Trotskyite now leads the TULF
D. B. S. Jeyaraj
Anandasangaree is the new leader of the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF),
the largest moderate political party of the Sri Lankan Tamils. The
party’s highest decision making body — the Central Working Committee
— met on June 23 in Colombo and elected the 69 year old lawyer turned
politician unanimously as its president. Anandasangaree known generally
as Sangaree had been earlier functioning as the senior vice president of
the party since 1993.
He was also the
acting president of the TULF from September 1998 to December 2001 in the
absence of former party president Murugesu Sivasithamparam who was away
in India due to illness and returned only last December. After
Sivasithamparam’s demise, Anandasangaree became acting President again
on June 5 and held the post until being formally elected last Sunday.
Born in Point Pedro
in June 1933, Anandasangaree grew up in Atchuvely as his father was a
school principal at Sri Somaskanda College in neighbouring Puthur.
Sangaree himself studied at Sri Somaskanda, Christian College Atchuvely,
Hartley College, Point Pedro and also Zahira College, Colombo. Before
taking up law, Sangaree was a pedagogue teaching at Hindu College Jaffna,
Poonakari MMV, Kotelawela GTM School, Ratmalana and Christ King College
Ja-Ela. He passed out as a lawyer in 1967 and began practicing until
1983 when the TULF leaders refused to take oaths under the 6th amendment
to the constitution. He has not worn the black coat ever since.
Baptism of five
Like many political
leaders on both sides of the ethnic divide, Sangaree too began his
politics as an ardent Trotskyite. He was an active member of the Lanka
Sama Samaaja Party (LSSP) Youth League from 1955 to 1965. His first
experience in running for electoral office was in 1959 when he contested the Colombo
Municipal Council on the LSSP ticket. His opponent was none other than
the uncrowned king of Colombo municipal politics V. A. Sugathadasa who
was also mayor then. It was a baptimism of fire in Colombo for the 25
year old Jaffna youth.
The March 1960
elections saw the LSSP under Dr. N. M. Perera make a determined bid for
political power through electoral politics. The party contested 101
seats in all parts of the island and NM himself was projected as the
future prime minister of the country. NM asked Sangaree to contest the
newly carved rural constituency of Kilinochchi as a LSSP candidate.
Anandasangaree having no links to Kilinochchi was reluctant.
NM encouraged him to
plunge in saying that even if the ‘unknown’ Sangaree lost then he
would win the seat in 10 years time. NM’s
words in 1960 were prophetic and in 1970 Anandasangaree was
elected for the first time to parliament from Kilinochchi. Only he was
no longer a Trotskyite having embraced Tamil nationalism but, as a Tamil
Congress candidate. The LSSP however fared poorly winning only 10 seats.
contested the March 1960, July 1960 and March 1965 elections in
Kilinochchi under the key symbol of the LSSP. He got 1114, 2011 and 1804
votes respectively. He lost both times in 1960 to S. Sivasundaram and in
1965 to K. P. Ratnam who were of the Federal Party (FP). In 1966, the
LSSP now aligned with the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) adopted the
communal ‘Dudleyge bade masala vadai’ line and opposed the
reasonable use of Tamil as an official language in 1966. Sangaree like
many Tamil LSSP’ers quit the party.
He joined the All
Ceylon Tamil Congress (ACTC) led by G. G. Ponnambalam Snr. in May 1966.
Earlier, he contested and won the Kilinochchi town ward in the Karaichi
Village Council. He became its chairman from 1965 to 1968. In 1968, it
was elevated to Town Council status. Sangaree contested, won and became
the first Kilinochchi TC chairman. He functioned in that capacity till
the end of 1969.
January 1970 saw
Sangaree become Youth Front President of the Tamil Congress. In May
1970, he won Kilinochchi on the cycle
symbol of the ACTC and defeated Alalasundaram of the FP by 657 votes.
The ACTC got 9049 to the FP’s 8392. The seventies saw the main Tamil
parties sink their differences and forging unity.
The Tamil United
Front (TUF) was formed in May 1972. This became the TULF in May 1976.
This period saw Anandasangaree’s stock rising in Tamil politics. The
Tamil Congress had three MPs in 1970. They were Arulampalam of Nallur,
Thiyagarajah of Vaddukkoddai and Anandasangaree of Kilinochchi. Congress
stalwarts like G. G. Ponnambalam, M. Sivasithamparam, T. Sivasithamparam,
V. Kumaraswamy, N. Nadarajah, T. Sivagnanam, S. Sivanesan, etc. had
lost. It was left to the newly elected trio to don the mantle of
Refused to cross
Thiyagarajah opted to join the United Front government. Sangaree despite
his left leanings and respect for NM refused to cross-over and remained
in the ranks of the Tamil nationalists. His stature increased greatly
because of this. In 1977, the TULF swept the elections riding the crest
of a Tamil Eelam wave. Sangaree contested Kilinochchi again and polled
15,607 votes obtaining a majority of 11,601.
electorate of Kilinochchi was primarily agrarian and relatively
undeveloped. It was part of the Jaffna administrative district. Thus, a
Tamil farmer from the rural backwoods of Kilinochchi had to travel a
very long distance to attend to matters at the Jaffna kachcheri.
