Remembering with heavy hearts

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By Manekshaw

A commemoration, to mark the 32nd death anniversary of slain veteran Tamil politician V.Tharmalingam of the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) and Parliamentarian M. Alalasuntharam, who were brutally assassinated on 2 September 1985,was held at the memorial site in Thavadi, Jaffna last week.

Tharmalingam and Alalasuntharam were the first Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) Parliamentarians to be gunned down by the Tamil militants, when the separatist war was gathering momentum in the early eighties in the North and East.

Tharmalingam was a highly respected Tamil politician of the Federal Party, and on first entering Parliament in 1960 represented his electorate Uduvil for twenty five years. The soft spoken and down to earth politician, Tharmalingam, who was often seen cycling in his electorate, was a tower of strength to the Federal Party (FP) and to the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) with his amiable qualities and his firm commitment towards fulfilling the political aspirations of Tamils. The political assassinations of veteran Tharmalingam and Alalasun-tharam of TULF were the first indications that the Tamil militants were heading, on a wrong track and turning their weapons, to annihilate the moderate politicians from the Tamil political scene.

Majority of politicians of the TULF, including the General Secretary of the Party A. Amirthalingam nearly 30 Tamil Parliamentarians from the North and East, had been gunned down during the three decades of the separatist war in the island.

The militants responsible for gunning down Tharmalingam and Alalasuntharam still remain a mystery and whether the two politicians were shot dead by the LTTE or the TELO. With these two assassinations the Tamil moderates were able to understand that the Tamil militancy was not going to achieve anything constructive in Tamil politics and the armed struggle was turning to be a big hindrance in reaching any durable political settlement to the Tamil cause. On 2nd September TULF Parliamentarian Alalasun-tharam was abducted from his house at Kalviyankadu by two men who had come in a van. Thereafter, the van headed towards Uduvil to a wedding house where Parliamentarian Tharmalingam was attending.

The men who had abducted Alalasuntharam went to Tharmalingam and told him that Alalasuntharam had come with them in the van to see him. When Tharmalingam went near the van he was forcibly pushed into the vehicle and whisked away.

Next day the bullet ridden body of Alalasuntharam was found in a bush near his house and the body of Tharmalingam with a gunshot injury on his forehead was found near a cemetery in Jaffna.

Alalsuntharam was a new face entering Parliament with the landslide victory gained by the TULF in 1977 while Tharmalingam remained a formidable politician of the Federal Party winning all elections since 1960, in his electorate Uduvil.

Tharmalingam also belonged to a family of philanthropists who had donated large extents of land, in the North, to build several public institutions.

The period when politicians of the calibre of Tharmalingam and Alalasuntharam were gunned down, several moderate politicians representing local political bodies were also shot dead by the trigger happy Tamil militants.

It was with the assassinations of Tharmalingam and Alalasuntharam that the total annihilation of Tamil moderate politicians began forcing the majority of them to seek refuge in Colombo and South India.

It was in the backdrop of commemorating the 32nd death anniversary of slain TULF politicians Tharmalingam and Alalasuntharam, that the 90th birth anniversary, of the first Tamil Leader of the Opposition and one-time General Secretary of the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) Amirthalingam was also commemorated, at the Jaffna Public Library auditorium, last week.

While the Tamil militants were turning their guns against the very politicians who were in the forefront in spearheading the Tamil political struggle from the time the country gained independence, leaders like Amirthalingam , Sivasithamparam and Yogeswaran along with

Dr. Neelan Thiruchelvam realizing the wrong track the Tamil militants were traversing and destroying everything in their path under the banner of creating a separate Tamil state, did their best in aligning with India. This resulted in introducing the Provincial Council system with the merged North and East Province as a solution on the path to more devolution of powers.

Despite being instrumental in introducing the North and East Provincial Council system as a solution, to begin with, the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, the TULF's late General Secretary reflecting his political maturity willed to remain as an ordinary member in the newly formed North and East Provincial Council, in 1988, allowing the Tamil militants to take centre stage.

However, with Tamil militants failing to assess the farsightedness and dedication of Amirthalingam to generating a political solution fulfilling the political aspirations of the North and East, the architect of the Provincial Council system in a merged North and East Province had to pay a heavy price along with his confidant V.Yogeswaran, who also died at the hands of the LTTE.

So now with North and East Provincial Councils remaining as two different political institutions, in a backdrop where the Northern Provincial Council is in disarray and faced with criticism, the vacuum is felt, with heavy hearts, on commemorating the late veterans in Tamil politics.



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