13 November, 2019

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The Wigneswaran Factor: Sampanthan’s Master-Stroke

By Dayan Jayatilleka –

Dr Dayan Jayatilleka

In this country, it is a rarity to witness really smart politics on strategic issues. We have just done so and got two breakthrough moves on the same issue. The first was by President Rajapaksa who chose to go ahead with the election to the Northern Provincial Council and have a meeting with Mr Sampanthan, the TNA leader. The second was by Mr Sampanthan who worked hard to persuade his coalition to field Justice Wigneswaran as the Chief Ministerial candidate.

Justice Wigneswaran is a candidate that every Tamil can be proud of to have as his and her representative, and may make a Chief Minister that most Sri Lankans of whichever ethnicity or religion can be proud of. In fact he will have the salutary effect of raising the bar of performance for every chief minister and Sri Lankan politician throughout the island.

The choice of Justice Wigneswaran illustrates the kind of strategic thinking that is needed in politics when fundamental issues are at stake; strategic thinking that is willing to stand up to and sacrifice more obvious ethno-populist passions and pressures for the defence of vital interests of the entirety of the people and place one represents. The choice further shows a capacity on the part of Mr Sampanthan (and his able young supporter Mr Sumanthiran) to think through those strategic interests in a manner that transcends baser ethno-populist sentiment. In short, Mr Sampanthan and Mr Sumanthiran have accurately understood strategic Tamil interests which they have not confused with the lowest common denominator of Tamil sentiments.

Justice Wigneswaran is a symbol of Tamil ‘soft power’; the kind of power which is being depleted in Sinhala society and most certainly the State. If handled correctly he can become a symbol of the soft power of Sri Lanka as a society and a country. The Sinhala Establishment has to get its head around the fact that though the Tigers were utterly defeated, the Tamil community has not been cowed and has bounced back politically. One of the reasons for this resilience and recovery is the continued availability of an educated elite, literate in an international language (English)—a sociological resource which has been depleted on the Sinhala side by and driven into alienation or exile by the state of suffocation imposed by the State.  On the Tamil side the English educated elite is still available for politics and public service and is welcomed by Tamil society while on the Sinhala side, the public welcomes the incorporation of the elite but the dominant monolingual petty bourgeoisie which monopolises the state apparatus, does not. The choice of Justice Wigneswaran as Chief Ministerial candidate shows firstly, that the Tamil professional elite is still intact and willing to engage in politics and secondly, that the Sinhala state which has shed the equivalent human resources will find it difficult to compete in the regional and international arena.

It is not however a zero-sum game in which Tamil interests win and Sinhala interests lose. Indeed the choice they have pushed for, Justice Wigneswaran is the best chance to make the 13th amendment work and is therefore the best hope for North-South reintegration on the basis of frankness, dignity and mutual respect.

Whether or not it was intended as such – and I suspect, not—the choices made by Mahinda Rajapaksa (to hold the election) and R. Sampathan (to field Justice Wigneswaran) can be considered as complementary, and when taken together, offer the best chance for political reconciliation. It could mark the beginning of winning the peace and building a new Sri Lankan nation.

If both sides get it wrong though, it could mark the end of the road for a united Sri Lanka.

The single most important factor about the choice of Justice Wigneswaran as Chief Minister is that by so doing, the TNA has upped the ante and raised the potential cost to Colombo of any unfair and peremptory dissolution of the Council.  In short, by choosing Justice Wigneswaran, Mr Sampanthan has cleverly installed a deterrent to arbitrary dissolution of the NPC.

Sri Lanka, it must be recalled, is haunted by the negative experience of the North Eastern Provincial Council. One of the reasons for its failure was the personality of Vardarajaperumal who was chosen as Chief Minister (despite my strenuous representations to the EPRLF leader K Pathmanabha as well as the Indian side). Perumal’s lack of political maturity and realism in dealing with the Sri Lankan state, his mercurial populism and alcohol-fuelled adventurism were among the main reasons for the mishandling of the inevitable contradictions between the periphery and the centre.

