frenzy envelopes minority parties
D. B. S.Jeyaraj
general elections in four years is a prospect that may daunt the
stoutest of political parties. While the larger political parties
possessing ample resources are gearing up to face the hustings,
those smaller parties representing the minority communitiesin the
island too are now beginning to cope with the challenge despite
the initial surprise.
the TNA advised and directed by the LTTE is busy finalising its
own lists the TULF Leader turned rebel Veerasingham Anandasangaree
too is busy trying to devise his own blueprint for action. Though
successful in blocking the TNA from appropriating the TULF symbol
of rising sun, the TULF President too is unable to utilise it for
been mercilessly disowned by his erstwhile parliamentary
colleagues acting at the behest of the Tigers, the gutty
septugenarian is compelled to field a list of independent
candidates. He cannot contest on behalf of the TULF or use the
party symbol as the Secretary-General R. Sambandan is estranged
from him and in a counter move will resist such attempts.
though the LTTE threat looms large TULF circles close to the
controversial leader are very happy about the rising tide of
support from the rank and file towards Sangaree. Several persons
are coming forward to align themselves with the TULF President in
spite of potential threats from the LTTE. With lists of candidates
being finalised by the LTTE-TNA combine disgruntled hopefuls are
swelling these ranks.
to TULF circles Anandasangaree does not want to field candidates
in Trincomalee and Ampara where the Tamils are a minority.
While the prospect of contesting Wanni and Batticaloa are
being considered, TULF circles say that Jaffna will be the chief
focus of Sangaree being his home turf.
TULF Leader won in 2000 and 2001 with the highest number of
preference votes in the district. While Sangaree's Jaffna list is
yet to be finalisedsome candidates have been earmarked or selected
these are a former Jaffna mayor, an ex-Jaffna MMC, a former local
authority chairman from Jaffna, another ex-chairman of a local
authority outside Jaffna, the medical doctor brother of a
prominent TULFer slain by the LTTE, the bank manager
brother-in-law of a well known TULF orator, a popular school
master, a well known entrepreneur and hotelier, a Palmyrah Board
official and a community leader from the Catholic community.
TULF stalwart and former Jaffna DDC member "Aavarangaal"
K. Sinnathurai, a close associate of Sangaree is unable to contest
as he is receiving medical treatment in the UK. Sangaree however
is trying to get down at least one person from the UK to contest
as a "surprise" in Jaffna. He is also trying to get the
symbol allocated to a now defunct party for his group.
the other end of the spectrum the Eelam People's Democratic
Party's (EPDP) efforts to forge a coalition known as the Tamil
Democratic Front too has not been successful. The EPDP's ill
advised decision of supporting the SLFP-JVP alliance and then
trying to justify that stance by trying to whitewash the alliance
as being "non-communal" and "pro-peace" has
not found much support among other Tamil parties approached by the
Leader Dharmalingam Siddharthan told Douglas Devananda point blank
that he does not like to identify with the EPDP because of its
current stance. The EROS faction led by Shankar Raji too has
stated that they are not interested in contesting. The EPRLF
faction led by Varatharajaperumal expressed willingness to join
but kept on procrastinating. Finally senior activists of EPRLF -
Sugu and Mohan - were amenable to being included on the EPDP list
in Jaffna but Devananda ruled it out.
of PLOTE suggesteda factional strategy of sorts to Douglas where
each party could contest in a separate district alone with others
supporting it. The PLOTE could contest in Wanni, EPDP in Jaffna
and EPRLF in Batticaloa etc. was the idea. The EPDP was not in
favour as it hopes to garner votes from all districts to enhance
its overall tally to be eligible for a national list seat.
now the EPDP with its veena symbol may contest in all north east
districts including Colombo. Though Devananda, the eternal
optimist is confident of getting double digit seats, others are
not so sure. The EPDP has a chance of representation in Jaffna
only it is felt. The PLOTE will restrict itself to the Wanni and
strive to retain the solitary seat it has there.
EPDP with two seats in Jaffna is fielding a list of party
"heavyweights." Apart from Devananda there will be
fellow MP Mathanarajan, former MPs Sivathasan, Thavarajah and
Kugendran, ex-Pradeshiya Sabha members Nishanthan and Keerthi etc.
