If the motive behind the “Eluga Thamil” or “Rise up Tamils” procession and the rally organized by the recently formed Tamil Peoples Council (TPC) headed by Northern Province Chief Minister C.V.Wigneswaran in Jaffna on Saturday was to embarrass or pressurise the government over certain problems faced by the Tamil people, the outcome was in
Or, is it too early to predict
the impact of the rally on the Government’s actions?
Time will answer the question as to whether the Government has decided to change its course of action with regard to the ethnic problem as a result of the Eluga Thamil campaign. For the moment it seems that the Government is unmoved by the goings on in the Jaffna peninsula.
It is well known that the TPC was formed by a disgruntled group within the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) headed by Opposition Leader Rajawarothayam Sampanthan. Hence, had the leaders of the TPC intended to showcase their popularity to the TNA leadership, they were successful, given the mass support received by the procession and the rally.
The leaders of all former and present constituent parties of the TNA except for the main party, the Ilankai Thamil Arasu Katchi (ITAK), had attended the demonstration.
The crowd that attended the procession and the rally had been very emotional according to Tamil media and a harthal (total shut down) had been observed by the business community in the Jaffna town.
However, this cannot be taken as an indication of the people turning their back on TNA leadership or to the ITAK, as similar public participation had been witnessed according to the Tamil media in the Thileepan Commemoration meetings organised by the TNA two days later on Tuesday as well.
Despite the mass participation, fiery speeches by the TPC leaders and the emotional response by the crowd at the Eluga Thamil rally, it is doubtful as to whether the professed message had been reached the Government.
Because, Eluga Thamil, the very name of the procession and the rally had given a negative message to the South. The best case in point was the response to the rally by Minister Mano Ganesan, who is a strong Tamil nationalist.
Except for the demand for the total removal of army camps from the north, almost all other demands of the Eluga Thamil organisers can be categorized as democratic, in spite of some of them being highly controversial. However, the very titles of the campaign which is reminiscent of the “Pongu Thamil” mass rallies held by the LTTE during its heyday and the nationalistic fervour in the speeches made at the rally had portrayed it among the southern people as a racist move.
Calling for a political solution to the ethnic problem was the main demand put forward by the organisers of the rally. Other demands were amalgamating the Northern and the Eastern Provinces as one administrative unit, releasing of the Tamil political prisoners who had been arrested and detained for years, under the notorious Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), releasing of lands that had been taken over by the security forces during the war to their original owners and bringing an end to the construction of Buddhist temples and placing of Buddha statues in places, where no Buddhists live in the North.
Except for the demand for the de-induction of the Army from the North, the Government had responded with various degrees of positivity to the other demands. However, it is unavoidable for the Government and the Southern people to view the demands as racist, when they are shrouded with the slogan Eluga Thamil ”
Even Minister Mano Ganesan, who is outspoken with respect to Tamil rights, had said “when he says ‘Eluga Thamil” we would say Eluga Sri Lanka (Rise up Sri Lanka).Government has given top priority for finding a solution to the ethnic problem or the reconciliation in its agenda, for genuine reasons or due to the international pressure. Reconciliation is an issue that is handled by a Sub Committee appointed under the proposed Constitutional reform process, for which the Parliament has been converted into a Constitutional Assembly. An entity called Office of the National Unity and Reconciliation (ONUR) has been established under the Chairmanship of former President Chandrika Kumaratunga, apart from the Secretariat for Coordinating Reconciliation Mechanisms headed by Manori Muttettuwegama, which has just concluded its sittings across the country, including the North and the East seeking public opinion on reconciliation.
Against this backdrop, TPC’s campaign for political solution has to be understood as a move to outsmart its rival, the leadership of the TNA which has chosen a more conciliatory approach towards the Government.
The TNA leadership seems to have reposed its total confidence on the Government’s Constitutional reform process for a lasting political solution to the ethnic problem and Wigneswaran’s group is taking advantage of it.
Tamil leaders, except for the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) in its initial stage and the Tamil armed groups that demanded a separate Tamil State, never had a specific solution to the ethnic problem in their mind in the recent years, in spite of their demand for a solution harks back to 1940s.
Under this circumstance it would be extremely difficult for the Government to satisfy the TNA leadership and the TPC, which are vying to outshine each other, in finding a solution. This would correspondingly strengthen the hands of the Southern communal forces as well, as what happened after the Eluga Thamil rally.
However, despite the colour and the tone of the TPC’s campaign, one cannot brush off all their demands such as the ones on the political prisoners and the retrieval of people’s land from the security forces.
It is said that there are prisoners taken in under the PTA, who are languishing in prisons for more than ten years without charges. Last year Chief Minister Wigneswaran, who is a former Supreme Court Judge, suggested all these two hundred odd detainees be released on bail, which seems to be an easy temporary measure.
The demand on the prisoners is further vindicated by the fact that many former leaders of the LTTE such as KP, Karuna and Paduman have been absolved of all their sins.
Pillayan had been the Chief Minister of the Eastern Province. Nagulan, the Special Commander of the LTTE’s elite Charles Antony Brigade was a free man until a few moons ago, when he was arrested after a suicide jacket was found in his house in Jaffna.
The Government cannot drag on the land issue as well since the war had ended seven years ago. Besides, land is a very sentimental issue, which could easily be exploited by politicians, apart from it being a just demand.
Needless to say that continued pressure must be exerted on the Government to find solutions to one’s problems, lest it might succumb to the opposite pressures.
However, the challenge before the Tamil leaders is to make it easy for the Government to solve their problems, without stirring the South.