To all Tamil National Alliance critics “Don’t change horses in midstream”


Abraham Lincoln (1809 – 1865) was the 16th president of the United States, who preserved the Union during the U.S. Civil War and brought about the emancipation of slaves. Lincoln led the United States through its Civil War—its bloodiest war and perhaps its greatest moral, constitutional, and political crisis, in doing so, he preserved the Union, paved the way for the abolition of slavery, strengthened the federal government, and modernized the economy. Don’t change your leader or your basic position when part-way through a campaign or a project, is a phrase originating from an 1864 speech by Abraham Lincoln, in reply to Delegation from the National Union League who were urging him to be their presidential candidate. ‘An old Dutch farmer, who remarked to a companion once that it was not best to swap horses when crossing streams.” Don’t change horses in the middle of the stream. This advice applies equally well to all the critics in Sri Lanka and Overseas of TNA as they prepare for polls.

As Sri Lanka, prepares itself for the election of members to the Local Government bodies, LG polls – the lowest tier of political power, due to be held in Sri Lanka in February 2018. The previous government had during its regime did exploit elections to their advantage by holding them on a staggered basis; to prevent it the Unity Government has decided that elections to provincial polls and the local government polls to hold them in a day like the General Elections to the Parliament; which was supported by all the opposition parties including the Tamil National Alliance (TNA). The TNA has decided to contest all local government bodies in the Northern and Eastern Provinces at the forthcoming LG polls; and it is important for them to retain the position it holds in the North and East as the major political party of the Tamils. For elections in this country have always been poisonous and North-East is no exception and it was the need of the hour for all Tamil political parties to come together and fulfil the political aspirations of people in the North and the East provinces to overcome their long standing constitutional and political crisis.

At present nobody in the legislature turned constitution assembly are addressing the deep rooted problems faced by the minorities; but were busy scratching on the surface of the problems and coining out word to go on the written text as to what the country is to be ‘United” or “Unity”, etc. First it is necessary to consolidate on whatever the devolution, made available and build on it to achieve their political goals. Because, to date there are many issues left unresolved overlooked by the constitution assembly, that cannot be resolved overnight and requiring early resolution. That includes accommodating the Muslim minorities and resolving their concerns on re-merging the two provinces as provided in the constitution, a matter much disputed by the majority community and many other issues causing concern such as the composition of proposed much needed second chamber; for it would be a waste if it was only to duplicate the majority dominated present first chamber – the legislature, which needs to be resolved with the center by representatives of all nine provinces. Then there are issues that affect minorities living in pockets among majority communities of the nine provinces, such as the implications of the failure of implementing to the letter the language policy. All of which are bound to hinder a satisfactory rule of these provinces by any political party, without a proper arrangement reached at the local government level for which elections are to be held in February, this is only possible if there is a continuity of having the same balance of political parties in the constitution assembly from 2015 to 2020.

Old habits die hard and very soon the local leaders of all political parties with their grassroots cadre would be at each other’s throats and mudslinging at each other. Therefore, it is encouraging to note that the first Chief Minister of North-East Province, a political stalwart with good understanding of the moderates and the former militants in the political arena and with his ability to accommodate the progressive forces in the rest of the country has expressed his desire to join TNA. Specially after the present Tamil speaking Chief Ministers of North and East Provinces both backed by TNA, with their prevailing attitudes has failed in the past two years to spearhead the political scene of the Tamil speaking people to fit into the new national order towards gaining economically oriented political goals to have a roof over their head and a place for a peaceful life, that has resulted in these voiceless people kept waiting, in vain apparently for a foreign intervention similar to that in 1987 and 2015 for a political solution.

Therefore, it would be prudent for Sri Lankans irrespective of their political views to choose members from the same party to that they picked in the 2015 election to any position in these LG polls or the Provincial polls to follow and to retain continuity do the same at the General Election in 2015. As the saying goes “Don’t change horses in the middle of the stream”, by extension, do not make major changes to a situation or course of action that is already underway, for the Unity Government began a journey along a thorny path to revive the lives of people in a ruined nation, who have come out of a bloody and cruel civil-war of three decades. Earlier after the time war ended in 2009, these people were disgruntled with the previous regime rule during the six negative peace years that followed and opted for a change of government in 2015, that resulted in the Unity Government coming to power; it is therefore essential that the team be retained, excluding of course any persons in their team found unfit or identified as undesirable from any investigations that may take place on their past corrupt or irresponsible actions including past two years.

Case in point is the media backed by those wanting to break the alliance is projecting a view that many people, who are facing their own constitutional and political crisis living in North and East provinces are dissatisfied with the Leadership of Tamil National Alliance (TNA) the party they voted into power at the last General Elections in 2015. This is not to say there are no shortcomings, true some in control of the leadership have faulted and these needs to be rectified at the earliest to continue their political journey; but it also depends who select the yard stick and it must be verified first if critic’s intensions are honourable. In a democratic system there are ways to overcome these shortcomings, provided these complains are positive criticisms and not ways used by those opponents to pushover TNA to gain power themselves. The present TNA team and its real shortcomings resolved should be allowed to continue supporting the Unity Government through to the next election in 2020. In short, “Don’t change horses in midstream” remembering the old saying that goes “one in the hand is worth two in the bush” and there are lot more work needed on base line to put perfect the present devolution package on offer.