TNA crisis Enmity within

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By 2017-11-21

By Ananth Palakidnar

Leader of the Opposition and Tamil National Alliance (TNA) R. Sampanthan made a fervent appeal in Parliament to former President Mahinda Rajapaksa not to upset the apple cart with regard to the proposed Constitutional reforms and pointed out that it would not only fulfil the political aspirations of Tamils but even strengthen peace and reconciliation in the country. His speech in Parliament in support of the intended reforms clearly emphasized the statesmanship of Sampanthan rather than as a mere leader of a Tamil political alliance.

Unlike his predecessors, Sampanthan is cautious that his political endeavours should not lead to any catastrophic situation in Tamil politics and the international community should also not get confused over the political stance taken by the TNA.

EPRLF quits

A week ago, Illankai Tamil Arasu Katchchi (ITAK) held its Central Committee meeting in Vavuniya where the party decided to have extensive discussions with its party members from the grass-roots level in the North and the East on the pros and cons of the proposed constitutional reforms.

TNA's Jaffna District Parliamentarian M.A. Sumanthiran elaborating on the decision taken by ITAK to hold discussions with its party members in the North and the East said that adverse propaganda has been carried out by the Tamil National Front (TNF) led by Gajendra Kumar Ponnambalam and Eelam People's Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF) led by Suresh K. Premachandran saying that ITAK supported a Constitution that was not in favour of Tamils in the North and the East but in line with expectations of the National Unity Government.

It was on the same day that ITAK's Vavuniya Central Committee meeting was held, that TNF held a meeting in Jaffna at the Jaffna Press Club and EPRLF's leader Premachandran announced that his party no longer accepted ITAK's party symbol of a 'House' as a common symbol of the TNA. He pointed out that TNA leadership hardly gave any consideration to views expressed by the other three constituent parties, EPRLF, TELO and PLOTE.

The parliamentary election in 2015 clearly indicated the true state of the TNA. The results in the North and the East had highlighted the fact that ITAK, the main constituent of TNA, is still a forerunner in the two provinces.

Compared to performances in the previous polls, except for ITAK, the other three parties had come away with only a handful of seats, with K. Premachandran even losing in Jaffna.

Batticaloa District ITAK Parliamentarian C. Yogeswaran commenting on EPRLF's departure from the fold, said that Premachandran's decision would only harm him and his party and not the TNA at all.

Moderates

Initially, TNA was formed with the blessings of the LTTE and the alliance was regarded as a political wing, and played a supportive role in the peace initiatives launched with Norwegian facilitation.

However, because the LTTE wanted to wipe out the voice of Tamil moderates including leaders of Tamil militant outfits who had entered the political mainstream with the Indo- Lanka Accord, the formation of TNA emerged as a safe option for moderates to escape the wrath of the LTTE.

Those who were at the top of the LTTE hit list back then even had the rare opportunity of dining with LTTE leader V. Prabhakaran in Kilinochchi.

Suresh Premachandran who was one of the prime targets of the LTTE sat next to Prabhakaran and happily reminisced the early days of Tamil militancy.

Another major LTTE target, Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) leader V. Anandasangaree who was the first to quit TNA, even remembered how Prabhakaran served him jumbo prawns from Elephant Pass when they had dined with him.

During the war and prior to the formation of the TNA, all Tamil moderate politicians including Sampathan and Anandasangaree were given security by elite Sri Lanka Army commandos.

Initially when TNA merged as a formidable political outfit, it remained supportive of the LTTE.

However, with the annihilation of the LTTE and above all, the outcome of the parliamentary polls of 2015, the Tamil political scene has returned to square one with splits appearing in the TNA.

Former Tamil Eelam Liberation Organization (TELO) Parliamentarian and senior Attorney-at-Law N. Srikantha has even approached Annamalai Varatharaja Perumal (who was Chief Minister of a briefly merged North and East Province), to convince him to join TNA.

Varatharaja Perumal who is another arch rival of EPRLF leader Premachandran, is yet to respond to the call made by TNA.

However, the ground reality is that right thinking people in the North and the East as well as the international community believe that a durable solution to the Tamil question should be reached during the time of TNA Leader R. Sampanthan's leadership.

He is a highly respected leader who plays a very accommodative role in Sri Lankan politics towards solving the Tamil question as well as strengthening peace and reconciliation in the country.

But the enmity within the TNA makes it difficult to say how far the Tamil political scene will remain stable in the near future.

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