Lawyer and human rights activist Maheswari Velayutham along with
journalist and political activist Balanadarajah alias Sinna Bala
will also be contesting. Another inclusion will be Bhavan a close
relative of TULF MP Mavai Senathirajah.
ex-MP and former secretary to the North Eastern Provincial Council
Chairman Dr. Vikneswaran will contest from Trincomalee. Former
MPsRasamanickam and Shankar will lead the EPDP lists for
Batticaloa and Ampara respectively. Kanthan will lead the Wanni
list. Colombo is yet to be decided upon.
alliance falls through
LTTE sponsored idea of a grand Tamil coalition embracing Sri
Lankan and Indian Tamils seems to have fallen through with the
CWC's Arumugam Thondaman spurning Up Country People's Front (UCPF)
Leader Chandrasekeran's open invitation. The CWC also negotiated
and entered into an arrangement with the UNP.
CWC will contest on the UNP ticket and not the TNA grand alliance.
It will have three candidates in Nuwara Eliya, one each in Badulla,
Kandy, Matale, Colombo and Ratnapura. It is also assured of a
national list seat. The CWC has been strengthened by the inclusion
of veteran UNP trade unionist Puthrasigamany who became a PA MP
after the last election. Another factor affecting the CWC
beneficially is Naveen Dissanayake's decision to refrain from
contesting this time.
CWC's independent decision placed Chandrasekeran and Ganesan in an
unenviable position. They too were constrained to throw in their
lot with a national party. Both went to Kilinochchi and explained
their predicament to Tamilselvan.
the WPPF will be part of the UNP list in Colombo and Gampaha.
While sitting MP Mano Ganesan seems a cinch, there is apossibility
of Tamil Congress vice president Kumarakuruparan being
accommodated on the UNP list as part of WPPF.
UCPF too will most likely contest along with the UNP. It may
contest separately in Nuwara Eliya but support the UNP in all
other districts. It could field a few candidates in Badulla, Kandy
and Colombo. In any event the SLFP's tie up with the JVP has
restricted the choices available to minority parties.
Muslim Congress and its dissident factions are under strong
pressure from the community's religious leaders and intelligentsia
to unite. While Ferial Ashraff and Hizbullah have firmly hitched
themselves to the SLFP-JVP bandwagon, the Athaullah led faction
was dilly dallying. There were conflicting reports that it was
going to team up with Ferial while another said it would reunite
Rauf Hakeem is resolved to contest along with the UNP. The idea is
to contest separately in some north east districts and join up
with the UNP in others. Hakeem had also established an
understanding with "Myown" Mustapha and Naushad, both of
them sons of former Eastern MPs M. C. Ahmed and M. Abdul Majeed.
were strong indications that a new Muslim alliance comprising SLMC,
NUA, Ashraff Congress and UNP Muslims will contest separately in
Ampara District to enhance representation. This possible union
between the SLMC and UNP has seemingly caused disaffection among
SLMC MPs from the district, Faris and Anwer Ismail. This could
result in them joining Ferial.
Hakeem's chances in Kandy were seemingly threatened by the
prospect of Faizer Mustapha, son of Faiz Mustapha contesting as
the CWC nominee on the UNP list. Hakeem however has quite a few
cards up his sleeve and has allocated slots for himself in Colombo
and Amparai in addition to Kandy.
what was perhaps a very surprising development and counter
development, the UNP's ex-minister of Hindu Affairs and former
Jaffna District MP Thiyagarajah Maheswaran announced that he will
not be contesting from Jaffna and that he is bidding farewell to
peninsula politics. He began setting his sights on a national list
seat in return for campaigning on behalf of the UNP in Colombo and
to sources close to Maheswaran, Jaffna LTTE Political Commissar
Ilamparithy had first warned him not to contest this time. Later
Tamilselvan announced that Sinhala parties were not welcome in
Tamil areas and later retracted it. Meanwhile, a special
"emissary" from the Wanni accosted Maheswaran at a
function in Kayts and told him that the "national
leader" wanted him to refrain from contesting. A thoroughly
alarmed Maheswaran did so publicly.
a further twist Maheswaran was summoned again to Kilinochchi by
the LTTE. The Tiger trio of Pottu Amman, Tamilselvan and Nadesan
interviewed Maheswaran and offered him the first place on the TNA
list for Jaffna. The Tigers also expected him to foot a hefty
portion of the campaign expenses. Maheswaran departed saying he
will think it over and returned to Colombo. He is however not keen
on contesting in Jaffna on the TNA ticket. He would prefer
contesting in Colombo on the UNP ticket to that.
minority jockeyingfor parliamentary stakes is off to a brisk
start. With politics being fluid and politicos fickle quite a few
twists and turns are likely before nominations close on February