The Sunday Leader

Diaspora Factor And Northern Polls

By Easwaran Rutnam

British Minister Alistair Burt, his wife and Suren Surendiran at the annual dinner and reception of the British Tamil Conservatives (BTC) in London last Sunday.

The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) faced not one but two situations last week where there was much discord within the party on selecting suitable candidates ahead of the Northern Provincial Council elections.

Initially the debate was if former Supreme Court Judge C. V. Wigneswaran or TNA General Secretary Mavai Senathirajah is the most suitable candidate for the Chief Minister post.
Once that was settled and as they say “the rest is now history” emerged a new problem, who the remaining candidates will be at the polls for the TNA.

A second meeting held last Thursday by the TNA to select the suitable candidates to contest the Northern Provincial Council elections ended with a decision not being reached.

The meeting, which took place at the Jaffna office of the TNA and was attended by Senathirajah, TNA MP Suresh Premachandran and other TNA members, lasted for some three hours.

However a consensus was not reached among the five coalition members of the TNA on the candidates and another meeting was scheduled for Friday.

The main difference of opinion, according to TNA sources, arose over the allocation of the number of candidates for each coalition party in each district.

Meanwhile Wigneswaran denied reports that the TNA had selected him as the Chief Ministerial candidate on the wishes of India.

His appointment received the blessings of the Tamil Diaspora, with the Global Tamil Forum, a powerful Tamil lobby in Britain telling The Sunday Leader that his appointment will match the requirements of the current political circumstances.

GTF spokesperson Suren Surendiran said that the TNA as a political alliance, has demonstrated through various democratic processes over the past several years under impossible circumstances that they are the trusted leadership of the Tamil people in the island of Sri Lanka, at present. He said that their democratic credentials will be re-validated by these elections yet again as long as the elections are held as free and fair elections with independent international monitors.

“The people in the north will vote overwhelmingly to the TNA to prove that they reject all others who may claim to represent our people at these elections. Through this vote they will also demonstrate that investment in infrastructure development on its own will not satisfy the Tamils’ thirst for justice, equality, peace and freedom. This will also prove to the twisted minds that no amount of military intimidation through occupation will suppress our people’s demand for self determination,” he said.

Suren Surendiran said that the appointment of a former Supreme Court Judge Wigneswaran by the TNA as their Chief Minister candidate satisfies the needs of the day of that all important job.

“With his legal mind, his expertise of the constitutional and legal processes, his ability to articulate issues in a logical form that anyone can understand, his command of languages and the leadership qualities combined with the ability to mobilise people and be the soul of the grassroots of the Tamil polity by the remaining leadership within the TNA couldn’t have been any better to match the requirements of the current political circumstances.

I will do injustice to the rest of the talent and capability that remains within the community yet to be acknowledged and recognised as they are disengaged in this process as they believe the entire process and the system is a farce,” he said.

The elections for the Northern Provincial Council will take place amidst concerns over the environment in the North.

The occupation of civilian land in Jaffna by the military and acquisition of land by the government under the land acquisition act is a worrying factor for the northern Tamils.
According to some sources nearly 2,000 people have sought legal assistance to reclaim their land in the north.

The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) has also decided to assist some 300 families get back their land through court.

Hence Tamil political parties feel the best way to resolve this issue is by allowing the provincial administration to have power on land matters in their respective areas. And that calls for the implementation of the 13th Amendment to the constitution.

However the GTF believes that the 13th Amendment cannot be an interim or a final political solution to the Tamil National Question.

“The fact that an election for a recognised constitutional body in the Sri Lankan Constitution has to be fought for by the Tamils and the government of the day has to be forced to agree to conduct such an election by the international community through at least two resolutions at the UNHRC in two consecutive years and through a bit of arm twisting by the very powerful neighbour, proves that President Rajapaksa and his government has no genuine political will whatsoever to resolve the Tamil National Question in a meaningful, respectable and acceptable way,” Surendiran said.