So, Sangaree began advocating the redemarcation of Kilinochchi as a
separate administrative district. This incurred the wrath of fellow TULF
MPs from Jaffna and Sangaree became quite unpopular. In 1983 in the
aftermath of the July violence the UNP government utilised the absence
of TULF MPs in parliament and created the Kilinochchi District.
The 1983 violence
saw the TULF out in the political wilderness. Sangaree like many other
TULF figures relocated to Madras but kept shuttling between India and
Sri Lanka. In 1989, the TULF re-entered the political mainstream.
Sangaree contested the Jaffna electoral district in 1989 and the Wanni
District in 1994 on behalf of the TULF and lost both.
Anandasangaree was the chief candidate on the TULF ticket again in
Jaffna. The TULF got three seats and Sangaree got the highest amount of
preferences. In 2001, the TULF contested as part of the TNA under the
party symbol of rising sun. Again Sangaree topped the list gaining over
Sangaree has served
in several capacities for the TULF, being its propaganda secretary from
1976 to 1983 and a politburo member from 1983 to 1993. He has attended
several international conferences as a parliamentarian in Britain,
Zambia, Austria, Norway and Switzerland.
elected senior vice president of the TULF in 1993 and proved to be a
tower of strength to the party when it was at the receiving end of
systematic violence by the Tigers. He was instrumental in reviving
flagging fortunes of the TULF in Jaffna by taking over the Jaffna
Municipal Council election campaign in 1998.
when two TULF Jaffna mayors Sarojini Yogeswaran and Pon Sivapalan along
with a mayoral aspirant Mathimugarajah were successively assassinated by
the LTTE, Anandasangaree took up permanent residence in Jaffna and
rallied the demoralised TULF. He also spearheaded its parliamentary
election campaign in Jaffna
during 2000 and 2001.
received wide media coverage in Tamil Nadu when he accompanied and
assisted his former leader and top notch international lawyer G. G.
Ponnambalam (Senior) at the Sarkaria Commission sittings. The commission
had been appointed to inquire into corruption allegations of the
erstwhile DMK regime. Ponnambalam led the team of lawyers representing
former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Muttuvel Karunanidhi of the Dravida
Munnetra Kazghagham. Anandasangaree played a prominent role in this
hostile reaction to Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalitha Jeyaram began
emanating in Sri Lankan Tamil circles after she pushed through a
resolution in the Tamil Nadu legislature seeking extradition of LTTE
leader Pirapaharan. Several persons including TULF personalities began
uttering bombastic and provocative threats against Jayalalitha in an ill
advised move to curry favour with the LTTE.
however issued a very responsible public statement condemning that trend
and urging that no offensive comments be made against any Indian leader
including the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister. When pro-LTTE elements began
distorting what Sangaree actually said in the statement, the TULF leader
took a direct Tamil translation to Kilinochchi showed it to
Thamilchelvam and cleared the air.
over the TULF reins at a critical phase in the island’s politics. His
party itself has accepted the overall dominance of the LTTE . Given
Sangaree’s fiery independent streak it is very likely that the TULF
while backing the LTTE politically would also try and retain some
functional autonomy. That however depends on the extent to which his
party colleagues will cooperate with him. If such enlightened unity and
support is not rendered the ex-Trotskyite may very well be presiding
over the Swansong of the TULF.
road to Jaffna
peace process has had a
varied impact on civilian life right around the country. While
internally displaced civilians in the Wanni
have begun to return to their former homes — now bombed out
skeletons — Jaffna has been elevated to the number one local tourist
The Sunday Leader profiles four characters, from
mine-clearers in the LTTE controlled areas digging out landmines
using their bare hands, to
the Bishop of Jaffna, Rev. Thomas Samudranayagam, despairing over the
possible breakdown of the negotiations and the possibility of all-out
war, once again.
Amantha Perera in
up lethal matter
in the morning, when they file one after the other with
their garden tools in hand, they look like they are members of the
LTTE garden brigade.
footsteps, and in no time the realisation dawns that these chaps
dig out far lethal matter than carrots and cabbages.
