27 October, 2020

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Time For ITAK To Present Its Manifesto

By Kumar David

Prof Kumar David

There is a fifty-fifty chance that the government will dish out some cock-and-bull excuse and rescind the Northern Provincial Council (NPC) elections. Nothing can be put beyond its craft and cunning, its sordidness and duplicity. But this leaves us with a fifty percent chance that elections may be held and if so the TNA/ITAK will win; so says everybody I have spoken to, even government henchmen. It is indisputable that this is why the government desires to scuttle the elections if it could get away with it. Authoritarians are totalitarians in that they cannot survive without the total control of power; even one pocket of resistance is fatal for autocrats.

The regime’s instincts are right, and conversely therefore, it is precisely for this reason that it is imperative that the Tamil alliance wins control of the NPC. This is a significant foot in the door; it opens a way to confront the would-be dictators. Every chink in the armour – electoral defeat, economic setback, or spotlight on graft and abuse – is another abscess through which to drive the dagger and twist the blade. An independent PC with a mind of its own, not kowtowing at the beck and call of the Rajapakses, is not a chink but a gaping tear in the armour. The value of defeating the government at the NPC elections cannot be exaggerated, not only for the denizens of the province, but nationally.

It is true that elected provincial councils, provincial administrations, and chief ministers, are statutorily emasculated. Decision making can be wrested away and exercised by a governor who is no more than a puffed up yes-man of the president. It is also true that PCs are miserably funded and after Divineguma their resources further depleted. In these circumstances it is unsurprising, but short-sighted, that some minor parties want the TNA/ITAK to boycott the elections. It is short sighted for three reasons; first, control of the NPC will give the Tamil alliance pole-position in prosecuting the fight for autonomy and against dictatorship; statutorily impotent but politically potent! Secondly, the current regime must be prevented from grabbing this political instrument away from elected representatives of the people. It would be disastrous if the regime, this one in particular, grabs the NPC.

The third reason why a boycott is plain lunacy is the international dimension. Tamils cried themselves hoarse all over the world that they were denied an instrument of self-administration and demanded an elected council. Now when the ship is steering into harbour, how ridiculous to jump overboard! Internationally, it would be a gross contradiction if the Tamils pull out of the NPC elections. Retaining some influence over police and land powers and resisting the army’s land grab whose motive is to change demography in the North, also require international and Indian support.

It takes a Tamil to see through another Tamil. The ITAK leadership no doubt espies that the real motive of those Tamils who call for a boycott is envy. They cannot win, so their ruse is to talk the ITAK out of it as well. I also learnt that when an ITAK leader addressed a gathering in London last month, some Tamils faulted him for speaking up on behalf of Muslims and on broader national issues. “You must stick only to our concerns” was the refrain. Is it only the Jaffna Tamil who is so self-centred that he shrieks in Geneva and all over the world demanding attention to himself, but rejects intercession for others?

There is friction about distribution of nominations, since legally it is not possible to register a new party before September. The TNA is an umbrella of five groups with just one mass party, the Illangai Thamil Arasu Katchi (former Federal Party). Acronyms (leaders) of the others are PLOTE (Sidharthan), TULF (Anandasangaree), TELO (Adakalanathan) and EPRLF (Premachandran). They will be decimated, notwithstanding their presumed standing in the Vannie, if they contest without hanging on to ITAK coat tails. The election will have to be fought under the ITAK name and Veedu (House) symbol, but keeping the TNA concept in the foreground and offering a few nominations to each to the other four will impart a sense of Tamil unity.

The Chief Ministerial nominee is also pending. Sampanthan and Sumenthiran cannot be released from Parliament where they serve vital functions. Former judge Vigneswaran’s name has croped up, I am told he is a good man, but he lacks grassroots standing or political experience. This leaves Maavai Senathirajah as the likely nominee; Premachandran is out of consideration as he is from a minor party.

The programmatic side

There will have to be two sides to the TNA/ITAK manifesto; one, a programmatic side, and the other, perspectives on how to drive for greater Tamil autonomy and sway this towards the fight for democracy at large. While it is not my task to give gratuitous advice to the leaders, I do have my views on a programme for regional governance in the North and East. There are four areas the Northern Provincial Administration must prioritise; education, agriculture-fisheries, transport-communications, and normalisation of law and order.

