Difficulty at NPC presents opportunity not to be missed by TNA!

The leader of Tamil National Alliance (TNA) should keep the alliance going and yet nominate the present Chief Minister to contest again as its chief candidate for the Northern Provincial Council (NPC) election due early next year. The Chief Minister himself has said TNA must go back to its people to decide and by returning him for a second term, would convey to TNA a clear message from people to insist on the government to provide a federal structure devolution at the provinces in the New Constitution and seek a mandate from the people at the 2020 General Election to build on the little serenity left and return the island back to prosperity.

TNA Leadership

Earlier at the end of colonial period when form of government was discussed within elite leaders of all communities, the leaders of the north eastern minorities rejected the federal form of governance without consulting their people. Then in 1948, the coy elite rulers were spoon fed by the British a balanced constitution for a democratic rule by majority community to protect the minorities in the multi ethnic island nation. Regrettably no sooner the colonial rulers left the shores, the timid representatives of the majority communities as rulers, began governing the country deliberately ignoring the protections provided in the constitution. Instead in a permanent majority based democracy the rulers with their past pre-colonial era mindset rewrote the constitution without the protective clauses intended to retain the rights of the minorities. The representatives of most affected minorities protested in vain and suggested for a federal form of governance as solution to the problem; it was however promptly rejected by the rulers and retaliated by concentrating their efforts to change the demography in favour of the majority community to rid of the homeland claim by the oppressed the minorities. To keep the country united successive government began supressing the offending youths of oppressed minorities that kept the communities apart permanently. As generations grew without thinking as one nation with extreme politicians on either side of the divide working determinedly to keep this mindset alive in the name of race and religion. The state oppression continued over the years, with many discriminatory acts including overnight introduction of the language of the majority as the official language and gradual colonisation programme to change demography of the northeast accepted as the homeland of the minorities and other negative clauses that denied the basic rights of the minorities.

Thus from the days of independence people were misled causing many friction between communities resulting in instability in the island. With many interested parties in the island helping these extreme elements for their own benefit, it was the ordinary population living mostly in rural areas of the country were the losers, which caused uprisings from the minorities with separatist tendencies against the state led to a civil war. Many perished, while some for their own safety fled the country particularly to India, triggered security concerns in the Indian Ocean as India had to deal with many refugees and to resolve this issue India gave military training in their own soil to the minority youths fleeing in from Sri Lanka, who returned and began offensive attacks against the oppressive government. Sri Lankan government were forced to sort assistance from other nations to control the conflict that developed into a civil-war.

As conditions deteriorated forcing another external interference in 1987 and the Sri Lankan rulers were dictated to by India and an Indo-Lanka pact was signed between the two governments and constitution was amended on the subject of devolving power to overcome separatist tendencies from the minorities. Unfortunately, it was not a well-planned or a complete amendment to the constitution and the government rushed it through without getting it properly debated to get the consent of the legislators. Yet to this day the resulting Provincial Council system was not completed properly nor implemented correctly and certainly failed to meet the aspirations of the minorities for whom it was intended and the civil-war resumed and continued causing untold miseries was brought to finish in 2009. Contrary to the advice from friendly nations like India, the rulers acted against norms and kept pushing their majority rule on their terms on all the minorities and most impacted were the minorities living in northeast region that had come out of the civil-war. What is more the war was brought to finish with yet another external interference; but this increased meddling only dented the independence of the island nation that either missed or messed up many development opportunities.

Earlier to nature a climate of peace and stability there were ample opportunities with many nations coming forward to rebuild and develop the island nation well placed on the maritime highway in the Indian Ocean; whereas in the same period many countries like Singapore and Dubai took full advantage of the maritime highway on their terms to become leading nations in the world. Because then political leaders of this paradise island failed many times to put country before self and their political parties and finally the timid president of the republic became more authoritarian by allowing the war victory go to his head and continued with their discriminatory rule against the minorities and by 2015 only to get more corrupt in the process. While the minorities from the northeast were represented in parliament by the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), who promised a federal structure as a solution to the political problem and their people returned a verdict in support; took control of the Northern Province Council and obtained a major share in the Eastern Province Council.

