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Home > Struggle for Tamil Eelam > Democracy, Sri Lanka Style > Collaborationist Tamil Parties: Rearranging the Deck Chairs on the Titanic
Democracy Continues, Sri Lanka Style...
Dr S Sathananthan, Secretary, Action Group of
Tamils, Kotte, Sri Lanka
Tel: [+ 94 1] 877220 Email: [email protected] -
Press Release 5 December 1999
The Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) politicians are once again trying to juggle the votes of Sri Lankan (earlier Ceylon) Tamils. They are doing so with a practised elan that comes from almost five decades of bartering Tamil political support to either of the two main Sinhalese parties, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and United National Party (UNP). In return, they are as usual scheming to feather their nests; they are seeking political patronage from the preferred Sinhalese party.
At the forthcoming presidential election, scheduled for 21 December, many Tamil voters reportedly favour the UNP candidate Ranil Wickremasinghe. But the TULF has discouraged Tamils from voting for both the UNP and the SLFP-led Peoples Alliance (PA) coalition.
The Action Group Of Tamils (TAGOT) cannot help but ask: what do the TULF politicians stand to gain (keeping in mind that the TULF is NOT in the business of defending the national rights of the Tamil people)?
Since Wickremasinghe refused to go beyond the 13th Amendment or abandon the unitary State, the UNP obviously did not offer the TULF a tenable horse deal. On the other hand, in November TULFs General Secretary R Sampanthan went to London patently as an emissary of the PA candidate (and SLFPs deputy leader) President Chandrika Kumaratunga. He contacted LTTEs political advisor Anton Balasingam and attempted to lure the LTTE to commence talks with the PA Government BEFORE the election. Sampanthan's transparent ploy was to help the PA salvage the tattered peace image of President Kumaratunga and enhance her re-election prospects among Sinhalese as well as Tamil voters. Evidently the SLFP must have offered the TULF a face-saving horse deal.
However, the Leader of Liberation Tigers of Tamils Eelam (LTTE), Velupillai Prabhakaran, in his November Heroes Day message firmly signalled opposition to President Kumaratunga's re-election by underlining the unprecedently bloody military campaign waged by her PA Government against the LTTE-led Tamil national movement. Unable to directly back the PA candidate, the TULF attempts indirectly to strengthen Kumaratunga's hand; it is backing the independent candidate Vasudeva Nanayakara, hoping to draw Tamil votes away from the UNP and thereby reduce the electoral support for Wickremasinghe.
So, the TULFs apparently even handed approach of backing neither the UNP nor the PA is in fact a duplicitous manoeuvre to discourage Tamils from voting for Wickremasinghe and thereby bolster President Kumaratunga's re-election prospects and indirectly support the SLFP. Most other collaborationist Tamil parties lack TULFs political finesse to mask their crass opportunism. They have sided directly with one or the other Sinhalese party.
We in TAGOT are convinced that, in order to justify their collaboration, Tamil parties have once again kicked off the sterile debate on how Tamils could use their votes to best advantage. Should they send a strong message of condemnation to the PA by voting to defeat President Kumaratunga? Or should they underline the decisive influence of Tamil votes by helping the election of Wickremasinghe? And so on.
These questions have been raised with monotonous regularity at each presidential election. Every time, Tamils had the satisfaction of influencing the outcome but not much more. After each election, IRRESPECTIVE of whether or not Tamils voted for the winner, the new President has with equal regularity heaped even greater injustices upon Tamils.
Nevertheless, collaborationist Tamil parties continue to delude Tamils into believing that their votes somehow count in the long run. As for the election at hand, they drum up the hackneyed theme of supporting the lesser-of-two-evils although each time the winning candidate proved to be a greater evil for Tamils than the defeated one. The future is unlikely to be any different.
Most Tamil parties have, however, been amply rewarded for their assistance. They are well funded by the ruling Sinhalese party, which allowed them free rein to stuff ballot boxes at parliamentary elections to elect their own members as Tamil representatives from the North-East Province (NEP). These Tamil representatives prop up the Sinhalese Government and help it to wage the genocidal war against the LTTE-led Tamil national movement; they grow fat on parliamentary salaries and perks and retire into comfortable oblivion, unless they lose their lives prematurely.
Basically, collaborationist Tamil parties purvey the canard that Tamil support for the winning candidate would induce the new President to re-consider his/her stand on Tamil national rights. The related canard is that the Sinhalese President is somehow above the rest of the chauvinist members of his/her party. But, as we have argued before, votes carry political representatives to power; classes keep them in power. Irrespective of how Tamils vote, the Sinhalese leaders will remain an integral part of, and beholden to, their ruling classes, which include the upper echelons of the bureaucracy, armed forces and Buddhist clergy. They share the world-view of these classes, which call the shots, and must rely on them to stay in power. The past has demonstrated conclusively that Tamil support for Sinhalese politicians will have no effect whatsoever in compelling the pathologically anti-Tamil Sinhalese ruling classes, and consequently their political representatives, to recognise and accept the national rights of Tamil people.
In fact, Wickremasinghe and Kumaratunga have accused each other of plotting to hand the NEP over to the LTTE one for two years and the other for ten years. This is a remorseless brandishing of the Tamil card, or Tamil baiting. It is clear that both of them are mired in Sinhalese chauvinism. Indeed, during the past five years President Kumaratunga metamorphosed from a docile peace dove seeking a Political Solution into a grotesque war dragon breathing War for Peace. She anointed her War for Peace or Dharma Yuddha with a potent symbol of Buddhist worship, the Sudu Nelum (white lotus), when she launched the movement under the same name in August 1995, to legitimise the war as a Buddhist Dharma Yuddha or Holy War against the non-Buddhist Tamil people. This extreme Sinhalese chauvinism is unprecedented in the five-decade old conflict.
Today, the Sinhalese ruling classes are baying for Tamil blood. Especially after the success of LTTEs Operation Oyatha Alaigal 3, these classes are busy forging a national government to unite Sinhalese forces against Tamils. They are intensifying the genocidal war by denying food and medicine to Tamil people in the Vanni under the pretext that Operation Oyatha Alaigal 3 has interdicted supply routes into the Vanni.
TAGOT can categorically state that the ruling classes are more than ever before implacably opposed to a political solution; they demand an undiluted military solution. The assertions by their political representatives the UNP and SLFP presidential candidates - that they would work towards a political solution are vacuous rhetoric.
Since Tamil votes are simply irrelevant for securing Tamil national rights, obviously Tamils must boycott the election. But the small minority of die-hard Tamil supporters of either Sinhalese party will vote for their traditional choice. Most Tamils who are thirsting for vengeance would probably insist on voting out President Kumaratunga.
On the other hand, if Tamils could be convinced that they must boycott the election, would they do so? The answer unfortunately is No. A majority of Tamils would still vote but for a very different reason: FEAR. The voting pattern in each polling booth area indicates to whom the voters living in the area are loyal. If Tamils in a particular area boycott the election, the Police will mark them out as LTTE loyalists; and Tamils are petrified of the consequences. Many Tamils especially those living in Sinhalese-majority areas vote almost exclusively to ensure their physical safety. They are a people under siege, a captive voter population.
The shibboleth dredged up by Tamil parties about the so-called effectiveness of Tamil votes cannot mask this cruel reality. The shenanigan over changing alliances between the Tamil parties on the one hand and the UNP and SLFP on the other is little more than rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic. The only way ahead for Tamil parties is down.