24 September 2012

On the TNA’s post-election statement

R. Sampanthan, leader of the Tamil National Alliance, has offered the party’s reading of the recently concluded elections for the Eastern Provincial Council.  As the party with the backing of the majority of Tamils, the TNA’s analysis warrants comment. 

The TNA claims that the elections were neither free nor fair, lists numerous illegal and corrupt practices and blames the repeal of the 17th Amendment of the Constitution for this state of affairs.  There were indeed several incidents which scarred the entire process.  On the other hand, even the TNA would admit that immediate action was taken by the Elections Commissioner on each and every occasion.  There were independent election monitors on the ground and even a cursory glance at reports from such entities from earlier elections would show that the incidence of wrongdoing was comparatively low.  

The overall margin, a mere 6217 votes, gave the ruling party 2 extra seats, which goes to show that even a minor tweaking of the law can have a huge bearing on outcome; all the more reason for further tweaking the system to eliminate error and loophole.  To be fair, the repeal of the 17th did not take us back to anything like the 1999 Wayamba elections, but democracies are never perfect and for this reason can always be made better.  

It is heartening that the TNA has decided to speak of systemic flaws and chosen to list all the violations, especially since the TNA’s constituent parties and their representatives, especially R. Sampanthan, were not only silent about the body blows to the democratic process delivered by the LTTE but actually benefited from these same violations to enter Parliament!  This about-change then can also be read as a positive outcome of taking the LTTE out of the political equation.  For that, the TNA, Sampanthan, as well as the Tamils who voted for the TNA and the TNA can thank the President and the security forces.
Sampanthan has blasted the Government for trying to intimidate and/or purchase those elected on the TNA ticket.  Which country has Sampanthan being living in?  Was he not intimidated and/or purchased by the LTTE?  Weren’t those who didn’t toe the line murdered in cold blood?  That said, he is spot in objecting to such despicable moves, even though he demonstrates an unfortunate degree of memory loss.  It’s wrong of course, but his case would be stronger if it was preceded by a confession. 

The TNA takes pains to claim that the result showed that the majority was against the Government.  Sampanthan forgets that the SLMC is a constituent member of the ruling coalition.  A regional preference for a communalist party does not indicate general antipathy to the ruling party at the political center.  Sampanthan’s ‘logic’ can be turned against the TNA, SLMC, UNP and JVP as well.  It can be said that the majority of the people rejected all four parties.  Today, for convenient, Sampanthan concocts an artificial solidarity among all parties excluding the UPFA.  He does not mention the fact that all four contested SEPARATELY.  If there was solidarity and commonality in political platform the four could have contested TOGETHER.  The ‘mandate’ was not to ‘function against the UPFA’, as Sampanthan likes to read it.  The mandate given the TNA was different from that given to the SLMC, JVP and UNP.  It is sophomoric to aggregate these and posit a re-reading of mandate that alleviates one’s political angst of the particular political moment. 

Another strange element of the TNA statement is its tired lament about the SLMC’s decision to back the UPFA to set up the Eastern Provincial Council.  Sampanthan is upset that the SLMC chose to play second fiddle to the UPFA in the East even after the TNA offered the SLMC the Chief Minister post.  Well, it seems that the SLMC or at least its leadership had done a cost-benefit analysis before making a decision.  Sampanthan, of all people, should not be surprised, for he has played that kind of politics for years.  

What is really disconcerting is the cheap attempt to tag the TNA to the SLMC using the language-string.  The commonality seeker ‘Tamil Speaking People’ is straight out of the LTTE book and the larger archive of Eelamism.  At best, it was a convenience.  The way it got played out over time is a history lesson the Muslims are not likely to forget anytime soon.  They were slaughtered by the LTTE who were not bothered about language commonality when the blood-letting was planned and executed. And Sampanthan should know that ‘language’ was not an issue when Duraiappah was murdered, or when his own leader A. Amirthalingam was shot dead.  He probably has a list of all Tamil-speaking Tamils assassinated by the LTTE and he should know better than anyone else how long it is. It constitutes the ‘final word’ of this kind of cheap, racist politics. 

Anyway, when Sampanthan describes the SLMC as ‘opportunistic’ and ‘unprincipled’, he conjures images of pots and kettles and their relative blackness!

Sampanthan has also kept silent on the fact that the result laid to rest all claims of ‘Tamil Homeland’.
  The vast majority rejected the concept (and this, following Sampanthan-TNA logic).  Those numbers seem to have escaped his mind.  Not surprising.

Overall, it’s time for the TNA to do a re-think and amend this post-election analysis.  It would be good for the TNA and good for the Tamil people too.  For us all, one might add.

['The Nation' DAILY editorial, September 24, 2012]