Parliamentary Group Leader
R. Sampanthan speaking to the media
t explain the stance taken by his group on
the President's invitation for discussion
By Arthur Wamanan
Tamil National Alliance (TNA) has missed a golden
opportunity to convey the grievances of the Tamils
directly to President Mahinda Rajapakse by turning down
his invitation for discussions.
conflicting statements issued by a TNA parliamentarian
on the IDPs has also led to speculation that the party
is suffering from severe internal problems.
TNA was in the headlines last week following remarks
made by MP, Subramaniam Nahotharalingam, praising the
government on the steps it has taken to look after the
IDPs in Vavuniya, created ripples within Tamil circles.
remarks triggered reports that there was a split within
the party. However, the party maintains that it remains
united and that no one in its ranks is about to form an
alliance with the government.
Nahotharalingam had reportedly praised the government's
efforts to look after the IDPs who had fled LTTE
controlled areas, while the rest of the party has been
staunchly critical of the government's handling of the
However in a statement to the BBC's Tamil Service,
Thamil Oosai, Nahotharalingam has denied that he ever
made a statement praising the government for its way of
handling the IDPs fleeing the LTTE controlled areas.
future of the TNA however seems to be in serious doubt
following recent developments on both political and
military fronts. The imminent defeat facing the LTTE on
the warfront and the TMVP's dominance in the east have
raised serious questions as to whether any TNA MPs stand
a chance of getting re-elected to parliament. At present
the TNA remains the party with the largest number of
Tamil representatives in parliament.
Parliamentary Group Leader R. Sampanthan last Thursday
told the media that they would not meet the President
until the government addresses the humanitarian issues
in the north. Interestingly, Nahotharalingam was also
present at the press briefing along with several other
absence of party heavyweights such as Suresh
Premachandran and M.K. Shivajilingam and several others
was also noticeable.
party's woes began three years ago when the TMVP urged
TNA MPs in the eastto leave the province as they had
'lost the support of the people.'
TMVP, which was led by Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan at
the time, said that the party had done nothing for the
people during the war in the east.
Failed to protect
the party faces the same accusation. This time around,
ordinary Tamil people have begun to feel that the party
has failed to protect the civilians in the north.
response to the President's invitation, the TNA put
forward a condition that the government should stop its
military operations in the north for the party to hold
any sort of discussions with the government. This demand
however is ridiculously far fetched, given that analysts
from every section of the political spectrum agree that
the war is almost over.
TNA however stubbornly refuses to believe that the war
is about to end and that the LTTE is fighting its last
battle. It seems likely that an accusing finger will be
pointed at the party at some point for refusing the
President's invitation. Ultimately the party would have
had significantly more influence had it chosen to meet
TNA and the whole of Tamil Nadu have been calling for
the cessation of hostilities for the past five months
with no results.
process some of the TNA parliamentarians have gone to
India and other parts of the world and have not
returned. Almost half of the TNA MPs are out of the
country at present and those who are here do not make
their presence felt.
will be interesting to see what the next step of the
party will be. Is it going to continue to repeat the
same request while the war is in its last phase?
activities of the TNA have been minimal in the recent
past. The party has been depending on Tamil Nadu to
intervene decisively in favour of Sri Lankan Tamils but
with the failure of Tamil Nadu's politicians to unite on
the Sri Lankan Tamil issue the TNA is now back at square
government has repeated thatthe LTTE must lay down its
arms before coming for a dialogue. The LTTE however has
refused to do so, but has agreed to negotiations sans
conditions. With this deadlock, the only other option
for the President was the TNA.
other hand, humanitarian organisations continue to
express grave concerns over the deteriorating
humanitarian situation in the LTTE controlled areas. The
TNA's decision to refrain from meeting the President
will not halt the hostilities in the Wanni. The war will
continue till it is over in a military sense with more
civilian casualties expected as the fighting
time is ripe for Tamil parties, especially the TNA to
act on behalf of the ordinary Tamil people they claim to
represent. There is no point in waiting for intervention
from Tamil Nadu or other parts of the globe and it is
high time that the TNA itself plays a more active role
and initiates steps to win the confidence of the Tamil