These are the
members of the de-mining squad affiliated to the LTTE. They walk
into the fields one after the other, since that way they
minimise the chances of stepping on mines, at the break of
dawn, because the midday heat makes it impossible for them to
While so much
hype has been generated on the de-mining efforts conducted in
Jaffna with foreign specialists and aid, in the areas under LTTE
control, de-mining is done using garden forks and is
hundred per cent manual. Members of the squad do not wear any
protective gear and hunt for mines barefoot.
a mine is located, they deactivate it using their
unprotected hands. If the explosive cannot be deactivated,
they will blow it up. When The Sunday Leader caught up with
them, de-mining a stretch of
fields that were part of a former army bunker line on the
Paranthan - Mullaithivu
road, the de-miners would bring anti-personnel mines just
discovered, right up to the camera and deactivate them. All the
time, we were shouting, “put
that thing down”, sweat pouring from our bodies.
mines that were discovered that day were circular mines of a
greenish hue and were easy to diffuse since the LTTE had
discovered the deactivating key left aside along with mine boxes
by the army. The de-miners told us that such a mine would cost
about Rs. 600. The mines
were everywhere; after a few minutes we too were able to find some
popping out of the ground.
was made easy due to the recent rains, which had washed the
top soil off and sections of the field had been set on fire
to clear the underbush. If the grass was taller, it would
be hundred times more difficult.
A pressure of
4kg can set off the mine, and it will go off when the pressure is
applied. Mine injuries are quite common in LTTE controlled areas.
The day before the rendezvous with the de-miners, we met a boy
of 18 who had lost a leg due to a mine blast last November.
He was hunting game when he accidentally stepped on a mine.
Not only mines
but other live explosive devices plague the region. On the main
road, running along the fields being cleared by the de-miners,
someone had carefully placed an unexploded shell on a bund, so
that no one would fall prey to it unexpectedly.
trained four members initially on mine clearing, they in turn have trained 150 more. The training consisted of 40 days for
the second batch.
Funding for the training programme and the de-mining efforts are
provided by the Tamil Rehabilitation and Reconstruction
Organisation affiliated to the LTTE.
Each member of
the squad is paid Rs. 4,000 per month. The de-miners have suffered
two fatalities since they began their
mission late last year. One died due to a snake bite and
the other due to a mine
blast. Five of their members have been injured in mine explosions
grandma for the first time
Kumar (27) was lining up at the army checkpoint at Omanthai
with his wife Jeevarani (22) and his two children, to crossover to
LTTE controlled areas when we caught up with him.
He and his
family had rented a beat-up bus to get across. The inside of the
bus was filled with television sets and household appliances and
it looked like several families had made it their mobile home for
a couple of days.
queued up from the wee hours of the morning when he was checked by
mid-day. He was not carrying much. Five years ago, he left Jaffna
and got married in the Wanni. His parents nor his in-laws could
attend the wedding. All of them were in Jaffna.
“We left all
our belongings when we left the LTTE-controlled areas,” Kumar
said of the journey to Vavuniya soon after the marriage. The peace
process has allowed him the opportunity to visit Jaffna and his
children and the chance to see their grand parents for the first
He was going
back the second time to settle in the Wanni. Despite going back,
he was not sure if the process was going to bring peace to the
apprehensions were shared by Maheswari, a 49-year-old single
mother with four children. She left Paranthan in 1996 when the
army took control and fled to Skandapuram. Now she is back at
Paratnthan with two of her children.
She wants to
farm the land and earn a living. But before all that could happen,
the mines and other unexploded devices that litter her former back
garden have to be done away with. She came back to Paranthan in
the beginning of June.
civilian life are returning to the Wanni. Street children
selling stuff to visitors have made an appearance and so
has crime. When The Sunday
Leader visited Kilinochchi, the acting OIC at the police
station, T. Paheerathan rushed to Kumarapuram to investigate a
murder. The dead man’s mother said her son had been shot by
someone and dumped on mines by the attackers. Murder according to
the LTTE police was unheard of in areas under their control.
Two new petrol
sheds are being built, one at Paranthan and the other at Murugandi.
The government is funding the projects and the fuel storage tanks
have reached the towns. At Paranthan the co-operative society is
running a manual petrol shed where fuel is poured into vehicles
from cans. It is 50 per cent more expensive than in Vavuniya.
Life it seems, is limping back to normalcy. But civilians
still fear to walk fast, lest the guns, for the time being under
wrap in camps, come alive once again. It has happened in the past.
It can happen once again.
and happiness happens in films
will call him James. I met him at a LTTE camp in
Mullaithivu during a recent trip. I never approached him; he came
up to me and said that he would like to talk to me.
is 20 years old and has been with the LTTE since he was 12. The
youngest in a family of 10 — three brothers and six sisters —
James joined the LTTE in 1995 when his father succumbed to
injuries received during an aerial bombing raid.
Since then, he
has seen nothing but blood and battles. Along with him, two of his
brothers joined the LTTE; one has already died in the war. James
took part in battles in Mullaithivu and Jaffna after six months of
was co-opted to the LTTE medical corps after a one year training
programme and spent two years in the battlefield as a medic.
said he can carry out any emergency medical procedure on a
battlefield, including amputation. At present James works as a
counsellor, liaising with parents and relatives of LTTE cadres
coming in search of them. His involvement with the parents and
their trauma has sent shivers down his spine. The lull in fighting and the emphasis on peace, has made James look inwards.
there for me in this?” he asked, referring to the peace
process. He does not have any education, any family, no one
that he is close to, only a mastery of cutting off limbs, blown to
shreds by mines.