Justice Wigneswaran is hardly a Vardarajaperumal. Educated in Colombo and a distinguished senior representative of one of the arms of the Sri Lankan state itself, he has long functioned in a multiethnic social universe. A dignified yet outspoken, multilingual man, he is in the current circumstances, the best possible bridge between North and South. He is, in sum, the TNA’s Lakshman Kadirgamar.

If the deep state is hoping to de-stabilise the elected Northern provincial council, the security managers will have to think again. In the event of a manufactured crisis and a creeping or dramatic coup by the capital, who would be the better interlocutor with the world community; who would be better able to convince the world’s capitals?  The national security fundamentalists or an erudite, reasonable, articulate ex-Supreme Court judge?

With Sampanthan, Sumanthiran and Wigneswaran, the fate of the Tamil community is in the best possible democratic hands.

I am especially gratified at the turn of events not only since I have been a supporter of devolution since 1984 and a Minister in the first North-eastern Provincial Council a quarter of a century ago, but because it bears out what I told the (then) Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams in early 2007, when he called on President Rajapaksa. There were several Cabinet Ministers, senior officials and Church personalities including Bishop Duleep de Chickera at the meeting. I gave a brief run down on the war as satisfying the major criteria of Just War theory. The Archbishop of Canterbury challenged me with a counter question. He had been wrestling with just war theory for about fifteen years and was concerned about a ‘just outcome’. Did I think that this war would lead to one and if so why and what were the chances? He queried. I replied that the military defeat of the LTTE by the armed forces of the state would be accompanied by the automatic re-enfranchisement of the Tamil people. This inevitable reopening of electoral space and the re-enfranchisement of the Tamil voter would give the Tamil people the leverage to re-insert their issues and demands at the very centre of Lankan politics. The revival of a political process in those areas would enable the criteria of a ‘just outcome’ to be met to some degree while further advance towards that goal was possible by negotiation between the state and the elected Tamil representatives. That was my answer, and current dynamics seem to be proving it right.

If a troika can crystallise, comprising the war-winning and pragmatic President Rajapaksa, the TNA’s R Sampanthan and the Northern provincial council’s Wigneswaran, Sri Lanka may yet win the peace, 30 years after Black July 1983. With the forces of ‘radical evil’ (as the great Goethe designated it) defeated in the North and East but not yet in the South, it will be a harsh and bitter struggle though—and a grim, emotive, turbulent transition. Living with and accommodating a TNA run Northern provincial council led by Justice Wigneswaran will require and may generate a profound shift in the collective psyche.

Justice Wigneswaran is no Alfred Duraiyappa. He will not bend the knee and tug his forelock before the Sinhala Establishment. He is nobody’s “malli”. An interview given to Ayesha Zuhair in 2011 reveals him to be a federalist who stands for the right of self-determination, though he never strays into endorsing secession. What is tricky is not the federalism but the fact that in most parts of the world, federalists do not stand for self –determination, though he belongs to that tendency which does. A Council led by him will be a counterweight to the dangerous neo-conservative surge which threatens not merely Northern lands but Southern film making! The Northern Council with him as Chief Minister will not be the answer to Sri Lanka’s needs but will constitute a counterpoint which will in turn help us discover a middle path, a golden mean between the nationalisms of the South and North. He is a challenge but the challenge he will constitute could be a positive one; just the benign shock therapy that the Sri Lankan state and Sinhala society need to accommodate and integrate if they are to catch up with the 21st century world.

