An Ineffective and Fragmented Political Opposition of Tamil Leaders
Thambu Kanagasabai – A Response
– A detailed Response by Nakkeeran
(11) It appears that TNA has chosen to better support ‘Maithri and Ranil’ rather than allowing Mahinda to rise as the next ruler.
Response: This is an extremely queer and weird comment. This has been the sing-song of TNA’s predators. and armchair critics. If the TNA leadership is ‘weak’ and ‘aimless’ the writer should go back home and provide a more robust leadership. The cream of the Tamil society, including the writer, has bolted from their country of origin supposedly because of the war. Such people should not complain about the ‘weak’ and ‘aimless’ leadership of the TNA. It is the people who elected them to the leadership. Tamils in Diaspora should not insult the intelligence or the democratic choice of the people who have remained back risking their lives. One should agree, the TNA leadership is primarily answerable to the electors in North and East. Parliament is not a boxing ring where boxers exchange blows and sometimes a knockout. On the contrary, Parliament is a people’s forum where decisions are taken after discussion and debate. I wholeheartedly agree with the writer when he claims “TNA has chosen to better support ‘Maithri and Ranil’ rather than allowing Mahinda to rise as the next ruler”. This is not a secret the whole world knows it. And they know the reason(s).
TNA follows Thiruvalluvar diktat that “He who is alone and helpless while his foes are two should secure one of them as an agreeable help (to himself).” In both, the Presidential elections in 2010 and 2015 TNA did ask the people to vote against the common enemy. The people heeded the appeal of the TNA. TNA entertains no regrets for bringing about a regime change. Only those who want our people to suffer persecution and oppression, while they safe in foreign climes, advocate Rajapaksa’s come back to power. Our people are intelligent and think otherwise.
Valluvar says it is easy for people to say how an act is to be performed) is (indeed) easy for anyone, but far difficult is to do according to what has been said(Kural 664). Instead of whining and finding faults with others the Tamil intelligentsia should join the fight for Tamil people’s rights. Sinhala intellectuals like Dayan Jayatilleka, Neville Ladduwahetty, C.A.Chandraperuma, Sanja de Silva Jayatilleka, Shamindra Ferdinando, Gunadasa Amarasekera just to mention a few who are championing the interests of the majority. Through their writings they promote Sinhala – Buddhist fundamentalism, that is, ethno-nationalist and often ethnoreligious nationalism. They claim that Sinhalese has a chequered history of safeguarding Buddhism for the last 2,500 years. That Tamils are illegal immigrants of recent past. They repeatedly pose the question “What is the problem the Tamils have that is distinctively their own and not shared by the Sinhalese?” But we know their argument is in the realm of pure fiction.
There was no Sinhalese collective identity till the 8th century AD. The war between Elladan and Duttu Gemenu is not a war between Tamils and Sinhalese. It was a war between the Hindu Tamils/Buddhist Nagas and Buddhist Tamils/Nagas. Gemenu was of Naga descent from both his paternal and maternal side. His great great grand father was Muttu Sivan a Saivaite Naga King who ruled from Anuradhapura. He is the father of King Devanampiya Tissa the first convert to Buddhism.
Buddhism has come to Tamil Nadu as early as the 3rd century BC. King Asoka in his Rock-Edict No. III, says that his Dharma Vijaya prevailed in the kingdoms of the Colas, Pandyas and at Tambapanni (Sri Lanka). The major urban centres of Kancheepuram, Kaveripattinam, Uragapura (Udaipur), and Madurai were not only centres of Buddhism, but these were also important centres of Pali learning. Tamil Nadu boasted of outstanding Buddhist monks, who had made remarkable contributions to Buddhist thought and learning. Three of the greatest Pali scholars of this period were Buddhaghosa, Buddhadatta, and Dhammapada and all three of them were associated with Buddhist establishments in the Tamil kingdoms.
The well known Tamil Buddhist epics Manimekalai, Silappadhikaram, Valaiyapathi, Kundalakesi and Jivaka Cintamani are some of the well known Tamil Buddhist epics. The lost Tamil Buddhist works include the grammar Virasoliyam, the Abhidhamma work Siddhantattokai, the panegyric Tiruppadigam and the biography Bimbisara Kada. Manimekalai, a purely Buddhist work of the 3rd Sangam period in Tamil literature is the most supreme and famous among the Buddhist work done in Tamil. It is a work expounding the doctrines and propagating the values of Buddhism. It also talks about the Tamil Buddhists in the island/Nagadipa.