His memory is
filled with images of war, like the time his mother wanted to kill
all her children and herself when the IPKF destroyed their home.
“Will I see my mother again?” he asked me. His family has
disowned him due to his involvement with the LTTE.
I tried to
argue on the merits of the peace process, he cut me down.
“Peace, love and happiness, that happens in films, not in a LTTE
cadre’s life.” I asked him whether he has a girl
friend. He said no. Looking around, seeing all the female LTTE
cadres, I asked why not? “Is it banned?” No,
he replied. But, among suicide bombers and cyanide
capsules, love is an aberration.
When it was
time for me to move on, he looked at me and said, “Will
you be my friend?” I didn’t know what to say. I could
not tell him that I was
an aberration too, making use of the ceasefire to file a better
I only met one
James that day. But there are many more, on both sides of the
forward defence lines. This James told me that young children
still keep coming to the LTTE.
Youth who aged
20 are 10-year war veterans, with nothing but the sound of shell
fire filling their lives.
leads his flock on road to peace and prayer
64-year-old Bishop of Jaffna, Rev. Thomas Samudranayagam
has seen it all. He has lived through war for more than a decade
up duties as the Bishop of Jaffna in 1991 he served as the Bishop
of Mannar since 1981.
the birth of the Tamil insurgency and the ill-fated
involvement of India in 1987. When the Sri Lanka Army
launched an operation to regain Jaffna in 1996, he stayed put at
through the years
under LTTE control and has been the spokesperson for the civilian
population in Jaffna and in Wanni, living a nightmare. Since
December 2001 though, the lull in fighting has allowed him the
luxury of talking of and hoping for peace.
“It has been
very difficult for our people. We have borne the brunt of the war,” he said during an interview recently. Hours
before the interview, he lead devotees in prayer at the shrine of
St. Anthony in Manipai, asking for peace.
his community has been a victim of war, one way or the other. And
disillusionment creeps in easy. “We’ve had four attempts at
before,” Rev. Samudrana-yagam said of the past, which has taught
him to be wary of negotiations despite the harp.
fears of the possibility of the present phase of negotiations too
going down the barrel and shells starting to slam down on the
cathedral and its newly renovated dome. The involvement of Norway
and the commitment displayed by the government and the LTTE
leadership though, gives him room for hope.
“I am very
optimistic that the peace process will continue,” he
observed, but underlined his fears that if war broke out,
the destruction would be the worst ever. “Both sides will have
new weapons, knowledge and recruits. The frustrations and the
animosity would be more,” he warned agreeing that the peace
process has slowed down, plagued with teething problems.
important thing that needs to be addressed immediately is building
trust between the two warring parties, according to the Bishop.
War and the
destruction that it brings along, becomes even more frightening to
a country bereft of options. “Sri Lanka has no other option,
peace is the only way,” Rev. Samudranayagam believes.
in the hearts of the devotees who flocked around the bishop in
prayers for peace; hands raised to heaven, they prayed that their
leaders would have the wisdom and the patience not to wilt.
have very little say in the dealings. And all know for certain
that the road to peace is hundred times worse than the crater
stakes: Squabbles in the TULF
D. B. S. Jeyaraj
men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds
might have danced in a green bay...
Wild men who
caught and sang the sun in flight
And learn, too
late, they grieved it on its way,”...
political tempest that raged within the folds of the largest Sri
Lankan Tamil democratic moderate political party is now abating. The
demise of Murugesu Sivasithamparam on June 5, left a two fold vacuum in
the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF), the party led by him for
nearly 24 years.
Firstly, a new
president was needed; secondly, the parliamentary seat held by M. Siva
as a nominee on the national list of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA)
had to be filled.
is the case in any democratic party, sharp divisions surfaced within the
party over both questions. Tamil media reports suggested that a serious
crisis threatening to tear the party apart was brewing. Despite the
inner party tensions, both issues were resolved without major
impediments when the
TULF’s Central Working Committee and Nomination Board met on June 23
and 24 respectively in Colombo.
from Jaffna District and its Senior Vice President Veerasingham
Anandasangaree was elected unanimously as president by the party’s top
decision making body the Mathiya Seyal Kulu or Central Working
Committee on June 23. Thirty five of the 48 members attended.
Anandasangaree was proposed by Batticaloa District Parliamentarian
Joseph Pararajasingham and seconded by former Batticaloa MP Pon.
unopposed at the decisive meeting, another senior TULF MP from Jaffna
Somasuntharam Senadhirajah popularly known as ‘Maavai’ on account of
his native village Maviddapuram had taken up cudgels against
Anandasangaree protesting against the latter being elevated to
presidential office. Senadhirajah however boycotted the decisive meeting
and thereby lost his case by default leaving the field clear for
were issued by Senadhirajah to the press and to members of the Central
Committee outlining his objections to Anandasangaree. This led to
Sangaree defending his position against the allegations. Much of it
pertained to charges of high-handedness by the president elect during
election time in 2000 and 2001. This conduct according to Senadhirajah
negated Anandasangaree’s suitability for presidential office. Whatever
the merits or otherwise of these allegations it was an open secret in
TULF circles that very little love was lost between Sangaree and Senadhi
for quite some time.