He said that until May 2009, the world was willing to believe that if only the LTTE wasn’t in the scene, there can be a political solution that will satisfy all communities in Sri Lanka. However he says even the most respectful and powerful Buddhist religious leaders who were not at all concerned about the 13th amendment to the constitution that has been in effect for many years and practiced at different levels in the rest of the country, have now demanded that the provincial councils be abolished.

“One wonders why the most respectful Mahanayakes didn’t complain when the same had been in practice in the Sinhala majority areas of the country for over a decade but when the Tamil majority areas have to be given equal rights, they have to object? To avoid confusion, let me go on record to acknowledge that the GTF believes that the 13th Amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution cannot be an interim or a final political solution to the Tamil National Question.

Therefore, the GTF are very grateful to the Indian Government, the Tamil Nadu Legislature, its Chief Minister and Opposition Party Leaders for their stand that an equitable long term political solution has to be found,” Surendiran said.

The National Peace Council says one of the main failures of the government is its failure to make any progress towards implementing the 13th Amendment structures to resolve the ethnic issue or propose an alternative political solution even four years after the end of the war.

The President promised to go to 13th Amendment plus whereas the dominant thinking in the government now is to do away with the Provincial Councils or at least remove the powers already provided for. The present political environment is one of growing political polarization that is dividing the country in heart and mind, even while its territory has been unified.

The National Peace Council says if the government is serious about getting the opposition parties to participate in the Parliament Select Committee (PSC) appointed to look at making changes to the 13th Amendment, it is necessary that it should convince them that the debacle that occurred at the last PSC that investigated the former Chief Justice would not recur.

“If the government is serious about getting the opposition parties to join the PSC it needs to assure them that their views will be considered, that they will not be bulldozed through the system of majority voting, and instead that decisions will be taken on the basis of consensus including the agreement of the TNA,” the National Peace Council said. The National Peace Council believes that the PSC process is heading to re-kindle the political causes of the ethnic conflict in the country in which a permanent Sinhalese majority in Parliament imposed its unilateral will on the ethnic minorities depriving them of any say in the decision-making processes of the state.

“At the very least we call for the adoption of the principle of ‘sufficient consensus’ as articulated in the South African peace process in decision making regarding the political solution without using majority voting to impose decisions on the minority. In South Africa, decisions were not taken on the basis of a majority vote.  Rather they were taken on the basis that the main parties to the conflict agreed with the proposals that were on the table.

They came up with the useful concept of a ‘sufficient consensus’ which meant that the parties that really mattered had to agree.  In South Africa a practice developed in the constitution-making process of accepting ‘sufficient consensus,’ which meant the agreement of the two main political parties.  In Sri Lanka, this would certainly mean the ruling party and UNP, but also the TNA and SLMC as the two main parties representing the ethnic minorities.  The practice of ‘sufficient consensus,’ could lead to a meaningful political outcome that is sustainable and leads to national reconciliation,” the National Peace Council said.

An EU delegation which was in Sri Lanka last week headed by Jean Lambert, Chair of the European Parliament Delegation for Relations with the Countries of South Asia and the British Foreign office said they will be closely watching the developments during the lead up to the Northern polls. The developments will no doubts come, not just in the appointment of candidates to represent the political parties contesting the elections, but the actual pre election environment in the north.

1 Comment for “Diaspora Factor And Northern Polls”

  1. Dr.Wijebahu

    Can some one explain what the Tamil national problem is?. Is it megalomania of Tamils or lack of recognition for Tamils in India or Malaysia? Sri Lankan Tamils become Sri Lankans only when they becomes rich .Can some one stop this diaspora nationalism ?. Will they ever go back to Sri Lanka.?. They have no place in the hearts of Sri Lankan Tamil population. Do these nationalists give any support to the poor Sri Lankans living in north . I would like to challenge these diaspora fellows to go to Jaffna and say what they are preaching. They might not come back with their clothes or their iPads. They should do some thing constructive. Start a project for improving water supply, housing and health clinics as these facilities were damaged by the diaspora’s LTTE friends. Without providing jobs, food ,health and housing,there is no point of talking politics.

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