Politics in Sri Lanka's (SL) North and East appears to be in choppy / muddy waters again. People are confused as to what some of their leaders' motivesand priorities are. There are overarching concerns like the missing persons, political prisoners detained in jail for several years without charge, prisoners who are on hunger strike, failure to return confiscated lands and homes, continued and over-bearing presence of SL military in Tamil areas, repopulation of Tamil areas with Sinhalese 'settlers', etc.
Throughout the history of Tamil politics, divisive factors have worked internally to hamper the progress of Tamil aspirations. The leaders have been pulling in different directions
like ferrets in a sack. Some leaders were and still are obsessed with personal ego and self-aggrandisement portfolios. Even now, there is a division between the Tamil National Alliance(TNA) Leader R. Sampanthan and the Chief Minister of Northern
Province Justice C. V. Wigneswaran. Although they hailed from the same mould at the start, they are not singing from the same hymn sheet any more.
This mistrust is mainly driven by the lack of action on the well documented Tamil issues by the SL government, even eight years after the end of the civil war and the fact that information is not shared by the Tamil leadership that the international community requires the former to work closely with the SL government to iron out an acceptable solution.
The Tamil political discontent is also exasperated by a lack of direct international aid and economic stimulation for the war affected areas and any major redevelopment that will provide opportunities of a reasonable livelihood to the younger generation,along with the absence of real Tamilgovernance in the North East.
Justice Wigneswaran has got the support of the Tamil youth, chiefly from the university. They have brought businesses to a stand-still with Hartals whenever they wanted to highlight injustices. These youngsters regard the TNA as 'oldies' and 'yes' men. The TNA elders seem tofollow the Churchillian dictum: 'If you can't beat them, join them'. Even the religious leaders, who don't normally get involved in politics, have been working as mediators between the divisive Tamil leaders.
That said, the bigger picture however is still bleak. The Tamil question is not yet properly resolved by the 'good governance' administration of Ranil Wickremasinghe and Maithripala Sirisena. Tamils have been fighting for their lands, calling for accountability in the missing persons'issue, demanding justice for political prisoners held in jail indefinitely without trial and the call for the change of court hearing locations for some political prisoners.
Athough Sinhala and Tamil are the official languages in Sri Lanka at present, all official correspondences including the court summons are sent in Sinhala only, without any Tamil translation.
It seems the pre-meditated annihilation of Tamils is still continuing. Prisoners are still in detention without trial. The Army still occupies the Tamil homeland. There is no information about the disappeared while torture and sexual violence is still rampant.
To challenge and campaign for these issues, TNA seems not to have any fire in their belly. Even though the TNA Leader R. Sampanthan is the Leader of the Opposition in the Parliament, he hasn't demonstrated or delivered any serious and long lasting benefit to Tamils fromthe so called 'good governance' SL administration.While the Tamil leaders are in disarray, the government utilizes this comfort zone to implement its dubious plans.
Sri Lanka is not out of the woods yet for the alleged war crime atrocities of 2009. International organisations like the UNHCR and Amnesty International are stillactively pursuing the long road to justice.
The Tamil Diaspora groups and the international community need to play an active role in empowering the Tamil leadership that negotiates the solution to the Tamil question by expressly supporting them. It must also use their tactical voting in their respective countries and then impress upon their respective governments to apply due pressure on the Sri Lankan government for an acceptable solution for Tamils in the North East that will stop the reoccurrence of the events of the past three decades.
If this rare opportunity to find a solution to live in a united Sri Lanka were to be missed by both the Tamil and Sinhalese leadership, then it can be safely said that these two communities could never live in a united country in the future. The playoff between the two Sinhala political parties to deny the Tamils' self-respect and opportunity to develop themselves in their homeland can be detrimental to the future of a United Sri Lanka.
With the help of the international community, the Tamil leaders, as a united front, should campaign actively for justice and self-determination of the North and East within a united Sri Lanka. If the Tamil leaders pull together towards the same goal, they will be a formidable force to be reckoned with and one that cannot be continued to be ignored.
TWG Editorial Board - London, UK
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Tamil Writers Guild Editorial Board
Source: Tamil Writers Guild, UK
Date: 27 November 2017