Tamil politics, LTTE bogey and nationalism slogan | Daily News

Tamil politics, LTTE bogey and nationalism slogan

Elections in the North will be hotly contested
Elections in the North will be hotly contested
Following the controversial statement by United National Party (UNP) politician Vijayakala Maheswaran stating that the North requires an administration similar to that of the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) controlled days, a former terrorist leader made a clarion call for the defeat of moderate Tamil leaders to strengthen forces of Tamil nationalism. Addressing media on July 4 in Jaffna, former LTTE Commander in Batticaloa, Muthukumar Manoharan alias ‘Basheer Kaka’ called upon the people who loved ‘Tamil National Leader’ Velupillai Prabhakaran not to cast their votes for moderate TNA (Tamil National Alliance) politicians like Abraham Sumanthiran and S. Shritharan.

In 2018, Vijayakala, then a State Minister, called for the revival of LTTE rule in the North. Last week she dropped another bombshell stating that if elections were held in North and the East during the ceasefire period, UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe would have won that election and LTTE Leader Prabhakaran would still be alive and perhaps even be the Governor of the North-Eastern Province.

She added that the North needs the kind of administration that prevailed during the time of the LTTE. She has added that if the present Government intends to provide a political solution for the Tamil people, the President must ensure freedom for the people to live in a merged North-Eastern Province, together with land and police powers, based on a Federal system. She has conveniently forgotten that the Supreme Court had given the verdict that the merger of the North and the East was unconstitutional.

Basheer Kaka, was one of the gang members led by Prabhakaran that attacked a military convoy at Thinnaively killing 13 soldiers in July 1983, that resulted in the devastating Black July riots. He said that he was the father of LTTE cadre ‘Maaveeran’ Arivoli, who sacrificed his life fighting against ‘Sinhala Army’ and called on the Prabhakaran loyalists not to vote so-called moderate politicians at the forthcoming General Elections.

Surprisingly, Basheer Kaka’s secessionist statement was carried as the front page lead of the Tamil newspaper Uthayan owned by former TNA MP E. Saravanapavan. The controversial utterances by Vijayakala and Basheer Kaka show the hardline mindset of some Northern politicians to win Parliamentary seats by arousing Tamil nationalism.

The current focus in the election campaigns in the North and the East is whether Sri Lanka would continue as a unitary state with current status quo or devolve more powers - land and police - by fully implementing the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. However, the demand of the hardliners as well as the so-called moderates is a new constitution to change the system to a Federal Government, perhaps without using the term ‘federal’.

The difference between a unitary and a federal Government is that a unitary government puts its power in one Central Government while in a federal system the governing power is divided into federal and local governing bodies that connect to the National Government.

In a unitary state, the Central Government commonly delegates authority to sub-national units and channels policy decisions down to them for implementation. Federalism is an institutional mechanism to accommodate two sets of polities, i.e., first is the center or national level and second is at the provincial or regional level. Both the sets of polities are autonomous in its own sphere. Certain subjects, which are the concern of a nation as a whole, for example, defence or currency, are the responsibility of the Union or Central Government. On the other hand, regional or local matters are the responsibility of the regional or state government. In case of a conflict between the centre and the state on any issue, the judiciary has the powers to resolve the disputes.

Although Tamil politicians continue to call for a federal system, they are well aware that it is an impossible dream. Sri Lanka has overwhelmingly voted for the current unitary system and in the last Presidential Election, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who stands for sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of the country, received an unprecedented mandate from the people. The election manifesto of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa clearly outlined that Sri Lanka would continue to be a Unitary State.

Tamil politicians play to the gallery because of the close fight for Parliamentary seats. The TNA that won the majority of seats in 2015 elections, is faced with severe challenge from former Northern Province Chief Minister C V Wigneswaran’s Tamil People’s Alliance (TPA), Tamil National People’s Front (TNPF) headed by ACTC Leader Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam, Douglas Devananda’s EPDP in addition to SLPP, SLFP and UNP sitting member Vijayakala Maheswaran.

In the Local Government elections of February 2018, the TNA polled only around 35 per cent of the Tamil votes. In many of the local government bodies, the TNA could have its Mayor only with the support of the former militant groups.

The TNA, as the case in many other political parties, have major fights within the party candidates due to preferential votes.The TNA candidates are already under-cutting one another, or each other in some specific cases, to ensure the defeat of their internal rivals as much as ensuring their own seats. Basheer Kaka’s attack on TNA’s Sumanthiran and Shritharan was mainly due to the infighting between them and Uthayan owner Saravanapavan. Although TNA won five seats in 2015 General Elections, the party strength is expected to reduce in the forthcoming election. In 2015, the winners were S. Shritharan, Mavai Senathirajah, Abraham Sumanthiran and E Saravanapavan in order of preferential votes. If the TNA strength is reduced to three or four seats in Jaffna, some of them will be unseated.

Political analysts believe Saravanapavan is using his newspaper and LTTE’s Basheer Kaka to undercut Shritharan and Sumanthiran in order to ensure his victory. Federal rhetoric by the candidates is mainly due to the preferential vote war and good sense is likely to prevail after the General Elections.      

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