The feud apparently
began when the TULF’s former national list MP Dr. Neelan Tiruchelvam
was assassinated by the Tigers in July 1999. Both Anandasangaree and
Senadhirajah were in competition to fill that seat. Later Sangaree did
not press his case and let Senadhirajah become MP. The seeds of enmity
however were sown then. Subsequent developments enlarged the chasm
The electoral system
of proportionate representation and preference votes for individual
candidates causes acrimonious rivalry among contestants from the same
party thus contributing to intra-party dissension. Both Anandasangaree
and Senadhirajah contested
Jaffna District and competed for preference
votes in both 2000 and 2001. With the Eelam People’s Democratic Party
(EPDP) of Douglas Devananda proving to be a formidable rival the TULF
was hard-pressed to perform creditably.
of the split
Sangaree with a
lengthy track record in electioneering was accused by Senadhi of
adopting dubious, unorthodox methods to win. According to TULF insiders,
the charges were incorrect and unfair. Senadhi apparently was chagrined
over the fact that Sangaree had got more preference votes than him in
If this was the
genesis of the split Senadhirajah did not confine his protests to those
causes alone. He also raised objections to Anandasangaree over
‘constitutional’ issues. The TULF party constitution states that if
the president ceases to hold office, the senior vice president will
become acting president and act in that capacity until a new president
is elected at the party convention. Thus, Senadhirajah contended that
Anandasangaree could not be elected as president by the Central
Committee. The party convention was in 1993 and the next one is
scheduled for 2003.
Despite the issue of
constitutional propriety, the reality on ground was that the TULF faced
with several problems had not been strictly adhering to constitutional
requirements. The Central Committee members discussed Senadhirajah’s
objections at length but decided to disregard them in view of
The committee noted
the “difficult situation” faced by the party since the death of
former Opposition Leader Appapillai Amirthalingam in 1989 and took into
account precedents where constitutional provisions were not followed
undercurrent of opposition to Anandasangaree was that some TULF figures
felt that the frank and forthright Sangaree may be a liability vis a vis
the LTTE. Anandasangaree was courageously defiant of the LTTE in the
late nineties when the Tigers killed several TULF leaders and helped
rally the party together. He also played a prominent role in enhancing
the party’s electoral fortunes in Jaffna. While being supportive of
the LTTE in recent times, Sangaree had not stooped to the level of a
Tiger sycophant in contrast to some other TULF leaders. He had also
acted responsibly and cautiously over the Jayalalitha Jeyaram
controversy and issued a reasonable and moderate statement.
For these reasons,
some TULF’ers felt that electing Sangaree as president would anger the
LTTE. It is learnt that some of these sections wanted Batticaloa
District’s Joseph Pararajasingham considered to be a favourite of the
LTTE to be elected as president. Senadhirajah whose position was only
that Sangaree should not become president was also not averse to this.
There was also an Eastern Province lobby that wanted the post for
Pararajasingham citing earlier Federal Party precedents where
Rajavarothayam of Trincomalee and Rasamanickam of Paddiruppu had been
however was overcome by Anandasangaree who met the LTTE’s Political
Wing head S. P. Thamilchelvam in Kilinochchi. There Sangaree had bluntly
queried whether the Tigers had any objection to his attaining the TULF
presidency. Thamilchelvam assured Sangaree that the LTTE had no
objections and stressed that this was an internal matter of the TULF and
that the Tigers did not want to interfere in it. Thamilchelvam also said
that he had conveyed the same sentiments to the TULF’s Sambandan and
Pararajasingham when they met him.
Thus, the Tiger
bogey was discounted and the absent Senadhirajah’s objections
overruled. The TULF old guard closed ranks and Joseph himself proposed
Anandasangaree. With both the pro-Tiger as well as the Eastern Province
lobbies accepting Anandasangaree he was
elected unanimously. Given Sangaree’s experience and the fact
that he is the seniormost parliamentarian there really was no
alternative. Furthermore, most TULF stalwarts knew that Sangaree, Joseph
and the late Neelan had kept the party going in the nineties in the face
of LTTE opposition. Although the political climate had changed past
history could not be overlooked.
is yet to reconcile himself to Sangaree’s ascendancy and has announced
that he would boycott all TULF party meetings. Senadhirajah and his
supporters have also issued veiled threats about reviving the dormant
Federal Party (FP) — an original constituent of the TULF. Senadhirajah
and most of his supporters are from the FP while Anandasangaree
like Sivasithamparam was from the Tamil Congress.
