By V. Anandasangaree –
How is it the war that should have come to an end in April 2004, got extended for a further period of five years, and ended in May 2009 with the total eradication of the LTTE. It is not a secret that the war resulted in the death of innumerable persons including innocent civilians belonging to various ethnic groups. The appointment of a Presidential Commission soon after the end of the war, would have brought to light many truths deliberately concealed by concerned parties, to enable some persons, to become heroes who would have been otherwise charged for various offences including treasonable ones.
The total casualties due to the war could be between 50-60 thousand, although some say much more and some others say less. Apart from what number lost their lives, why and how did they die in such large numbers is the matter that causes grief to many. The position would have been entirely different, if the war had ended in 2004, when a very good opportunity came on our way, which we missed due to a foolish decision made by responsible persons more interested in personal gains. Unfortunately the best solution for the ethnic problem also slipped away in 2004 and also the causalities would have been brought down to the minimum.
Under the present circumstances it is good for everybody to know about one Mr. Dharmaratnam Sivaram popularly known as Taraki in the journalism world. He was a courageous journalist with pro LTTE leanings but took a lot of interest to bring all the Tamil political parties under one umbrella. Therefore I wish to draw the attention of every Sri Lankan, be they Tamils, Sinhalese or Muslims, to an article authored by him, captioned, “ Tamil parties cannot play coy in a corner” that appeared in an English daily of 11th Feb 2004. That brings to light a lot of matters that remained secret for a long time. Those who had access to this article at the time it was published had failed in their duty to take Taraki’s article seriously. They failed to realize that with the LTTE showing signs of giving up arms and endeavoring to bring all Tamil parties under one umbrella, the country could have been saved from the great disaster it faced during the last lap of the war.
The contents of this article could be taken as Taraki’s “Last will and testament”. The first paragraph of this article deals with the TNA as follows “The Tamil National Alliance has been made out to be more than what it actually is. If not for a variety of external pressures, it would have imploded at inception. Contrary to the chief myth about the TNA that it is managed by the Liberation Tigers some of its leading politicians have had no scruples in running with the hare and hunting with the hound. They have no scruples in smartly exploiting the LTTE for their own political advantage. If you ask me, some of them wouldn’t even care two hoots for the struggles and aspirations of the Tamil people”.
Taraki had made it very clear that the TNA was founded by the TULF. Hon. R.Sampanthan knows it well, since he was the one who signed the MoU of the TNA in his capacity as the Secretary General of the TULF, along with the three Secretaries of the ACTC,TELO and EPRLF M/S N. Kumarakurubaran, N. Prasanna, and Suresh Premachandren respectively. I am sure Hon.R. Sampanthan or anybody else will have the courage to challenge any part of Taraki’s article.
Taraki has pointed out in his article that, “Several interested groups in the North East, particularly the Thamilar Marumalarchchi Kazhagam in Batticaloa and fully backed by academics, journalist, civil society activists, business men and students’ union leaders of the Batticaloa and the Jaffna Universities, toiled hard for months to bring all Tamil political parties under one umbrella to contest the 2004 General election under one policy and a common symbol the ‘Rising Sun’. He also points out that, “These lobbies felt that all Tamil parties and groups in the North East should be brought under one Tamil National umbrella regardless of their deep divisions and regardless of their long association with the military and allegations of rights abuses”. According to him the ACTC that was reluctant about the symbol was persuaded at the 11th hour to contest under the common ‘Rising Sun’ symbol. Taraki had also said in his article that, “The TNA should contest only on the basis of its common symbol and policy, is the overwhelming opinion Tamil Nationalist interest groups this time”.
He further says, “The sentiment was strongly echoed in the unanimous decision of the Trincomalee districts branch of the Tamil National Alliance on Monday. Obviously this is the wish of the LTTE too, although Killinochchi remains mum on the matter”. The above extract of Taraki’s article makes it very clear that the “Trincomalee district branch unanimously supported it, the LTTE’s wish was also the same and that Killinochchi remained mum”
There are eight Tamil majority districts in the North and the East. But why should Taraki, who had taken so much of trouble to bring all the Tamil parties under one umbrella, had singled out Trincomalee and Killinochchi districts for special comments, without any reference to the other six districts. The truth is that he very well knew that there was a plot mooted in Killinochchi to disrupt the efforts taken to bring all Tamil parties under one umbrella. This plot was to keep me out of the scene. The real culprits operated in Killinochchi, purely for personal gains, and acted in a manner contrary to the decision of all Tamil groups, political parties, the LTTE and also people like Taraki. One of them fully backed by another misused the Federal Party and its symbol, which Taraki claimed as existing only on paper, to nominate candidates at the 2004 general elections. They also irresponsibly claimed the LTTE as the sole representatives of the Tamil people, at a time when the LTTE had already decided to support the move to contest the 2004 general election as one party with common policy and common symbol the ‘Rising Sun’.