Historically, education has been the jewel in the crown of Jaffna society; it must be restored to a position of excellence; society is crying out for it. The building blocks are available – motivated students, the raw material from which a reputable teaching profession can be refashioned, and brick and mortar if not academic excellence at Jaffna University. A lot can be done. Schools must be the centre of education and the tuition pandemic rooted out. English language fluency (not just proficiency) must be implanted and ingrained. Diaspora and overseas funding can be channelled into quality education; money will flood in if an effort led by the people and their democratically elected representatives is in place.

Agriculture, fisheries, animal husbandry and toddy tapping are devolved subjects under the PC system. I have read of “the chaos created by devolving agricultural planning and production to provinces along with dismemberment of the original Department of Agriculture” (Cecil Dharmasena, Island, 6 May 2013). The clock cannot be turned back and centralisation restored, but if there is one place where chaos can be overcome and a vibrant system of agricultural support established, it is the Northern Province. In the same piece Dr Dharmasena waxes eloquent on the “dedicated and hard-working northern farmers whose Farmer Cooperatives were exemplary institutions”. These organisations provided information on production, helped with credit and kept a check on marketing. The new NPC administration has its work cut out if it is to measure up to these challenges.

Public transport is in a state of breakdown; literally in respect of the railway. It is scandalous that four years after the war, a fast modern railway is not up and running. There is no excuse as it creates great inconvenience for passengers and imposes an overhead cost on economic activity. I am surprised Tamil leaders of all political hues are silent when it is manifestly absurd that the railway is not functioning; 43 km to Madhu after 4 years is a caricature. I attribute the worst motives to the control freaks in military and government. In the meantime, we fabricate billion rupee white elephant airports in the President’s backwoods home town that not a cat wants to arrive at or depart from!

If the new NPC administration does a good job in the North – Basil can lay roads, but cannot enthuse people or deliver a programme as outlined – the Central Government will put obstacles in the way at every step. Have no illusions about the Rajapakse regime and its chauvinist coalition entourage as all nationalists are imbued with jealousy.  They will fight progress, especially law and order. The NPC will have to conduct a prolonged campaign to end military intimidation, remove troops from the streets and have them confined to barracks, end land grabs, and stop the military throwing its weight around. There is no terrorist threat now; this is balderdash spouted to retain the jackboot on the public neck.

There must be no let up in the demand that police powers in Tamil areas be placed in the hands of an elected provincial administration. There can be no impartial law enforcement when a police force staffed by one community and steeped in its ideology holds the whip over another community. There will be enough and more abuses of power by the state for the NPC to capitalise on and keep up pressure. Success is possible if there is tenacity.

Transitional struggles

I spoke of two sides to the manifesto, a programmatic side as outlined above and transitional perspectives towards a democratic state configuration. The two paragraphs concluding the previous subsection introduced the transitional aspect. There are two sides, in turn, to this aspect; one, the campaign to restructure and devolve substantial power to the Tamil people enabling them to manage their own affairs, and second impeding the dictatorial encroachments of the Rajapakse regime. The first is a general issue, commonly referred to as ‘the political solution to the national question’. This is not specific to the Mahinda regime and will need to be sorted out whoever is in power at the Centre. The second is a very specific matter relating to this regime hell bent on autocracy and a corporatist dictatorship.

The manifesto that I dream of, no doubt the TNA is not much interested in my daydreams, will make reference to both sides. It will spell out how, once it forms the NPC Administration, it will use it as a platform for campaigning for a devolved system of governance for Tamils; the NPC is not an end in itself but a step to substantial devolution. The other aspect is cooperation with democratic movements in the South, that is Sinhalese and Muslims, to defeat the ambitions of the Rajapakse siblings. The two struggles are inseparable; progress along either path creates opportunities and strengthens the other. 

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    Whatever be the Govt decision on the elections, the Tamils must stand united and contest. The ploy of not announcing the date till the last moment is simply with the intention of allowing doubts, suspicions and fears to come into play and reducing the time for electioneering and mobilising public support.

    I feel that govt will be forced to have the election or if not will have to pay the price of CGOM and at the next UNHRC meeting at Geneva. Since it stands to lose it is dragging its feet creating all this uncertainty. The Tamils should not create any excuse for not having the elections nor should they stand down. Take what is available for the benefit of the people and see how it works out.

