Save the country from TNA’s treachery – Part III
Posted on December 3rd, 2018

BY : A.A.M.NIZAM – MATARA

The TNA which was not concerned at all about the affairs of Sri Lanka however played a prominent role like the JEPPOs when there was an issue that could destabilize peace and harmony in the country.  It hailed the Sri Lankan government’s mobilisation of the military to suppress strike action by Ceylon Petroleum Cooperation (CPC) workers. TNA’s treacherous  leaders Sambandan and Sumanthiran accused the strikers of attempting to bring down the government.

During the parliamentary debate, on this strike issue Sambandan attempted to present the government’s crackdown as democratic” while denouncing the strike as anti-democratic.” Echoing Ranil Wickremesinghe’s denunciations of the striking workers, in line with his anti-working-class policies Sambandan shedding crocodile tears said the unions had crippled fuel distribution and the essential services order was necessary to guarantee fuel supply peacefully to the people without any impediment.

Sambandan claimed the strike was part of a conspiracy” organised by a group of opposition MPs led by former President Mahinda Rajapakse. He warned the oil workers: saying that they cannot topple the government through strikes.” He repeatedly urged the government to take bold decisions” to suppress workers’ struggles.

Political analysts point out that TNA is a latter day shylock” who ruthlessly exploited Ranil’s weakness and extracted huge concessions harmful to the country in extending their support to the NCM against Ranil in April. These analysts also point out that once it became apparent that the proposed NCM against Ranil was a tripartite plot hatched by Anti-UNP elements, Sections of the SLFP led by Sirisena and the Sri Lanka Podu Jana Peramuna (SLPP) the TNA hierarchy began to get perturbed and  these sentiments got further exacerbated when media reports speculated that Sirisena was having plans of replacing Ranil with Karu Jayasuriya as a stop gap measure, and bring in ex – Defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa to Parliament on the National list and then replace Karu Jayasuriya  with Gota as premier. Apart from terminating the Constitution reform process, as per them the TNA felt such an axis would result in the country regressing backwards and negate the limited progress achieved by them since 2015.

This 85-year-old terrorist grandpa is the senior most Tamil leader in Parliament today and is on the terminal journey to the hell and he deserves to be sent in this final journey through Welikada or Jaffna prisons in punishment for his treachery to this peaceful country.

.He has participated in almost every attempt to bring about a negotiated settlement to the Tamil national question over the past 40 years since 1977. Currently he has fully involved himself with the Constitutional assembly and in the formulation of a new constitution. He has dedicated himself to the task of achieving political equality for Tamils in the Island through this envisaged federal and secular constitution. Sampanthan has hitched the TNA wagon to the new Constitution currently being stalled with Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa being appointed as the Prime Minister.

Sampanthan realises and recognizes that among the active frontline Sinhala political leaders only Ranil Wickremesinghe has shown keen and genuine interest in bringing about a lasting settlement of the Tamil national question although in the perspective of majority Sri Lankans such a question does not exist.

The neo liberal, foreign servile butterfly leader Ranil Wickremesinghe is indispensable to Sampanthan’s vision and political goals. There is a convergence and identity of interestbetween both. In recent times the TNA leader has been somewhat miffed with Ranil for the tardy progress on the Constitutional front ever since the interim report of the steering committee was released. These feelings however have paled into insignificance with Ranil being toppled and replaced. Despite all his shortcomings and faults, Ranil Wickremesinghe remains the best choice of what is available for Sri Lankan Tamils. For TNA leaders like Sampanthan and Maavai” Senathirajah it was a case of Hobson’s choice and there was no alternative to Ranil whose  unseating was certain to paralyse the political quest of a new power-sharing Constitution.

There was another reason for the TNA to support Ranil. The TNA has been closely associating with India and other western nations like the USA, Britain, Canada and Norway to help bring about a political settlement and ethnic reconciliation in Sri Lanka. Most of these despotic nations were also of the view that it was politically important and imperative to ensure the continuation of Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister. President Sirisena’s re-alignment with the Rajapaksas has jarred and jolted the so-called minority group (20 out of nearly 200) international community which now regards Ranil as the sheet anchor of the present Govt. Replacing Ranil with another – least of all a member of the Rajapaksas – was not to be countenanced.

The TNA being on the same political wavelength concurred with this perspective.They say however there are some hitches. One of the TNA constituents the EPRLF had pulled out of the configuration prior to the local government elections and had contested against the TNA in the polls. Of the two EPRLF MP’s Dr. Sivamohan remained with the TNA but Siva Shakthi Anandan was out of the TNA and kept away from the TNA parliamentary group. Thus, the TNA which had 16 MP’s earlier had been reduced to 15. The EPRLF said it would arrive at its own decision after discussing with Wickremesinghe. The other TNA constituent was the TELO which also had two MP’s. The TELO met separately and had decided that it would abstain from voting. The third TNA constituent PLOTE’s position was also uncertain and unknown as the leader Dharmalingam Siddarthan was undergoing the traditional period of mourning after the death of his mother. Mrs. Dharmalingam was the widow of former ITAK and TULF MP for Uduvil and Manipay V. Dharmalingam. The much respected, left-leaning Dharmalingam who served as MP from 1960 to 1983 was killed by the TELO along with Ex – MP Aallalasundaram in 1985.

