Political nakedness of Tamil leadership


No one knows where Velupillai Prabhakaran's remains lie. Or, even if they knew, they wouldn't say anything about it because somebody will write about it saying he was shot while carrying a white flag and that could spell disaster for somebody else's campaign.

But wherever that brutal man rests — probably in the murky depths of the Nanthikadal lagoon anyway — he must be turning in his grave. Not because his LTTE has been shattered to smithereens or because KP is singing for his supper like a wannabe Sirasa Super Star but because of what the so-called 'Tamil politicians' are doing.

On Wednesday, the outfit calling itself the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) — or at least a significant faction of the TNA — pledged its support to General Sarath Fonseka. There is nothing wrong with that, of course.

A two-hour news conference was held to get their few minutes of fame on TV channels and announce to the world that they have entrusted their faith to the man who led the battle against the very Tigers that they once nurtured.

Prior to that, we were treated to the titillating sights of a topless Fonseka and Ranil Wickremesinghe at a kovil in Jaffna amid reports that quoted 'sources' as saying that the TNA would say 'we do' to the General.

The Tamil National Alliance is certainly ‘Tamil’, but we have to doubt whether it is ‘national’ in view of the separatist noises it was making in the not-too-distant past and now, it is anything but an ‘alliance’. Therefore, in retrospect, Velupillai Prabhakaran was the rather thickly adhesive glue that kept them together. With Prabhakaran gone, the TNA is now falling to pieces.

It is not that they were quite a chummy lot before Prabhakaran pointed a gun at them and told them to fall in line -- or else, get themselves blown up as quite a few of them did. They were pulling in different directions to begin with: provincial councils, federalism, separatism et al. And when Velupillai told them they should support Eelam and nothing else, they just said 'Yes, Sir,' and did his bidding.

Some of them -- of the Amirthalingam vintage -- were in fact guilty of transforming the then young, hot headed Prabhakarans and Uma Maheswarans, from gun wielding terrorists to freedom fighters, at least in the eyes of the Tamil Disapora which embraced them with reverence.

The Diaspora is now scattered and shattered but what of the Tamil politicians? They too seem scattered and shattered and the best example is the TNA. There is a Sampanthan-led group coyly supporting the General, some want a boycott like in 2005 and there are those who apparently want President Rajapaksa to win but are too shy to say so openly.

Considering that the TNA is also an alliance -- with much less partners than either the United Peoples' Freedom Alliance with two dozen parties or the United National Alliance with a dozen parties -- differences of opinion is bound to occur. That too can be pardoned.

But what of the grievances of the Tamil community for which the Tigers fought although using despicable means? Do these Tamil parties -- which were clamouring for separation and nothing less while the Tigers ruled the roost -- have an inkling of where they stand now?

The differences among Tamil politicians and political outfits would make the divisions of opinion in Wickremesinghe's UNP seems like quarrels among five year olds. And while they don't seem to see eye to eye on anything they also seem to want an eye for an eye making them blind to the harsh realities of the post-Prabhakaran political scenario.

On the one hand, there is Douglas Devananda who somehow outlived Prabhakaran. At least he had the gumption to stand up to Velupillai. As for Tamil nationalism, Douglas appears quite content with provincial councils, as long as he gets his ministerial portfolio, his security and his parliamentary pension.

Not so Veerasingham Anandasangaree. I doff my hat to him for standing up to Prabhakaran and daring to publicly call him 'thambi' when he was the Supreme Leader to everyone else. But Anandasangaree's TULF is a skeleton of its former self and the man loves the 'F' word: without federalism, he'd rather retire from politics -- and in fact, that is probably what he would have to do eventually!

Then there is that other lucky chap, the Muralitharan who brought fame to Sri Lanka not by having batsmen caught out by his spin but getting caught himself for travelling on a forged passport and then spinning a story claiming that Gotabhaya Rajapaksa gave him one. (Funny, isn't it; how Gotabhaya's name seems to pop up whenever there is a controversy?)

Now this Murali -- Karuna to you and me -- talks nothing about provincial councils, devolution or separatism these days. His contribution to that cause was to identify Prabhakaran's body, or so it seems. And why should he bother, when he has been appointed to the exalted position of Vice-President of the SLFP, no less?

Karuna's rival Pillayan, or Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan, if you want to be politically correct, is only a little different. All he wants is police powers for his provincial council and he'll be as happy as Mervyn Silva on a day when he is able to stone General Fonseka's supporters; and that will effectively end Pillayan's Eelam dream.

Of course, there is still a stubborn lot. Sivajilingam is contesting the election -- the second Tamil to do so after Kumar Ponnambalam. And like Kumar, he will probably become the second Tamil to lose his deposit. But then, fifty thousand rupees is nothing much these days and besides, how else can you get so much airtime for fifty thousand rupees? So, you can't blame him after all.

Kumar reminds us of his son Gajendrakumar who initially pushed for a boycott but appeared on Wednesday's TNA news conference along with Fonseka-supporting R. Sampanthan, the TNA's parliamentary group leader. Maybe Gajendrakumar still has visions of 50-50 like his grandfather G.G. but what he must realise is that these days even cricket is Twenty-20, so he doesn't have much of a chance. He must have realised that a boycott call was a futile exercise.

And finally there is the Sampanthan faction. We heard he was impressed with the General. We all were, when he wiped out Prabhakaran. But what is the carrot that sealed the deal? The General is on record saying he would go 'beyond the 13th Amendment', whatever that means -- maybe he meant the fourteenth amendment (which, by the way deals with presidential immunity)!

So, there is a deafening silence about the 'ethnic question'. And why not? there is no Prabhakaran to egg us on to discuss the issue by blasting a bomb every now and then. So, let us forget the whole issue and get on with the business of getting into power, shall we?

Politicians in the South, being a selfish lot to begin with, can be pardoned for thinking like that. But the politicians in the North have also been caught with their pants down, so to speak: their political nakedness is so embarrassing.

So, who knows, there just might come a day when at least some among the Tamil community may make a wish, even if it was for just a moment: "if only Prabhakaran was there…!"

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