In late 2016, all the minority communities in the island grabbed an opportunity and supported a move by civil societies disgusted over six years of negative peace under an authoritarian rule, backed by the main opposition party keen to grab power. But as most of the minority political parties were already supporting the previous regime, their leadership were slow to react for fear of losing their privileges and only joined their voters as an afterthought at the eleventh hour. The leadership of TNA, the political party representing the largest minority in parliament were however firm in assisting to bring about the change; having supported the change, it was expected that TNA would join and be part of decision makers in the government. Instead their veteran leader of TNA dreaming to get back the self-rule of pre-colonial era opted to keep his party in opposition to play the waiting game for a federal structured political solution. In contrast the two majority political parties in alliance in government were not prepared for this change, but were willing to implement the 13th Amendment that provided the Provincial Council System with necessary changes and for that purpose and to make other reforms the legislature was turned into a constitution council to draft a new constitution. Still it moved at snail phase in that direction for three years by the Unity Government of two major political parties forced into an alliance for the first time; with their mindset still bent on retaining the well manipulated post-colonial era of self-rule in their favour at the cost of the rights of the minorities. Regrettably, these factors prevented both the government and TNA alliances to make good use of the opportunity presented to them by the international communities, as they were unable to come out of their party politics and work for the benefit of the country and three years rolled on with little progress to unite the divided country; though the government has taken several important steps in the last three years to move to bring about unity in the country, but the promise to rewrite the constitution has not materialised yet.

While all extreme elements in the country on the south of the divide mobilised themselves together behind the breakaway members of the previous regime to oppose the government preventing them solving the ethnic problem and the extreme elements on the north of the divide mobilised against the TNA preventing them to make positives moves on the same issue.  The government had failed to turn the tide to rebuild a nation inherited in shambles and the results it obtained early this year reflected the anti-government sentiments at Local Government Polls, did not surprise the moderates who voted for the change in 2015. But having voted for a change TNA should have been part of the cabinet to get decisions to meet the aspirations of their people, instead opted to stay out and continue their political drama from the opposition and the passive pro government stance split its alliance. The breakaway fraction opting to stay out wanted political solution that would merge back their two provinces into a federal self-rule unit resolved first. It is widely accepted that TNA should not have extended their support blindly to the government with the wait and see approach of the leadership, at least should have put some basic issues as conditions for support. This upset the very people who voted for TNA in 2015, enlightened by the able Chief Minister of the Northern Province, who either refrained in disgust or voted for those who left the alliance was clearly reflected in the LG Polls in 2018 results.

With all politicians supporting each other to get benefits they can extract from the state for their own benefits for over three and half years. Though TNA helped in with the draft of a new constitution to share the powers of governance that is fundamental to keep unity in a country with a permanent majority, to enable all to have equal citizenship rights’; it failed miserably to put any pressure on the Unity Government to expedite the much publicised issues their people faced from the war that ended a decade earlier. These are only getting resolved at a snail phase after people in misery by undertaking many protest marches and meetings during the three and a half years brought it to the notice of the government. With election fever building up again the TNA knowing well that they cannot make plans in isolation have grabbed the opportunity that came their way to join the Presidential Task Force in the development of the two provinces to get the maximum benefit from the Wind of Change.

The veteran leader of Tamil National Alliance (TNA) should keep his alliance going and build on it by nominating the present Chief Minister as their nominate, again as their chief candidate to contest at the Provincial Council Elections due in 2019. That would enable the Chief Minister to take TNA stance on federalism back to obtain people’s reconfirmation by returning him for a second term. Then TNA can negotiate for a federal solution from the Unity Government to seek a fresh mandate from the people at the 2020 General Election. In return TNA should extent conditional support them on winning to form a new government with federal form of devolution of power for provinces and reinstate the democratic rule shirked seven decades ago to build on the little serenity left to return the island back to prosperity.