The people in the North and East Provinces of Sri Lanka have been returning the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) candidates to parliament to serve them and if they had failed they stand to get rejected at the next General Elections. To avoid denunciation of TNA by its people, the leadership begun working with the government to get through as many assistance as possible to the people before the 2020 General Elections. However, as politicians TNA should help the government to create a peaceful and prosperous country for its people who sent them to parliament and it was on that basis TNA opted to occupy opposition benches in parliament and yet helped the Unity Government to rule the country in the past four years. Earlier TNA took an active role when the parliament was turned into a constitution assembly to prepare a new constitution and then with members of other minority political parties did democratically foil the attempts to form an unlawful government towards the latter half of last year. Unfortunately, all this gave negative signals to the people, the southern political parties aired views that the prominence given to their Buddhist faith would be lost and that North and East Provinces would be merged back to give a Federal form of government; while TNA opponents in the north openly criticized TNA for working with the government that was not paying much attention to resolve urgent needs of their people, both denunciations were not favourable to TNA to say the least.
With the General Election due in 2020 time has come for TNA leadership to review their records and plan accordingly to return as many TNA legislators back as possible to the parliament. The TNA brothers at the top must first remember that the Tamil National Alliance was formed in October 2001 by a group of moderate Tamil nationalist parties and former militant groups as a political alliance to represents the Sri Lankan Tamil minority in the country. When the Wind of Change occurred as everyone were getting ready for the 2015 General Elections, a handful of the rehabilitated members of the militant group that played a key role in the civil war and therefore not in the alliance already expressed their willingness to contest as TNA candidates. Now that the country was sailing in peace mode, this would have helped the healing process and would have thawed the North South relationship that was damaged by the conflict faster for the Unity Government to provide good governance. Unfortunately, TNA leadership thought otherwise and refused to accommodate them and the opportunity was missed as many times in the past to build bridges between various political forces; what is even worse the Central Bank scam ruined it all. Today, TNA are only represented in parliament by members from North and East provinces with some of the founder groups opting to stay out of the alliance. Understandably that there is a very vociferous opposition for TNA in their own backyard and will no doubt add more heat to the election fever.
Therefore, the TNA brothers holding on to the leadership must review the situation and act fast to regain lost members and lost electorates and it will require lot of soul searching, sooner it is done the best for the people represented by the Alliance. This may involve having to come down and meet the demands of those who left the alliance and not disturb the basic demand for a holistic rule to take the country forward to create a peaceful and prosperous environment, then automatically their people too would have benefited. Also TNA must be reminded that JVP, the former militants from south who were responsible for two uprisings against the state, were rehabilitated and are in the main stream of politics for many years and doing a great service to the people policing the work of the government very successfully.
On the matter of a holistic rule, TNA leadership must accept it is now absent to solve all ills their people face, therefore should convince their membership the present constitution is the stumbling block and need to be replaced as it is inadequate to provide a corruption free rule. Sadly four years were wasted in preparing a new constitution, on hindsight perhaps it should not have been best if the president had assigned it to a body made up of civil organisations than get it done by the members in parliament turned constitution assembly. For no matter how many years they took the net result was the government ended up producing another biased constitution that did not do any good to the people for which it took four years and lot of tax payers’ money all wasted. As there are many other issues to be resolved, it will be proper not to rush through in the present parliament, but continue the exercise after the 2020 elections are over by others for the parliamentarians have failed to produce a proper constitution.
Then there are issues of the people from the civil-war that the government needs to resolve these includes returning the remaining military-occupied land belonging to civilians in war-affected areas, the release of political prisoners, ongoing work of the office on missing persons and efforts to set up the office for reparations all of which have still not been fulfilled. TNA from opposition have been highlighting these matters to the government and progress have been slow for comfort and bulk of the blame should go to the prevailing corrupt system of rule. Not surprisingly TNA leadership has been accused by its own alliance members for supporting such a government.
Last but not least is the delays in developing the war ravaged north and east provinces, bitter truth is TNA could have in the past four years played a more aggressive role using the two provincial council governments? It must be stressed the government did not have a proper national plan for development for example it built an international airport down south that is today perhaps the most underutilized airport in the world, whereas the airports in north and east provinces ravaged by war are still to be renovated for public use. TNA were blind to all this and the excuse given by its leadership is that as the need was to get the lost rights of their people restored before taking ministerial posts in government they did not concentrate on development efforts of the government. But this does not hold water any more, as elections are around the corner they are now making an all-out efforts in that direction. Further rights can only be restored by law, in fact this is why the new constitution becomes important, as the rights of the people only possible with a constitution with proper checks and balance to safeguard minority interests. On merger of provinces, that is really a matter for the people in the two provinces that are to merge to decide not the parliament. What is more people elect members to parliament to serve them, there is no justifiable reason to deny that right to people by staying in opposition. In a majority rule situation only way the minority get to rule is by joining the government, it’s a wakeup call for TNA.
It is all water under the bridge now for the TNA brothers at the leadership table, at least in the years to come TNA must realise that “if you can’t beat them join them” and earnestly consider joining the government of the day to have a better line of communication on the need of their people and what is planned or provided to them by the rulers. The gap is too wide for comfort and was one of the main reasons for results the Local Government Elections held early 2018 turned sour for TNA. Further the TNA brothers at the leadership to retain the hold should wakeup to address the said above problems and prevent again the infightings seen at the Northern Provincial Council before it was dissolved. Without increasing the membership of the alliance many left it to form new political parties and it is not what the people want at this juncture. In fact for a harmonious existence as a political entity the alliance should seek common grounds with other political parties serving their people in electorates not represented by TNA, than earning blame on lack of performance a matter beyond their control. TNA needs to take this as a positive criticism to overhaul itself before the 2020 General Elections.