By D.B.S. Jeyaraj
The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) contesting under the House symbol of Ilankai Thamil Arasu Katchi (ITAK)has performed creditably in the recently concluded Parliamentary elections. By the dint of this performance the TNA has strengthened its claim to don the political leadership mantle of Sri Lankan Tamils.
Though results of Trincomalee district are yet to be officially released due to the re-poll scheduled for Kumburupitty polling station according to unofficial estimates the TNA leader Rajavarothayam Sampanthan has won his seat there.
Of the Thirty-one Parliamentary seats allocated to the Northern and Eastern Provinces the TNA has obtained thirteen. The ruling United Peoples Freedom Alliance (UPFA) comes a close second with twelve. The chief opposition United National Front(UNF) is third with six seats.
In the Tamil dominated Northern Province that elects fifteen MP’s the TNA got eight,the UPFA five and UNF two. Out of the sixteen Eastern Province seats the UPFA has seven,the TNA five and UNF four.
Unofficially Trincomalee district MP breakdown is UPFA – 2;UNF – 1 and TNA 1.
Among thirty –one MP’s elected from the North and east, seventeen are Sri Lankan Tamils.Of these thirteen are from the TNA. Three are from the Eelam Peoples Democratic Party (EPDP) contesting under the betel symbol of the UPFA. The other MP is from the UNP.
The 2010 poll was the third election faced by the TNA since it was formed in 2001. Apart from the thirteen elected seats the TNA will get a national list seat too. Thus it would have fourteen seats in the new Parliament.
The first election contested by the TNA on December 5th 2001 saw the TNA getting fifteen seats with 14 elected and one appointed on the national list. The second poll faced on April 2nd 2004 saw the TNA getting twenty-two seats with 20 elected and two on the national list.
Compared to the previous results particularly the last one, the current TNA tally of seats may not be impressive quantitatively. However the qualitative merits of 2010 are indeed remarkable.
In 2001 the newly-formed TNA had indirect backing from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) who ruled the north – east roost then. In 2004 the LTTE directly manipulated the TNA polls campaign.
Though the magic number of 22 was an all – time zenith in Tamil political representation the result was also a shameful nadir in Tamil democratic politics due to the colossal vote rigging done.
This time the TNA did not have the LTTE behind them. Actually the TNA was trying to come out of the tiger shadow and distance itself from its unsavoury pro-LTTE past
In that sense the results of 2010 though comparatively lower than 2004 is something to be proud of because the votes were garnered honestly against tremendous odds.
Most TNA candidates lacked money power and man power and had to fight hard against their adversaries from the government who seemed to have unlimited funds at their disposal.
If the poster and cut-out war was any indication the TNA was hopelessly overwhelmed in those spheres.
Besides the TNA was also the favourite whipping boy of rival political parties.From the pro-govt EPDP led by Douglas Devananda to the newly formed Tamil extremist Tamil Nationalist Peoples Front the TNA received much flak.
In fact Tamil hardliners devoted most of their energy into attacking the TNA rather than taking on the Govt. Irrational elements of the Tamil Diaspora also criticised the TNA vehemently.
It was against this adverse backdrop that the TNA conducted its electoral campaign. The TNA triumph therefore is commendable because of the fact that unlike 2004 where it had LTTE support the 2010 campaign was one where it had to combat the overt and covert pro-tiger elements directly and indirectly.
Two factors helped the TNA greatly in the campaign. One was the personal popularity of some TNA stalwarts who had been MP’s for several years.
The other was the support extended by significant sections of the Tamil community who realised the imperative need to evince, evolve and empower a strong moderate voice for the Tamil people.
The significance of the TNA success lies in the fact that it was able to mobilise substantial sections of the Tamil people into supporting the party despite the prevailing political situation. The TNA is perceived as a safe middle between two opposing courses of action.
Apart from the the LTTE dimension the election results also indicate a decrease in overall Tamil representation from the North and East. Three reasons can be attributed for this decline
Firstly the general apathy and lethargy displayed by Tamil voters. They did not turn out in large numbers. This was acutely visible in the urban areas.As a result Tamil votes declined leading to declining representation.
Secondly there was a plethora of Tamil political parties, independent groups and candidates striving to divide the shrinking voter base. Although the number of votes taken away by these sections amounted to a small number individually the cumulative effect was large
Thirdly there were several Tamil candidates on the Sinhala dominated national parties like the UPFA and UNF. While the votes polled by the Tamil candidates helped swell the party votes the preferences obtained by the Tamil candidates were not enough to earn them seats. Thus these Tamil votes also helped increase representation from other ethnicities at the expense of Tamils.