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Latest comments

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    Let me first state that I have no vote in the Northern polls. So my opinion does not matter at the end of the day. However, because I share this predicament with most of those opining here I wanted to offer my two cents.
    Justice Vigneswaran is perhaps a nice, educated man who might end up being a good manager or people and relationships. This was not a strategic choice albeit a smart one, from purely a political point of view. The TNA lays claim to political astuteness, principled action and to the job itself with this single decision. Forget about all the nonsense they have indulged in thus far, with the willing consent of the nay sayers and sooth sayers in Colombo.
    It is clear that India gave the Rajapakses a kick you know where and they have no choice but to grudgingly proceed with the elections. That does not mean things will proceed in the manner expected or that they will not thwart the will of the electorate.
    When Mangala Samaraweera can be asked to grudgingly endorse Mahinda Rajapakse’s hidden democratic credentials, when he was the primary bag man for the LTTE money along with Tiran Alles, no one should be fooled into thinking that this is a new dawn for the North of Sri Lanka.
    Lest we forget, Politics has no enemies just alliances.

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    But Vigneswaran ia also a relative of Sampanthan. Sampanthan appointed his relative Saravanabavan whose father a police man helped to burn down the jaffna public library, swindled billions from the people of Jaffna under the “SABRA FINANCE”. Saravana bavavan’s brother in law Vidhyadaran who helped the[Edited out].

    Now Wigneswaran comes and he will be a another Anton balasingam.. and nothing else.!

    Wigneswaran must be defeated at any cost because he is another blunder to Tamil politics!

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      M.Sivanathan,

      Your name does not match to the contents you have written. I think you are another decoy scare monger who is in fear of Truth, fear of Guilt and fear of your neighbor doing well in life, while thoroughly misinformed and disgrunteled.

      When one call Sri Lanka as a Sinhala Buddhist country and the Major Language should be Sinhala, already the stamp is registered on rest of the citizens. It is time to change this Psychosis if we need to develop our country. World is not governed by Monks but by economic super powers.

      We already wasted 60 years of valuable time, human life and economic prosperity and now entangled in a Political,racial, religious, economic and social mess.

      Unless an urgent and desireble solution is sought very early, the whole country will fall into a bottomless precipice.

      Keep playing Nero’s Political violin when country is Burning.

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        You are a decoy from CT and nothing else. What is your point here?
        I hope you are one of the person scewed millions from the Jaffna Tamils throuogh “Sabra Finance’.

        You better give expalnation about SABRA FINANCE if you known,.

        Sambanthan is now well alligned with all al corrupt gangas of Lankan.

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          I cannot comment on what I don’t know. Sabra Finance….what is it….A type of Jaffna Murunga. No buddy wrong number. Reveal your true name. Don’t shame JW.

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            If you are not from Jaffna, I agree with your foolishness of not knowing the SABRA Finance. You prove that you have no knowledge of the politics of the last 30 years of North!

            I always write with my own name. I dont like to be a decoy for others!

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      Shame on you Sivanathan. When even the Sinhalese are happy that Wigneswaran is going to be the next CM, you are bashing him. I have heard a story it goes like this. In the hell there were many holes and these holes were segregated for each country. Every hole had a guard but not the Sri Lankan Tamil hole. Some one asked why there is no guard at that hole, so the Chief of the Hell mentioned its a Tamil Sri Lankan hole, if one tries to escape from the hole the other in the hole will pull him or her down back again into the hole. You are doing it and proving this story. Shame on you!

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        I dont feel any shame for my comments because TNA publicly not supporting the 13th Amendment. Then how the same TNA morons contest elections under the same 13th Amendment?

        What is the point of CVW contesting on behalf of TNA? To enjoy life with public money?

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      Why one part is edited out.

      Look like CT editors don’t want us to find out that.

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        Vidhyatharan who was [Edited out]

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    It is too premature to think R. Sampanthan is going to retire soon from politics. Even if he does, it will be after the end of his current term as a Member of Parliament. As for the military governors, are they going to hold office in perpetuity? The military governor and the military Commander governor have both earned the wrath of the Northern Province voters by their boorish and arrogant behaviour. They are reminiscent of the British colonial era. Lording over the subject race. Recently, the unelected Governor C.A. Chandrasri has the temerity to issue a circular warning Principals of schools not to invite TNA MPs to any school functions! What does this governor who draws his salary from the Treasury think about him? A little tin pot Hitler? The UPFA will definitely lose the elections, but the loss will be greater because of these military dictators!

