Rajeewa Jayaweera, in Island, 12 November 2019 … “A message to Tamil voters in the North”
German ‘Iron Chancellor’ Otto von Bismarck between 1862 and 1890 effectively first ruled Prussia and then a unified Germany. He famously said, “Politics is the art of the possible, the attainable — the art of the next best.”
The five-party Tamil coalition TNA, Tamil Maakal Mootni (TMK) led by former Northern governor CV Vigneswaran and Eelam People’s Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF) fired a broadside recently. It consisted of 13 demands. They promised to rally the support of northern Tamil voters for any of the frontline Presidential candidates who agreed to make good their conditions.
Some of the critical conditions were; (a) acceptance of the political aspirations of the Tamil Nation. (b) recognition of the merged Northern and Eastern Provinces as the historical habitat and the traditional homelands of the Tamil Nation. (c.) acknowledgment of the sovereignty of the Tamil Nation, and (d) realization of the fact, the Tamil People under the provisions of International Law are entitled to the right of self-determination.
The three frontline presidential candidates responded swiftly. Candidates Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Anura Kumara Dissanayake rejected the conditions outright. Candidate Sajith Premadasa went as far as stating he “supports the devolution of power within a united Sri Lanka.” A member of his campaign team said, “There is nothing to discuss beyond that. We will not accept the 13 conditions put forward by the TNA.”
Tamil politicians failed to formulate and put forward conditions’, candidates could accept without causing a major political upheaval and a near-certain electoral defeat. Rather than a federal system of governance, a more acceptable demand would have been the full implementation of the 13th Amendment together with Land and Police powers. A full 10 years have passed since the end of the civil war, and it is time to devolve these two contentious subjects.
Similarly, the merger of the North and East is not practical and a political hot potato. A more realistic approach would have been a demand to merge the predominantly Tamil areas in the eastern province with the northern province. It would leave an eastern province reduced in size of the mainly Sinhala and Muslim areas. Many in the South would not object to such a move. Neither would the Sinhalese and Muslims in the east.
The ill-thought-out and shortsighted TNA conditions accidentally brought about a nearly unified response from the always divided Sinhalese politicians, something not seen in decades. It also led to the TNA politicians having to dump their 13 conditions and throw their full weight behind Candidate Sajith Premadasa for want of a better alternative.
A face-saving TNA statement issued after that contained some drivel. “Democracy opposed to Authoritarianism and Totalitarianism” was one justification. “Making a proper judgment of first two candidates based on their involvement in governance in the past” as another. It quite rightly referred to the “repeal of 17th Amendment and enactment of 18th Amendment manipulating the legislature for this purpose. “High-jacking of the functioning Government in October 2018” was mentioned.
Tamil voters in the North and elsewhere should take stock and give serious thought before exercising their franchise according to whims and fancies of TNA politicians.
A vital factor requires mention at this point. Both the TNA constituent parties and Tamil people have regained their right to be involved in politics and exercise their franchise without any hindrance since 2009 thanks to three individuals and the tri forces. The names of three individuals are Mahinda Rajapaksa, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, and Sarath Fonseka. That is no reason to vote for any of them on November 16 or after that. But the fact, never spoken of by TNA politicians, must be accepted.
The TNA leaders have no moral right to speak of democracy.
It was designated the main opposition party and occupied the position of Leader of Opposition from September 2015 to December 2018. TNA leader R Sampanthan, his deputy MA Sumanthiran and all other 14 TNA MPs did not utter a word against the government’s delaying of Local Government elections in the country for two years. The Northern Provincial Council, a vital instrument of power devolution to the provinces including the North, has not been functioning due to the absence of Provincial Council elections. The self-acclaimed ‘champions of democracy’ of the TNA, let alone agitating, has failed even to condemn the government for this undemocratic act.
Never before has the office of that Leader of Opposition been made an appendage to the government of the day. Democracy had been stood on its head by this group.
Speaking of hijacking a functioning government, the TNA was a party to the illegal act of vaporizing a sitting Prime Minister and his replacement with another on January 9, 2015. A grateful DUNFF government gifted the TNA with the status of the official opposition and its leader named Leader of Opposition. The TNA returned the favour by assisting in keeping in officer, a Prime Minister who did not command a majority in Parliament.
The Yahapalana government magnificently reproduced the Rajapaksa government repealing the 17th Amendment and enacting the 18th Amendment besides the manipulation of the legislature for this purpose when passing the 19th Amendment. Clauses objected to by the Supreme Court were deviously manipulated by the UNFGG group during the committee stage. Presidential powers were hijacked without endorsement in a referendum — all this, with the full support of the TNA.
Those who support such acts do not have the right to pontificate on democracy.
The group claims to represent the interests of the Tamil community in the country. TNA leaders, especially Sampanthan and Sumanthiran, never tire of kowtowing and genuflection to every western Tom, Dick, and Harry, huddled together mostly in their embassies. Tamil Nadu fishermen poaching in Sri Lanka’s northern waters has been a contentious issue. TNA has failed to take up the problem with the Indian Prime Minister during his visits to Sri Lanka nor with the Indian High Commissioner. By remaining silent, they have betrayed northern Tamil fishermen with no care for their livelihood.
None of the Tamil politicians seem to have read Bismarck’s tried and tested theory. When framing the 13 conditions, they completely ignored the fact, any candidate who accepted several of the contentious demands would be committing political hara-kiri. Acceptance of a federal system of governance and merger of the North and East would have resulted in the massive loss of votes in the Sinhala South.
One is not sure if the TNA decided to drop the 13 demands, as Bismarck’s theory finally dawned upon them. Or was it the Rs 300 million paid to each TNA MP for “development work” as stated by a senior minister last week.
The LTTE prevented many in the North from exercising their franchise in the 2005 Presidential elections. In 2010 and 2015, they voted as advised by TNA leaders and has nothing much to show for it. This time around, northerners should take matters to their own hands. They must think hard without being influenced by a group of self-serving political relics.
Let your conscience guide you in the use of your valuable franchise.