Speculative reports appeared in sections of the Tamil media that there were serious differences of opinion among TNA parliamentarians about supporting Wickremesinghe. Although the TNA leadership had taken a policy decision in late March to oppose the No confidence motion, it appeared that there was no unanimity among MP’s. The TNA was apparently divided on this and the chances of a bloc vote being delivered in support of Ranil seemed to be slim if not remote. This made the TNA somewhat apprehensive on the question and when the media tried to find out what the party position on the NCM a definite answer was not forthcoming. The question was evaded with the announcement that the TNA would decide on its stance on the eve of the NCM vote.

It was against this backdrop that  13 MP’s of the TNA met on the morning of April 3rd in  Colombo. Not all members of the TNA parliamentary group were favourable to the idea of supporting Wickremesinghe. Some felt that the TNA should not interfere in what was essentially an intra-Sinhala dispute. They opined that the TNA should abstain from voting. Others of a more pro-tiger disposition wanted to keep away from voting so that Ranil would suffer his come-up pence, A few were of the view that Ranil was certainly going to lose with or without TNA support and therefore it would be better to not vote against and lose out in the end. Interestingly none of the TNA parliamentarians wanted to support the No Confidence motion against Wickremesinghe. They only wanted the TNA to abstain and not support Ranil. Voting for the NCM was firmly ruled out.

TNA leader Sampanthan however took a different view and expounded it powerfully. He told the MP’s how important it was for Ranil to remain as Prime Minister for resolving the ethnic problem and that his removal may result in the return of the Rajapaksas. The possibility of a Rajapaksa return had a dam effect on many of the TNA MP’s. Still there were some misgivings and fiery exchanges of words. Among those dissenting initially were MP’s

Selvam Adaikkalanathan, Iruthayaraj Charles Nirmalanathan ,S. Shritharan and E.Saravanabavan. MP’s Senathirajah and Sumanthiran endorsed Sampanthan’s position and argued in favour of supporting Ranil. The discussions were rather heated at times and at one-point Sridharan pointed out to Sampanthan in an insulting manner that he had got more votes in Kilinochchi than Sampanthan in Trincomalee.

Finally, the inner -party discussions ended with all MP’s agreeing that the TNA should support the PM by voting against the NCM. However, some MP’s now felt   that they should extract some concessions from the Prime Minister in return for supporting him. It was pointed out that the UNP Jaffna MP Ms. Vijayakala Maheswaran and some UNP organizers had been given a quota” in job appointments whereby they were able to provide employment to their supporters. Some TNA MP’s wanted to demand such quotas from the PM.

Principled Position Based on Higher Ideals

A visibly angry Sampanthan rejected this suggestion saying he would not subscribe to this course of action. He said the TNA position on this was that the present Govt under this Prime minister should continue in order to implement the democratization and Constitution making process. Several other MP’s including Senathirajah and Sumanthiran also rejected this suggestion saying this amounted to asking for political patronage”. Sampanthan pointed out that the TNA was taking a principled position based on higher ideals and should not stoop down to the level of exchanging votes for jobs. This viewpoint was accepted with a compromise. It was suggested that the TNA parliamentarians should meet the Prime Minister directly and inform him of their decision to support him. However, they would air their grievances about the slow progress in constitution making, release of Tamil détentes, return of lands and other issues to Wickremesinghe and seek a guarantee that he would provide redress.

A delegation of TNA parliamentarians led by Sampanthan therefore called upon Wickremesinghe and explained the position. The MP’s outlined their grievances and sought a guarantee from Wickremesinghe that he would address them in due course. Most of the matters raised were not new with some being issues of discussion from the time this Govt came into being. A common thread in the grievances was the lack of speed and not enough being done to address concerns. The issues raised were categorised into ten main points. They were as follows –

1.Expediting the political discussions to bring about a negotiated settlement
2.Renewing the dormant Constitution making process to enact a new Constitution.
3.Hastening the return of lands in the North-east occupied by the armed forces back to the civilian owners.
4.Speedy release of all Tamil political détentes
5.Tracing the whereabouts of Missing persons and those made to disappear during the war
6.Greater employment opportunities for youths in the North and East
7.Giving preference to people already resident in the areas over non -residents when making  Go vt service appointments in the North and East
8.Appointment of Tamil -speaking administrators in Tamil speaking divisions in the North and East
9.Prioritising development projects being undertaken by the Northern and Eastern provincial councils
10.Giving top consideration to proposals made by MP’s of the North and East when launching development projects in those areas.