It is unclear
whether Senadhirajah will take the bold step of splitting the TULF when
the overall Tamil consciousness is for greater Tamil unity. It also
remains to be seen whether
Senadhi threatening to break off from the TULF will go to courts over
the violation of constitutional requirements in Sangaree’s appointment
issue. If that happens the judicial verdict could be dicey.
position as senior vice president was filled by Batticaloa’s Joseph
Pararajasingham, continuously in parliament since 1990. Pararajasingham
was earlier the joint treasurer of the party and in his place was
elected the well known Tamil businessman and former Jaffna Municipal
Councillor S. Thiyagarajah or STR. All elections were unanimous.
Apart from the
leadership tussle there was another problem concerning M. Siva’s
parliamentary seat too. The Central Committee discussed the
ramifications of the issue at length and although no formal decision was
taken, it was a foregone conclusion
that Thurairatnasingham of Muttur was the choice. With
Senadhirajah boycotting Sangaree, four of the five member TULF
nomination board met the following day (24th) to nominate the
replacement for Sivasithamparam as national list MP.
The national list MP
replacement issue had also proved to be a divisive one. Anandasangaree
had wanted a senior TULF stalwart from Jaffna District, former Uduvil UC
Chairman S. Muttulingam to
be appointed. Muttu-lingam’s name was already on the national list as
he along with Sivasitham-param was nominated in 2000 on behalf of the
Secretary General and Trincomalee district MP
Rajava-rothayam Sambandan wanted K. Thurairat-nasingham from the
Trincomalee District appointed instead. The tussle between
Ananda-sangaree and Sambandan over the question of a national list MP
caused some tensions with both leaders issuing contentious public
position was that Muttu-lingam, a veteran Jaffna politician in his late
seventies, had contested in 2000 and narrowly missed being elected
because of alleged EPDP vote rigging. He could not be accommo-dated on
the 2001 list because the TULF was con-testing with three other parties
as part of the TNA. Muttulingam’s name was put on the national list
and promised the MP seat after M. Siva. Muttulingam had campaigned
vigorously in the elections and had been instrumental in the TULF
getting the bulk of votes from the Uduvil-Inuvil areas. These voters had
opted for Sangaree who therefore wanted Muttulingam to be appointed.
He wanted the man from Muttur. Thu-rairatnasingham had polled 28, 000
preferences in the 2001 elections but failed to get elected. Sambandan
also owed his victory to Thurairatnasingham. TELO’s Sri Kantha, a
parachutist into Trin-comalee had edged out Sambandan in getting
preference votes from the Trincomalee electoral division. It was because
of the preferences from the Muttur electoral division that Sambandan got
his record 40, 000 preferences. So Sambandan also had to pay his
There were however
other factors too in Thurairatnasingham’s favour as opposed to
Muttulingam. The former in his early sixties was comparatively younger
than the latter in his early seventies. Thurairat-nasingham, an
educa-tionist who started out as a teacher and then went on to become
principal, education officer and retired as assistant director of
education was more educationally qualified than the agriculturist
Muttulingam. Besides there were other plus points for Thurai.
He hailed from
Kaddaiparichaan in Muttur, an area under LTTE control.
Thurairatnasingham had played a commendable role in evolving the new
TULF-LTTE ‘understanding’ that contributed to the formation of the
TNA. It was through Thurairatnasingham’s efforts that Sambandan was
able to meet LTTE leaders in the Muttur area and do direct political
canvassing. Though Sambandan by virtue of his secretary general post has
gone on to cultivate a greater relationship with the Tiger hierarchy,
his support base at home depends on Thuraira-tnasingham.
Furthermore, it was
argued not entirely without justification that Trincomalee District
needed enhanced Tamil representation because the district, once a Tamil
majority region had now lost its position to Sinhala colonisation. Given
the strategic importance of Trincomalee, this was something which struck
a responsive chord with the LTTE. Sambandan took the issue to the LTTE
and solicited Tiger endorsement. This was duly obtained. To concretise
the arrangement, Sambandan and Pararajasingham met LTTE Political Wing
chief S. P. Thamilchelvam and stated the case for Thuraira-tnasingham.
For obvious reasons the LTTE hierarchy opted for Thuraira-tnasingham.
Realising that the
case for Muttulingam was weak Ananda-sangaree came up with a face saving
solution. Muttulingam was to be given the MP seat on a gentleman’s
agreement that he would vacate it in three months. Thereafter,
Thuraira-tnasingham could be appointed. Unfortunately for Sangaree he
was involved with Sivasithamparam’s funeral arrangements in Jaffna and
could not participate along with Sambandan and Joseph in the meeting
When Sangaree met
Thamil-chelvam and presented the compromise formula, Thamilchelvam said
that although the proposal was acceptable it was now too late because
Tiger Supremo Velupillai Pirapaharan had agreed to Thurairatnasingham
and the decision announced.
