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Is it the end of the road for the Tamil National Alliance? 

TNA Parliamentary Group Leader
R. Sampanthan speaking to the media
t explain the stance taken by his group on
the President's invitation for discussion

By Arthur Wamanan

The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) has missed a golden opportunity to convey the grievances of the Tamils directly to President Mahinda Rajapakse by turning down his invitation for discussions.

The conflicting statements issued by a TNA parliamentarian on the IDPs has also led to speculation that the party is suffering from severe internal problems.

The TNA was in the headlines last week following remarks made by MP, Subramaniam Nahotharalingam, praising the government on the steps it has taken to look after the IDPs in Vavuniya, created ripples within Tamil circles.

The remarks triggered reports that there was a split within the party. However, the party maintains that it remains united and that no one in its ranks is about to form an alliance with the government.

Nahotharalingam had reportedly praised the government's efforts to look after the IDPs who had fled LTTE controlled areas,  while the rest of the party has been staunchly critical of the government's handling of the whole issue.

However in a statement to the BBC's Tamil Service, Thamil Oosai,   Nahotharalingam has denied that he ever made a statement praising the government for its way of handling the IDPs fleeing the LTTE controlled areas.

Imminent defeat

The future of the TNA however seems to be in serious doubt following recent developments on both political and military fronts. The imminent defeat facing the LTTE on the warfront and the TMVP's dominance in the east have raised serious questions as to whether any TNA MPs stand a chance of getting re-elected to parliament. At present the TNA remains the party with the largest number of Tamil representatives in parliament.

TNA Parliamentary Group Leader R. Sampanthan last Thursday told the media that they would not meet the President until the government addresses the humanitarian issues in the north. Interestingly, Nahotharalingam was also present at the press briefing along with several other MPs.

The absence of party heavyweights such as Suresh Premachandran and M.K. Shivajilingam and several others was also noticeable.

The party's woes began three years ago when the TMVP urged TNA MPs in the eastto leave the province as they had 'lost the support of the people.'

The TMVP, which was led by Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan at the time, said that the party had done nothing for the people during the war in the east.

Failed to protect

Today, the party faces the same accusation. This time around, ordinary Tamil people have begun to feel that the party has failed to protect the civilians in the north.

In response to the President's invitation, the TNA put forward a condition that the government should stop its military operations in the north for the party to hold any sort of discussions with the government. This demand however is ridiculously far fetched, given that analysts from every section of the political spectrum agree that the war is almost over.

The TNA however stubbornly refuses to believe that the war is about to end and that the LTTE is fighting its last battle. It seems likely that an accusing finger will be pointed at the party at some point for refusing the President's invitation. Ultimately the party would have had significantly more influence had it chosen to meet the President.

The TNA and the whole of Tamil Nadu have been calling for the cessation of hostilities for the past five months with no results.

In the process some of the TNA parliamentarians have gone to India and other parts of the world and have not returned. Almost half of the TNA MPs are out of the country at present and those who are here do not make their presence felt.

Activities minimal

It will be interesting to see what the next step of the party will be. Is it going to continue to repeat the same request while the war is in its last phase?

The activities of the TNA have been minimal in the recent past. The party has been depending on Tamil Nadu to intervene decisively in favour of Sri Lankan Tamils but with the failure of Tamil Nadu's politicians to unite on the Sri Lankan Tamil issue the TNA is now back at square one.

The government has repeated thatthe LTTE must lay down its arms before coming for a dialogue. The LTTE however has refused to do so, but has agreed to negotiations sans conditions. With this deadlock, the only other option for the President was the TNA.

On the other hand, humanitarian organisations continue to express grave concerns over the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the LTTE controlled areas. The TNA's decision to refrain from meeting the President will not halt the hostilities in the Wanni. The war will continue till it is over in a military sense with more civilian casualties expected as the fighting intensifies.

The time is ripe for Tamil parties, especially the TNA to act on behalf of the ordinary Tamil people they claim to represent. There is no point in waiting for intervention from Tamil Nadu or other parts of the globe and it is high time that the TNA itself plays a more active role and initiates steps to win the confidence of the Tamil people.









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