Storm brewing in the Northern sky | Sunday Observer

Storm brewing in the Northern sky

Dissidence brewing for long among constituents of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) led by opposition leader Rajavarothayam Sampanthan, over the high-handedness of the leaders of the main constituent Ilankai Thamil Arasu Kadchy (ITAK), has now flared up openly.

Suresh Premachandran, leader of one of the dissident parties, the Eelam People’s Revolutionary Front (EPRLF), has announced that he would run for the upcoming local government polls on his own as a separate party in alliance with the Tamil National People’s Front (TNPF) led by former parliamentarian Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam and with the support of the Tamil People’s Council (TPC) and other political groups. The TPC, the new Tamil political front, was started in Jaffna in December 2015, as a political alternative to the TNA, headed by Northern Province Chief Minister (CM), C.V. Wigneswaran who was nominated by the TNA, contested on its ‘House’ symbol and elected CM in the September 21, 2013 PC polls. But, from the inception CM Wigneswaran parted ways from the TNA leadership on issues of political ideology, claiming that the TNA request for a devolution package from the UNF government as a solution to the national ethnic issue was short of what the Tamil leaders had demanded and fought for.

The TPC is co-chaired by Dr P Lakshman, Consultant Cardiologist at the Teaching Hospital, Jaffna and T Vasantharajah, Secretary of the Batticaloa Civil Society. The Action Committee and the Convening Committee of the TPC consist of 30 members who represent religious institutions, civil societies and political parties, as well as professionals. Dissidents from the other three constituents of the TNA – the Tamil Eelam Liberation Organisation (TELO) led by parliamentarian Selvam Adaiklanathan, the People’s Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE) led by parliamentarian T.Sitharthan, the ITAK led by parliamentarian Mavai Senadhirajah and also Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam, leader of the TNPF are in the committees. CM Wigneswaran was initially quoted as saying that the TPC would not operate as a political front or enter politics but would work for the welfare and political rights of the Tamils. But, it is now apparent that the TPC is directly into politics.

The TNA leadership’s somewhat mild response to the interim report of the Constitutional Steering Committee has drawn two extreme reactions from party dissident leaders - one from Suresh Premachandran through his open announcement that he would run for the local government polls as a separate political group, in alliance with the TNPF and other parties in the membership of the TPC and would contest under a symbol different from that of the TNA’s ‘House’ symbol.

CM Wigneswaran has been quoted as having reacted by saying that the impending split within the TNA is basically due to the attitude of some of the TNA leaders who, responding to the interim report of the Constitutional Steering Committee, have seemingly consented to prominence being given to Buddhism, agreed to domination of the majority community over the other minority communities under the unitary system of government, ignored the question of unification of the North and East and forsaken demands on self-determination.

He was further quoted as having said that the TNA leaders have also forsaken their own electoral platform promises incorporated in their election manifesto and their readiness to accept anything short of what they originally demanded would be detrimental to the interests of the Tamils. Meanwhile, ITAK President and Jaffna TNA parliamentarian Mavai Senadhirah, had earlier expressed his reservations over President Maithripala Sirisena’s statement that the proposed new Constitution had no features relating to federalism.

Senadhirajah has quoted a 2014 Supreme Court verdict which said “Tamil political parties who were advocating for an increased sharing of power under a new Federal model, were not breaking the law”.

Political observers reacting to that stance have said, the government, after the end of the war in May 2009 had pumped in staggering amounts for development, livelihood and rehabilitation projects in the North and East in spite of the immense financial losses suffered during the three-decade long war. This factor should be taken into consideration by those who want to be rigid on their stance with regard to regional autonomy.”

Suresh Premachandran is reported as saying that every Tamil citizen has now realised the dire need for an alternative leadership for them because of the fact that the ITAK has forsaken its electoral platform assurances.

He is also reported as saying that the ITAK leaders have forsaken federalism and the North-East unification and they take decisions unilaterally, without consulting the other constituent parties, and that the TPC has the responsibility of explaining to the Tamils the many defects of the proposed new Constitution in relation to the Tamils, in the context of the fact that the TNA has supported the new Constitution. 

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