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North: From bullet to ballot

Mano Ganesan, V. Anandasangaree, Douglas Devananda, Gajen Ponnambalam, R. Sampanthan, Suresh Premachandran, S. sathasivam, Karuna Alias. V. Muralitharan, Pillan alias S. Chandrakanthan, T. Sritharan and Arumugam Thondaman

By Dilrukshi Handunnetti 

As the north prepares to hold a poll to elect members to two local bodies, it is important to consider how prepared the war ravaged area is with its disrupted civil administration and many attendant post conflict problems.  In this aspect, the north bears no comparison to the east where there is still sporadic outbursts of violence.

Ruled by a ruthless guerilla warlord for nearly three decades, the Tamil people have immediate needs. Forced into subjugation by the LTTE in its quest for sole representation of the Tamil people, the people were left with no choice.

Now, the northern infrastructure is weak, there are over 280,000 IDPs to deal with, the area is heavily mined and the terrain is significantly devastated. Gigantic rebuilding efforts are necessary before elections, but the polls are on.

Taking a look at the political choices the Tamil people may have, it is interesting to find some 16 registered Tamil political parties in Sri Lanka.

According to the Department of Elections, rival groups have made claims over the TULF and EPRLF symbols, given that party splits remain unresolved.

Out of the 16 registered Tamil political parties, only six groups have representation in parliament.

The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) or Ilankai Thamil Arasu Katchchi comprising five political parties is the largest Tamil political alliance in the House with 22 parliamentarians.

The DPF formerly known as the WPF has a single member, Mano Ganesan who is part of the opposition.

The EPDP has single member representation in parliament and is a constituent partner of the ruling alliance. The other parties in alliance with the government are the CWC and UPF.

Despite the attendant problems, the government appears keen to hold elections stating it is vital to restore normalcy and for the establishment of democratic institutions.

In this backdrop, questions over the need for demilitarisation have come to the fore.

Moderate Tamil political leaders like V. Ananadasangaree have criticised other political outfits such as government constituent partner EPDP for alleged violence in the north.

D. Siddarthan, whose own father was assassinated by the LTTE, feels it is still premature to hold polls in the north and prefers an opportunity for the people to settle in their homes and villages.

Given that the LTTE has managed to wipe out dissenting Tamil political opinion, there are fears that a different brand of militancy may replace the LTTE terror.

The Tamils in the northeast on the face of it may have so many political parties to choose from. Whether these parties would now field new faces and inject fresh blood into the northern political sphere remains to be seen.

As it poses a challenge for the voters, it also remains a monumental challenge for the Tamil political parties to overcome all forms of violence and to freely elect representatives.

The north’s challenges are many, and the announcement of polls is expected to be a much-awaited opportunity for the northern voters to turn a new leaf in which militancy has no role and guns cannot suppress the true political expression of the people.

Akila Ilankai Thamil Congress (ACTC) (Symbol - Bicycle)

The oldest Tamil political party in Sri Lanka, the ACTC was founded in 1944 by G.G. Ponnambalam who made the call for 50-50 political representation for the Tamil community. Much water had flown since then and ahead of the 2001 elections, ACTC joined the LTTE backed TNA, a broader alliance. The party is today represented in parliament by ACTC Leader Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam.

Akila Ilankai Tamil United Front (Symbol - Orange)

A recently formed political grouping, Akila Ilankai Tamil United Front is also referred to as the Tamil United Front. The AITUF was inaugurated in December 2005. It received the recognition of the Commissioner of Elections in February 2006.

The General Secretary of the party is D.K. Vigneswaran.

Ilankai Thamil Arasu Kachchi (TNA) (Symbol - House)

The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) or Ilankai Thamil Arasu Kachchi has some of the most senior Tamil politicians representing the northeast. It was formed in 2001 with the backing of the LTTE and became the largest Tamil political group to sit in parliament with 22 legislators. It consists of five political parties, namely ITAK, ACTC, TULF, EPRLF and TELO. It is headed by Trincomalee legislator, R. Sampanthan.

Ealavar Democratic Front (Symbol - Plough)

This party has its main office in Karaitivu and is headed by Rajanathan Prabhakaran. It is the political wing of the former militant outfit EROS.