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      Mr. Tanga.., Sampanthan is 83 and is due to retire soooooooooooooon. We are already finding replacements to contest the Trincomalee district in the next Parliamentary elections in 2015 or latest 2016. FYI.

      WTM might not be aware or definitely not involved. lol.

      Military Governors are the bloody result of the LTTE advisers and supporters (Cheer Leaders) misleading the Vanni with bad advise to boycott the Presidential elections. Jokers claiming stupidly that Karu defection was due to UNP, and Ali Zaheer Mowlana did it on UNP instruction.

      Wrooooooooooooong. Again.

      Mowlana did that for Karun’a money and RAW’s instruction, … The same RAW giving instructions to Sampanthan as some Tamil quislings have said, and RAW did not want Mavai S becoming the CM. Accidentally, RAW, Samapanthan and Wigneswaran have done Mavai a big favor by expediting Mavai to become the next TNA leader. Sampanthan can go back permanently to Chennai. Good Bye. So the news on the Toronto streets and behind the Poprrupalar curtain is wrong.

      LTTE Porrupars and TRO should account for all the money collected,, assets bought as front men, and build houses for the war widows. Those who sabotaged the Tamils For Justice and met Bruce Fein in Toronto in the Summer of 2008 and formed Justice for Thamils (for 30 days) will have a big price to pay and a heavy burden to carry the rest of their lives… See what happened in Mullivaikkaal.

      Bruce fein should not listen to alcoholics and join hands with them.lol.
      Life is a marathon and not a 100 metre sprint.

      Donald Gnanakone
      Tamils For Justice

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        “Mr. Tanga.., Sampanthan is 83”

        Sampanthan was born on 5th Feb 1933. He is 80 years.

        Since this cropped up i was just curious to know his life path number which is 5 when you add up 5+2+1933=5

        1.key word for life path 5 is freedom.In the pursuit of freedom,naturally versatile,adventurous and advanced in thinking.

        2.highly progressive mindset with the with the attitude and skills to make the world a better place.

        3.always striving to find answers to many questions that life poses.Wanting constant change and improvement.

        4.want to be totally unrestrained.

        5.may be very compassionate.Concern for the freedom and welfare of fellow humans.Life path 5 Abraham Lincoln abolished slavery.

        6.Potential in government,law and other positions of authority.

        7.good communicator and knows how to motivate people around them.This is the strongest and most valuable trait of no 5’s.

        8.natural born salesman(wonder whether mahinda will buy)

        9.abhor routine and boring work.Not good at staying with everyday tasks that should be finished on time.

        10.rather happy go lucky,living for the day and not worrying too much about tomorrow.Risk taker,open to a wide variety of risks.

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        Gnanakone rambles on. To the man who knows Sampanthan so well, how come he goofed in the senior leader’s age.
        Mr. Sampanthan is 80 – not 83, as we are told. And the Duck continues to boast “we are already finalising replacements (for Sampanthan in Trinco)”. Isn’t that the task of the Coalition of Tamil parties. The TNA leader must be
        chuckling at this fool – who is probably minutes away from a long stay at the Sanatorium. In his unstable condition here again he attacks Sampanthan, Thangavelu, Sivathasan, Sengodavan, Bruce Fein and others – whose neat contribution the man cannot match.

        He accuses Sampathan and others of being RAW agents. The truth around is he tried to get close to RAW many times and they rejected him because he has among many other faults a bad mouth and an uncontrollable temper.

        This one-man show Tamils for Justice is doing more harm to the Tamil cause than all others put together. Gnanakone must, at this late stage, try to come to his senses. It is time he realised he is the joke in this and other blogs where he runs riot.