It is a historical fact that among the many ancient Buddhist shrines in Sri Lanka is Velgam Vihara which was renamed Rajaraja-perumpalli, also called Natanar Kovil by the present-day Tamils. Late Dr Senarath Paranavithana described it in his book `Glimpses of Ceylon’s Past` as an `Ancient Buddhist shrine of the Tamil people`. Some of the Tamil inscriptions found at the site record donations to this shrine during the reigns of the Chola Kings, Rajarata Cholan 1 and Rajendradeva 11.
In Sri Lanka, the Tamil Buddhists who followed Theravada Buddhism shared the commonplaces of worship with the Sinhalese, but there were also Tamil Buddhists who were following Mahayana Buddhism and they had their own Mahayana temples. There are still some Tamil Mahayana Buddhist establishments (Palli) in the north and east. The best known is the Buddhist temple at Nainatheevu and Velgam Vihara which was renamed Rajaraja-perumpalli after the Cola emperor. Another was Vikkirama-calamekan-perumpalli.
During the Bhakti movement (6th century AD onwards), Buddhists and Jains were persecuted by Saivaites and thousands of them were hoisted on petards. Buddhist Tamils sought asylum in Ceylon and in course of time became Sinhalese Buddhists. through a process of assimilation. The fusion of Sinhala and Buddhism into Sinhala-Buddhism took place only in the early 20th century by revivalists such as Anagarika Dharmapala.
Unfortunately, Tamils ignorant of history, believe that Buddhism is a Sinhala religion. Buddhism came to be identified with Sinhalese (just like Saivaism came to be identified with Tamil) only from the 20th century, The campaign was led by Anagarika Dharmapala who called Sinhalese ‘sweet Aryan children;. Instead of shooting the same side goals, the learned writer should direct his writing skills to dispel the illusion that Buddhism is an alien religion to Tamil people.
(12) As for the Tamils, there is no gainsaying of the fact that all the Sinhalese leaders are united in pursuing the agenda of Buddhisiation and Sinhalisation but only disunited as to the intensity and scope in their pursuit of a communal campaign with each one outclassing and out beating the other to capture the political crown.
Maithri’s veiled warning to the protesters in Jaffna who protested against his visit by saying that “If you don’t support me you will allow only a ghost to emerge” shows his fear for Mahinda, but for the Tamils, both are one coin with two faces but with same political value.
It is incomprehensible to note that the TNA leader has not achieved anything concrete so far after eight years of leadership given by the Tamils since 2009. Their failings and omissions have to be highlighted for the sake of information.
1). TNA has neither passed a resolution confirming the ‘GENOCIDE’ nor there is any oral statement made to this effect so far. TNA by this unpardonable blunder has only weakened the Tamils cause in the United Nations, UNHRC and International Community while discouraging the West also to desist calling the war crimes as GENOCIDE.
Response: The writer, as usual, is off-limit. He is recycling stuff he has covered for the umpteenth time in the past. Two thousand affidavits were submitted to the UNHRC citing human rights violations, war crimes and crimes against humanity by Sri Lanka, but the UNHRC spokesperson said that there was not enough evidence to support the charge of genocide. Maybe with more evidence, the UNHRC might change its stance later. The charge of genocide is difficult to prove as we saw it in North Sudan. However, we are encouraged by the verdict by the ICC which sentenced Serbian general Ratko Mladic to life imprisonment after finding him guilty of genocide.
2). TNA has failed to carry on a campaign to prosecute the war criminals either locally or outside or even initiating steps to prosecute them under the Universal Jurisdiction Clause. This inexcusable lapse is nothing but inflicting more wounds to the victims of war and to the dead and fallen youths and civilians, thus jettisoning the twin principles of accountability and justice.
Response: Due to the campaign by the TNA and other groups Resolution 30/1 was passed on October 01, 2015. The most consequential clause of the October 2015 resolution read as follows: “…takes note with appreciation of the Government of Sri Lanka’s proposal to establish a Judicial Mechanism with a Special Counsel to investigate allegations of violations and abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law, as applicable; and affirms that a credible justice process should include independent judicial and prosecutorial institutions led by individuals known for integrity and impartiality; and further affirms in this regard the importance of participation in a Sri Lankan judicial mechanism, including the Special Counsel’s office, of Commonwealth and other foreign judges, defence lawyers, and authorized prosecutors and investigators.” So the ball is now in the court of UNHRC.
