By S. Sivathasan –
The unconquered will of the Tamils yet remains unconquerable. This genetic trait is conspicuously displayed. Trials and tribulations for thirty continuous years have not killed their spirit of defiance. Nor have they impaired their quest for freedom. Till they quench their thirst, the world will see the pursuit of this ideal. Freedom is my birthright and I shall have it, is sure to become the credo of every Tamil. If the spirit is understood and rights are conceded, the call will not become strident.
Chief Minister Elect
Justice Wigneswaran was well known for uprightness. In his judicial career he was unswerving in fair play. For him a life of religion was to be the consummation of his existence. In this ambition he was thwarted and with sensitivity he has responded to the people’s call. They too in equal measure have endorsed his decision unreservedly. The nation’s polity has expressed its desire of rising expectations. It is precisely this wish that will make his approach to administration most formidable.
There is a compulsion not only to take the tone and tenor of administration to top notch, but to deliver. Shibboleths like those at other places cannot be satisfying. Results have to be concrete, tangible and quantifiable in monetary terms. Two conditions have to be immediately met. (1) Seed funds by way of a one-off grant from the government for 2014 to be negotiated for and secured by October this year itself. (2) Assembling a compact coterie of high caliber administrators – serving and retired – with an acknowledged reputation for delivering results. As important would be their astute understanding of the nuances of inter- personal relations with those who matter in Colombo.
I have worked and interacted with the late Saumiamoorthy Thondaman sufficiently long to perceive the fundamental of his success. It was intense preparation. Never taking up an issue at high level discussions without thorough study and reflection. He will even seek to anticipate likely lines of cross examination and be sufficiently armed with cogent replies. I have been privy to a lament of his. “The TULF had excellent speakers, but were very poor negotiators”. Extensive study and analysis by those at the commanding heights of advising the Chief Minister will be crucial to securing Presidential and governmental support.
Ever since his nomination, Justice Wigneswaran has demonstrated that he had a mind of his own. It implied that there can be no dichotomy between thought and word, no compromise between truth and expediency or populism. When words spring from the depths of truth and when they are openly expressed some feathers are ruffled. Showing a little bit of unfamiliar terrain is indeed a step towards plumbing new ground. He has done this.
The CM Elect is conscious of his obligation to deliver in response to the huge trust placed upon him. He has grown up in an ethos where truth was valued. He has to live by what Bharathy said – “If there be the light of truth in one’s heart, it will illumine one’s words”. Valluvar said “Never belie your conscience”. Hence concern about people’s needs, makes it incumbent to eschew confrontation and to embrace a pragmatic course of moving together. Here again it is never implied that non-negotiables can be traded off in the name of smooth relations. What are they? Installation of a civilian Governor, whittling down of army presence and the total eradication of the para-military. A firm commitment from the Central Government is needed for the Provincial Government to get started. Election result reinforces this demand.
The calibre of the candidate for the office of CM has come out in bold relief in the last two months. His sensitivity to people’s needs and aspirations stand established with his speeches and interviews. Clarity of mind of the CM Elect has become still more explicit. Nailed to the counter are the darts of detractors and the doubts of skeptics. Preference volume bears sound testimony.
It appears that he is seeking to build a strong relationship with Tamil Nadu, while developing a rapport with the emergent new generation leadership. This does not imply excluding the wielder of state power in TN as of now. Hence the announcement of discussions with the CM. It is also evident that his message to the diaspora is to welcome their ideas even as he expects of them to respect policies that are indigenously evolved. In the wake of victory, he has already announced that he has opted for the path of cooperation with the government. He has also clearly mentioned that this does not mean becoming a part of the government.
There is now an immediate and empathetic response from the government side of its willingness to collaborate.
Basil Rajapkse Minister Of Economic Development
Basil Rajapakse, too close to the President, weighty enough in the government and with hands on the national purse, is an authoritative spokesman. He has outlined seven areas for cooperation and has made policy pronouncements.
1) Important responsibilities will be entrusted to the Tamil National Alliance (TNA).
2) TNA is obliged to pursue the projects already initiated and under implementation.
3) People’s mandate should be honoured by the TNA.
4) We are prepared to collaborate with TNA.
5) The area of development endeavor is particularly identified.
