Despite the Northern Province Chief Minister C.V.Wigneswaran having been saved from being unseated by a no-faith motion by the members of his Provincial Council, through a “ceasefire” between the two factions of his party, the Ilankai Thamil Arasu Katchi (ITAK), the “war” between them is still continuing.
The “ceasefire” is said to have been breached by Wigneswaran by appointing two new members to the Provincial Board of Ministers, ignoring the views expressed by the leader of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) R. Sampanthan and the leader of the ITAK, Mavai Senathirajah.
ITAK/TNA faction led by R. Sampanthan, the Opposition Leader of the Central G, handed over the no-faith motion to the Governor of the Province, Reginald Cooray on June 14 after the Chief Minister had taken punitive actions against four out of five Provincial Ministers of his board, excepting him.
The Ministers had been subjected to an investigation carried out by a three member committee appointed by the Chief Minister last year over allegations of corruption and mismanagement of their ministries.
The committee had found only two Ministers guilty of charges and its report was presented to the Chief Minister in May this year.
Wigneswaran instructed them to resign from their posts while advising the other two Ministers also to go on leave, until a fresh investigation was conducted against them. This was met with resistance by the Sampanthan faction and led to the no- confidence motion being handed over to the Governor.
Sampanthan, wrote to Wigneswaran requesting him to withdraw the punitive actions against the two Ministers, who had not been found guilty of charges, while promising that the no-confidence motion would also be withdrawn, in reciprocity.
Wigneswaran first argued that he could not do so without the two Ministers making a formal written request as he had given the instructions too in writing.
However, he budged when he felt that he would lose in the numbers game if the motion was taken up in the council. Thus came the “ceasefire.”
However, the tussle took a new turn when the question of appointing new Ministers in place of those resigned came up.
Wigneswaran wanted to replace the former Education and Agriculture Ministers with members of his faction.
When the name of Ananthy Sashitharan, the wife of former LTTE political wing leader in Trincomalee Elilan was suggested by the Chief Minister’s group for one portfolio, Sampanthan’s faction vehemently opposed it.
The TNA leader had pointed out that Ananthy was already under suspension from the party on disciplinary grounds.
According to Tamil media, he, in addition to a written missive had also informed of his opinion to the Chief Minister over the phone, while suggesting that Provincial Councillor E. Arnold be appointed to one of the two Ministerial posts.
Another member of the Wigneswaran faction, M.K. Sivajilingam, who always irritates the south with his extremist views said that the Chief Minister offered him also a portfolio, but he declined to accept it.
Wigneswaran had also invited self-appraisals from the members of his group who aspired to take over portfolios.
Finally he appointed Ananthy as a Minister under whose purview several subjects including Women’s Affairs come. K. Sarveswaran was appointed Education Minister, who handles some other subjects as well.
The Sampanthan faction was not happy as their views were not considered. Senathirajah told media that the Chief Minister had appointed Ananthy as a Minister even after he was reminded of the fact that she had been suspended on disciplinary grounds.
TNA Spokesman Parliamentarian M.A. Sumanthiran also accused the Chief Minister of ignoring ITAK leaders like Sampanthan and Senathirajah in taking important decisions and reportedly had called on the Chief Minister to step down from the post, at a Sinhala TV discussion.
The ITAK Youth Front too at a special meeting held on July 2 on the issue expressed its protest over the new appointments.
Wigneswaran being a former Supreme Court judge who had been respected even by Sinhalese nationalists, such as the late S.L. Gunasekara might have felt guilty of appointing a person under suspension from the party to a Ministerial portfolio. He declared that the new appointments had been made temporarily, only for three months. But he stopped short of explaining the reason for appointing temporary Ministers.
In the meantime Wigneswaran was accused by his adversaries for associating with people accused of high profile murders, in spite of him being a former Supreme Court Judge.
They cited a reply sent by Wigneswaran to a self-appraisal submitted by one of his supporters in the council, a member of the Peoples Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE) saying that he could not appoint the latter as a Minister since he had been accused in connection with the murder of senior journalist and columnist D. Sivaram alias Taraki.
However, the PLOTE councillor K.Sivanesan alias Pavan, in a long reply to the Chief Minister had said that he had never been accused by anybody of the murder.
In the meantime, the two Ministers who had been cleared of allegations of corruption by Wigneswaran’s Committee had told media that they would not appear before any Committee for fresh investigation that had been suggested by the Chief Minister.
Wigneswaran replied the investigation would be carried out ex-parte in the event the Ministers did not appear before the investigating committee.
He also said he could even refer the cases to the Financial Investigation Division (FCID) in Colombo. Again he did not explain as to why he was not referring the cases to the FCID if they were so warranted.
Suggesting that he has not given up his challenge to the TNA/ITAK leadership, Wigneswaran at one point said that the problem with the ITAK was that some people in it tell one thing in Colombo, while telling another in Jaffna.
It was very clear that he was pointing fingers at the leaders of the TNA such as Sampanthan and Sumanthiran, who have some sort of understanding with the leaders of the Government.
Here, he has used a convenient but very effective weapon against the TNA leadership, the allegation of betraying of Tamils to the Sinhalese leaders.
Its Southern version is often used by the loyalists of the former President Mahinda Rajapaksa against the leaders of the Government.
The tussle between the two factions within the TNA/ITAK is nothing but a crude power struggle. It has got nothing to do with the interests of the Tamil people, though both parties try to portray it to be.
This is an unfortunate situation on the part of the Tamils, at a time when a decisive stage of the constitutional reform process is approaching.
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