Strolling Across Jaffna Politics
Posted on July 9th, 2015

Kusal Perera

Well, the reports that ex-LTTE” cadres would not be accommodated in TNA nomination lists for the upcoming elections is accepted as correct, with TNA leadership not denying the news carried in most media here in Colombo. This follows reports that some Jaffna based ex-LTTE cadres rehabilitated and released by the Rajapaksa government have come together to contest upcoming parliamentary elections and had decided to negotiate with the TNA leadership in gaining nominations. In fact news reports, once again not denied by the TNA leadership said, Northern Provincial Councilor, Ms. Ananthi Sasitharan has also been denied nominations from the TNA for the August 17 parliamentary elections. She had requested nominations from TNA for the Jaffna district.

 Jaffna Protests on UN Report
Courtesy Tamil Guardian

TNA reluctance in accommodating this war bruised new generation into mainstream politics is not just about them playing into Colombo or Rajapaksa sentiments. Not just an effort to avoid being labeled a LTTE proxy” by Sinhala extremists in South.  It’s also not simply about how TNA compromises with ruling politics in Colombo. It’s more about how they could face off the now emerging militant Tamil nationalism within democratic mainstream politics and remain unquestioned leaders.

Over five years of post war Tamil politics in Sri Lanka, dominated by the TNA, provided a growing singular platform for Tamil nationalism that expected the TNA leadership to work out solutions to the serious and major issues at hand; answers for land conflicts, de-militarisation, long held detainees without charges, involuntary disappearances, resettlement with livelihood and also democratic life in their own society. None had any acceptable answers. Where women and children are concerned, they remained vulnerable under an extra large military presence, hovering over their lives. Neither international pressure nor TNA politics brought any solace to these men and women toiling for an uncertain future, who gradually became frustrated having voted TNA at every election. Their last effort in gaining some breathing space to have their own issues brought to order under a Provincial Council elected by them with an overwhelming majority has also failed, drastically. They now see the NPC leadership getting frustrated and isolated from TNA politics in finding answers to their day to day grievances. This loss of faith in TNA leadership and therefore the necessity to seek alternatives within democratic Tamil politics would have come to the agenda of Northern politics much earlier, had there been freedom of expression in North, without fear of State reprisal.

Such was not the situation in Jaffna, pre January 08 presidential polls. Almost 01 million from North and East provinces out of the total 6.2 million polled by Candidate Sirisena, voted for the ouster of President Rajapaksa, primarily to gain that right to play open politics. One major factor thereafter has come into play in Sri Lankan socio political life. The new government plays soft on all rights issues”, in a bid to re position its stay within the international community. This in turn has given what is commonly termed in Sri Lankan present day political jargon as social space” for democratic activities. This to a certain extent is true even in Tamil social life, with comparatively less military and police surveillance, felt in North and East.

This space” is being used effectively by social groups and forums in Jaffna. It’s seen in how the Jaffna media now handles its editorial freedom, in how the Jaffna university students and academics intervene in their own issues and was furiously conspicuous when Jaffna broke into a violent protest over school girl Vithya’s gang rape and murder in Punkuduthivu.

It is thus logical, more politicalised former LTTE combatants whom the previous government declared officially as rehabilitated and freed, to come together, in publicly stating their political position on issues that remain to be found answers for. This new political regrouping obviously is not happy with how the present TNA leadership is handling Tamil grievances. This was evident from even what the NPC Chief Minister Wigneswaran recently said about the 13 Amendment and Provincial Councils. There is certainly a dissenting voice emerging against the TNA leadership, from within the Northern Tamil society, More radical political formations stepping into mainstream democratic politics seem to take over the task of finding answers long delayed.

Yet, why the TNA in democratic Tamil politics could still play the lead role in SL is because, these former LTTE combatants at this point of time, cannot declare themselves as a formal political entity, the way the JVP did after the bloody 1988-90 insurgency. When after a ruthless crackdown by the State forces they regrouped openly as a political party still under the JVP label, they had the advantage of previously being in active democratic politics as an accepted  political party as JVP. They had even contested a presidential election in 1982 as JVP. They also had the added advantage of being a Sinhala political presence in a society that was living with a Sinhala mindset for long decades. They were thus not asked where they laid down the arms, nor were they told, they are terrorists” with a track record of killing Sinhala people.

That is not how the emergence of former LTTE cadres would be looked at and treated, more because the LTTE had at no time been in democratic politics like the JVP. There is also a marked difference in how the Sinhala State and the larger Sinhala society accept former armed cadres of JVP and LTTE. It is this feeling of rejection and reluctance by society that has made them decide to move with the TNA to prove they would play open and democratic politics henceforth. That scares off the TNA old guard, because the present TNA is short of a strong personality in their second level leadership. One who could step into Sampanthan’s shoes with acceptance in Tamil politics and still could project a militant image to win the new generation of Tamil youth who come from a war beaten recent past. The reluctance within TNA leadership therefore is a feeling of political insecurity about their future, perhaps in the emerging period after the next election when they are compelled to be different from what they are now.

Kusal Perera

One Response to “Strolling Across Jaffna Politics”

  1. SA Kumar Says:

    We-Tamil used VP & co now time to dumped. sorry Batticalo Tamils & Estates Tamil mates.

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