The 2010 hustings has seen some old and new faces being returned. A brief examination of the elections and TNA member elects from the five North – Eastern electoral districts of Amparai (Digamadulla(Batticaloa, Trincomalee, Wanni and Jaffna would be of some use in comprehending the current political climate.
Amparai (Digamadulla) was a new district carved out from the former Batticaloa South areas. It is the district with the least number of Tamils (19%).Though one of the seven seats from the district was expected to go to a Tamil such a possibility could be possible only through a trong show of ethnic unity.
In the outgoing Parliament Kanagasabai Pathmanathan had been elected on the TNA ticket from Amparai district.After his demise due to natural causes Dr.Thomas Thangathurai had become MP
In addition there was another Tamil MP from the district too.After Joseph Prarajasingham the TNA national list MP from the east was assassinated Chandra Nehru Chandrakanthan had been appointed.
Chandrakanthan’s father Chandra Nehru Ariyaratnam hailing from Thirukkovil in the district had been MP from 2001 to 2004. Chandranehru who lost elections in 2004 was subsequently killed by the LTTE breakaway Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Puligal (TMVP) along with former LTTE eastern political commissar Kausalyan.
With Chandrakanthan and Dr.Thomas Thangathurai being MP”s from the district both were re-nominated on the TNA list though there were chances of only one Tamil MP getting elected. The sitting MP Thangathurai headed the list
There was another candidate “Henry” Mahendran the TNA opposition leader in the Kalmunai municipal council and strongly tipped to be the winner from the TNA.
There was also the question of whether any Tamil candidate let alone one from the TNA winning from Amparai district.
One reason for this was that the ruling UPFA had a controversial yet strong Tamil candidate in their ranks. This was none other than Kumarasamy Pushpakumar alias “Iniyabharathi.”
Iniyabharathi was a key deputy of Vinayagamoorthy Muraleetharan alias “Col” Karuna,former TMVP leader and present vice – president of Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP)Iniyabharathy was also a special coordinator for Amparai district appointed by President Mahinda Rajapakse
Iniyabharathi with his strong – arm tactics and access to the throne of power was seen as a force to be reckoned with in Amparai district. During the polls campaign his goondas had restricted canvassing by the TNA candidates to some extent in certain Tamil inhabited areas of the district.
The popular belief was that Iniyabharathi the sole Tamil candidate in the UPFA list would get elected. Some felt that the Tamil votes would get sharply divided between Iniyabharathi and the TNA resulting in no Tamil getting elected. A third opinon was that Mahendran or Chandrakanthan of TNA would squeak through.
When the results were announced a political “upset” had taken place. The TNA won the Tamil seat but the winner was a Tamil – speaking Sinhala person. The TNA Parliamentarian elect from Amparai district was Podiappuhamy.H.B. Piyasena with 11,139 preference votes.
The unassuming Piyasena’s Sinhala father hailing from Devinuwara had settled down in Akkaraipattru in Amparai district with a Tamil wife. Piyasena’s siblings were all educated in the Sinhala medium with a brother being principal of a Sinhala school
Piyasena too had his early education in Sinhala but reverted to Tamil medium in deference to his mother’s wishes. Though he wanted to join the Police force in his younger age Piyasena had changed his mind after witnessing and experiencing police brutality
Piyasena is for practical purposes a “Tamil with a Sinhala name” and owns two businesses in Akkaraipattru and Thirukkovil. He speaks Tamil fluently with a distinctive eastern Tamil accent.
Born in 1961 Piyasena was involved with Eelam Peoples Revolutionary Liberation Front(EPRLF) politics during his youth. At one point he was under death threat from the LTTE and was forced into hiding.
The new MP remains an ardent, devout Buddhist. His children have been given Tamil names and study in the Tamil medium. They are fluent in Sinhala and Tamil like their father.
Piyasena was elected to the Aalaiaddyvemby Pradeshiya Sabha on the TNA and has functioned as deputy –chairman of the council. He had agreed to contest Parliamentary polls without any expectation of victory. Piyasena’s only condition had been that he should be made the Aalaiyaddyvembu Pradeshiya Sabha chairperson in due course.
Piyasena had campaigned alone during the pre-elections period. He had bought a three-wheeler and modified it by mounting a mini –platform behind. After painting the vehicle “blue” in SLFP colours as a safety measure he had driven throughout the length and breadth of his constituenct appealing to voters on a personal basis via megaphone and distributing handbills.Only a driver accompanied him.
Piyasena’s unorthodox campaigning seems to have been a success and when results were announced the “dark” horse had won.
