
In other words ” A little now, more later “. The picture tells a story too, with three of the ‘most trustwothy’ people in the land.
dcn / January 9, 2015
Good presentation. The Tamiks have done a great contribution together wi th the Muslims tocreate a great victory for Maithree. It is with a lots of trust the Tamil leaders without any preconditions supported Maithree to achieve this great win. The time is ripe now to make some moves in a sensible way to resolve the burning issues of the Tamils. It need not be a elaborate total solution but there are many small or medium type issues which can be solved by an executive president and build up a bridge between the two main communities so that they see each other as Srilankans and gradually find a answer with main issues with the blessings of all Srilankans..
I hope this opportunity will not be missed again by all concerned.
punchinilame / January 9, 2015
Very appropriate writing at this juncture, compared to DJs bullshit.
The space required has been created by this CHANGE – let us all hope for the best for its CITIZENS; ruled by the Educated.
Mallaiyuran / January 9, 2015
It is not just Chandrikathasan, Hakeem, Champika, Richard, Rijive,, Rajitha… Daughter of Peremachandra, many inducted from the same group.
MY3 publicly announced there will be no Internal or external inquiry, no army removal, no change from 13A….
TNA had to sacrifice one more time the Tamils and re-change the flow of the perks-river for the new group, including Chandrikathasan.
This is not the only cobra going to come out of the pit, Rest jet to come!
Ponkoh Sivakumaran / January 9, 2015
For Tamils, it is too early to crow. As Uvindu, pointed out, there are three war criminals who have won: Sirisena, himself, his puppeteer, Chandirka and supporter, Sarath Fonseka. He had the Sinhala Hela Urumaya with him, which will stop him from making concessions to Tamils. Besides, Rajapakse did not lose in the Sinhala heartland. If you look at the colouring of the map showing the election results, it shows that the provinces which Sirisena won coincide with the old map of Eelam. This shows two things. Tamils fiercely voted for at least devolution. The reasonable opinion among the Sinhalese is not yet strong to permit it. The Rajapakse runt will do everything it can to exploit this entrenched feeling of hatred.
The Tamils must ensure that their rights are delivered and continue their struggle for self-determination which means at least devolution within the unitary state if not Eelam. This has to be done in a democratic manner if it is to receive international support.
One important thing to do is to ensure that prosecutions for war crimes and genocide do take place. Insisting on this will ensure the protection of the Tamils as well as all citizens. Rajapakse could not use the army simply because the army knew that shooting people that the Rajapakses required would not be condoned by the international community. The Tamil diaspora has a role to play in ensuring the accountability of the war criminals if Sirisena does not achieve this. This includes the liability of Sarath Fonseka and Chandrika, the puppeteers of Sirisena. The battle has not yet been won. Let us cast aside this false euphoria but take heart in the second expression of the Tamil (and the Muslim Tamil) opinion of the NorthEast to stand united against oppression.
Silva / January 9, 2015
The war criminals already identified by UNHRC are MARA, bayaGotha, BARA, Savendra Silva…. But we are not going to punish them for war crimes for the moment. We will take out other crimes and robberies they have done and punish them to the hilt for those crimes. The international will be satisfied with that. We will address all the genuine grievances of Tamils and minorities and integrate into the main stream of society. Thereafter trouble making monkeys like you will be hunted and castrated so that you will end your sordid story of despicable living with your disgraceful end.
ponkoh Sivakumaran / January 11, 2015
shivering in my boots already
Mallaiyuran / January 9, 2015
If, so everybody’s surprise King and the gang had vacated the palace, it is only because of the pressure of International Community.
If American Secretary had called Lanka and interestingly watched the Lanka election, it is the decomposed bodies smell of Tamils boys and girls the IC took it to their nose.
Once again King’s consultants like goons are circling the new regime. I doubt many who jumping into will be as successes in the past 65 years. Now IC has started to watch these peoples government. America tried to seat Fonseka in the last election. Rather than blaming Tamils, MY3 bend the back and get down to work. Otherwise NGO going work on every war criminal, one after other. MY3 will not be safe until he face his natural end. Chnadrikathasan may not jump with too much happiness.
Uthungan / January 9, 2015
The message given by the author in this article citing the examples of Thondaman in 1978 and Ho Chi Min in 1954 is something that the Tamil leadership missed out in 1987 when the Indo-Lanka Accord was signed and in 2000 when CBK brought in a set of proposals for constitutional change which was sabotaged by Ranil.
There is another opportunity now for the Tamil leadership which has come following the correct tactic they decided upon to support the CC at the Presidential elections.
The Tamil vote has played an important role in this election.
The importance of the minority vote cutting across the religious divide is something that the the majority cannot ignore and let us see how the new President is going to act.
But as the author has stressed and highlighted ” If there is no Trust in Tamils it should be said so.Then they would take a course more viable for their future”.
Sengodan. M / January 9, 2015
If the new President takes one step towards peace and reconciliation, I am sure the TNA will take two steps towards him. The urgent need of the hour for the Tamils is genuine peace, much less military presence, change of the military governors, a co – operating chief secretary and genuine first steps towards reconciliations and not portfolios! Trust has to be built first, if need be in stages, for portfolios of worth to be offered and accepted.
