By Malinda Seneviratne –
If the TNA’s manifesto with its not-so-subtle separatist posturing dismays those who believe that the TNA has to be part of any discussion on post-conflict resolution, the party’s Chief Ministerial candidate C.V. Wigneswaran must leave them in tears.
First, because his inconsistency plays into the hands of those who harbor apprehensions about the TNA’s political will with respect to reconciliation. He was, ab initio, a ‘problem’ for the hardliners in the TNA. He was a living contradiction of the discrimination gripe. He was ‘Colombo’, an eminent symbol of the city’s cosmopolitan brag.
He also walked into, precipitated and is a symbol of party disunity. The TNA’s constituent parties are not exactly ‘friendly’ to begin with, and Wigneswaran’s arrival, given his professional and public stature, has not exactly elicited cheer from the ‘lesser’ parties of the coalition. He may have been cheered by section of the Sinhala politic for snubbing Tamil Nadu politicians revered by Tamil politicians, but this has clearly irked his detractors within the TNA. Such division stumps the emergence of an authentic and united political voice that can articulate grievance and extract ‘solution’.
The second reason for dismay, clearly evident for example in the long lament of seasoned and well-informed commentator on Tamil politics, D.B.S. Jeyaraj where he refers to the how and why of Wigneswaran praising Prabhakaran. Jeyaraj details a pandering to hawkishness which many believe detracts from rather than further the cause of reconciliation.
While a landslide win for the TNA would save some blushes, at least to enable the hawks to claim it won an overwhelming mandate to be ‘Eelamish’, a result which shows even the most marginal of gains for the ruling party would draw many pooh-poohs from many quarters. Even a landslide win on a hardline platform promising the undeliverable will only harden counterpart hawks and ensure that the country as a whole remains at an impasse on the vexed issue of inter-communal harmony. The shameless resurrection of Tigerish rhetoric shows that lessons have not only not been learned, but are being deliberately ignored for petty political gain.
When someone of Wigneswaran’s stature and reputation begins to mimic someone like Suresh Premachandran it only indicates the poverty of Tamil politics, a poverty which forces party and candidate to pander to the most chauvinistic of sentiments.
While all this can be brushed aside as ‘part and parcel of electoral politics,’ Wigneswaran’s flip-flopping on Velupillai Prabhakaran must upset those who believed he had the credentials to ‘bridge’ the so-called ethnic divide and that he was a man who the Sinhalese (for example) would be willing to listen to. In politics, track record matters, but given the terrible blows to reconciliation dealt by the LTTE, no one who glorifies that terrorist organization can expect anything but derision by the majority community.
What is increasingly apparent is that Wigneswaran is just another Siva Pasupathy or worse, a closet Tiger. That’s nothing new to those who distrust the TNA and have not forgotten that party’s shameless genuflection before terrorism and terrorists. More disturbing to those who championed Wigneswaran or believed that the TNA was a credible outfit to discuss anything with, is Wigneswaran’s turn-around with respect to the LTTE and in particular its ruthless leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran.
Wigneswaran stated in Prabhakaran’s home town, Velvettithurai, that the terrorist was ‘a great hero’ and one ‘who fought for the freedom of the Tamil people’. Wigneswaran cannot pretend to be unaware of the horrors unleashed on the Tamil people in the name of liberation. There were no caveats, no subtlety and no apology in his words. He effectively downgraded himself to the level of Daya Master at the time the LTTE was a politico-military factor.
Snubbing the likes of Jayalalithaa and Karunanidhi is one thing, but thumbing nose at the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay is certainly not going to draw any cheers. Pillay, a mass of contradiction herself and afflicted with partial myopia to boot, nevertheless stated, ‘those in the diaspora who continue to revere the memory of the LTTE must recognize that there should be no place for the glorification of such a ruthless organization’.
Perhaps Wigneswaran took refuge in the ‘Diaspora Clause’ and believes he will be spared a knuckle-rap, but he has clearly embarrassed the lady, who many in the ‘cause’ see as ally. The next time she talks about reconciliation, negotiation and such, she could be asked, ‘with whom?’ She won’t be able to say ‘TNA’ because her statement could be thrown in her face, viz, ‘you mean with people who glorify a ruthless organization, who, in your book, “should have no place”?’
Indeed, given her special interest in Sri Lankan affairs, Pillay may want to say something about or to Wigneswaran. As for Sri Lankans sick and tired of communalism and chauvinism, it would be hard for them to see Wigneswaran as anything but ‘obstacle’ and read whatever he says as ‘stuff out of Prabhakaran’s old hat’.
C.V. Wigneswaran has bid adieu not just to the institutions of justice, but decency, civilization, reconciliation and potential statesmanship. The Tamil community is poorer. Sri Lanka as a whole is poorer.
*Malinda Seneviratne is the Chief Editor of ‘The Nation’ and his articles can be found at www.malindawords.blogspot.com