 

 Understanding Reached Without a Formal Agreement

As stated earlier there was nothing new or problematic in these proposals and the Prime Minister had no difficulty in agreeing to them. The ten categories of issues discussed were itemised into twelve points and put on paper. Two of the points raised had been broken up into two thereby increasing the number to twelve.,\ Ranil Wickremesinghe placed his signature along with a few lines indicating that he had taken due note of the points mentioned and that he would guarantee speedy implementation of those proposals. He said that he would refer to them in his parliamentary speech and asked Finance minister Mangala Samaraweera who was present to elaborate more on the issues raised in his speech. Samaraweera consented. Thereafter a satisfied TNA departed having reached an understanding with the Prime minister and obtaining assurances without entering into any formal pact or forging a UNP- TNA agreement.

However, the TNA felt that as a matter of courtesy they should inform President Sirisena also of their decision to vote against the no confidence motion. TNA leader Sampanthan and Deputy -leader Senathirajah sought an appointment and met with President Sirisena. They told the President that the TNA wanted the present Govt to continue with the same Prime  Minister for the 2015 Mandate to be implemented and promises fulfilled. Sirisena was non-committal. After informing the president about the NCM the TNA leaders also complained about irregular land settlement practices under the Mahaweli development scheme in  Mullaitheevu district. Sirisena who is the Mahaweli development minister promised to investigate the problem and resolve it.

What the TNA did not know at the time they met the President was that Maithripala Sirisena had earlier reacted strongly against the notion of TNA supporting Wickremesinghe against the NCM. When a UNP delegation had called on him, President Sirisena had said that if the NCM were to be defeated with the help of TNA votes it would not go down well with the Sinhala people. Minister Mangala Samaraweera had then retorted by asking Sirisena why it was wrong to get TNA votes in Parliament against the NCM when Sirisena had obtained millions of Tamil votes mobilised by the TNA to win the Presidential contest against Mahinda Rajapaksa in 2015/. The president was silent. Later in Parliament the TNA’s MA Sumanthiran was to refer to this incident in his speech but there has been no response from the President so far.

D-day dawned on April 4th. All 15 TNA parliamentarians including the bereaved Siddharthan met in the morning where Sumanthiran read out once again the 12 points discussed with Prime Minister Wickremesinghe in English and translated them into Tamil for the record. All MP’s then pledged that they would vote against the no confidence motion. TELO leader Selvam Adaikkalanathan noted that the TELO would vote against the NCM though his party central committee had unanimously decided to abstain. When Parliament commenced Sampanthan outlined the TNA position succinctly in his speech and emphasised why the party was voting against the NCM.

At voting time all 16 MP’s elected from the TNA in 2015 voted against the NCM. This included the EPRLF’s Sivasakthy Anandan also. The motion was defeated by 46 votes. The voting once again revealed that the minority ethnicities of the Island were solidly behind Ranil Wickremesinghe.

The Tamil National Alliance can take justifiable pride in voting against the no confidence motion. It was the TNA decision that removed uncertainty and tilted the decision in the Premier’s favour. It was after the TNA decision that President Sirisena realising the NCM battle was lost backed out and asked the SLFP to abstain from voting. It was the TNA decision that thwarted the conspiracy within UNP ranks to vote against their leader. It was also the TNA decision that convinced the fence sitters among Muslim parties to decide firmly on voting against the NCM instead of abstaining. Once it became known that the TNA was firmly behind Wickremesinghe , it was obvious that the NCM would be defeated and this impacted on the voting stances of undecided parties and MP’s. Also, it was the TNA support which helped Ranil Wickremesinghe greatly to exceed the magic number of 113 by nine more votes.

It remains to be seen whether Ranil Wickremesinghe would be able to function as an effective prime minister in the future despite proving he has the confidence of the majority in Parliament. It is patently clear that President Sirisena is yet opposed to his Prime Minister. This is likely to result in further friction or paralyse the administration. Although the TNA voted on the basis that retention of the Prime minister and Govt were necessary to implement the 2015 mandate including the promulgation of a new Constitution , it is highly unlikely that such an eventuality would come to pass

What is likely to happen or not happen in the future is in the realm of the unknown. Ranil Wickremesinghe has withstood and overcome a tripartite conspiracy to topple him from his post. The minority political parties especially the TNA have played a constructive role in helping the Premier to defeat the no confidence motion. The TNA has demonstrated that it is a political party that will not shirk its duties despite racist intimidation to do what is right and ensure the stability and continuity of an elected government. The decision has been based on principle rather than expediency. Reports said that it is very probable that the TNA will be severely criticised by those supportive of the NCM, but the party seems to be feeling proud that it has done the right thing and saved Ranil Wickremasinghe from falling into disgrace.

(To be continued)

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