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The Administration’s Choices With TNA

By Harim Peiris

A strong, moderate and pragmatic TNA is the best antidote for a more extreme and alienated Tamil Diaspora

The Administration’s desire to host the a global event,  the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) suddenly forced the sdministration to heed and take note of international opinion and global standards, especially on ethnic minority and human rights.

Now the Indians, who had long been reduced to wringing their hands in despair at their diminishing leverage with their near abroad Colombo government, even as the Chinese moved in as the Sri Lankan Government’s ask-no-questions ally, infrastructure provider and commercial lender at exorbitant rates, suddenly saw an opening and with a considerable degree of diplomatic finesse, pulled off quite a few diplomatic coups. First they, made common cause with internal dissenters within the UPFA, such as the Muslim SLMC, the old left parties, the CP, the LSSP and the NSSP to ensure that the proposed 19th amendment to the constitution which sought to do away with the powers of the provincial councils was shelved. Before that they had in roles, complimentary to the Japanese, ensured that President Rajapaksa actually went ahead and held a credible election in the North, for the first ever post war Northern Provincial Council (NPC).

Prior to the NPC polls, the administration could play various political games, claiming that its regional allies like the EPDP were credible Tamil political interlocutors and that the governing UPFA’s own support in the North was reasonable, a plurality if not a majority. Well the electoral reality is a matter of record, TNA with almost 80% of the vote and the Rajapaksa administration’s UPFA, barely 18%. It really doesn’t get more lopsided than that, in favour of an opposition party ever. The TNA has a two third majority in the Northern Provincial Council and swore in the first opposition controlled provincial administration led by Chief Minister, Justice (rtd) C. V. Wigneswaran.

The choices before the sdministration

The sdministration faces a rather stark choice with regard to the TNA controlled Northern Provincial Council. The desired and preferred option would be, for the government to be generous and cooperative with the NPC and provide it with the space and facilitation required to address the effects of the war on the Northern civilians as the former principle theatre of the conflict.
This requires basically an attitude similar to that of the victorious allies in the Second World War, who had both the Marshal Plan for Europe and very generous political arrangements for the defeated Japanese including retaining their Emperor in whose name the war had been fought. Initial indications are that the administration is open to this possibility, once it gets over its own ideological hang-ups. The advantages of an effective TNA controlled provincial administration in the North are obvious.

1) A strong, moderate and pragmatic TNA is the best antidote for a more extreme and alienated Tamil Diaspora. The TNA and the Diaspora are not allies, the Diaspora is actually the opposition element in Tamil politics, opposed to the TNA for being too moderate and seeking to replace the TNA as the representatives and the voice of the Tamil people. The elements in the Diaspora that are supporting the TNA, such as the London based Global Tamil Forum (GTF) are essentially sections of the Diaspora who realized quite early on, that without a presence on the ground in Sri Lanka, their long term relevance, except for nuisance value and political pressure on their host governments, would be questionable.

2) An effective TNA political leadership in the North through the provincial council is also containment on more extreme political elements in the minor political parties of Tamil Nadu; the general TNA desire to be robustly Sri Lankan, on the fishing issue for instance, would provide an effective and credible counter to the more vociferous South Indian political elements. The TNA has to date stayed away from the politics of Tamil Nadu, sought no allies or sympathy regionally, strictly limiting their engagement in India to the Center.

3) The third and most compelling argument why the administration should facilitate the NPC is probably the most compelling internal argument for the regime. It was all promised in the Mahinda Chinthanya Way Forward, the 2010 manifesto of the Rajapaksa presidency. Way back in late 2009, as the war was ended, President Rajapaksa actually realized that he had the time and political space with his constituency to implement the existing constitutional provisions on devolutions contained in the 13th Amendment. That is why presidential candidate Rajapaksa promised it. It is also why this assurance was given to the Indian government as well. A successful NPC is ultimately a Mahinda Chinthanya promise and actually no concession at all but rather a delayed fulfilment of the President’s own electoral promises in his manifesto.

The choice before the TNA

The TNA also faces a new challenge, especially for its old hands and veteran operators, war horses of the likes of Mavai Senathirajaha and Suresh Premachandran. They have been around for a long time and for the first time in three decades of politics suddenly have the responsibility to govern.

The responsibilities of governance, challenges the exclusionary isolationism or the non engagement policies of more hard line Tamil politics. Though such policies are often seen as a safe political refuge by Tamil politicians wary of being taken for a ride by Sri Lankan governments, in reality hard line isolationism is more All Ceylon Tamil Congress (ACTC) than TNA, it is Gajen Ponnambalam rather than Sumanthiran.

Figure out what the Tamil people voted for, Gajen and the ACTC sits around in Jaffna, listening to an echo of their own voices, with no solution for the ills facing the people. In contrast almost 80% of the Northern people vote in the TNA led by Party leader Sambanthan, National Organizer Sumanthiran and Chief Minister Wigneswaran. The TNA has a senior team which now has the responsibility of using even the limited devolved powers at their disposal to address the effects of the conflict and the needs of the war affected people.

5 Comments for “The Administration’s Choices With TNA”

  1. Manuelpillai

    Time will tell, the difficulty encountered by the NPC and how they tackled them. If the Central Govt fails to help and encourage the Provincial Council in its endeavours to rule their hard-earned Provincial administration, they themselves will be blamed later by the world which is watching the situation.

  2. Ravi

    One thing the TNA controlled provincial govt should realise is that, the funds for development of North should come from Colombo, not from Mullivaikaal.

    Forget about GTF, TGTE, BTF or any other orgs with handful of people who can make some noises. They can make noise and be more nuisance to ordinary Tamils living abroad than to the foreign governments. They will die off once the North is up and start to stand on its two legs. These people have never done anything to the people of North. How can they? They don’t have the willingness. If they had the willingness, they could have asked the SL Government to allow them to help.
    They were the product of 60 odd years of confrontational politics.
    They are no use to the North or South of Sri Lanka.
    TNA’s northern “rulers” have to make up their mind now, what do the people of north want rather than the GTF, BTF & TGTEs want.

  3. Richard

    You want TNA to be moderate, but how about some moderation from the Sri Lankan government? How about Sri Lankans voting for a government for whom, bashing Tamils is not a natural way of winning elections as in the past?

  4. Sean

    The brothers ” GRIMM “

  5. gamarala

    The very first requirement is to establish law and order in the north.
    The police and army have scant regard for civilians and oppress all civilians’ lives and obstruct their livelihoods.
    The dead LTTE is ‘resurrected’ as an excuse for their continued presence.
    Tamils merely wish to be left alone to mind their own affairs,but this is denied.
    The governor who even activly campaigned during the election must be replaced by a civilion as his behaviour unlike all other provincial governors shows his bias against the peoples’ wishes.

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