Veteran politician and Ilankai Tamil Arasu Katchi (ITAK) Leader Mavai Senadhirajah has scoffed at his party colleague and Northern Province Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran’s call for an international investigation into the allegations of war crimes committed during the last stages of the war, according to a front page story in yesterday’s .Dailymirror.
In a related news item in the same newspaper it was reported that three out of remaining four constituent parties of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) -- the Tamil Eelam Liberation Organisation (TELO), Peoples Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE) and the Eelam People’s Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF) had sent a letter to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHCR) Chief Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al-Hussein calling for an international investigation into these allegations though the ITAK the main constituent of the TNA has refrained from contributing to that demand.
At a meeting to welcome the newly elected and appointed TNA/ITAK parliamentarians of the Wanni District on Sunday had observed that a demand for an international probe into the war crimes allegations as made by the Chief Minister was futile since the international players had already carried out an investigation at the insistence of the former UNHRC Chief Navanethem Pillay and its report was to be presented to the UNHRC sessions this month.
He had also berated All Ceylon Tamil Congress (ACTC) leader Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam for inciting Tamil feelings.
It is interesting to note that this new development could be seen at a time when the TNA leader R. Sampanthan who is also the previous leader of the ITAK is being recognized by Speaker Karu Jayasuriya as the new Opposition leader in Parliament. This is also a time when certain nationalist groups are slowly attempting to create a fear psychosis among the Sinhalese people over the appointment of Mr. Sampanthan to the post. These news items have to be read along with the stories on the government’s move to conduct a domestic investigation into the same human rights issues that sprang during the last lap of the war.
This does not mean that the ITAK has dumped its demand for an international probe, what it says is that it has been already done; hence there is no point in stirring further emotions.
The fear and concern expressed by the southern nationalists are not totally unjustifiable, in spite of some of them being politically motivated or racist or both. The chilling reminiscences of actions by the first Tamil Opposition Leader Appapillai Amirthalingam and his party the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) under which Senadhirajah was a young fighter for Tamil rights 38 years ago would justify the fears of many.
The TULF which contested the 1977 General election with a manifesto calling for a separate Tamil State called Tamil Eelam won 18 seats in the Parliament to become the largest party in the Opposition. Mr. Amirthalingam was appointed Opposition Leader. Against a backdrop of a beginning of a Tamil separatist armed struggle and winning a mandate for a separate State Mr. Amirthalingam used to the hilt the new post to promote the separatist campaign internationally as well as locally.
However, there is no separatist armed struggle in the country now and the TNA, the present day version of the TULF publicly claims that it stands for a united Sri Lanka. Still the leaders of the TNA at many an occasion use the rhetorical terms that were used by the separatist forces including the LTTE, always sending a horrific message to the people outside the North and East.
After the January 8 political change in the country, there have been many signs of reconciliation at least between Tamil and Sinhala leaders. The new government of President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has shown many conciliatory gestures towards the Tamil leaders while the latter in a reciprocal response have supported many moves by the “yahapalana” leaders including their electoral aspirations.
Against that backdrop the stance adopted by the ITAK in rejecting an international investigation which was one of its major demands until lately is definitely encouraging, especially at a time a Tamil has been appointed Opposition Leader for the first time