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    It is true that the current regime is a totalitarian government and want to concentrate power in everywhere possible. The government facing pressure from various quarters to rewrite the 13th amendment preventing large scale powers in the areas of Police and Land. To me this clauses have detrimental consequences to remain as a unitary state.

    Also wish to mentioned that the writer is pretend to be a (also act as) communist but the lifestyle is diagonally opposite. He is a totalitarian too in his field of Electrical Engineering.

    .

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    Totally agree with Prof Kumar, that it will be suicidal for Tamils to lose control of the NPC. It will be the beginning of the end of the Tamil identity and Tamil Elam. It started 4 years ago and we have an opportunity to stop it at the NPC elections.

    The people and parties in the North need to unite collectively and resoundingly vote for control in the NPC. This will explain to the world again, the aspirations of the Tamils in the N&E that they need to be left alone to control and manage their own affairs, to maintain their heritage, culture, religion, language, development so that they can plan and live in peace and with dignity.

    The resounding election results will make Geneva, Delhi, London, New York, Beijing and all those non-believers to fall into line, that there is only one peaceful permanent political solution.

    The Tamil parties should now demand to India and to the IC that for a free and fair elections, all paramilitary groups should be totally disarmed (as per LLRC), remove the military from all civil administration and from the N&E (the only threat to the present regime lies within the siblings of the Rajapaksa family), and demand for IC monitors to conduct and observe the elections.

    It is now a make or break situation for all Tamils, to be honest to themselves and to their conscience. We need a neutral strong leader to project manage the NPC with a clean, fair and structure administration to be envied with its developments for at least the first few years to move forward.

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    ” Public transport is in a state of breakdown; literally in respect of the railway. It is scandalous that four years after the war, a fast modern railway is not up and running. There is no excuse as it creates great inconvenience for passengers and imposes an overhead cost on economic activity. I am surprised Tamil leaders of all political hues are silent when it is manifestly absurd that the railway is not functioning; 43 km to Madhu after 4 years is a caricature “

    Who destroyed it ? those days you were paying Taxes to LTTE to travel on the Roads maintained by the govt.

    Now, you complain.

    What did you say at that time ?

    Tamil self-centeredness, all over.

    IT is Tamils the first, Tamils the most, Tamils the biggest. Every one else and every thing else is secondary.

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      JimSofty you are spot on.

      “I am surprised Tamil leaders of all political hues are silent when it is manifestly absurd that the railway is not functioning; 43 km to Madhu after 4 years is a caricature.”

      So Kumar D needs 430 kms of track built in 2 years?. Kumar David has tunnel vision and he conveiniently sees only one side of the coin.

      “There is a fifty-fifty chance that the government will dish out…..”. Where did he get this info from; probably the same source which said that over 40,000 innocent Tamil civilians died at the hands of the security forces over the last few days of the conflict.

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        News Item just released on 29MAY13

        “China is to build the Colombo-Jaffna expressway, among other roads and railway lines in Sri Lanka.

        This was stated in a communiqué issued by the Lankan Presidential spokesman at the conclusion of talks between President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, in Beijing on Monday.”

        Let us hope that Kumar David does not turn around and say that ” We don’t need Expressways to Jaffna but only Tamil Ealam”.

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    Kumar David has expressed his thoughts forthrightly. It is quite right that the ITAK and it’s coalition contest the Northern PC election without backing out. Once established they may take the opportunity to accelerate development on the one hand and establish democratic governance as well as the rule of law on the other. But there is one aspect that has not been touched upon by David. That is the need to re-establish trust between the NPC and the Central Government. This is vital for the success of the PC. At the moment there is serious distrust between the Sinhala and Tamil people. The fear that the Sinhala people have is that the NPC will be used as a stepping stone to achieve a separate state, hence the opposition in the South. This fear needs to be dispelled. Therefore in the ITAK manifesto a categorical assertion must be made renouncing secession. There cannot be any overt or covert moves to encourage secession in connivance with the organisations promoting such amongst the Tamil diaspora whether in the West or in India. Nor should India/ Tamil Nadu be encouraged. If these are not acceptable the moderate Sinhala too will oppose the formation of the NPC. In fact if the Northern PC shows initiative and achieves phenomenal growth it will be a matter of time before the other PCs too emulate the same methods and wrests the initiative from the Centre.

