Wigneswaran Faces Diplomatic Pressure On TPC
by Easwaran Rutnam
Northern Province Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran is facing diplomatic pressure as he pushes ahead with the newly formed Tamil People’s Council (TPC) which consists of Tamil politicians taking a more hardline position on the Tamil issue than the Tamil National Alliance (TNA).
Diplomatic sources told The Sunday Leader that the diplomatic corps in Sri Lanka is not very happy with the TPC and the position it is taking on the Tamil issue.
Some diplomats are expected to meet Wigneswaran over the next few weeks in an attempt to urge him to back the current efforts of the new government to address the concerns of the Tamils.
Among those scheduled to meet Wigneswaran is British Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Hugo Swire.
Sources told The Sunday Leader that Swire will this week have talks with the TNA and then head to Jaffna for talks with Wigneswaran.
Swire is expected to convey to Wigneswaran concerns of the UK Government on the TPC and the threat of it taking an extreme line on issues in the North.
The United States and Britain are fairly satisfied with the efforts of the new government on the Tamil issue and prefer the TNA taking the lead role in discussing any concerns or shortcomings with the government since the TNA takes a moderate view on the issue.
“The diplomatic corps in Colombo would not like to see the smooth way things are now proceeding being scuttled by the TPC,” a diplomatic source told The Sunday Leader.
The TPC consists of Tamil politicians and civil society members and was formed as a non-political organisation to put forward solutions to the issues faced by the Tamils.
Among the politicians in the TPC are TNA members Suresh Premachandran and Dharmalingham Sidharthan and Tamil National People’s Front leader Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam.
The TPC has already begun drafting proposals for a political solution to the Tamil issue and had sought the assistance of former Sri Lankan Attorney General and constitutional expert, Shiva Pasupathy.
However, the New Indian Express had reported last week that Pasupathy had rejected outright Wigneswaran’s invitation to join the TPC as his personal representative on the sub-committee on constitutional reform.
Australia-based Pasupathy, who had gone to Jaffna on a private visit, was contacted by Wigneswaran over the phone and requested to be his representative on the sub-committee.
But Pasupathy told him bluntly that he did not think that forming a separate outfit like the TPC was “appropriate” at a time when serious attempts were being made to find a solution to the Tamil question within Sri Lanka and Tamil unity was the need of the hour. Wigneswaran doggedly persisted, but Pasupathy was unyielding. Finally, Wigneswaran hung up in a huff, the New Indian Express quoted sources as saying.
Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) Secretary General V Anandasangaree meanwhile said he was ready to give his full support to the Tamil People’s Council if it converts into a political party.
Anandasangaree says that after realising the urgent situation he got himself engaged in organising a new alliance under the leadership of the Chief Minister of the Northern Provincial Council and offered him his chairmanship of the TULF.
“In the most decent way the Chief Minister expressed the view that this matter can be considered later after all parties get united. I am repeatedly stressing this due to the disturbing developments taking place in the country and that I could not find any other way to deal with it other than forming a new alliance. I have many reasons for thinking so,” Anandasangaree said.
He says, eventually, without any notice, a few persons had got together to form the Tamil People’s Council by co-ordinating with Wigneswaran.
“I didn’t bother much about it because it is the urgent need at this time,” he said.
Anandasangaree says if the intended alliance led by Wigneswaran had turned out to be a new political party he would have welcomed it as an ideal achievement.
“But even today a satisfactory situation did not develop. An opportunity is given to various people to say that the new organisation will work in coordination with the TNA. Some say that it will not oppose it but will only function in support of it. Such statements appearing in various media has caused a lot of confusion in the minds of the common people. If this is true it will not only prove useless and will not give any benefit but only prevent anyone from finding alternate means,” he said.
Anandasangaree also noted that the Tamil People’s Council has said it will frame a good constitution for Sri Lanka. But he says it is doubtful whether it will be acceptable to the Government.
“In the past various proposals had been placed before the Constitutional Councils many times. Most of them had been rejected by the respective councils,” he said.
Wigneswaran’s TPC has been able to gather the support of Tamils in the North who are seeking immediate solutions to their issues.
Families of Tamil political prisoners yet to be freed had met him last week and urged him to assist them to secure the release of the prisoners.
Wigneswaran had in October written to the President and proposed that all detainees suspected to come under the provisions of the Prevention of Terrorism Act, but against whom no cases have so far been filed, be released on adequate bail.
He also urged the President to give urgent directions to the Attorney General’s Department and the police to file indictments within a specified period of time. He said that given that several years have already passed it would be reasonable to suggest a short period such as one or two months to file indictments.
A few were subsequently released but others still remain in custody. The issue had over the past few weeks threatened to create a deep rift between the TNA and the government.
However, with the TNA openly welcoming the moves taken by the government on the release of land held by the military the political prisoner issue seemed to take a back seat giving the TPC the chance to take-up the issue and gain publicity.