Also, it was
imperative that the Muttur area needed a representative to oversee
resettlement and rehabilitation efforts. A disappointed Ananda-sangaree
was to tell the BBC’s ‘Thamil Osai’ later that the
nomination had to go to Thurairatnasingham because of “purakkanikka
mudiaatha vendukol” (a request that could not be rejected).
There was also
another important reason for the TULF to seek LTTE approval in the
matter. Although Sambandan and Sangaree were divided on who should
become the TULF appointee, they were firmly united in seeing that no
other party from the TNA should get it. The understanding at election
time was that if the TNA got two national list seats the second one
should go to Kumarakurubaran of the Tamil Congress (TC) whose name was
already on the national list nominees second to M. Siva. Since the TNA
got only one national seat, M. Siva was appointed. Now the TULF wanted
it to be filled by a TULF’er again.
But other TNA
constituents also had ambitions. The TC said that if the TULF appointed
someone from outside the earlier list of national nominees, it would
seek legal remedy. The TELO also wanted its head Sri Kantha appointed.
The EPRLF wanted its leader Suresh Premachandran appointed. All three
parties communicated with the LTTE and pressed their case. Compared to
the two TULF hopefuls Kumarakurubaran, Sri Kantha and Suresh were
certainly better prospects in terms of age and
ability. By appealing to the LTTE and getting Tiger endorsement
for its candidate, the TULF delivered a knock out blow to aspirants from
constituent members of the TNA. Thus, there was no protest when
Sambandan informed the TNA executive committee that the TULF after
‘consulting’ the LTTE was appointing Thurairatnasingham.
Thus, the brewing
crisis blew over like a tempest in a tea cup because of the LTTE factor.
Sadly, neither the TULF nor the other constituent parties of the TNA seem to be concerned over the growing influence and
power of the Tigers in determining decisions that are internal party
matters. These are not larger political issues where the TNA needs LTTE
‘guidance.’ Furthermore, in fairness to the Tigers, it must be
pointed out that the LTTE intervened in these matters only because the
squabbling ‘moderates’ are taking their complaints to the former.
Hoping to undercut their rivals, the TNA and TULF are giving carte
blanche to the LTTE to ‘adjudicate’ on what are inter-party and
intra-party questions. Functional independence is being voluntarily
is becoming increasingly transparent that ever since the formation of
the four party TNA, the influence and power of the LTTE over the Tamil
moderate political parties has enlarged. Thus, Anandasangaree takes over
as the new TULF president while crucial decisions like the national list MP selection are determined by the LTTE.
landing SriLankan the Emirates way
the perception of inflight services provided by SriLankan Airlines has
steadily spiraled down has now been confirmed after an independent
survey was conducted by Org-Marg Smart. The fact finding company
finalised its report on the inflight and overall services of SriLankan
Airlines in April this year, concluding that the majority of passengers
who fly SriLankan Airlines have complained bitterly with regard to the
catering, inflight services and ticket reservations, including ground
its findings, Org-Marg states, "Some passengers seem to be
comparing services past and present - therefore seeing a drop in
passenger travelling on a UL547 flight has complained, ".It is
usually a friendly airline. Crew are usually helpful.. today it is quite
different. Hope things will improve. After all it is our national
wrote, "..in the airport as well as all other services, SriLankan
Airlines cannot hold a candle to Air Lanka, as a fond memory."
passenger flying on UL 505 wrote ".I would not be able to recommend
flying with your airline."
another stated, "..considering international standards..this is
course among the brickbats are also comments praising the inflight
service and lauding the cabin crew for being courteous and thoughtful.
positive comments however are far less than those complaining strongly
with regard to the overall services offered by SriLankan Airlines.
and rushed into signing a partnership with Emirates Airlines, today
SriLankan has lost its once enviable image as far as inflight services
and catering is concerned. In fact, this survey by Org-Marg determined
that 99% of those who fly SriLankan Airlines to South Asia and India
have complained bitterly on the poor quality of food that is served on
some instances, no food at all is served. This appalling situation
prevails on the Colombo/Male route and on flights to Madras, Trivandrum
and Trichy where only a packet of peanuts is handed out with a cool
drink for economy class travellers.
on Air Lanka a cold refreshment was served on these sectors. On the
Colombo/Madras sector a hot meal used to be served before Emirates
Airlines took over the catering and management of SriLankan Airlines.
a fundamental expectation of hospitality, passengers flying from Colombo
to Male have written thus - "It is with dismay, that I comment on morning flights to
Male - say you serve no breakfast but, you do serve breakfast on
business class, why do you have this discrimination?"
states, "I am told there are no meals. I travel twice a month and
was surprised at this situation. Are we going backward or forward?"
have complained that even on request they are refused food on the
Colombo/Male sector. While this is only a one hour flight it needs to be
remembered that passengers have to check in three hours prior to
departure. They leave their homes and hotels an hour ahead of this
three-hour deadline - which in many instances is at the crack of dawn or
the previous night depending on the time of departure which is usually
between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m.
passenger writing to the management has stated, "It is with dismay
that I comment on the morning flight to Male, you serve no continental
breakfast as previously done. Why this shocking situation?"
complain that overall the quality on board SriLankan Airline flights
"has deteriorated." so much so, that in some instances, used
blankets are handed out.
many as 99% travelling on SriLankan Airlines have expressed
dissatisfaction with regard to the availability of meals. Another 79%
have complained with regard to the quality of food, 75% have faulted the
service in general, another 79% have complained on the non availability
of a good choice in menu, while 92% are dissatisfied with the non
availability of vegetarian meals.
