Tamil National Alliance (TNA), a loose group of four parties, Illankai Tamil Arasu Katchi (ITAK) Tamil Eelam Liberation Organization (TELO), People’s Liberation of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE) and Eelam People’s Liberation Front (EPRLF) was formed in 2001 with the blessings of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) leadership.TNA then always followed the decrees of LTTE while speaking for the Tamils to the outside world and in Parliament. The TNA’s leader Sampanthan has been at the helm directing the fortunes of Tamils as well as controlling the often rebelling and dissenting members within the alliance. He has been successful in maintaining the brittle alliance without break-up, though dissenting views often appear to lead the break-up. TNA is sustaining its survival due to the charm of Sampanthan and after the election in 2015 it emerged as the second largest group, thanks to the coalition of major rivals UNP and SLFP opting to unite and forming an uneasy coalition Government dubbing it as a Government of ‘Good Governance”. TNA openly called on the Tamil voters to back the SLFP-UNP combination for the sake of a prospective “government of Good Governance” particularly meeting the demands of the TNA for a just and permanent political settlement based on a Federal System of government and to defeat dictatorial Rajapakshe regime.
TNA extended its support unconditionally to the coalition Government without any written agreement or pact. When Sampanthan was asked by the former President Chandrika Kumaratunga as to why he did not insist on a written agreement, TNA leader frankly admitted the earlier betrayals written agreements and pacts. It is an interesting question to ask Sampanthan whether an oral or mutual understanding or consensus is stronger than written ones or whether he knew the fate of this oral understanding to suffer the same death.
It is thus becoming a relevant matter to query Sampanthan as to why he should go on continuing his meaningless support when the net result would be disappointing with deceiving outcome.
If one looks at the track record of TNA from 2015 to as the representative of Tamils and donning the role of the official opposition party, the performance of the TNA is surely souring and hurting the dignity of self-esteem and self-respect of the Tamils.
After more than two years, and with various promises made by the President Maithiri and Prime Minister Ranil, the Tamils are still faced with hordes of problems following the war which ended in 2009.
The release of all political prisoners as promised is yet to be fulfilled and TNA also seems to have left it high and dry as it is.
The release of lands occupied by the security forces in the North and East is another promised matter which is still hanging in balance and there is no likelihood it will ever happen as demanded by the Tamil leaders and TNA.
In Jaffna district, a total of 4800 acres [4200 acres belonging to civilians] is still in the hands of Army while in Kilinochi district a Total of 1600 acres of lands is occupied by the Army.
The Army Commander as well as the President has already declared their stand by confirming that there would be no reduction on Army personnel or release of private lands occupied by the security forces After the defeat of LTTE in 2009, there is no justification to hold on to these lands as there are no signs of any militancy to pose threat to the state or security forces.
TNA’s achievements during this period of ‘Good Governance’ reflect a sorry state of affairs marked with contradictions, inconsistencies, wavering and lack of courage and determination.
Besides the failures to release the political prisoners and seized lands, there are also failings of TNA on many other issues.
TNA leadership failed miserably to identify and join with the peaceful and voluntary protest campaigns of the traumatised people who are searching for the disappeared, while crying for information as to whether they are alive or dead, so as to end their continuing and agonising suspense.
It is to be noted that TNA leaders however marked their attendance as visitors, while the protesters are left along to continue the protest campaign without any official undertakings to investigate same and reveal the truth and statistics of those disappeared. In this respect, TNA leadership has neither cared to compile the details of those missing nor demanded quick answers to the questions of how, when, where and by whom the estimated 146,679 missing persons met their fate, a figure compiled by Mannar Bishop Rayappu Joseph
TNA’s wavering stand on war crimes investigation and international mechanism started with a bang and has now ended with a whimper with no prospect of international mechanism or a credible international mechanism accepted by TNA. By co-operating with the Government and supporting the extension of two year period to implement the UNHRC’s Resolution 30 of October 2015, TNA has effectively became a complicit party to the slow death of this resolution in the years to come as indicated by the past and present foreign ministers.