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    Excellent advice given by Dr Kumar David. The leaders of all the Tamil
    parties must read this article.
    If you do not unite and lose the elections, the Tamils both in and out of Sri Lanka will hold you accountable. The leaders should realize that they will never ever
    get such an opportunity as in course of time, demographic changes will result in Tamils becoming a minority in the Northern Province. This is the reason why the Govt is forcebly and frantically acquiring lands in the North to settle Singalese people.
    Please do NOT boycott the elections. If you do, you will be playing into the hands of the regime.Please do not make the same mistake that Pirapaharan made earlier.
    The various leaders of the parties ( I dont know why we have so many parties) must persuade former Judge Wigneswaran to become the Chief Minister. Inexperience is a lame excuse.He can depend on advicers like Mr Sampanthan, Mr Sumanthiraan and the other leaders.

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    Well presented paper. TNA/ITAK should take note of his advice, also Mr. Gagendra Kumar Ponampalam It would be suicidal if you boycott this election, join the team again. don’t make the mistakes made by your Dad and Grandpa . Mahinda Rajapaskeis under pressure from UNHCR and CHOGM, that is why he announced this election for September. However, it appears that ,He is also facing problem from his siblings and coalition extremists. Whether he is instrumental for this drama? Who knows! This is the reason why the date is not announced. My hunch is that he would not hold this election, just playing politics. At the last moment ,he is waiting for the rebels to stage a ‘Sham fasting’ / marches and he will try to give this as an excuse to UN/CHOGM and not hold the election.

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    Dr. Kumar David

    While expressing my agreement with your ideas may I convey my thoughts which I penned in April this year. In 1989 when some of us joined the NEPC we had no illusions that an alternative was found. But what other option? The apparatus assiduously built up emerged as the most efficient and the higher echelons in Colombo made note of it. From 1990, all P C s have become effete and today they are an anachronism. Yet the NPC and the election are relevant and important. A manifesto is needed to set out the Tamil position with clarity.

    the post war predicament of the Tamils? Prostrate in June 2009, showed signs of life in July and even some defiance beginning August. Since then the resident Tamils have exhibited their capacity for struggle and the diaspora has become a force to be reckoned with. At all times we Tamils have had a grave shortcoming. All carbohydrate and no protein. Only politics and no economics, from FP to TULF to TNA. They are not mutually exclusive but the realization is yet to dawn. To the diaspora it is only international investigation and accountability. No thought of a Marshal Plan or Reparations to lift a prostrate people and their devastated economy. We need both accountability as well as economic regeneration. The designs of subjugation are fed by this dismal failure on our side.

    How do we stand now? Disparate, more in our thinking or the lack of it than in our geographical scattering. A ferment in thought has to precede any effort at coherence or integration of the process. An institution with the better elements in Tamil society coalescing around it can take the initiative and set the pace. Firstly all the burning embers within the country have to be brought together to create a great fire. Was there ever an attempt at ascertaining people’s strongly held views on clearly worked out ideas? I know of only one word and two clichés. Federalism, Vaddukoddai Declaration and Tamil Eelam, with varied interpretations being given. Anyone can just read Obama’s autobiography to know of his interactions as Senator weekly and fortnightly with his constituents.

    For us the time for a beginning is now. After the defeat that Napoleon inflicted on Germany, Fichte’s “Addresses to the German Nation” galvanized the people. It can be accessed on Google. Let a think tank under the aegis of the NPC set about the task of developing a cohesive strain of thought. A respected CM with a coterie of hand picked advisors can formulate a core political philosophy. When the exercise is undertaken as an effort at devolution nobody can stifle it.

    We have to recognize the massive demographic shift to foreign countries. A third is out and except for sponsoring investigation, remains directionless with little study or debate. Lack of direction from the home country is the principal reason. Removing this lacuna is a priority. Having done that the diaspora should be provided the occasion to move in tandem with the resident Tamils.

    A historic opportunity lies in a worthwhile Council being set up with a leader of mettle. Boycott Politics of 1931 extended to 2013 will be a disaster. Into the void the worst will enter. Preventing it is paramount. The CM or leader has several obligations.

    Firstly not to have illusions about the potency of the Council or the position of CM. Therefore never to get lost in the trappings of office or to be immersed in sterile routine. A CM having sufficient detachment fits the bill.