        RJdeS

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    Smells like a Indian rat

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    all this is interesting as the regional powers like India with spy agency RAW try to make NE their playground again with the MARA regime going too way much towards the rogue regimes like China and Pakistan etc.

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    from the response of many tamil commentators here, will we witness another Tamil boycott of elections in North like when they single handedly brought MR into power :)

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    Looks like Tamil Eelam Politics has now become a ‘Fly in Fly out Job,” fly in the most appropriate person for the job in hand, nominated by the chief, irrespective of what, as the selection criteria.

    Maybe smart politics and a smart strategy.

    That’s fine, but where was retired Justice Wigneswaran in the last 30 years in the Liberation struggle of Tamils – yes as a administrator of Justice for the Governments of Sri Lanka.

    Yes, as a Tamil, we are proud of Justice Wigneswaran and he could be an excellent Chief Minister or an Advisor, but he says there is nothing in the 13A, it means nothing for administration of NPC, and everything must be approved by the military governor appointed by the President.

    We don’t need another Kathirgama or Karuna; we need a person to lead the Tamils to articulate the aspirations of the Tamils for independence.

    Maybe the strategy is right, he may be able to articulate and justify, if NPC becomes un-workable, after asuming the CM post that cannot be administered with all these restrictions, to India and to the IC that a referendum and separation of the NE is the only option. Step by step, maybe.

    It is India forcing the NPC elections as per the 13A and the Indo Lanka Accord. They have supported GoSL for the last four years internationally, and have been short changed many times and are losing patience, and could cost them dearly in their own 2014 General Election and as a regional power. Remember USSR.

    India needs to resolve this Eelam issue, otherwise it will be the beginning of the end of a United India.

    This could also be a ploy by MR and Gota, to bypass CHOGM and UNHRC first.

    In the meantime, we should motivate our youths to keep the flame for liberation, sacrifice their time, money, studies, families, careers, agitate, demonstrate, go to jail, get wacked, to be by-passed later. Ask Mr Mavai Senanthirajah.

    Manicka Vasagar

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    Dr.Dayan, first of all I would like to salute you for supporting the devolution since 1984. Since you don’t have any intention of getting Sinhala votes and become a minister or MP you write what you think in your mind.
    1.TNA’s Lakshman K…… Dr.Dayan,wigneswaran is never going to be LK.
    -LK never played communal politics for his own benefits. As far as TNA is concerned it is a communal coalition created by the LTTE and during the election times they bag Tamil votes by speaking communalism. They do nothing to our people and havnt done anything to our people so far.But they win the elections speaking communalism.
    Now W has become the candidate of TNA and there is no way he can go against TNA policies. Even in the last general election TNA said that the election was between the Tamils and Sinhalese.
    -LK opposed LTTE’s terrorist activities vehemently and exposed them internationally. But justice W is now with the group that never condemned the assassination of LK,instead enjoyed honeymoon with the LTTE.These are the people who branded their political enemies as traitors and in the political platforms declared that the traitors wont have natural death(indirectly to kill them ).Now W is with the the group that sowed the seeds of violence among the Tamil youth.
    -LK wanted peace and a political solution to the Tamil issue.As far as Sampanthans are concerned ,they torpedoed the Chandrika’s proposal of August 2000.Had they acted wisely thousands of lives could have been saved.
    Justice Wigneswaran is multilingual,educated and could be an honest person.But,as long as he is with the TNA,even if he wants he will never be able to play the role of LK.

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    Dayan Jayatilleka is euphoric. I would be a little more circumspect.

    The selection of Wignesweran is obviously the best choice for the NPC, but the election is yet to be held. And we all know that Dayan had his tongue in his cheek when he said Mahinda Rajapksa’s decision to hold the NPC election was a strategic move. Has Mahinda got a moral side? If so he has not shown it. We know he has a nasty side and I believe that is the only side he has in his character. If he now becomes generous and fair and also treats the Northern PC with affection and trust then I would be the first to apologize and congratulate him for his “strategic decision”. One thing I know is that he is like a spoilt child, good conduct has to be wrung out of him by punishment. Perhaps Wignesweran will be the catalyst to make a good man out of him.

