The divide in Tamil nationalist politics that was apparent in the last weeks following a no confidence motion that was going to be moved by a section of the Northern Provincial Council (NPC) against Chief Minister C. V. Wigneswaran, has brought to the fore internal rifts in Tamil polity that had hitherto been submerged in the Tamil – Sinhala political conflict.
The washing of dirty linen of the NPC lasted a week, after Wigneswaran called upon two ministers to resign on corruption charges and two others to go on compulsory leave, and Tamil National Alliance (TNA) leader R. Sampanthan intervened to let Mr. Wigneswaran continue in power.
The current unrest with the Tamil polity is indirectly connected with the intricate business of dealing with the central government in Colombo and negotiating the way for a post war solution to the Tamil question and the mental transition of negotiations from the hawkish Rajapaksa regime to the current Sirisena Wickremesinghe regime. The matter has split the NPC and has resulted in divided opinions within the Tamil National Alliance represented in parliament.
While the TNA hierarchy seemed to have mellowed somewhat in their approach towards the central government and the Sinhala-dominated regime, the Northern Chief Minister was seen toeing a line that was bordering on the separatist ideology preached by the LTTE and on par with the ultra hard line view of the Tamil Diaspora. The latter had attracted Tamil politicians who share this thinking. However, it is clear that a majority of Lankan Tamils do not share the sentiments of the NPC chief Minister and his followers.
This is apparent after the hard-line Tamil National People’s Front (TNPF) supported by Wigneswaran suffered an abysmal defeat in the 2015 August parliamentary elections as opposed to the landslide victory by the TNA which was seen as heavily pro government.
The NPC’s stand was clear when its Chief Minister, soon after the new pro-Tamil regime of Maithripala Sirisena took over following the January 08 Presidential election of 2015, initiated a resolution stating that the Sri Lankan governments have been continually targeting the Tamils in a ‘genocide.’
This move, coming at a time when there was overwhelming trust, goodwill and hope extended towards the new regime by the Tamil people, was critiqued by both the Tamils and the Sinhalese. In his most recent call, the NPC chief Minister declared that natural assets of the North should not be used in development projects but brought in from rest of the country, displaying his usual isolationist view on post war development.
Analysts meanwhile point out that although the TNA’s landslide victory in 2015 seemed a ripe moment for the Chief Minister’s removal, the TNA leader’s reluctance to take any concrete step towards this end had allowed the Chief Minister to further corner himself and convert others towards an extreme position with regard to what the Tamils want from the current regime.
Wigneswaran had rubbished the government’s efforts at amending the constitution and had extended little or no cooperation towards the task of making a new constitution. Wigneswaran’s refusal to engage in meaningful discussions with the central government and his leadership that has been totally devoid of any pro peace long term vision has removed chances of the Tamil polity taking a forward-thinking line following the defeat of President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his post war suppression of Tamils.
The NPC Chief Minister’s ideology is seen as fundamentally echoing the LTTE’s politics of ethnic exclusion and has irked the current government by its continued high dependence on the West for intervening in issues connected with the war and its aftermath.
The mass mobilizations initiated by Wigneswaran had jeopardized the chances of practically useful action on providing solutions to the Lankan Tamil people suffering from the impact of the war. Instead what it has done is encouraged branding moderate Tamils or those with different views to those such as Wigneswaran, as ‘traitors’ of Tamils or the Tamil cause.
A notable fact is that Wigneswaran, apart from being an avatar of the LTTE ideology, has not endeavored towards any leadership within the Tamil community that has contributed to the well being of the Tamil people. Nor has the NPC encouraged the engagement with progressive Sinhalese and the Muslims in looking at a devolution of power that is inclusive of all religious and ethnic minorities of the country.
In this context, the current showdown within the NPC displays a downward plunge that Tamil politics has taken in the post war years and spells doom for Lankan Tamils who expect a visionary based leadership that would forever blot out the curse of war and ensure there is never another military uprising.