Photo courtesy @PresRajapaksa

On Monday 7th October, the Tamil National Alliance, the only political party in the country to have comprehensively defeated the UPFA and captured power in the Northern Province, creating the first ever opposition controlled provincial council since the Peoples’ Alliance victory in the Southern Provincial Council in 1993, which also heralded the end of UNP rule an year later, politically reached out and magnanimously decided that it’s Chief Minister designate, retired Supreme Court Justice CV Wigneswaren should take his oath of office before President Mahinda Rajapakse at Temple Trees. In the ethnically polarized Sri Lankan society and polity, it was a very significant political gesture, magnanimity in victory and a unilateral concession to President Rajapakse by the TNA leadership, which the Rajapakse regime should be pressed to reciprocate.

Reaching out to President Rajapakse

The Rajapakse Administration in the post war period had not adequately addressed either the effects or the causes of the war. The only thing it has done has been reconstruction that focused solely on infrastructure with no focus on the victims of the conflict. Also the economic benefits of that infrastructure from fishing rights to tourism projects have been expropriated by the military or government cronies. Quite similar to the “carpet bagger” reconstruction, in the American South, following the Confederacy’s defeat in that country’s civil war. As far as a hearts and minds campaign goes, the election results indicate that a mere 17.5% of the Northern Province voted for the Government.

Further, the Rajapakse Administration tried rather ham handedly to weaken provincial powers further through the proposed 19th amendment, has been disinterested in implementing the LLRC recommendations and broke off the Indian initiated structured dialogue with the TNA. It is in this context, that the decision of the TNA to swear in before President Rajapakse should be viewed. It took the principled stand that it would not swear before the Governor, retired General Chandrasiri, who broke all norms for an appointed state official to campaign like a street activist on the UPFA public platforms in the North. The decent thing to have done following the results was to have resigned, nonetheless he is now on a tight leash with the TNA’s two third majority in the Council sufficient to pass a binding impeachment resolution on the Governor, if he seeks to frustrate and obstruct the democratic mandate of the Council. Following the impeachment of Chief Justice Bandaranaike, the bar for impeachment has been set quite low in Sri Lankan democracy.

Sambanthan shows true leadership and weakens the Diaspora

According to the 4th schedule to the Constitution, elected officials need only swear before a Justice of the Peace and the general TNA consensus was that its victorious Northern Provincial Council should swear in before their now undisputed political leader, Rajavarothiam Sambanthan. The election victory of the TNA, demonstrates the true difference between the Diaspora organizations, self appointed hardliners with a ludicrous nostalgia for the LTTE and the comparatively more moderate TNA, which with grass roots appeal and an engagement with the Sri Lankan State, secured the democratic mandate of the Tamil people of Sri Lanka. The center of gravity of the Tamil political leadership has indisputably consolidated comprehensively in the hands of the TNA leadership in Trincomalee and Colombo, namely Sambanthan and Sumanthiran and the popular pro government theory that the TNA is controlled by the Diaspora is disproved by the facts.

The pro government and Sinhala nationalist sections of the press, has been taking great delight in a narrative which went something like this. The TNA is weak and divided; it is only one among many Tamil political leadership voices, the Diaspora controls the TNA and eventually it will lose its political clout to government allies in the ruling alliance, such as the EPDP and the TMVP and become at best another CWC or an SLMC. Nothing like a dose of electoral reality to break a propaganda myth. The TNA captures nearly 80% of the popular vote in the entire Northern Province, secures a two third majority in that Council; it defeats the EPDP in even their pocket borough of the Kytes constituency and uses its two bonus seats to appoint a Muslim and women showing sensitivity to Muslim and gender issues. The so called divisions in the TNA are nothing more than normal electoral and alliance politics pales in comparison to the UPFA’s difficult choice for Chief Minister of the Central Province, ignoring a Prime Ministerial offspring who secured the highest preference vote, the Cabinet rebellion over the proposed 19th amendment, the ongoing political struggle in Anuradhapura between the supporters of the late Bertie Premlal and SM Ranjith, the complete contradictory positions on devolution between key UPFA constituents such as the JHU, NFF on the one hand and the CP, LSSP, NSSP and the Liberal Party on the other side.

In recent times, the TNA leader, Sambanthan has been exercising great political leadership, in pushing through far reaching and moderating political changes in Tamil politics, which has weakened the Diaspora and strengthened his moderate leadership. First he personally bucked the entire Tamil polity and single handedly persuaded and then steered the most eminent retired Tamil jurist in Sri Lanka to election as the first ever Chief Minister of the North. In victory, he made a major concession and political rapprochement with President Rajapakse by coming before the President to be sworn into office, to provide the most public and visible commitment to both an engagement with the Rajapakse regime and a united and undivided Sri Lanka.

The best bulwark and defense against an extremist Diaspora Tamil polity, is a strong and moderate Sri Lankan Tamil political leadership. In Sambanthan, Sumanthiran and Vigneswaren, Sri Lanka is beginning to get that. The Rajapakse regime must seize the opportunity and move forward towards rapprochement and reconciliation.

