The Great Geo-political Game: Presidential Election and the Geneva discourse - II

Read part 1:  The Great Geo-political Game: Presidential Election and the Geneva discourse

The MOU signed between the liberal opposition and Maithripala titled ‘A Common People’s Agenda for Just, Democratic and People-friendly Governance’ also reflects similar tendencies. Without mentioning the peculiarity of the situation faced by Eelam Tamils they call for the repellent of the 18th Amendment, restoring of parliamentary democracy, good governance and end to corruption. If these are the grievances of the common man as perceived by the liberal Sinhala opposition, they are evidently not reflective or representative of Tamils.

The present situation on the island, the crisis of the state, the perpetuation of unabated genocide presents itself as a historical juncture of significance in many ways; the future will be determined by the outcome of these events. It is at such opportunities that the commitment to deliver political justice to Tamils should have emerged from the Sinhala nation to salvage any hope of reconciliation. To the contrary the Sinhala liberal argument for not taking up the ‘Tamil issue’ at this pivotal moment, merely states that the accommodation of the ‘Tamil issue’ will serve the government in the election and tilt the balance by defaming the opposition in the eyes of the Sinhala electorates by propagating it as an act of submission to Tamil demand. Such shrewd logic on part of the Sinhala political leadership, in which Tamil political representation and demands are subordinated to the nationalist sentiments in the Sinhala electorates, has been upheld by either the SLFP or the UNP from the days of D.S. Senenayake and S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike to the very present.

Without even the need to appease Tamils they urge Tamils to trust and cast their votes en masse for the opposition. For Tamils a little history regarding trust is vividly provided for by the Bandaranaike – Chelvanayagam pact and the Dudley Senenayake-Chelvenayagam pact, both instances when Tamil votes were manipulated to topple or bring into power the UNP or the SLFP while refusing to concede to any Tamil national political demands. The doyen of Eelam Tamil nationalism, V. Navaratnam in his classic book, ‘The Rise and Fall of the Tamil Nation’ elucidates that the Tamil political leadership succumbed to a tradition of ‘politics of compromise’ granting legitimacy to the Sinhala state at times of crisis when  outright rejection should have been opted. He illuminates that it was the trust placed by the Tamil political leadership in the Sinhala politicians which resulted in these deceits which ensured Colombo’s sovereignty over the Tamil homeland.

Regarding addressing justice for state atrocities, a brief comparison with the presidential elections of 1994 is necessary for the purpose of understanding the present scenario. During the 1994 election the SLFP led opposition headed by Chandarika Bandaranaike assured the Sinhala people that they would punish the criminals responsible for state terrorist acts. It was deemed popular in the south in the aftermath of the brutal annihilation of the JVP insurgency spearheaded by the UNP. Thus the oppositional agenda of the 1994 election was dominated by pledges to investigate the state for its crimes against the Sinhala people. The quest for democracy was understood as being intertwined with transparency and justice and a demand for peace was also raised concerning the war between the LTTE and the state. Even if the Chandarika government proved more brutal than the previous government in waging war against the Eelam Tamils, the electoral dynamics of 1994 was marked by rhetoric of peace and opposition to state terrorism and justice. To the contrary in the present presidential election the opposition is giving assurances to the people that state perpetrators will not be investigated, thus they are in fact demanding democracy by defending state atrocities. Chandarika Bandaranaike, recently during a press meet stated “Nearly 75 per cent of the areas controlled by Prabhakaran were liberated under my government. I do not crow about it. I did not install life size cutouts of myself”.

The entire period of counter-insurgency is conceived as a process in which each military action collectively targeting the Eelam Tamils and the LTTE was deemed as integral in bringing about the ‘final’ victory upon the bloodied shores of Mullyvaykal. Despite their differences the conquest of the Tamil homeland and the subsequent reincorporation of it under the oppressive sovereignty of Sri Lanka is presented by the Sinhala political leadership as feats of national prestige. From Rajapaksa, Fonseka, Ranil and Chandarika it is clear that all attempt to outdo each other in claiming credibility for the victory in the war against terrorism. In this rat race it is evident that the glorification of the genocide against Tamils as victory and triumph transcends both opposition and the incumbent regime.

History has corroborated that it is impossible to find a just political solution for the Tamil national question within the unitary state and the Sinhala national consensus. In the MOU examined above, it is blatantly evident that the opposition has no desire whatsoever to restructure the oppressive state, accommodate Tamil self-determination or to allow for an international judicial process to persecute the state and military officers for their conduct during the war. The Tamil national particularities and the specificity of the situation Tamils face is not deemed necessary to accommodate by the opposition; not even to woo Tamil votes by addressing their grievances.

The entire Sinhala political spectrum seems to orient itself within the regime change or pro-Rajapakse camp. Despite their difference both camps share the common platform of Sinhala nationalist politics which reifies the oppressive structures of the Sri Lankan state, evident in their pledges to safeguard the state’s territorial integrity, unity and sovereignty. In this matrix of inter-ruling class struggle among the Sinhala nation and the intra-imperialist competition between U.S., India and China, the Eelam Tamils are prone to be manipulated into pawns adhering to external dictations against the interests of their own masses.