If the 2004 general election had been contested as desired by the interest groups backed by the LTTE and Taraki, all the 22 seats would have been won with large majorities. The war would have stopped and talks would have started for a negotiated settlement. People also would have started their normal life with various problems solved. But unfortunately for the Tamil community, merely to satisfy a few individuals, the entire Tamil community had to undergo untold hardships, loss of lives and destruction of property. Much more can be said about the sufferings the people underwent during the last five years of war from 2004. I am sure the people will easily identify those two persons who should be held responsible for all what had happened during that period.
Taraki also says, “Lest it be forgotten, the TULF itself is the result of the political merger between the FP and the ACTC. In 1976 Tamil parties were asked to surrender their individual identities for the sake of Tamil unity”, which they did.
Taraki explains the stand taken by the Federal Party as follows, “The FP gave up its long established ‘house’ symbol when the ‘Rising Sun’ was adopted by the Tamil National unity that emerged at the Vaddukoddai conference that year. The ACTC and the FP were supposed to have been subsumed by the new political identity of the TULF. That is why one time ACTC stalwarts like M. Sivasithambaram and Anandasangaree continued their political careers with the new political identity that they accepted with the forging of the TULF. Federal Party leaders gave up their established political identity when the TULF was launched. Today the FP exists only on paper. Tamil parties are being urged to shed their distinct political identity and unite under one banner and symbol”.
The time has now come for all Sri Lankans, irrespective of their ethnicity, to wake up from their deep slumber, to save the Tamils in particular and all Sri Lankans in general, from the most dangerous person today, in the TNA garb. I am referring to Hon.R. Sampanthan who had been, without any moral right, misusing the term TNA, more for his personal gains and not in the general interest, neither of the Tamils nor that of the country’s. Undoubtedly Hon.R. Sampamthan is a very clever person and very shrewd too. He knows how, when and where to strike. I know him very closely for well over 40 years. Having enjoyed absolute power with the TNA garb and having got the taste of it, he had been taking decisions arbitrarily or with one or two close associates of his in the ITAK, ignoring the members of the other parties in the Tamil National Alliance. But even recently he was boasting that the unity of the alliance should be preserved. He has conceded that because of the support they were getting from the Tamils, all sections of the people had accepted them and therefore that position should be maintained. It is a pity that he has too much of self confidence without realizing the reality. People cannot be cheated all the time. The TNA partners are also very critical about his arbitrary decisions.
Very few people remember how Hon.R.Sampanthan destroyed the TULF at the 2004 general elections and fraudulently won 22 seats by preventing the TULF from all modes of campaign. It was not a properly conducted election at which democracy was murdered and buried, with no hopes of raising its head. At this election some TNA candidates miraculously polled over 100 thousand votes and some others, defeated in the morning got elected in the evening. Hon.R.Sampanthan should know how the TULF earned International reputation by saving democracy, when 18 Members of Parliament including him from the TULF, vacated office as a protest, when the term of office of Parliament was extended by a full term of six years. This is the TULF tradition. He is virtually a usurper in office, with no moral right to speak about democracy. His holding the leadership of the TNA is also one like that. In January 2009 I pleaded with them to save the people stranded in Vanni with no response from him. He did not respond to the invitation of the Indian Foreign Secretary to go to Delhi, he deliberately missed a chance to save our people stranded in Vanni. During the last days of the war, he ignored to respond to the desperate calls of those stranded in Vanni. He had failed to find relief for the political prisoners, a problem good enough to justify his quitting office of the leader of the opposition. Under these circumstances the most honorable thing for him to do is to quit both offices of leader of the opposition and Membership of Parliament, since he has failed in his duty to the people who elected him as Member of Parliament.
It is the duty of not only the Tamil people but all ethnic groups to get together now, although belated, to pressurize the government to appoint a Presidential Commission of inquiry to find out the real culprits who are responsible for the sufferings and the hardships they continue to undergo and to recommend suitable relief. This is the last chance left to expose the TNA that had done enough damage for the Tamil cause.
*V. Anandasangaree – Secretary General-TULF