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    Hopefully, he will reverse Tamil racism -at least he does not subscribe to it.

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    [LK never played communal politics for his own benefits.]
    BS: He was a brown noser who had enough skills to cover it up. More tamils than not hate him and with good reasons.
    So Tamils are not looking for a LK in the ex judge but a man who can get the job done without bias. I think he had proved he can do that by being on the bench at all stages of our judiciary.

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    Gnanakoon.
    The biggest mistake the LTTE made was forcing Ranil to lose! We wanted peace and you wanted war. The LTTE did not bring respect for the Tamil people because losers will never get respect. Now you know that all your good weather friends are dealing with the other side hoping that they can stop the Chinese influence as opposed to their own cheese burgher rubbish.

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    Detractors, after their monumental labours for the Tamil Cause, pose the same characteristic question – what others were doing for the last 30 years.

    Mao sacked Deng Ziao Ping in the Cultural Revolution of the sixties. When he rehabilitated Deng in the mid-seventies, he asked him what he was doing till then. Deng replied “PREPARING”. The world has seen the results of his preparation!

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      A profound comment. Life, thoughts and attitudes are not static and should not be and should never be static. If they remain so, it would be a life time in jail.

      Dr. Rajasingham Narendran

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    DR DJ, Well done again on MS Doni style. unbiased & well judjed article. Big applause for ur wealth of experience on SL politics.

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    As Dr. Dayan Jayathileke says Mr. Sambandan has indeed produced a master stroke in selecting Justice Wigneswaran as the Chief Ministerial candidate for the forthcoming Northern Province elections. The comments of many of the southern political parties especially the SLFP and JHU are interesting only to the extent that they seem to have accepted that finding a candidate to match Justice Wigneswaran is going to be difficult.
    But there are other interesting assertions from DJ about the present state of Tamil politics. Where or who are the English educated politicians in the TNA at present other than Messes Sambandan and Sumanthiran? There is also Mr. Anandasangari, as experienced as Mr. Sambandan and one the remaining two members of the old guard of mainstream Tamil political establishment. But unfortunately Mr. Anandasangari despite his efforts to chart a moderate course and independent course away from the extremism of the LTTE has not been recognized by the Tamil community. There are other Tamil professionals in the country who may have an awareness of the political situation but will not want to get sucked in to the murky world of politics and end up muddying themselves. That such professionals could perhaps inject some sanity in to the political discourse and pursue a moderate course which could also alleviate the fears of other communities is an ideal but I fear it will always remain in the realms of ideals.
    In today’s context perhaps there is a need to take the middle road of compromise and consensus. A sufficient awareness and understanding of global and regional political developments and how they impinge on local issues is essential. In the Sri Lanka and especially from the Tamil communities perspective such an understanding has been lacking despite there being a large Diaspora which as played an influential role in contemporary Tamil politics. For example the overwhelming influence of India in the region, Indian concerns for the security of their own state, the rising influence of China and their role in contemporary Sri Lankan economic and defense development have a significant bearing on the fate of the Tamil community. Does the mainstream Tamil Political establishment have an understanding of these issues?
    There are Tamil academics and professionals such as doctors, accountants, lawyers, engineers and information technology professionals in the community in the English speaking western countries and in Australia and New Zealand. But their contribution to a mature discourse on how Tamil politics should evolve amidst the changing dynamics of regional and global political developments is to my knowledge very limited. What is needed is a Diaspora think tank or perhaps a several think tanks with enlightened representatives from all communities who could contribute to the welfare and development of all the communities who make up the Sri Lankan social fabric.

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    Although some well informed and regular commentators wrote in these threads the date of the Northern Province PC Election has been announced, I notice even today the Election Commissioner speaking to the media says the date has not been decided upon by the Govt (read President) ???

    Varathan

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