There have also been reports stating that TNA national list parliamentarian M.A. Sumanitharan has been involved in clandestine talks with the opposition. On 22nd December 2014, a high level meeting between the delegates of the common opposition and the different constituents of the TNA took place in Colombo and gives the impression that the TNA is to endorse Mathripala.  On the 29th December 2014, a day after arriving from India TNA leader R. Sampanthan announced their official stand of supporting the common opposition and Mathripala Sirisena.

Instead of providing alternative action for Tamils the TNA leadership seems to adhere to the opposition’s interests in harnessing Tamil votes without heeding to their demands or decision making. Effectively the Tamils are being made mere pawns in the games played out within the echelons of the Sinhala south.  Tamil moderates and political leaders seem to be persuaded in aligning with such forces by perceiving the toppling of Rajapaksa as an immediate measure to arrest genocide. Incidentally such a simplified understanding of the situation corresponds with the U.S. effort to rally the Eelam cause behind Geneva discourse.


The opposition operating within the sphere of the U.S. geo-politics will attempt to dethrone the Rajapaksa regime while ensuring the reproduction of the unitary nation-state and promising impunity against external investigation and indictment.  For Tamils it implies that the status quo in Eelam will remain despite regime change. The Sinhala opposition and the U.S. will be victors whereas Eelam Tamils, in the long tradition of being victims of deceit at the table of negotiations, would be the party whose votes and participation will be impediment for their own development. In the future this will be used unscrupulously by the oppressor to espouse how Tamils legitimized the system which they allege commits genocide.

What is perturbing beyond the total silence on militarization and Sinhalization of Tamil areas, state terrorism, persecution, and the overall structural genocide on Tamils, is the composition of the popular Sinhala opposition. The fascist JHU is a component while the chauvinist JVP indirectly supports the common candidate, and alongside the Sinhala supremacists in the UNP and among the ex-SLFP; Sinhala right and chauvinist elements would easily dominate a new regime. Such a scenario will mean the death kneel for any chance of negotiating forth a political solution for Tamils. The broadening of possibilities and space for change is thus miniscule for the Tamils as the opposition will in all likelihood retain the structural genocide and offers no challenge to the state or its institutionalized oppression of Tamils.

In such a context, when active participation of Eelam Tamils in the election by siding with the lesser of two evils implies legitimizing the very oppressive system, alternative strategies should be opted. At several historical junctures during presidential elections Tamil political leaders have acted in a spirit of parliamentary democracy, participated in the electoral process by presenting the Tamil votes to a Sinhala nation and state in crisis. Such a detrimental act proved crucial in either toppling or establishing a UNP or SLFP government and ensuring political stability in the south and to the oppressive system.

The Tamil participation undermines the resoluteness of Tamil national political mobilization as well as it reiterates Sinhala state propaganda. Tamils are effectively made to provide crucial support to the very system which ensures their collective oppression while the fruits of the act of voting will be reserved for the elites of the Sinhala polity and the imperialists and will be utilized in accordance with their vested interests.

To avoid being mere pawns to external manoeuvres, and to further consolidate the Eelam Tamil political mobilization, an effort towards establishing a referendum on Tamil self-determination is warranted. Such a move will ratify the principles of Tamil national struggle while reaffirming the Sri Lankan state’s unity, territorial integrity and sovereignty as the source of oppression and genocide. To play into the same hands once again, by failing to take knowledge from previous experience of deceit,  of parliamentary manipulations and intrigues would bring about a legitimacy to the state which will render sterile any future prospectus for Tamil sovereignty and self-determination.

Eelam Tamils in order to bring about progressive moves such as materializing a plebiscite in the interests of the Tamil masses, should cultivate a political leadership which is committed to the elaboration of Tamil national perspectives based on principles of our national struggle for equality. Strong political stands will provide historical references attesting the inevitability of Tamil self-determination, and the resoluteness of Tamil resistance to Sri Lankan sovereignty. Historical clarity is provided by leaders to the masses when at decisive moments the national interests of the oppressed and the nature of their oppression is articulated upon.

Several political elements in the Tamil Eelam polity have expressed their stands towards such an effect. Recently Tamil National Peoples’ Front (TNPF) leader Gajendran Ponnampalam in an incisive interview to Tamilnet emphasized the need for Tamils to abstain from voting in the presidential elections and to work towards a plebiscite. Ilangkai Tamizh Arasu Kadchi (ITAK) youth wing leader Sivaharan from Mannar and veteran leaders such as Professor S.K. Sitrampalam from Jaffna have also endorsed such a struggle centric alternative move for the Tamil Eelam polity, condemning the efforts by the TNA leadership to take an active part in election by supporting the Kumaratunga- Mathripala opposition enmeshed within the given geo-political ploy. Moreover strong criticism to the TNA and ITAK leadership has also been expressed in two recent meetings of the ITAK and TNA convened in Vauvuniyaa and Jaffna.

In such a context as found in Sri Lanka and to lose momentum due to the considerations of conflicting camps within the bourgeoisie of the oppressor nation, implies reinforcing the material and objective conditions of oppression faced by the Eelam Tamil people. The Tamil political leadership vulnerable to manipulations will thus lose a historic opportunity to consolidate Tamil resistance to acts of compromise which salvages a Sinhala state in crisis. Such is nothing less than acts which betray the people of the possibilities in challenging the genocidal state and desecrates the mandate given to achieve self-determination and arrest genocide.


Athithan Jayapalan is a student in social anthropology and studied in Oslo and Pondicherry universities. Born in Jaffna, he currently lives in Oslo, Norway.


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