Can Sri Lanka expect a friendlier approach from the new Chief Minister or any other future leader of Tamil Nadu?
After the death of Jayalalithaa Jayaram, the powerful Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu on December 5, the political situation in the State seems to have been in uncertainty, especially with any clear cut successor to her having not been elected by her party, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhaham (AIADMK).
O. Panneerchelvam or commonly known as OPS, a strong confidante of Jayalalithaa, who had stepped in for her three times in her absence before her death, had been appointed to the post of Chief Minister, while the powerful post of General Secretary of the AIADMK, which has to be filled before December 31is still vacant.
Jayalalithaa’s most trusted friend Sasikala Natarajan, who had been with her throughout the 75 days, when the former was at the Apollo Hospital in Chennai and at her deathbed, is eyeing the post and has launched a lobbying strongly among the rank and file of the party.
Jayalalithaa was affectionately called “Amma” by her party supporters and Sasikala has automatically become “Chinnamma” (aunt) because of her strong intimacy with “Amma.”
In spite of her closeness with Jayalalithaa , Chinnamma seems to be going to face many challenges before she reached the helm. Already a section of the party supporters had charged her that she who was with Jayalalithaa at the hospital was responsible for latter’s death.
Some had torn away her posters canvassing indirectly for the top post of the party.
While President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe along with the Tamil leaders had issued condolence messages over the death of the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, it is an inferable fact that many Southern Sri Lankans were happy about her death.
However, only Nishantha Sri Warnasinghe, the National organizer of the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) had the guts to bluntly express his delight over the end of Jayalalithaa, despite the fact that it was against the commonly accepted tradition of the country.
Warnasinghe had told media that the late Chief Minister was an anti-Sri Lankan leader who harassed Sri Lankans in India and always acted contrary to the interests of Sri Lanka.
“She harassed our Buddhist monks, players, businessmen and those who went on pilgrimage to Tamil Nadu. She also fought to take over the Kachchathivu Island and instigate separatism in the North and East for her petty political gains.”
He also had said he expected that the new Tamil Nadu Chief Minister would adopt a friendlier approach towards Sri Lanka.
Can Sri Lanka expect a friendlier approach from the new Chief Minister or any other future leader of
It would be a remote possibility, under the circumstances that prevail in the State. It was mainly the political situation prevailed in Tamil Nadu and the “ammunitions” that had been given by the Sri Lankan government that made the State’s leaders adversaries of the island nation.
When the Sri Lankan born former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, M.G. Ramachandran (MGR) died in 1987 after helping the Sri Lankan armed groups by way of funds and training facilities in his State, many Sri Lankans expressed hopes as Warnasinghe did, that troubles across the Palk Strait were over, which was in fact not to be.
MGR had personally met Velupillai Prabhakaran and his outfit’s advisor Anton Balasingham in Chennai in 1987 to donate Indian Rupees 6 crores (Rs. 60 million) from the State’s funds to be used for the organization’s military purposes.
During the same year, India embarked on several adventurous political and military manoeuvres by trespassing in Sri Lanka’s seas and the skies using its Navy and Air force and finally imposing the famous Indo-Lanka Accord. However, the death of MGR did not bring solace to Sri Lanka, rather the situation turned to worse with the two main political parties in the State led by Jayalalithaa and Muthuvel Karunanidhi (DMK) competing with each other in exerting pressure on Sri Lanka to scale down its war efforts against the Tamil rebels.
For instance, on the eve of the Sate Assembly elections Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi, suddenly went on an “indefinite” protest fast in the morning of April 27, 2009- eighteen days before the end of the war in Sri Lanka- stating that it was his sacrifice on behalf of all Sri Lankan Tamils.
But he ended his fast in six hours saying that the Sri Lankan government had agreed on a ceasefire.
Though it was in fact not a ceasefire the Sri Lankan Government had been pressed to announce that it would not use heavy weapons against the LTTE citing civilian casualties in the area which the LTTE had been boxed in.
After the end of the war in Sri Lanka, a new wave of anti-Sri Lankan activities in the State emerged by way of attacks on the visiting Sri Lankans, with the silent endorsement by Jayalalithaa who had by then taken over the mantle of the State. These were the incidents cited by Warnasinghe during his press conference.
To mention some of those attacks, in September, 2011 the Maha Bodhi Society office in Chennai was vandalized by the Naam Thamizhar group. On January 10, 2012 President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s brother-in-law Thirukumuran Nadesan was attacked by MDMK activists while coming out of a temple in Rameshwaram. 184 Sri Lankan pilgrims who had visited churches in Velankanni and Poondi Matha were attacked by pro-Eelam groups in September 2012 and the Bank of Ceylon Branch in Chennai was attacked by a mob on February 7, 2013. A month later Mihin Lanka sales office in Madurai was attacked by Naam Thamizhar group.
A Sri Lankan Buddhist priest was attacked on March 16, 2013 by a group of Tamil political activists, while visiting the Thanjavur temple complex. Later three buses carrying the priest and the rest of the students to the Tiruchirapalli airport were attacked by Tamil outfits.
Two days later a group of men attacked another Sri Lankan Buddhist monk on a pilgrimage at the Chennai Central Railway Station. Sri Lankan sportsmen and students were also harassed.
Now, that Jayalalithaa is no more, her party seems to be heading for a leadership tussle. There are signs that Sasikala would succeed in the battle as Chinnamma had taken over Amma’s official residence the Poes Gardens and senior leaders of the party, ministers and members of the Legislative Assembly had all publicly requested Chinnamma to lead the party.
The Times of India carried an interesting story saying that President Maithripala Sirisena had agreed to the request by Sasikala, who is not even a member of the State Assembly to permit 100 Tamil Nadu fishermen to attend the Kachchathivu church festival after conveying his condolences to her over the death of Jayalalithaa. However, that does not mean that she had won the battle for good. Already there are attempts to tarnish her image by implicating her in Jayalalithaa’s death. Fractures along caste lines too have shown up as both Sasikala and Chief Minister OPS belong to the Thevar Community, a backward caste in the State. In the meantime 92-year-old leader of the DMK, Karunanidhi too might not wield power for long due to health reasons, making way for factional struggles in his party as well.
Going by the past experiences it is clear that the intensity of the power struggle in the State the more the State’s politicians rake up Sri Lankan issue to whip up emotions within their constituencies.
Thus, a more hostile Tamil Nadu seems to be in the making.