Daily Archives: August 4, 2015
COLOMBO: In the January 8 Sri Lankan Presidential election, the main issue was the corruption and authoritarianism associated with the United Peoples’ Freedom Alliance (UPFA) regime. But in the run up to the August 17 parliamentary elections, the opposition UPFA has brought to the fore the issue of Tamil separatism and militancy, putting the ruling United National Front for Good Governance (UNFGG) on the defensive.
UPFA speakers, including former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, are shouting from roof tops about a “revival” of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) through its “proxy” the Tamil National Alliance (TNA). The informal alliance of the TNA with the UNFGG is enabling the UPFA to charge that the UNFGG is party to the TNA’s “separatist” agenda. UPFA stalwart Wimal Weerawansa has even written a book on the separatist threat which was released by former Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
The TNA’s manifesto calling for a “federal” Lanka and the reunification of the Tamil-speaking Northern and Eastern Provinces, has added grist to the UPFA’s mill because in Lanka, “federalism” is equivalent to “independence” and a unified North and East is a stepping stone to a separate “Tamil Eelam”.
The UNFGG government’s friendly ties with the UN have made the UPFA charge that the government will enable the UN to send Rajapaksa, the vanquisher of the LTTE, to the electric chair for “war crimes”.
An embarrassed UNFGG had to douse the fire by stoutly denying that it is for “federalism” and by stating categorically that it will neither allow an international investigation nor surrender Rajapaksa or any other Lankan. It has said that its investigation will be purely domestic. But for the UPFA, even a domestic investigation is anathema.
The TNA is eager to collaborate with the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government to win the Tamils’ rights in stages, but electoral compulsions make it highlight the Tamils’ demand for “self-determination” albeit within a united Lanka. And it has to demand an international inquiry into “war crimes” partly because its Tamil rivals are demanding it more vociferously. But the more vociferous the Tamil parties are on the ethnic issue, the more belligerent the UPFA becomes in opposing them.
COLOMBO: C.V.Wigneswaran, who became Chief Minister of Sri Lanka’s Northern Province in 2013 thanks to the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), appears to be drifting away from the party which propped him up.
Well placed sources in the TNA told Express that the rift, which is being kept under wraps in view of the August 17 parliamentary elections, could surface after the polls.
The TNA, which is playing a key role in Lankan politics in the post-Rajapaksa era, is inching towards a more moderate and accommodative line on the Tamil question, in keeping with domestic compulsions and its international commitments. But Wigneswaran has veered towards a more radical line, inviting censure in Lanka as well as the international community.
The once apolitical former Supreme Court judge has now developed independent political ambitions. Apparently, he no longer wants to be a lackey of the old war horses of the TNA. After he agreed to get the Northern Provincial Council (NPC) to pass the controversial “genocide resolution” initiated by a radical member, Wigneswaran won accolades from extremists in the Tamil Diaspora.
Locally, he is said to be under the influence of the radical Tamil National Peoples’ Front (TNPF) led by Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam. According to some sources, his recent US trip was arranged by a radical group. Recently, Wigneswaran issued a statement saying that he would be “neutral” in the run up to the parliamentary elections thus distancing himself from the TNA.
Differences with top TNA leaders came to light when he fought with Mavai Senathirajah over money allocated to MPs by the Central government.TNA leaders have been complaining about Wigneswaran’s administrative incompetence due in part to his failure to interact with Ministers, Departmental Secretaries and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. The NPC’s administrative inefficiency has become an election issue.
The Sunday Times reported that US Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia, Nisha Biswal, had ticked him off for harping on “genocide” when he ought to be cooperating with the Sirisena government to solve the Tamil question. And India was apparently embarrassed when, against advice, he made a political speech during Modi’s visit to Jaffna.