Success however was not so sweet as enraged Tamil goonda supporters of Iniyabharathy allegedly attacked his house and forced him into de-facto “house arrest”. TNA leader R.Sampanthan had lodged strong protests with the Police hierarchy and around 15 goons have reportedly been arrested.
The adjacent Tamil –majority Batticaloa district has five seats including the bonus seat. In 2004 four Tamils (TNA) and one Muslim from the UPFA were elected. In 2010 many eastern province Tamil journalists were worried that Tamil representation could go down to two. TNA prospects seemed bleak
This was because of three reasons. Firstly there were strong Muslim candidates in the fray. The UPFA had Hizbullah from Kattakkudi, Ameer Ali from Oddamavaddy and Ali Zaheer Moulana from Eravur. In addition Muslim Congress chairman Basheer Segu Dawood of Eravur was contesting on the UNF ticket.
The second reason was that the TMVP led by Eastern province chief minister Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan alias Pillaiyan was contesting separately. The B’caloa TMVP campaign was spearheaded by Pillaiyan himself.
There was also the Tamil United Liberation Front(TULF) one of the TULF Candidates was a former MP Krishnapillai alias Vellimalai.
While these parties could fragment Tamil votes there were also some influential Tamil candidates on the UPFA list.
One was the former TNA woman Parliamentarian Thangeswari Kadirgamar. She had been denied nomination by TNA this time.
There was also a former deputy-minister S. Ganeshamoorthy on the UPFA list. The UNF had Provincial council member Shashidaran.
It was felt that these candidates would siphon off Tamil votes to their parties and enable non-Tamil candidates to get elected on the strength of more preferences.
The TNA list was headed by Pon. Selvarajah a former school principal. Selvarajah master as he is known had been the TULF Batticaloa district MP from 1994 to 2001. He had not been given nomination in 2004 due to LTTE pressure.The tigers were displeased with him for not giving employment opportunities to those recommended by the LTTE
There had been four elected TNA Parliamentarians from Batticaloa in 2004. In addition Joseph Pararajasingham from B’caloa had been appointed national list MP. Of these Joseph had been killed by the TMVP. Kingsley Rajanayagam had been forced to resign his seat and was later killed by the LTTE.
Rajanayagam was replaced by P. Ariyanendran. He was given nomination. Ariyanedran was the only ex-MP given nomination in 2010 from the “non-party” persons nominated by the LTTE in 2004. A former editor of the Tamil journal “Thamil Alai” (Tamil wave) Ariyanedran is from the “Vannakkar” (hereditary trustee) family of the famous Thaanthondeeswarar Sivan temple in Kokkaticholai.
Another MP was Jeyanandamoorthy. He had fled abroad due to threats from the TMVP and had opted not to return. Ms. Thangeswari Kadirgamar being refused nomination had joined the UPFA and was contesting.Tammanpillai Kanakasabhai had declined re-nomination but was actively campaigning on behalf of Pillaiyan and the TMVP.
Under these circumstances the TNA was at best expected to win two seats with Selvarajah Master and Ariyanendran getting elected. When results were announded the TNA had won three. While Selvarajah and Ariyanedran had won as expected the “upset” was the third man who topped the TNA preferences.
Seenithamby Yogeswaran had got 20,569 preferences and come first while Ponnambalam Selvarajah (18,485) and Pakkiyanathan Ariyanedran (16,504)were second and third respectively. They are the three Tamil MP’s from the district.
The Batticaloa district has four major caste groups namely Mukkuwar, Vellalar, Karaiyar and Seerbaatha. The political representation has been from the three Mukkuwa,Vellala and Karaiyar groups.
Interestingly enough Ariyanendran from Kokkaticholai, Selvarajah from Kallaru and Yogeswaran from Sithaandi being elected the Mukkuwa, Karaiyar and Vellala groups are now represented.
The success of Yogeswaran was unexpected in the sense that he is not a politician. Yogeswaran called “Aiyah” by his followers is a Social worker and devout Hindu
He has been president of several Hindu organizations including the Young Mens Hindu Association and Inthu Maamandram (Hindu Society). He is well-versed in Hindu scriptures and wears pure white or saffron with the sacred beads known as “Ruthraksha maalai”. Yogeswaran manages some social institutions including orphanages and homes for the aged.
It is said that Yogeswaran did not engage in active politicking for the elections. He was well-known and respected in the community because of his social service and perceived piety. He would attend every funeral in the neighbourhood and rush to help families in need.Clearly the personality factor has been instrumental in his election.
A surprising matter was the failure of the TMVP to get even one seat despite controlling the Eastern Provincial council.Thanks to Yogeswaran the TNA had got more votes than the TMVP even in Kalkudah electoral division where the native places of Pillaiyan (Pethalai)and Karuna (Kiran) are.