    With the people’s mandate and authority deriving therefrom, the CM needs to weld the resident Tamils together. Apace should be the welding of the disparate diaspora units around a single political philosophy. Next is a bridge to bring both together.

    With time, resources and authority, a course has to be charted for the will of the people to become monolithic. A credible constitutional arrangement, a product of the NPC should be the first to roll out.

    We have to acknowledge that we have little strength. We have been prone to making the mistake that justice behind our cause will ensure victory. Rubbish. In 2009 we stood in a minority of one, isolated thoroughly and totally. It is prudent to go with Valluvar “Vinai valiyum, than valiyum, maatraan valiyum, thunai valiyum thooki cheyal”. “Before undertaking any enterprise, one has to appraise the strength behind the causce, one’s own strength, adversary’s strength and the support of allies”. Over time but beginning immediately it has to be assiduously built.

    The CM has to interact with power centres. In SL, in TN, in Delhi, in Australia and in select western capitals. The best in the Tamil polity should stand selection and election. Image is everything. How about experience? John F Kennedy summoned McNamara and offered Secretary Defense to him. Robert F K too was present. I am not qualified said Mc. Are we? asked JFK. Mc agreed. Challenge will bring forth the response.

    The elected NPC can argue for an Interim Set Up, obtain legal sanction, adopt a self denial resolution and make way for the new arrangement after a lapse of time if it so decides. But only after the NPC is in place to create the new order and after completing the tasks mentioned earlier. Capturing power at the election is therefore absolutely essential.

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      Mr.sivathasan,

      Thanks for this comment. You have underscored the weaknesses in the ‘ Tamil ‘ political stance , as few have. I hope your words of wisdom will help make an impending calamity into a God-given opportunity. We have to move beyond parroting slogans and cliches into a phase of investing in, developing and consolidating all aspects of life of the war-battered Tamils. We have to resurrect as a people. We have to be the new Phoenix that arose from the ashes!

      This needs an overarching vision. The ITAK manifesto Prof. Kumar David proposes, should provide this vision, while exocizing the ghosts of the past yet haunting us. We should climb out of the quagmire we are in.

      Dr. Rajasingham Narendran

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    Dear Kumar David,

    You should stick with advising your friend Vasudeva Nannayakara and engage in the dialectics of Marxism.

    Dr. N. Satchi UK

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      Is it rational to say that the beneficiary of a writer should be only one person? By narrowing his intellect to one dimensional activity, who profits and how?

      He seeks to hammer into the Tamils and their leadership the need to plumb new ground. The force of habit Bharathy knew very well. A story he wrote nearly a 100 years ago:

      One whom Lord Siva cursed, became a pig. It begged pleading to remain human. Siva provided an occasion for redemption. He ordained that on an appointed day a man will hit him on the head with a pestle and he will become a man again. When the man appeared with a pestle the pig squealed and begged that it will be happy to remain a pig.

      The story is an allusion to India’s reluctance to go under British rule and when the time approached for independence with Gandhi’s hard struggle, the people preferred to be with the British. It is under this law of inertia that Dr.KD is to be confined.

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    It is time that TNA should show solidarity and should not fall into the hands of political opportunists. All those who commit for the rights of the Tamils should not fight for individual identities for places in the NPC in the name unity of Tamils. It is true that this government play all sort of tricks and plays to create that this NPC will lead to “Eelam”, secession and end of Sinhalam and so on. We have seen that the allies of the Governments (Sinhala Urumaya, Weerawanse, Champake, BBS) lead by President’s brother carrying the propaganda against police and land powers to PCs and land grabbing etc.
    The International Community and India who gave the full support to Sri Lanka to end the war are now on the side of Tamils and closely watching the day to day events. Their support to the Sri Lanka is not to simply to create a dictatorship.

    It is true that TNA should show to the Sinhala and Muslim people that they can create an administration where all those individuals from all communities, all religions will be treated equally and we can provide an administration where law and order and justice system that is independent of political interference. Therefore, it is necessary to produce a document/manifesto show how the Northern province administration going to achieve these objectives and prepare a action plan to implement those activities. In this regard it is important to get the support and corporation of the Sinhala community and Muslim community within the province. It would have been ideal if the administrative unit is merged North-East Province which have larger size Sinhala and Muslim community work together as a group to develop North East Province and peaceful life compared to the Administration in the Centre.

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