The manifesto that the Tamil National Alliance has presented ahead of the Provincial Council elections is an admirable improvement on previous such documents produced by that party. In earlier iterations the TNA showed unreserved servility to the LTTE and its terrorist leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran. The leadership of the TNA, by accepting Prabhakaran as the sole representative of the Tamil people not only conflated the Tamils with LTTE, but agreed in essence to a complicity clause to all crimes against humanity (that could be and indeed were) committed by the LTTE.
"TNA’s latest manifesto is a reincarnation of the Vadukoddai Resolution, a document made to warm the cockles of communalists and feed ‘stateless-angst’ of those who subscribe to the doctrine"
In a post-Prabhakaran context there is no need to genuflect in that manner. Moreover, the TNA leadership no doubt took heed of UNHRC Chief Navi Pillay’s dire warning against glorifying the LTTE. Suresh Premachandran’s bouquets to the LTTE and not-so-veiled call for an armed insurrection ought to embarrass, but the TNA is bigger than that extremist and can claim that all parties, the UPFA and UNP have their share of loose cannons.
The distancing from servility is to be welcomed, let us repeat. Has there been a distancing from extremism, though? The Chief Ministerial candidate for the Northern Province, C V Wigneswaran, has been marketed as a moderate and if he ever supported the LTTE, in word or deed, it must have been marginal. However, in his current avatar as politician and principal articulator of party position in the run up to the election, he will be judged by party line. The party line, it appears, is anything but ‘moderate’.
The TNA’s latest manifesto is a reincarnation of the Vadukoddai Resolution, a document made to warm the cockles of communalists, feed ‘stateless-angst’ of those who subscribe to the doctrine, ‘A country for each ethnic group’, and moreover one that is heavy on aspiration and thin on grievance. It was a document that drew from myth rather than fact. It emboldened the most extremist and communalist elements in Tamil society, especially among the youth. Such elements were treated first as useful political adjuncts with their antics dismissed in the manner of overlooking the errors of little children who didn’t know better. That process took Tamil politics to the servile manifestos alluded to above and to the Nandikadaal Lagoon not too long thereafter.
History need not repeat. Similar beginnings do not produce similar outcomes. On the other hand, borrowing scripts that produced particular and violent unfolding of events does nothing to encourage the ‘other’, in this case the Sinhala polity, to view the TNA with anything but suspicion.
The manifesto is unequivocally a separatist call. The senior politicians in the TNA ought to know sentiments on both sides have been marked by the violence of war. Post-conflict reconciliation requires trust. It requires a restraining of emotions and a dialing down of communalist rhetoric, vote-getting device though it may be.
Talking about land and police powers is one thing. Even a re-merging of the North and the East would not raise any eyebrows. These are treated, at worst, as things that Tamil politicians have to say. On the other hand upping the ante with ‘fiscal powers’ and ‘shared sovereignty’ (read, ‘separate state’), will only pin TNA manifesto to the celebration of terrorism by the likes of Premachandran.
Thirty years of war with all attendant miseries, one might expect, teaches a few lessons. It looks like the TNA has not learned much.