Digambaram warns NPC Chief Wigneswaran who used the same phrase to snub Tamil Nadu
Palani Digambaram, the leader of the National Union of Workers (NUW) and the Up-country New Villages, Estate Infrastructure and Community Development Minister has rejected a proposal made by Northern Provincial Council (NPC) to institute a separate regional council for Up-country Tamils. The proposal had been incorporated in the resolution that was moved by Northern Province Chief Minister C.V.Wigneswaran and adopted by the council on April 22.
The resolution meant for the introduction of a federal system of government in the country was handed over a week later to Speaker Karu Jayasuriya who is also the Chairman of the Constitutional Assembly to be incorporated in the proposed new Constitution that is to be drafted by the Constitutional Assembly. It suggested two states with two parliaments and two ethnic regions within those states with two administrative councils for them, one of which was meant for the Up-country Tamils.
Digambaram rejected the proposal for the Up-country Tamil Council rightly claiming that the Up-country Tamils never demanded a separate unit under devolution of power. Although the other political parties and trade unions representing the Up-country Tamil community did not reject the proposal, they did not accept it either.
Muslims in the Eastern Province for whom the other regional council was proposed by the NPC resolution too did not utter a single word of appreciation towards the offer. They did not show any enthusiasm towards the proposal and some of them even seemed wary of it. The reason might be that Muslims in the East have totally given up the notion of a separate administrative unit after the Northern and the Eastern Provinces were legally de-merged by the Supreme Court in 2006, in spite of some politicians like M.T.Hassan Ali, the General Secretary of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress occasionally making a statement demanding a Muslim Provincial council.
The regional council offer by the NPC to the Up-country Tamils and the Muslims of the East is very much akin to the agitation by the Tamil Nadu leaders to carve out a Tamil Eelam or a separate state for the Tamils of the North and the East in Sri Lanka. Ironically, in both cases, though, the benefactor wants to offer, the beneficiary who is not interested and wary of the offer rejects it out right.
Tamil organisations and political parties led by the northern Tamils had attempted to involve the Tamils of Indian origin living in the Up-country and the Eastern Muslims in their separatist struggle since the 1980s. The Tamil United Front (TUF), the precursor to the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) was formed in 1972 as a coalition of Ilankai Tamil Arasu Katch (ITAK), the All Ceylon Tamil Congress (ACTC) and the Ceylon Workers Congress (CWC) led by Suamiyamoorthy Thondaman who represented the Up-country Tamils.
Also one of the four demands included in the famous “Thimpu Principles” of 1985 was the recognition of the right to citizenship of all Tamils which in fact suggested the [inclusion of] Tamils of Indian origin. On the other hand, northern Tamil literature during the early stage of their separatist movement talked about the suppression of “Tamil-speaking people” which included the Tamil speaking Muslims as well, instead of “Tamil people.”
However, their attempts failed miserably as the Up-country Tamils and Muslims were disinclined to subscribe to their struggles once they openly stood for the separation of the country. The proposals in the current resolution by the NPC to institute two regional councils for the Muslims and the Up-country Tamils also can be seen as a revival of that attempt and there seems to be no takers for it this time as well.
Interestingly, the same Wigneswaran of the NPC who is offering separate regions to other communities advised Tamil Nadu politicians to “mind their own business” during the Northern Provincial Council election campaign in September 2013 when the latter refreshed their agitation for Tamil Eelam. The former Supreme Court judge told the Chennai-based Hindu that the Tamil Nadu politicians used the Sri Lankan Tamils’ issue for their own gains, much to the detriment of the Tamils in Sri Lanka.
“In Tamil Nadu, unfortunately, our problems have been taken as the ball to be played in the tennis court between two or three parties. They [Tamil Nadu politicians] start hitting the ball from one side to the other and it is we who get hit,” he said and added, “We will fight, maybe we might come together. The next door neighbour must not come and say ‘you must divorce, you must divorce, you must divorce’; that is not his business.”
The same sentiments were expressed by National Co-existence, Dialogue and Official Languages Minister Mano Ganesan in his twitter account last month. He too advised the Tamil Nadu leaders to take up the Sri Lankan Tamil issue after the Tamil Nadu State Assembly election.
Wigneswaran’s observation that the Tamil Nadu politicians used the Sri Lankan Tamils’ issue for their own gains was one-hundred per cent correct. Their support for Sri Lankan Tamils, the notion of Tamil Eelam and the LTTE has been changing repeatedly with the changes in political climate in India and Sri Lanka. There had been times when they had competed with each other in supporting the Sri Lankan Tamils’ separatist cause, sometimes after which they had been accusing each other of supporting the LTTE. Then again they support the LTTE and again even call the outfit a terrorist organisation.
During the early years of the separatist struggle in Sri Lanka, the Sri Lankan born Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.G.Ramachndran supported the LTTE and the Opposition Leader of the State M.Karunanidhi mollycoddled the TELO. That was the time when the Indian government under Prime Minister Indira Gandhi provided the Sri Lankan Tamil armed groups with arms, money and weapons training. After the death of Ramachandran in 1989 Karunanidhi started to patronise the LTTE.
The situation took a diametrical change with the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi by the LTTE at Sri Perumbuthur in Tamil Nadu in 1991. Both main political parties in Tamil Nadu, the DMK and the AIADMK started to accuse each other for supporting the LTTE. This trend remained until the emotions of the State were heightened by the reports of civilian casualties and the fast shrinking of LTTE held territory in Wanni during the last phase of the war. The vociferous speeches made by the Tamil Nadu leaders resulted in self immolation of 11 people in the State in late 2008. Karunanidhi started a Weerawansa-style death fast for six hours.
However, in a miraculous manner both parties changed their stance on the LTTE soon after the highly fortified Kilinochchi fell to the hands of the security forces in early January, 2009. On January 17 Jeyalalitha Jeyaram who had been accusing the Sri Lankan government for committing “genocide” of Tamils went to the extent of defending the Sri Lankan security forces claiming that the Sri Lankan army’s intention was not to kill the Tamils. Speaking to the media she said that the killing of the innocent Tamils could be avoided if the LTTE allowed them safe passage to the areas not under their control. She dumbfounded even her own party by saying that “killing of innocents is inevitable in a war. No country is an exception.”
Her arguments were so contagious that even Chief Minister Karunanidhi who was a well known LTTE supporter also astonished the world on February 3, 2009 by saying at his party`s Executive Committee meeting that LTTE had lost the sympathy of his party, DMK as far back as 1987 when the LTTE leader expressed his willingness to establish a dictatorial state in “Tamil Eelam” and that “he was sick of the LTTE.”
All in all, politicians in the North as well as in Tamil Nadu are lamenting on the plights of others just for their own gains.