The TULF is enthusiastically engaged in making preparations for the Jaffna municipality election while dubiously denying that they intend to contest it. There is strong speculation that Mrs.Yogeswaran who is in the peninsula now with Mavai Senathirajah and Pon Sivapalan will be the TULFs mayoral candidate for Jaffna town.
One cannot rule out the possibility that the TULF, with some tacit backing from the government might emerge victorious in the Jaffna municipality elections.
An earnest hope is discernible in some TULF circles that this will help the party refurbish its old image as the sole provider of credible political leadership to the Tamils.
It is often said there is a leadership vacuum among the Tamils now. The leaders who shaped the Tamil political identity in Sri Lanka originally, S.J.V. Chelvanayakam, G.G Ponnambalam and Vanniasingham, are dead. The leaders who emerged from the generation which followed them are either dead or are on the verge of retirement. By the time Mr. Chelvanayakam died in 1977, Amirthalingam had emerged as the undisputed leader of the TULF which had brought all shades of Tamil nationalists under its banner at that time.
Twenty years later the TULF is a shadow of its former self. But yet it is widely believed by a large cross section of the Sinhalese and westerners that the TULF can still offer credible political leadership to the Tamil people if the LTTE is wiped out eventually from the north and east. The results of the 1994 general elections in Batticaloa and Trincomalee in which Joseph Pararajasingham and A. Thangathurai were able to secure the majority of the votes from the Tamils of the east were seen by them as proof of the TULFs enduring political appeal. (One thing is forgotten in this. The TULF propaganda in the east during the 1994 elections was, silently or eloquently, respectful of the LTTE and its ideological goals).
The TULF today insists at every forum it addresses that the solution to the conflict can be found only through negotiations between the government and the Liberation Tigers.
In these circumstances, however scandalous or outrageous it may seem to the average person in the south, Veluppillai Prabhaharan appears to be fast filling the vacuum (if ever there was one) in the political leadership of the Tamils.
Many were alarmed last week when Dharmalingam Sidtharthan told a Sunday paper that Prabhaharan was one of the leaders whom he admired among the Tamils.
The Thinamurasu, which is backed by the EPDP and is the largest selling and most influential Tamil weekly, frequently portrays the LTTE leader as a master strategist with great political foresight (mainly in its very popular series on Tamil militancy).
The other Tamil papers refer to Prabhaharan with respect.
Most Sinhalese and the fanatically anti-Tiger Tamils who are in Colombo, I am more than certain, will immediately object that people are doing so out of the tremendous fear they have for the LTTE.
Fear, to them, is the key which determines the Tamil attitude towards the Tigers.
They are simply deluding themselves.
The LTTE cannot operate in the way it does if the whole Tamil population hates it but provides it with whatever assistance out of fear and fear alone.
Reuters ran a feature last week that the government has succeeded in isolating the LTTE internationally. It says, quoting diplomats,Sri Lanka is riding high on its efforts to marginalise the Tamil Tiger rebels internationally by turning global perceptions against the guerrillas. The foreign ministry also congratulates itself that it helped the government secure an appropriate geopolitical environment for defeating the Tigers.
Let us assume for arguments sake that all this is true.
Then why isnt the LTTE showing any sign of turning into a despised and battered bunch of guerrillas among the Tamils ?
The oft heard refrain that it will be the case once this or that happens is nonsense. When Jaffna fell it was said that the LTTE was finished; when Operation Sathjaya began it was said the road to Jaffna would be opened and it will expedite the decline of the Tigers; when Op. Jaya Sikurui started it was again said it would ring the death knell of the LTTE before the end of October this year . Then some smart Alec, a dabbler in psy ops most probably, planted a story that Prabhaharan had run away to Kampuchea to escape the forces of Op. Jaya Sikurui .
India has banned and is gunning for the LTTE, the worlds sole super power has designated it a terrorist organisation, Malaysia has banned it, Canada, Switzerland, Norway and Netherlands have launched legal action against its activists (according to the Reuters feature). And whats more, the US gives special training to the armys commandos and India, Pakistan and UK train officers and provide intelligence to the government about the Tigers. The LTTE was also deprived of its rear base in Tamil Nadu following the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi.
No government ever had it so good internationally.
The army was given a blank cheque to fight and finish the LTTE off.
Yet, Prabhaharan has been able to stall the advance of two army divisions - now three, with the deployment of Div. 56 - for more than seven months. Even the Deputy Minister for Defence Anuruddha Ratwatte now says it might be end of January by the time the army opens the road to Jaffna.
Can the LTTE do all this if it has absolutely no political support among the Tamils ?
There are many reasons why the majority of the Tamils secretly or publicly admire Prabhaharan, despite dire political differences which some among them may have with the Tigers.
A TULF leader put the mood in a nutshell recently-It is because of Prabaharan that the government is talking at least about semi-federalism with us he said. This is exactly what TULFs late leader Appapillai Amirthalingam used to say many years ago.
An ex-Tamil militant leader (who is not in Parliament) said on Friday Even if the army captures the highway eventually, Prabhaharan will go down in history as one who stopped a mighty military force with moral or material backing from India, America and China from achieving its goal for more than eight months.
While the moderate Tamil politician might consider the Tiger leader an inevitable instrument for exerting pressure on the government for granting the Tamils a comprehensive political solution, the die-hard Tamil pan- Tamil nationalist ( I know a few in Tamil Nadu) is inclined to dream that the mighty Chola empire will rise once again, like the sphinx, from the ashes of the Eelam war during Prabhaharans lifetime.
The creeping admiration for the Tiger leader is becoming quite pronounced as Op. Jaya sikurui is getting further bogged down in the Wanni. One has to only read the extremely popular defence-political column in the Thinamurasu to get an idea of this.
I do not think that the government will have anyone to blame but itself, and, perhaps, the few deluded Tamil intellectuals who have jumped on its bandwagon, when it finds that the Tamils are left with no moral-political grounds for backing the moderate leaders among them who still pin all their hopes on the PAs political package.
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