No sooner had the political debate generated by the New York Times article regarding campaign financing of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa died down than State Minister of Child Affairs Vijayakala Maheswaran threw a bombshell in Jaffna on Monday, that took the South by storm.
At a function to mark ‘Janadipathi Nila Mehewara’ on Monday, State Minister Maheswaran, widow of former MP T. Maheswaran who was gunned down in Colombo a few years ago, remarked that the LTTE should be revived as a means to create an atmosphere in the North for people to live without fear.
As a politician representing the UNP in Jaffna, it is hardly unlikely that she will make any extra gain from her inflammatory remarks either
The State Minister, the only member elected to Parliament on the ticket of the United National Party (UNP) representing the Jaffna district, made such remarks ostensibly after being emotional over the recent killing of a schoolgirl in Manippai, Jaffna. The event was attended by two Cabinet Ministers - Vajira Abeywardane and Tilak Marapana. Alongside, Northern Province Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran and TNA MP M. A. Sumanthiran were also present on the occasion.
It is quite common for Tamil politicians in the North and the East to eulogize the LTTE in their bid to woo Tamil voters. Some TNA parliamentarians such as S. Sritharan and M.K. Sivajilingam are notorious for such inflammatory speeches. Let alone, their behaviour yields in terms of political benefits for them in the northern and eastern constituencies primarily shaped by Tamil nationalist sentiments.
Be that as it may, it is a different case for State Minister Vijayakala Maheswaran who represents a national party like the UNP in Jaffna.
The LTTE was a terrorist outfit that fought an unsuccessful war for 30 years till its decimation at the hands of the security forces on May 19, 2009 in a narrow strip of land called ‘Mullivaikkal’. There was so much bloodletting because of the war that ravaged the country. It still remains a banned outfit not only in Sri Lanka but also in countries such as the United States, India and European Union.
Anything, characteristic of the LTTE, is scornful in the South. So, for that matter, State Minister Maheswaran’s clarion call for the organization’s revival left her party in the lurch in politics. All hell broke loose after the media gave wide publicity to her speech. Politically speaking, the UNP was so inconvenienced that its own MPs rushed to demand action against her in Parliament.
Anything, characteristic of the LTTE, is scornful in the South. So, for that matter, State Minister Maheswaran’s clarion call for the organization’s revival left her party in the lurch in politics. All hell broke loose after the media gave wide publicity to her speech
It is UNP MP S.M. Marikkar who raised the issue in Parliament first. The UNP MPs’ intention could be two-pronged in this instance. One could be the mitigation of political damage to the government in general and to the party in particular over the speech. The other one could be an attempt to prevent the opposition led by former Mahinda Rajapaksa from making any political gain by taking the government to task labelling it with the LTTE tag.
It happened at a time when the government or the UNP for that matter was harping on the MR’s camp over the revelations made in the New York Times article alleging that MR’s. election campaign in 2015 was financed by China Harbour Engineering Corporation. It generated a heated political debate in the country with responses and counter-responses on the matter being featured prominently in the mainstream media. But, the debate was subdued somewhat by State Minister Maheswaran’s speech.
In fact, the UNP back-benchers even started questioning in jovial sense whether she had received some financial inducements from MR to make such a speech distracting public attention from the contentious issue being debated in political circles.
Nonetheless, her speech, according to many in politics, is politically immature since it has ramifications for her party. Also, as a politician representing the UNP in Jaffna, it is hardly unlikely that she will make any extra gain from her inflammatory remarks either.
16-member group finally merged with JO
The group of Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) MPs, who joined the opposition, was finally absorbed into the Joint Opposition led by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. For the first time, these MPs participated in the parliamentary group meeting of the Joint Opposition chaired by MR on Monday evening.
MP Lakshman Yapa Abyewardane had one particular request to be made in this instance. He asked the Joint Opposition not to call his group ‘the 16 member team’ any longer. The former President also agreed to work with these MPs as one entity here after. Now, the political party-led by MR is a 70-member group. The group, altogether, decided to renew its call for the opposition leader post in Parliament.
In fact, this SLFP group merged with the Joint Opposition under political compulsion only. The initial thinking, they had when defecting from the government, was different. They believed the SLFP was relegated to a dismal third position at the local government election because the party aligned with the UNP in forming the unity government. As such, the anti-UNP vote base was grabbed en bloc by Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) as per their calculation.
So, they tried to join the opposition and carve out their niche. In fact, they undertook a series of public meetings aimed at this. Yet, it proved to be a failure. The group found it extremely difficult to maintain a distinct identity independent of the Joint Opposition. So to speak, the circumstances led them to merge with the Joint Opposition rather than being a separate group.
Like DMK in Tamil Nadu, Wiggy to form TMK in North
It is now apparent that the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) is heading for a split ahead of the elections to the northern provincial council this year. Earlier, Northern Province Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran said he would be compelled to look at an alternative to contest the elections unless he was given nomination by the TNA. It is all clear now that the TNA will not consider him for the next time. There was certainty in this respect after TNA MP M.A. Sumanthiran spelled out clearly that the nomination of Wigneswaran to the Chief Ministerial post last time was a failed project.
Against the backdrop, political sources from the north said that Mr. Wigneswaran had decided to form a new party named ‘Tamil Makkal Koottani (TMK)’. He is reported to have chosen that name purposefully so that the abbreviation ‘TMK’ rhymes well with Tamil Nadu political party‘DMK (Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam)’. If the party is formed, we will have TMK in the North and DMK in Tamil Nadu of India.
Also, TNA MP Mavai Senathirajah also harbours ambition to contest for the CM post this time. If he is fielded, the election is slated to be hotly contested in the north, a departure from single party domination enjoyed by the TNA on previous occasions.
All in all, the revelation by the New York Times and State Minister Maheswaran’s speech occupied the centre-stage of news coverage last week, distracting public attention from other burning issues.