  • Calvin

    Spellings: Sampanthan and Wigneswaran.

  • Dev

    I hope that MR responds in kind but I fear that this response it partly due to CHOGM and UNHCR meet in March where Ps. Pillay has given a deadline.

  • Abimanasingham Sitthawatthai

    Unless the Si?hala
    nation rejects its imaginary and false doctrine: ‘?ryan’ – Si?hala – Si?halese
    – ‘Th?rav?da’ Buddhism – La?k? with one to one correspondence in words and deeds, political solution will not be possible!

  • srivanamoth

    Let’s go back in history of independent Ceylon/SL and what became of the B-C pact in 1956 era.It was torn up and then PM was assassinated by those who put him in power! It’s very early days after the election. There is absolutely no indication that governance mode has improved an iota. If at all it is still a dictatorship with elections, just as it was under Stalin,Hitler or Sadam Hussein! Time will tell.

  • Sparta

    The collaboration of Sambanthan/Vigneswaran/Sumanthitharan leadership of TNA with the Rajapaksa regime has politically strengthened the Rajapaksa regime significantly.

    Rajapaksa regime will now embark on the long overdue austerity measures campaign against the southerners with full brutal force. It is not a coincidence that the southern government authorized the establishment of two mega casinos in Colombo recently. The moral and political power for such decisions come directly from the collaborative politics. The extreme inequality in wealth distribution in the country as a whole will continue now at a rapid pace. The oppositional political forces in the south have the economic policies in their manifestos. Their backers who come from the roiling elite of the south will obviously be gaining from the austerity policies of the Rajapaksa regime. Their grievances will be limited to the share of the pie only.

    Watch out Sinhala people in the South !!!

  • Aia

    A good
    development about recent post-war Tamils’ politics is the trio- Sampanthan,
    Wigneswaran and Sumanthiran. Their emergence and being in control of TNA would add the essential ingredient, the moderation to TNA, which being labeled as the proxies of LTTE by the extremists in the South is much needed to it. Despite, there has been a criticism that all the three live outside of Jaffna and being questioned by their adversaries, are they fit to lead Tamils, the moves they made so far gives some hope for the debilitated minorities. Although these politicians engaging in a tit-for-tat confrontational politics can keep the hot-headed voters and the those Diaspora Tamils who benefitted and amassed wealth on the name of Tamil Eelam feel happy, it will not help resolve the main issue, rather push more and more moderate Sinhalese towards their extremists. We should recognize that reconciliation is a mutual process, and it can be progressed only through trust. The trio’s living side by side with Sinhalese is a positive factor in finding a solution for this vexed issue. Tamils would be better off, no sooner if they get rid of politicians who have had something to do with arms movements, whether be it Douglas, Karuna, Premachandran, Adaikalam, Sitharthan, Sivaji or even VP, if he still alive. They failed us badly, sooner they vanished from the political scene, much better for Tamils, and for Sri Lankan unity. Whilst, I respect all those youths who were pushed to take up the arms and sacrificed their lives to stand up for their rights and against discrimination, the need to have a talented team in our politicians is a must. In this regard, these three are the best given the opportune time we are in. We should give enough time and space for them, probably more time than the time we gave to Tamilselvan and Bala. To be honest, although army’s presence everywhere in the region, and check points that was removed while Navipilly was in SL still cause some uneasiness, the current situation has been much better, and definitely better than was under our so called liberators’ administration. Hope, the new Administration in North implements its mandate without fear or a favor, recognizing the most affected areas due to the war receive more attention, means some right decisions have to be taken despite being unpopular.

  • Lord Shiva

    Everyone is different in their mindset and there is no reconciliation without accountability!

    In a civilized world, can anyone agree or accept the terms of criminals?

    This means that the reconciliation will never take place under the Rajapakse regime.
    Since independence, the UNP and the SLFP ruled Sri Lanka from time to time and both failed The end result is sufferings, attack, destruction, state oppression, torture, rape and murder of the Tamils as the successive governments highjacked the rule of law, justice, use the law enforcement authorities for their chauvinistic purposes.
    Except the Congress under Indra Gandhi and Rajiv that supported the Tamils’ demands for human rights, freedom, equality, dignity, respect, rule of law, justice, the current UPA regime is sided with the oppressor.
    The good Sinhalese and Journalists are very small in number and they are silenced by the regime. Tamils salute the 35 Journalists who are disappeared at the hands of this regime and other Sinhalese who speak up for equality, rights, dignity, rule of law and justice!

    Tamils are more stronger than ever before globally. Tamil Nadu has become the hot spot for Tamil Nationalism, call for Eelam and hope that will end the Sinhala Buddhist Apartheid brutalities once and for all.

    If not when regime change takes place in India that cannot tolerate the Sinhala Apartheid, may pave the way for Phase II Tamil Tigers or the Indian forces in Tamils areas to protect the Tamils and their rights.