- shod service
the catering of SriLankan Airlines was taken over by Emirates, the
selection of the hors d' oeuvre and main meals used to be of
international standard. At present the hors d' oeuvres served on UL
flights are so tasteless they cannot be consumed. This slip-shod service
sometimes is offered where the hors d' oeuvre does not even have a
dressing to complement it.
the Emirates run management cannot upgrade the inflight services of
SriLankan Airlines which previously earned a reputation for good food
and a caring service is puzzling. A passenger asked if this attempt at
downgrading the inflight services on SriLankan Airlines by Emirates is a
deliberate attempt by the Middle Eastern airline to encourage travellers
to instead fly Emirates, which after all has a world class reputation
for excellent inflight services.
has now been determined that while 99% of those travelling to South Asia
and India are disgusted with the quality and type of food served on
board, as many as 73% travelling on the European sectors have also
expressed dissatisfaction. Another 60% travelling to the Far East have
stated their displeasure at the standards or lack of standards as far as
catering is concerned on board UL flights, while 93% travelling to the
Middle East have stated the same disgust at the lack of quality meals.
multi million dollar question that needs asking is how all this will
affect the current image and consequent traffic on Sri Lanka's national
appears obvious that passengers' expectations are based on former
experiences of the airline. If so many have stated in writing their
disgust of the food and overall services offered by SriLankan Airlines
it is no small wonder the airline is performing so badly and has been
forced to declare a Rs. 6,000 million loss - not once , but twice.
passenger on UL 506, writing frankly states, ".Very poor meals. The
sandwich we were served in place of the fish, I am afraid was half
filled. By this time, I had lost my appetite entirely and had scarcely
anything to eat."
travelling on UL 508, writing a tongue-in-cheek comment had this to say,
".Cauliflower curry again - same problem as dhal.also too dry as
well. At a guess I would
say the meal was prepared by an English cook, not an Indian or Sri
Lankan cook. I hope you
know what I mean.."
most mentions on the cabin crew were reflective of the satisfied overall
services and the enthusiasm and friendliness shown by the crew, Org -
Marg notes that however, there could be improvements in responses to
requests. The company has noted that perhaps the disappointments in the
catering aspects could also be rubbing off onto the cabin crew,
producing negative responses to passenger requests.
lot of disappointment has been voiced also with regard to physical
comfort, like seating, audio and video facilities. As many as 88% have
stated their dissatisfaction with regard to seating comfort and leg
space while 77% have written their disgust with audio and video
have written thus, "The seat cushioning is hard, seat tilt is
incorrect...the TV on the back rest is a constant irritation when the
passenger behind you keeps tapping to change functions"
write, "We expected to read newspapers in the language we like, all
your inflight publications are only in English."
of the mentions on Airline reservations were areas of disappointment.
Travellers have complained that in this respect SriLankan Airlines staff
need to be trained better on efficiency, accuracy and knowledge.
one occasion a passenger wrote that he purchased his ticket from a
travel agent in Singapore and he had not been informed about a fare
increase but ground staff had asked him to pay USD 160 more as fare.
of holding 'ok tickets' (confirmed), we were put to inconvenience by
saying that the flight was full and that our tickets were on stand
by...." wrote another complainant.
traveller flying for the last 16 years wrote, "that despite a
request for an upgrade the ground staff were very rude and not at all
helpful including the manager. He stated that being a member of Skyward
"is of absolutely no value."
passengers who travel SriLankan complain that its inflight services are
truly a major area of concern that should be addressed by the Emirates
management. In fact, these criticisms might act as a major hurdle, since
in the past, the airline thrived in this area.
to a regular passenger who has flown on UL for the past 15 years The
Sunday Leader was told, "apart from a slight improvement in
inflight entertainment namely, the movie and audio selection, the rest
of the services have been downgraded to such an extent that even the
seats are not suitable for long haul travel.
observation passengers have made is that one crew member serves more
passengers on a meal cart than before. As a result, before completing
handing out all the trays, the meals and the bread is cold.
is difficult to comprehend is why the former People's Alliance
government and President Chandrika Kumaratunga decided to marry Air
Lanka to Emirates Airlines which after all, was and still is, a direct
competitor to Sri Lanka's national carrier.
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