Eelam Peoples’ Democratic Party (EPDP) (Symbol - Veena)

The EPDP is a northern-based political party with a chequered political history. It has some senior politicians and like many others, has a militant past. The leadership entered mainstream politics following the Indo-Lanka Peace Accord.

Headed by Social Services and Social Welfare Minister Douglas Devananda, himself a former militant, the EPDP is the only Tamil constituent partner in the government and is known for its anti-LTTE stance. It is also accused of much political violence.

Eelam Peoples’ Revolutionary Liberation Front (Symbol - Flower)

Kandiah Premachandran or Suresh Premachandran is the public face of this party with a long established political career. Premachandran is also a former militant who later entered mainstream politics following the Indo Lanka Peace Accord. He is the only parliamentarian at present to have belonged to the controversial Northeastern Provincial Council headed by Varatharajah Perumal who unilaterally declared a separate state in the northeast on a subsequent occasion.

The party is also known as the EPRLF Suresh Wing.

Eelam National Democratic Liberation Front (ENDLF) (Symbol - Bull)

This party came into being in 1987 when Paranthan Rajan broke away from PLOTE and formed it. Based in Kilinochchi, the hotbed of militant Tamil politics, ENDLF’s present Secretary General is G. Gnanasekeran.

Ceylon Democratic Unity Alliance (Symbol - Fish)

Symbolic of the divisions in politics, the Ceylon Democratic Unity Alliance takes its roots from the CWC and is considered a breakaway party of the CWC. Its Secretary General is S. Sathasivam and is also based in Nuwara Eliya, the CWC fiefdom.

Democratic Tamil National Alliance (Symbol - Brass lamp)

A political alliance comprising three important anti-LTTE parties, it is popularly known as the DTNA. Headed by TULF Leader Veerasingham Anandasangaree, the alliance includes the Eelam People’s Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF-Pathmanaba) and PLOTE headed by P. Siddarthan.

Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal (TMVP) (Symbol - Boat)

A party founded by a renegade LTTE leader Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan alias Karuna Amman in a bid to enter mainstream politics, it later fell into the hands of party Deputy Leader, Eastern Province Chief Minister, Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan alias Pillayan. Following a leadership battle, Muralitharan opted to obtain SLFP membership. The TMVP contested the EPC in 2008 and elected Chandrakanthan as Chief Minister.

Peoples’ Front of Liberation Tigers (Symbol - Tiger)

Recognised as the defunct political wing of the LTTE, it is headed by Yogaratnam Yogi, a hardcore LTTE member who emerged in the limelight when nominations were called for the Eastern Provincial Council (EPC) election.

Yogi went out of the radar a few years ago and is still remembered for the symbolic laying down of arms he performed at the Palaly Air Base in 1987 in the presence of Army Commander, General Sepala Attygalle.

His signature appeared on the PFLT nomination list for the EPC as Dilip Yogaratnam.

Tamizh Democratic National Alliance (Symbol - Anchor)

Contested in EPC and elected a member for Batticaloa. It enjoys considerable support in the east. The party General Secretary is S. Sathanandan.

Tamil Eelam Liberation Organisation (TELO) (Symbol - Light House)

TELO is a Tamil political organisation that campaigns for the establishment of an independent Tamil homeland in the northeast of Sri Lanka. Originally created as a militant group, it functioned as such until 1986, when most of its membership was killed in a conflict with the Liberation Tigers. Its surviving members organised themselves into a political party and continues to function as such today. The TELO currently has three Members of Parliament and is part of the TNA. The party General Secretary is  N. Indrakumar.

TULF (Symbol - Sun)

Among the key Tamil political parties in the country, the TULF has been in the forefront of the Tamil political struggle. On May 4, 1972, several Tamil political groups including the ACTC formed the Tamil United Front (TUF). The Federal Party joined the TUF in 1976. The TUF changed its name thereafter to the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) and adopted a demand for an independent state to be known as the “Secular, Socialist State of Tamil Eelam.”

Following the 1977 general elelciton, the TULF secured 6.40% of the popular vote and 18 out of 168 seats in the legislature including all 14 seats in the Northern Province. The TULF’s rise to become the main parliamentary opposition caused Sinhala dissent and sparked off violence.