(2) TNA has maintained inexplicable silence over the ongoing process of Sinhalisation and Buddhisisation. It appears they have left this matter to the affected locals to protest in places where Buddhist Viharas are built and Buddha statues are erected. This silence of TNA could be considered as consent to the Government’s program, justifying the saying that ‘silence is consent’.
Furthermore, Sam and Suma appear to be controlling the ITAK as well as the TNA. This is seen when the other partners in the TNA [TELO, EPRLF and PLOTE] have started to openly criticize Sam and particularly Sum for taking decisions without their approval, not even consultation with them. Sampanthan’s recent step-motherly treatment of EPLRF MP Sivasakthi Ananthan as an outcast in the Parliament during the debate on the constitutional proposals by denying and stifling his democratic rights to speak while allowing all the other TNA MPs smacks of his dictatorial attitude. Above all this unjust action confirms his utter disregard to maintain the unity of TNA, thus falling into the hands of Maithiri/Ranil’s ‘divide and rule policy’. The duo has thus broken the TNA’s unity and discipline along with their strength to speak with one voice. Undoubtedly, the duo has fallen into the historical ‘divide and rule trap policy’ of Sinhalese leaders. The often heard pleas and cries of suffering Tamils for a united front and united voice seem to be falling on the deaf ears of TNA.
Response: The writer is appearing without a fee for the constituent partners in the TNA. He is insulting the intelligence of the ITAK members. All policy decisions are taken after consulting the Executive/General Council which meets frequently. The last one was held a few days ago. in Vavuniya. Sivasakthi Amanda was not given time to speak because he did not attend the workshop for TNA parliamentarians held at the office of the Opposition Leader. Who should speak or not speak is a prerogative of the TNA parliamentary group leader. The writer is displaying juvenile delinquency like a person who has not reached the adult age. Sampanthan is a veteran politician who joined the satyagraha staged by the ITAK in 1961. He is representing Trincomalee in parliament since 1977 – 1983 and 2001 – to date! Some people specialise in denigrating our elected leaders on flimsy and frivolous grounds.
3). TNA has so far never initiated any mass and popular protests against the Government for their delay, refusal and denial of justice and remedies for the grievances of Tamils which have been accumulating for the past sixty years, particularly after the genocidal war, Above all, it is a pity that TNA has no agenda or program of action to pursue the goals and aspiration of Tamils. It appears the recent statements of TNA are confirming they are abandoning the election pledges of Federalism and North & East merger while accepting the unitary form of Government and endorsing Buddhism’s foremost place in the Proposed Constitution.
Response: The TNA is interested in the content and not the form of the constitution. The UK has a unitary constitution, but Scotland enjoys extensive devolved powers over banking, immigration, educations, judiciary, currency, flag, national anthem etc. The word unitary and federal have lost their original meaning. A unitary constitution can offer devolved powers not found in some federal states. We will not be bogged down by symbols or on semantic gymnastics!
4). TNA leadership is also making wavering and confusing statements on the Interim Committee Proposals, sometimes saying “we will fight for federalism and merger of North and East’ and on another occasion ‘a united country with federal aspects’, while Suma says ‘There is no possibility of North and East merger’. Sam and Suma are also blowing hot and cold over the clause giving Buddhism its foremost place’. While in Parliament, Sumanthiran in one breath advocates the insertion of ‘secular state’, in another breath he says ‘we will accept Buddhism’s foremost place if the Buddhists want it’. This is nothing but confusing and self-contradictory.
Response: These queries are childish. Please read the interim report. The ITAK has asked that the Northern and Eastern provinces should constitute one province/state. However, the interim report has listed 3 options regarding the amalgamation of provinces (1)The constitution recognises the Northern and Eastern Provinces as a single province (2) Amalgamation of existing Provinces after a referendum in each Province (3) The Constitution should not provide for a merger. The TNA wants a secular state in which every citizen is equal like in Canada. But if the existing provision to give Buddhism foremost place the TNA will not as pro quid co oppose provided the Provinces are given maximum autonomy. The writer is engaged in nitpicking!
(5) It is further disappointing to note the dismantled TNA and the subdued and meek opposition expressed by TNA which is not the hallmark in the political history of Tamils. Viewing the TNA’s unacceptable and poor political performance and consequently weakening the causes of the Tamils, who are also ignored by Security Council and United Nations so far, a solemn duty has fallen on the shoulders of students and their leaders to rise up and take control of the politics and destiny of Tamils. Power of students has to be recognized, embraced and accepted by all the Tamils to carry forward the struggle for accountability and justice.
