TNA, Wigneswaran Rift Deepens
by Easwaran Rutnam
The rift between the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and Northern Province Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran deepened last week after Wigneswaran refused to resign as chairman of the newly formed Tamil People’s Council (TPC).
TNA Northern Provincial Council members had urged Wigneswaran to step down as chairman of the TPC as there is a conflict of interest between the TPC and the TNA.
Some TNA Provincial Council reminded Wigneswaran that he came to power as a result of the TNA and so he must follow the line of the TNA.
However sources said Wigneswaran had refused to step down saying he did not see an acceptable reason to do so.
The TPC consists of Tamil National People’s Front General Secretary Gejendrakumar Ponnambalam who is a strong critic of the TNA.
Wigneswaran has continued to maintain that the TPC is not an alternative political party to the TNA but yet he has made public statements which TNA members say go against the policy of the TNA.
However in a move seen as an attempt to reiterate his backing to the TNA leadership, Wigneswaran, on Thursday, urged all TNA provincial council members to back TNA leader R. Sampanthan to push for devolution of powers to the provinces.
Wigneswaran told a meeting attended by TNA parliamentarians and TNA members of the Northern and Eastern Province that devolution can be achieved only through Sampanthan.
The Sunday Leader reported last week that Wigneswaran will face pressure to resign or a no-confidence motion will be brought against him at the Northern Provincial Council if he fails to tow the line of the TNA. TNA Northern Provincial Council (NPC) members were to meet Wigneswaran last Sunday for key talks after having similar talks earlier but that meeting was postponed indefinitely at the eleventh hour.
On Thursday Wigneswaran did not attend the morning session of the meeting between TNA parliamentarians and TNA Provincial Council members but later appeared for the evening session. Issues related to the TNA, the policy of the party, and a political solution were among the matters discussed at the meeting held in Kilinochchi. The proposed new constitution was also discussed at the daylong meeting.
At the meeting Wigneswaran reiterated his position that the current government cannot be trusted as a whole and accused the government of following some similar policies as of that followed by the previous regime. Wigneswran has been taking a critical line on the Maithripala Sirisena–Ranil Wickremesinghe led government while the TNA has looked at working with the government.
Wigneswaran had even recently slammed the government at the National Thai Pongal festival in Jaffna attended by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.
Speaking at the festival in Jaffna also attended by UK State Minister Hugo Swire, the Northern Chief Minister had said that while the Tamils in the North recognise the change following the elections last year, they still live in fear and suspicion. He slammed the presence of a large number of soldiers in the North, the failure to free more land held by the military and the failure to abolish the Prevention of Terrorism Act.
The Prime Minister later responded to the comments made by Wigneswaran saying the issues were being addressed in consultation with the Tamil National Alliance.
However no matter what Wigneswaran says, the Tamil diaspora have also made it clear they are behind the TNA and the new government.
The London based Global Tamil Forum and the Canada based Canadian Tamil Congress are among some of the leading Tamil diaspora groups who have agreed to work with the new government to address the issues of the Tamils in the North and East.At a dinner hosted by the Canadian Tamil Congress last weekend in Canada, Raj Thavaratnasingham, president of the CTC, said that while the CTC is not happy with the pace at which the changes are taking place in Sri Lanka, they appreciate the efforts being made to steer the country in the right direction.
He was also thankful to the Tamil National Alliance for their leadership in working towards achieving peace for the Tamil people.
The dinner was attended by several political leaders, elected officials and community leaders including Canadian Foreign Minister Stephane Dion, Premier of Ontario Kathleen Wynne, Toronto Mayor John Tory, Global Tamil Forum (GTF) president Fr. S.J. Emmanuel, GTF spokesperson Suren Surendiran, Canadian Ministers John McCallum, Dr. Jane Philpott, and Dr. Kirsty Duncan, members of the federal parliament, Ontario New Democratic party leader Andrea Howarth, Members of provincial parliament, Stouffville Mayor Justin Altman, York Region Police Chief Eric Jolliffe, professionals, members of law enforcement, media, business and community leaders.
Canadian Foreign Minister Stephane Dion brought a greetings message from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
At the event, a “Living Hero” award was presented to Sampanthan. The award recognises the work of heroic individuals for their selfless work in bettering the lives of others. The award is given to a person of Tamil origin who has demonstrated exemplary leadership, courage, empathy and services in challenging circumstances.
The award was presented by GTF president Fr. S.J. Emmanuel and CTC board director Suresh Muththiah. TNA spokesperson and Member of Parliament M. A. Sumanthiran accepted the award on behalf of Sampanthan.