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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2955

Tamil Parties Cannot Play Coy in a Corner

By Taraki – Sivaram - Appeared in the 'Daily Mirror' on 11-02-2004

The Tamil National Alliance has been made out to be more than what it actually is. If not for a variety of external pressures,it would have imploded at inception. Contrary to the chief myth about the TNA ­ that it is managed by the Liberation Tigers some of its leading politicians have had no scruples in running with the hare and hunting with the hound. They have noscruples in smartly exploiting the LTTE for their own political advantage. If you ask me, some of them wouldn't even care twohoots for the struggles and aspirations of the Tamil people.

If they do, then we would have seen images of Mavai Senathirajah or M.K. Sivajilingam or Appathurai Vinayagamoorthy fasting unto death in Tellipalai last week. The attempt to portray TULF President Anandasangaree as the villain of the piece is very wrong. At least the man speaks his mind.

Even the name 'TNA' was imposed on the quarrelsome bunch by the Tamil media, much to the chagrin of the TULF and the ACTC, which preferred to call it the 'Alliance of Tamil Political Parties'. The dominant image of the TNA as the political paw of the Tiger is deceptive.

A brief look at how the alliance was cobbled together in October/ November 2001 would shed some light on this fact.

Several interest groups in the northeast, particularly the Thamilar Marumalarchchi Kalaham in Batticaloa, began a campaign for Tamil political unity as soon as dates for the December 2001 general elections were announced.

These lobbies felt that all Tamil parties and groups in the northeast should be brought under one Tamil national umbrella regardless of their deep divisions and regardless of their long association with the military and allegations of rights abuses.

A simple ceremony was held at the Bharathy Star Hall to mark the 12th death anniversary of the slain journalist Taraki Sivaram under the patronage of the Jaffna Press. Journalists who participated wishing to remain anonymous told Asian Tribune, even the one of the key suspects whose motor vehicle is still under courts custody was there participating in the ceremony seated in the podium

When the matter was discussed with a Tamil United Liberation Front stalwart who used to persistently claim during the warn years that he had close links with the LTTE, he strongly objected to the TELO and the EPRLF joining the proposed alliance. He simply dismissed the matter, claiming that the Tigers were completely opposed to the two groups contesting the elections under the Tamil national umbrella.

Also, at that time this TULF politician was in the habit of saying that he was constantly in touch with the LTTE's political advisor, Mr. Anton Balasingham. However, it transpired later the TULF politician was lying., a senior Tiger leader in the east, told a delegation of the Thamilar Marumalarchchi Kalaham in Batticaloa that the LTTE had no objection at all to the TELO and the EPRLF joining the alliance, but was very keen that the two groups should be brought under the Tamil National umbrella as soon as possible. He was also eager that PLOTE too should join the TNA. This was at a time when PLOTE, EPRLF and TELO were officially working with the Sri Lanka army in intelligence and counter insurgency operations in the northeast.

The LTTE obviously had good strategic reasons for doing so but the fact was that the TULF politician had no scruples about quoting Balasingham to keep the two groups out of the alliance. This was not all. The alliance was about to be cemented after many rounds of talks in Colombo when the ACTC decided to throw the spanner in the works.

The party stubbornly insisted that it should contest the Jaffna district on its own and that it would be part of the alliance in other districts of the northeast. With few days to go for nominations, the Tamil alliance looked as though it was going to fall apart. But the ACTC was adamant. Months of hard work by academics, journalists, civil society activists, businessmen and the students' union leaders of the Batticaloa and Jaffna Universities were about to become nought.

It was only at the eleventh hour that ACTC was persuaded to contest under the common rising sun symbol. (Mr. Appathurai Vinayagamoorthy has recently tried to explain this episode on the basis that the contradiction was actually due to the ACTC's insistence that all constituents of the Tamil National Alliance should unequivocally accept the Liberation Tigers as the sole representatives of the Tamil people) The TNA does not have many days to squabble and quibble this time.

But we have already begun to hear some contrary noises from the ACTC quarter. Mr. Vinyagamoorthy has said that his party wouldn't take part in the crucial TNA meeting on Tuesday (yesterday) in Colombo because Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam is still abroad and he himself is unable to leave Jaffna. He was quoted by the Sooriyan FM station as saying that the ACTC would have to meet before it decides how to proceed regarding the alliance talks.

That the Tamil National Alliance should contest only on the basis of its common symbol and policy is the overwhelming opinion among Tamil nationalist interest groups this time. The sentiment was strongly echoed in the unanimous decision of the Trincomalee district branch of the Tamil National Alliance on Monday.
Obviously this is the wish of the LTTE too (although Kilinochchi remains mum on the matter). Therefore what is Mr. Vinayagamoorthy dilly ­dallying for? If his party, as he consistently claims, is the only one that unequivocally accepts the LTTE as the sole representatives of the Tamil people, why doesn't he stop throwing little spanners in the TNA works at this juncture and stand up to proclaim "One symbol. One policy. No personalities".

I think the ACTC's qualm is about preserving its individual, historical identity. It is a family party no doubt. Hence the urge to maintain its uniqueness could be stronger.

The party may have apprehensions about being subsumed under the TULF's 'rising sun' symbol. Lest it be forgotten, the TULF itself is the result of the political merger between the Federal Party and the ACTC. In 1976 Tamil parties were asked to surrender their individual identities for the sake of Tamil unity.

The FP gave up its long established 'house' symbol when the 'rising sun' was adopted by the Tamil national unity that emerged at the Vaddukoddai Conference that year. The ACTC and the FP were supposed to have been subsumed by the new political identity of the TULF.

That is why one time ACTC stalwarts like M. Sivasithamparam and Anandasangaree continued their political careers with the new political identity that they accepted with the forging of the TULF. Federal Party leaders gave up their established political identity when the TULF was launched. Today the FP exists only on paper.

But the ACTC insists on its distinct identity even today, with little spanners in hand to make its point. The Tamil national wheel has turned a full circle. Tamil parties are being urged to shed their distinct political identities and unite under one banner and symbol. They cannot play coy in the corner into which they have painted themselves since December 2001.

Taraki Sivaram or Dharmeratnam Sivaram (11 August 1959 – 28 April 2005) was a popular Tamil journalist of Sri Lanka. He was kidnapped by four men in a white van on 28 April 2005, in front of the Bambalapitya police station. His body was found the next day in the district of Himbulala, near the Parliament of Sri Lanka. He had been beaten and shot in the head. In 1997, Sivaram helped reorganise itself into a Tamil news agency with its own string of reporters, and remained a senior editor there until his death. He filed his last story for at 7:30 PM on the night he was murdered.

- Asian Tribune -

A simple ceremony was held at the Bharathy Star Hall , Kilinochi, to mark the 12th death anniversary of the slain journalist Taraki Sivaram under the patronage of the Jaffna Press. - Northern Province Chief Minister Justice Wigneswaran was the Chief Guest.
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