6) Youth development should be ensured by TNA.
7) National interest and sovereignty should be safeguarded by TNA.
An excellent beginning point, measured by any standard. Hand genuinely stretched by the CM Elect and clasped by the Minister with matching sincerity. Whatever the length of the journey, the first step is vital. It is now necessary for the Minister to buttress his words with: 1) Adequate finances and cash flow for the next three months 2) Finances for projects in the pipeline for this year 3) Finances in Printed Estimates 2014,for New Works already identified.
Above all is the one off grant in a very large sum for 2014.
Placement of trust on the current leadership of the Tamils by 80 percent of the constituency, is unprecedented. It is fulsome endorsement of Mr. Sampanthan’s adroit leadership particularly after May 2009. A community prostrate then, sees promise now. Confidence among the people was inspired by a rare show of unity within the country. The diaspora too showed its solidarity with a measure of pragmatism. These did not develop on their own. They were built assiduously, for the greater good of everybody in the country. The labours of the leadership together with the personality of the CM candidate secured this electoral victory. What is very much needed is never to rearrange priorities between the front burner and the back burner at least for now. As much important is not to create misgivings, when the need is to assuage them. Fundamentals certainly require to be inscribed on stone. When the primacy of the resident leadership is accepted, as is happening now, a new dawn can be expected.
“For Brutus, at least, Caesar’s death is more powerful that his life…” So it is with Sasitharan, more powerful in death. With a clear endorsement by no less than 87,000 Tamils, Anandhi has emerged as a heroic lady like Kannagi, in Silappadikaaram, but with a difference. The latter burnt the city of Madurai to avenge the death of her husband Kovalan, wrongly executed by the King. When the miscarriage of justice was established by Kannagi, the righteous king died instantly. The same instant the virtuous Queen too died. The poet Ilango says, “like searching for her husband’s life with her own, following his”. The poet’s lines are similar to Shakespeare’s about Julius Caesar – “Mark how the blood of Caesar follow’d it, As rushing out of doors, to be resolved, If Brutus so unkindly knock’d, or no”.
While Kannagi burnt a city, Anandhi came through the baptism of fire. People’s vote is in memory of her husband. No legislation can erase gratitude for sacrifices made for a community’s cause. Elections have brought this out very forcefully.
A very decisive mandate has been given to the TNA and the CM candidate. It speaks with one mind in no unmistakable terms of what the people want. While submerged neck deep, only the head is above. Yet it has the two biggest afflictions. Military governor as a severe tooth ache and army occupation as the severest headache. These two demand an immediate cure for the CM and the Council to set about their business. The mood of the Province is such and nobody who received that verdict can neglect it.
Yogar Swami of Columbuthurai, gave this advice when his blessing was sought around 1960, for the launch of a paper ELANAADU. “They will revile you, beat you and will burn you, remain steadfast and come out unscathed”. This happened literally in 1981. The election was similar and the people have scored a remarkable victory.
Election monitoring particularly in the North this time was very real and serious. The local organisations took their work earnestly inhibiting state agencies like military, the Police and para military from doing evil at will as in earlier times. The political leadership of the TNA too braved all danger and braced up to the challenge. But for their services percentage polled would have been much less.
Goh Chok Tong, Prime Minister of Singapore in the nineties quoted a line from Thirukkural and exhorted composure from the people when there was financial turmoil. The Kural being “When confronted with trials, meet them with a smile; what follows will be something incomparable”. Tamils have weathered many a storm and have got tempered enough. Nothing can break their will. They showed it best at the elections. Hence Lee Kwan Yew’s perception that Tamils will have their freedom one day. If national unity is desired, then any intention of subduing the Tamils should be abandoned. It should be supplanted by a policy of rapproachment.
A grave frailty with our ethnic entity, inappropriate for any time and unacceptable as of now is distrust of everybody and especially towards those with an adversarial past. A wholesale remake in attitudes making for positive approaches can conduce to at least some forward movement. This is not a call for an overnight change of inscrutable minds into dense brains. All I urge is for Tamils to concede a little bit of good intentions when some worthwhile responses are conveyed to an offer of cooperation by the CM Elect. I allude to the readiness of Basil Rajapakse’s hand clasp.