S,Sivathasan / January 9, 2015
Wisdom of Thiruvalluvar seen in Kural 648 is most convincing.
“The world is wont to accept your position if you can present it gently and cogently”.
I assert that it is best done in the the centre of power, the Cabinet,than from outside; in the countryside or at the barricade.
Sengodan. M / January 10, 2015
It will be interesting to note if you can prepare a short list of what Thodaman had achieved for his people by holding a portfolio. Even 30 years after his death, his people are among the most exploited workers in the world, living in hovels called ‘labour lines’! The facilities for the education of the estate children are so poor that only very recently two of the estate children managed to pass out as doctors!
There are so many basic needs of our people that could be ‘achieved’ without holding a portfolio. We should not mix up priorities!
Javi. / January 10, 2015
Can you tell us a few things Sharad Pawar Sugar lobby did in 30 years for Dalits, OBC. Bombay is 75% of Hindias exports.
People vote for party and that is the curse
why Sella was different from Thonda??
on top of it every time there was conflict in the country caused by the north east the estates in the hills took the blunt of it silently like at Malaysia.
sinhalese buddhist / January 10, 2015
I appreciate this article in that it exhorts the Tamil leadership not to boycott participation in a democracy – however much flawed, and to play in the field of real-politik.
However I hope that Sri Lanka does not follow the example of Labanon, for example, of a state that confers positions of power based on ethnicity/religion, and not on merit. Such a recipe for appointing cabinet members and state officials is a recipe for continuation of ethnic hatred.
May the new incumbents set forth by example merit as the top criterion in their appointments. Hopefully our Sri Lankan culture can follow that model instead of the familial and social-class nepotism that we have practiced as a society thus far.
Real Peace / January 10, 2015
I would love to see you as the Governor of the NP and Mano Ganeshan as the TNA nominee for the rehabilitation ministry. I think Sampanthan is, though he is very talented, too old for the job. Sumanthiran needs to be actively involved in negotiating a political solution.
P.Rajeswaran / January 10, 2015
A very good presentation wherein the author has articulated the critical questions that face the Tamils in general and their leadership in particular today in a very reasonable and persuasive way.
Tamils are fortunate to have some visionary leaders in the TNA and that has been endorsed overwhelmingly by the people to the call of the leadership to vote for Maithiripala Sirisena who until recently was a nonentity in the North and East.It is the minority votes especially of the Tamils and Muslims that paved the way for the radical change of the regime giving rise to good will prevalence all round. We will all hope democracy in true sense will prevail in governance where the majority to embrace the grievances of the minority communities and lead the nation to prosperity.
Thank you Mr.Sivathasan for the authentic and expressive article.
Sathiyaseelan / January 10, 2015
Very good analysis. I accept the argument that Tamils should get whatever given and try for the rest. We Tamils lost two big opportunities.
1) 1987 Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement – Prabakaran should have accepted POSITIVELY the agreement and asked for the rest with an India friendly approach.(At the end of the war (1989), Kurdistan leader gave similar view)
2) Failed Dr. Neelan Thiruchelvam drafted President Chandrika Kumratunga Agreement (Not materialized due to disagreement with LTTE and opposition parties). You may very familiar with this agreement because of your position at that time.
At this point of time Tamils should try and get the the best opportunities and work for the community and motherland instead of selfish motives. Internal party politics should be avoided.
I worked 11 years for a Govt. organisation in SriLanka. I was denied for top position in that organisation, because I am a Tamil. But, I was the only internal person suitable for that position. Instead of giving me the promotion an outsider was recruited(he was later arrested for theft). I resigned and worked for a World Bank project for some time an migrated to Australia. Here in Australia, I hold a very much higher position (very top position) in an organisation.
What I believe is dedication and handwork will never let you down. Tamils should go through this path step by step and get their rights. Disagreements and rejecting whatever given, will take nowhere. There are lot of people without food for one time. I have seen this last week in Jaffna. We should help these people by way of new job opportunities and development. For that we need a friendly approach with the central government.
Elilan / January 10, 2015
Cannot Sampanthan or Sumanthiran handle an important Ministry with distinction?
We got your point!! Are they waiting for it?
No political rights, not ready talk even about 13th amendment but accepting Ministerial post is a good idea for Sampanthan or Sumanthiran.
Mavaisenthirajah may be a good candidate for Defense ministry.
sinnadurai sripadmanabn / January 23, 2015
You should remember SJV who didn’t like accept minister portfolios for FP but Thiruchelvam accepted because FP wanted District council bill to be presented in parliament.Although 13th amendment was passed long time ago why was it not implemented?.The administrative officers,clerks,peons, drivers,police,armed forces even ambassadors are paid by govt & became sinhala supporters who won’t cooperate with FP/TNA ministers because they say they are LTTEers.If they accept they cannot criticise govt when govt does something against Tamils. This is reality. The international community simply didn’t care about Tamils because they want diplomatic relations with govt. India didn’t care about Tamils.Twice Indian intervention was realised in the form of army or RAW. UK,USA didn’t support Tamils but they didn’t like govt leaning towards China.