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Lord Naseby’s revelations, food for thought

In days gone by, it was the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) which was in mainstream politics in the North and the East, along with the two major national parties - the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and the United National Party (UNP).

The emergence of Veluppillai Prabhakaran’s terrorist outfit, the LTTE, eroded the chances for democracy in these two provinces. Former TULF leader T. Amirthalingam and many Tamil leaders, scholars and moderate Tamil personalities were brutally killed by Prabhakaran and his blood-thirsty Tigers in broad daylight.

Following decades of terror, the Tigers invariably silenced democratic Tamil leaders in the North as many armed groups emerged in the North in the ‘80s. Tamil politicians, who reposed faith in democracy, had little or no choice but to abandon their activities and remain taciturn, chiefly through fear for their lives. The LTTE nullified the power of the ballot through the bullet.

Eventually, almost all Tamil leaders, except TULF leader T. Anandasangaree and EPDP leader and Minister Douglas Devananda, formed a political party under the patronage of the LTTE. The Tigers got all political parties in the North and the East to come under one umbrella and this gave birth to a new party, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA). It was more or less the democratic arm of the LTTE as Prabhakaran remote-controlled it from his jungle hideout. All decisions were taken by the LTTE leadership and its decisions foisted on TNA leaders who were mere puppets.

The TNA leaders lived in mortal fear during the height of LTTE terror and did not utter a word on the sufferings of Tamil civilians, but emerged from nowhere after the Security Forces crushed terrorism and liberated over half a million civilians from the clutches of LTTE terror.

After the LTTE annihilated all democratic political parties in the North and the East, they claimed to be the sole representatives of the Tamils. In similar vein, when the LTTE was crushed by the Security Forces militarily, the TNA called themselves their saviour. Nevertheless, there are other prominent political parties and leaders such as Ministers Douglas Devananda, Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan alias Karuna Amman, T. Anandasangaree and Chief Minister of the East, Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan alias Pillayan.

The priority of the State is to ensure that communal politics are dispelled from North-Eastern politics. As Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa quite rightly pointed out recently, there is a vast number of voters in the Northern Province who do not favour ethnic politics, TNA or any separatist-inclined organisations engaged in ethnic politics over the past years.

After the Security Forces liberated the North and the East, a large number of Northern voters was keen on participating in mainstream, non-communal politics. As the Defence Secretary had said, these voters should be given a chance to exercise their democratic right as leaders. These leaders should be given political guidance by national level political parties, such as, the SLFP and the UNP.

Only a microscopic segment of the elderly Tamil community approves TNA politics as they had been brainwashed into believing a so-called separate State by the LTTE. However, the majority of voters in the North are yearning for a new and moderate political leadership from their own area. ‘Exporting’ political representatives to those areas from the South will by no means fill that political vacuum.

The SLFP and the UNP should allocate at least half of their national list Members of Parliament to moderate social leaders in the North. This could be the stepping stone for moderate Tamil leaders and youth to join mainstream, non-communal national politics. If such an offer is made to leaders who are socially accepted in the North until the next general election, a conducive environment could be created for democratic politics in those areas. Else, the TNA would continue to brainwash Tamil youth with the LTTE ideology.

TNA leader R. Sampanthan is now globe-trotting, dishing out concocted stories to mislead the international community, that the Tamil community in Sri Lanka is being discriminated. These sweeping statements are to woo international sympathy and strengthen the TNA’s position after the LTTE was vanquished. Sampanthan is backed by a section of the Tamil diaspora and front organisations of the now defunct LTTE.

Tamils have, by no means, been discriminated in Sri Lanka as Sampanthan alleges to gain petty political advantage. On the other hand, they could reach the zenith in any field - be it political or otherwise. Tamils can now live in peace in any part of the country. It was the unrelenting LTTE which got rid of Sinhalese and Muslims in the North. The LTTE massacred and chased away Sinhalese and Muslims from their traditional homelands in the North and the East. In this scenario, it is crystal clear that it was really the Sinhalese and the Muslims who had been discriminated against.

Lord Naseby, PC, Baron of Sandy and chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Sri Lanka debunked all such allegations. He said that the allegations levelled by several Labour Party MPs in the UK that Tamils who return to Sri Lanka from the UK are being harassed, persecuted and not allowed their rights, were totally misleading.

After an extensive tour of Sri Lanka on a fact-finding mission, Lord Naseby took certain British media outlets to task for stating that Tamils who return to Sri Lanka from the UK are being harassed, persecuted and denied their rights. “This was totally wrong considering the ground reality in Sri Lanka,” he said.

Lord Naseby said that the UK has huge problems with the diaspora, especially with the British Tamil Forum and Global Tamil Forum. The bogus money-raising charities are still in place in the UK and this money is channelled to the Eelam movement which is totally unacceptable.

The mechanism to meet the aspirations of all communities lies solely with Parliament. All Sri Lankans, irrespective of caste, creed and religious affiliations, should repose faith in the proposed Parliamentary Select Committee in the true spirit of democracy, rather than relying on imported solutions and being swayed by foreign influences.

Lord Naseby’s revelations, based on first-hand experience, are indeed food for thought. The US and other countries in the West must see for themselves the ground situation in the North before jumping to conclusions.

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