By not opposing the GST+ concession which was subject to 58 conditions mainly dealing with human rights, and ratification of various UN Conventions, TNA has committed another betrayal causes of Tamils by sending TNA Member Sritharan to Brussels, Belgium along with the Governments delegation casts doubts on the role played by TNA in Geneva during the GSP+ discussions with the European Union, which fell for empty promises.
Sampanthan’s failure to observe or participate in the annual Mullivakkal Memmorial Day on a regular basis speaks of his level of sincerity and grief to the fallen youths & civilians which is not the quality of a leader of the Tamils. His belated and afterthought wily-nilly secondary participation this year while shielding behind Wigneswaran failed to impress those present while some created embarrassment for Sampanthan with question which broke the solemn purpose of the occasion.
TNA’s markedly grave failure is their deafening silence over the agenda of Buddhisisation going on before its eyes and ears. The proliferation of Buddha statutes and building of Viharas in Tamil Areas where there are hardly any Buddhists is going on at a hectic space in the North & East. TNA’s inexcusable silence is nothing but a consent to this cultural genocide tantamounting to justification of this pernicious agenda which was set in motion since independence. As Martin Luther King remarked “We shall have to repent in this generation not so much for the evil deeds of the wicked but of the silence of the good people”.
TNA as the official opposition party has also buried its constitutional role as an efficient opposition party to engage in constructive criticism which is an unwritten rule in a Parliamentary system of Government. TNA is also wholeheartedly supporting the government for most of its legislation and action while making some noise of opposition to some issues like counter terrorism legislation which has been contemptuously ignored in Parliament and Committee discussions. Its blind support to the budget of the Government is surely a betrayal of the Tamil’s causes when the Government is blessed by TNA to strengthen the Army’s hold on Tamil areas with a massive and defence expenditure. This failure of its role as an opposition party has even drawn the criticism of Sinhalese voters and parties who legitimately feel their dissenting voices being ignored and not taken care of. With no signs of any internal revolt against the government, the massive defence expenditure is only to tighten the strangle hold on Tamils.
TNA’s stand on the new constitution is still shrouded in inexplicable secrecy and mystery. TNA which was all for a Tamil Eelam until 2009 dropped this demand in 2010 and opted for a federal system or a regional self-rule. The Election manifesto of TNA is specific on this demand.
It is learnt that TNA has even dropped this federal demand and is now calling for provincial autonomy under a unitary system which in effect means autonomy hanging on the dictates of a central Government. This is the biggest let down for the Tamils whose sacrifices are nil valued by TNA.
In the face of the ultimate goal of Sri Lankan Governments to make Sri Lanka a Sinhala-Buddhist state, by giving up its fight for a federal system or a self-rule based on the right to exercise self-determination to preserve the Tamil nation, TNA has inflicted a mortal wound to the legitimate aspirations of Tamils. Undoubtedly history will record this betrayal as one which endorsed the disappearance of Tamils as a race and nation in Sri Lanka with its ancient history, culture and language. In addition, it will be an infliction of injustice to the thousands of youths who sacrificed their lives and limbs to the cause of Tamils besides the billions of worth properties destroyed during the genocidal war.
Another persistent ill afflicting TNA is the lack of unity and union of minds on the crucial issues facing the Tamils. This disunity is sapping the strength and effectiveness of all Tamils’ demands locally and internationally. It appears that TNA leaders are bent on promoting self-image and glory while falling to the old age tactics and trap of divide and rule policy’ of Government.
TNA instead of drifting like a rudderless boat must set out its agenda of action for the Tamils towards the Government and launch fitting and timely campaigns to promote and pursue it locally and abroad. TNA’s muted silence and absenting from expressing its protest vehemently and vociferously is disturbing and causing suspicion as to where the loyalty of TNA lies, to the Tamil people or to the Government.
To be continued …