Response: This is wishful thinking. One cannot manufacture leaders. The TNA has increased its vote bank in every election held since 2009. The people and not those in the Diaspora will judge the performance of the TNA at the next election after three years. Even during the last parliamentary elections, there was a concerted campaign by the remnants of LTTE to defeat the TNA. The campaign to unseat the TNA was an unmitigated disaster. People will not accept Gajendrakumar and his ACTC which betrayed one million Tamils of Indian origin for a mesh of pottage! They will also not accept Wigneswaran as a leader after his dismal performance as Chief Minister of the Northern Province as the Chief Minister. Who else is there? Suresh Premachandran? He lost the election at the last parliamentary elections.
(6) Sacrificing some time and energy for this noble cause will go down in history as sacrifices to save the Tamils from extinction through the process of assimilation which is underway in the North and East. Duty and burden also lie on them to make the Government and the International Community realise the strength of opposition which is now treated by the Government as a nuisance or no value. Sam & Suma’s much-applauded speeches in Parliament during the debate on ‘Interim Committee Proposals’ focused on the need for an acceptable solution ending with entreating and humble pleas to the Government to consider the importance of a solution to the national question. However, it has fallen short without indicating or mentioning the action plan of TNA in the event the Government fails to honour the pleas and deliver an acceptable political settlement proposals, which situation is going to be certain to materialize viewing the past political somersaults of past Sri Lankan Governments’, who have been adept in delivering promises only to be followed by breaches.
Response: There lies the problem. No sacrifice of time and energy. Worse no financial sacrifice. For the information of those concerned Tamils, the international community is with us. It is putting diplomatic pressure on the GoSL TNA listens to international community. There is no assimilation of Tamils going on in North and East by the help of the stat now. If individuals are converted from one religion to another it is permitted in law. If Hindu Tamils get converted to other religions it shows the weakness of the Hindu religion. No army discloses its action plan in advance. We will tell the people when we come to cross the bridge. Some Tamils are born doomsday soothsayers. Always having a pessimistic and defeatist attitude.
(7) Above all, whether the proposed new constitution will have a ten-month safe delivery without abortion is doubtful and far from certain viewing the rising tide of irrational and communal opposition from various quarters in the South like Mahinda front, Mahanayakaès front and other chauvinist outfits and groups who are breathing fire and fury and helping themselves with the bogey of separation as their trump card.
Response: Yes, it is a long journey into the night! But we shall overcome!
(8) With a wavering and disunited TNA, which is not exploiting its present political strength and status, it is left for the students, Tamil Civil Groups, Intellectuals and Diaspora to lead the Tamils as one force while seeking the support and intervention of International Community.
It is better late than never for the TNA to initiate and pursue a concerted campaign for the universally and UN-recognised people’s right of self-determination which has been kept alive in all the political manifestos of all Tamil political parties since 1976 including the present TNA.
The much-expected hope and optimism that the existing historical coalition of major parties in Sri Lanka, UNP and SLFP would bring out a permanent and acceptable political settlement for the Tamils has proved to be an illusion as the reality is that the South political parties will never be able to free themselves from the entrenched ‘Maha Vamsa’ mindset and the resultant process of Buddhisisation and Sinhalisisation agenda set in motion from 1948 by the late D.S. Senanayake which is continuing unabated, unhindered, undeterred and uninterrupted in the North and East.
Response: Everyone knows what is ailing the Tamil Nation. The dispute is not over the prognosis but about the remedy. But crying and sitting on one’s elbow is not the way. Unity cannot be forged for the sake of unity. It must be anchored on policies, principles and goals. Unlike during the past 69 years, today we have succeeded in placing the National Question in the UNHRC successfully. Now the ball is in UNHRC’s court. And Sri Lanka is in the dock.
I have taken pains to write a lengthy refute since this article contains the same sing-song of most armchair critics. One should know that we don’t live in paradise among angels. In the real world, we live Utopian dreams should be given up because the reality is different. So we should not live our life like imbeciles because the real world can be brutal and cruel.
Martin Luther King Jr.says “Cowardice asks the question – is it safe? Expediency asks the question – is it politic? Vanity asks the question – is it popular? But conscience asks the question – is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular; but one must take it because it is right.”
Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable. Every step towards the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.