Pathmanabha Eelam Revolutionary Liberation Front (PERLF) (Symbol - Candle)

Named after Kumar Pathmanaba, the charismatic EPRLF leader who was assassinated by the LTTE, this is a party that is currently in alliance with the DTNA. Its anti LTTE stance is well known and has T. Sridharan functioning as party General Secretary.

Democratic Peoples’ Front (DPF) (Symbol - Ladder)

Registered with the Elections Department only recently, the party’s public face is Leader Mano Ganesan. The DPF is the renamed Western Peoples’ Front (WPF) initially to give leadership to Tamils in the Western Province.

This political organisation expanded shortly and now has representatives in a few other provinces. Ganesan also initiated the Civil Monitoring Commission to monitor abductions, disappearances and extortions, and won international recognition.

CWC-P Wing (Symbol - Cockerel)

Founded by Saumyamoorthy Thondaman to chiefly advocate the rights of Indian origin estate workers and their descendants, this political party finds its base in central Sri Lanka.

For over a decade, the CWC was considered the ‘king maker’ given the party’s ability to form winning coalitions, with the traditional ally being the UNP. But since 1994, the CWC has stayed with the ruling party.

 Today, it is for all purposes headed by party General Secretary Arumugam Thondaman, who is also Minister of Youth Empowerment and Social Development.

Politicians killed by the LTTE and other militant
groups in the last three decades

Name of politician Political position Date of assassination
Alfred Duraiappa Former Jaffna Mayor and MP July 27, 1975
A Thiagarajah
K T Pulendran
MP for Vadukkoddai 
UNP Vavuniya Organiser
April 24, 1981
January 19,1983
A J Rajasooriya
Mala Ramachandran
UNP Jaffna Organiser
UNP Batticaloa MC MMC
August 12, 1983
September 1, 1989
V Dharmalingam
Sri Sabaratnam
S Wijeyananthan

Velumurugu Master
MP for Manipay
TELO Leader
District Secretary, Ceylon Communist Party
 TULF Kalmunai Organiser
September 2, 1985
May 6, 1986
March 8, 1988

March 28, 1988
S Sambandamoorthy
Appapillai Amirthalingam 

K Alalasundaram
TULF Member and DDC Chairman
TULF Leader and former Leader of the Opposition Former TULF MP
TULF Member
March 7, 1989
July 13, 1989

July 13, 1989
V Yogeshwaran Jaffna MP July 13, 1989
Kumar Pathmanaba
V. Yagasangam
T Ganeshalingam 
Sam Tambimuttu
V. Yogasangari
Lalith Athulathmudali
Ranasinghe Premadasa
Gamini Dissanayake
EPRLF Leader with entire politburo
EPRLF MP (while in Madras)
Provincial Minister for Northwest
Batticaloa MP
Batticaloa MP
Leader DUNF
President of Sri Lanka and UNP Leader
Opposition Leader and UNP presidential candidate with 58 party activists
 June 19, 1990
 June 19, 1990
 July 28, 1990
May 7, 1990
June 10, 1990
April 23, 1993
May 1, 1990
October 24, 1994
A Thangathurai
S. P. Dharmalingam
Sarojini Yogeshwaran
Pon Sivapalan
Dr. Neelan Tiruchelvam
Kumar Ponnambalam
C V. Gooneratne
Ariyanayagam Chandra
Lakshman Kadirgamar
Joseph Pararajasingham
Trincomalee MP
Jaffna SLFP Organiser
 Jaffna Mayor (TULF)
Jaffna Mayor (TULF)

ACTC President and
Former MP
 UPFA Minister
TNA MP for Batticaloa

UPFA Foreign Minister
Batticaloa TNA MP
July 5, 1997
October 1997
May 19, 1998
September 11, 1998
July 29, 1998
November 2, 1999

January 5, 2000

June 2, 2000
June 7, 2000
February 7, 2005

August 12, 2005
December 25, 2005
K Sivapalan
Nadarajah Raviraj Jaffna

March 6, 2008
November 10, 2006
Thyagarajah Maheswaran
D M Dassanayaka
Jeyaraj Fernandopulle  
UPFA Minister
Chief Government Whip and UPFA Minister
January 1,2008
January 8, 2008
April 6, 2008





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