The results for Trincomalee are yet to be announced officially but it is known unofficially that the UPFA has won two of the four seats. The UNF has got one and TNA the other. The TNA list was headed by Sampanthan.
As of now the TNA leader Rajavarothayam Sampanthan stands elected with the highest number of preference votes. Since the pre-dominantly Kumburuppiddy polling station for which a re-poll would be held has 9777 polling cards Sampanthan’s tally is likely to increase further.
The unfortunate series of events leading to a re-poll has been a blot on this election. As in the case in Nawalapitiya thugs allegedly supporting Government ex-ministerial candidates have reportedly intimaded and chased away Tamil and Muslim voters.
If charges are proven true the finger of guilt points to Mahindananda Aluthgamage in Nawalapitiya and Susantha Punchinilame in Trincomalee.
According to TNA circles goondas had struck terror into seven Tamil and Muslim villages north of Trincomalee town including Kumburuppiddy, Kuchaveli and Salappai Aaru. Polling cards had been seized and voters threatened to keep away
Upon hearing of this Sampanthan had gone to Kuchchaveli and got the authorities and Police to ensure secure voting in at least five of the villages by the after noon. However Kumburupiddy and another village were severely affected and as a result a re-poll has been arranged for the 20th
Notwithstanding the re-poll ,Sampanthan’s success in Trincomalee is guaranteed. This anticipated victory comes as a slap in the face for former TNA Parliamentarian Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam.
He along with former MPs Selva.Gajendran and Padmini Sithamparanathan have formed the Thamil Thesiya Makkal Munnani or Tamil National Peoples Front.
The new party contesting under the All – Ceylon Tamil Congress symbol of cycle fielded candidates only in Jaffna and Trincomalee.
When interviewed by a Canadian pro-tiger Tamil radio Gajendrakumar explained that their intention was to defeat Sampanthan in Trincomalee and “Mavai” Senathirajah and Suresh Premachandran in Jaffna. Sampanthan, Senathirajah and Suresh are described as the “Triple “S” controlling the TNA
A venomous campaign was launched against the TNA in general and Sampanthan in particular. This was duplicated in the media organs of the pro-tiger Tamil Diaspora.
But Sampanthan too had his supporters abroad and a right-royal battle began.
In Trincomalee the newly formed Front fielded an “unusual” list of candidates. Both the chairpersons of the TNA controlled Trincomalee urban council and Trincomalee town and gravets Pradeshiya Sabha were contesting against Sampanthan.
Interestingly all the candidates on the Trincomalee Tamil National Peoples Front belonged to a particular caste.
Usually when lists are compiled great care is taken to balance it with representatives of different social groups but in this case there seems to have been a brzen attempt to appeal to a single segment on caste lines thereby heralding another irresponsible attempt to fragment the Tamil polity further.
Given the delicate ethnic balance in Trincomalee district there was apprehension among Tamil political observers about a Tamil candidate winning.
With the Tamil Nationalist Peoples Front and Pillaiyan’s TMVP fragmenting Tamil votes it was feared that no Tamil would get elected as what happened in the October 10th 2000 election.
This however has not happened and the Septugenarian Sampanthan has won.
While Tamils from Trincomalee town have not voted in large number Tamils in outlying areas and the Muthur and Seruwila electoral divisions have voted extensively.
Former TNA trincomalee district MP Thurairatnasingham played a big role in canvassing for Sampanthan.Thurairatnasingham voluntarily opted out from contesting this time.
The sprawling Northern electoral district Wanni is sparsely populated. It comprises the administrative districts of Mannar,Mullaitheevu and Vavuniya. The Wanni return six MP’s to Parliament.
n 2004 the TNA won five with one going to Rishard Bathiutheen of the Muslim Congress who subsequently broke away and formed the All- Ceylon Muslim Congress.
Of the five TNA Wanni MP’s Sivanathan Kishore and Sathasivam Kanagaratnam had quit the party and joined the Government. Both contested under the betel symbol of the UPFA.
The other sitting MP’s Selvam Adaikkalanathan, V. Vinotharahalingam and Sivasakthy Anandan contested again on the TNA ticket under the House symbol. While Anandan is from the EPRLF the other two are from TELO. Adaikkalanathan headed the TNA list for Wanni
Apart from the “old” trio some new faces were also included. One was the medical doctor TW Jeyakularajah. Another was the University lecturer Sithamparapillai Selvarajah. There was also the return of a “vintage” face. Former TULF Mannar MP Philip Soosaithasan was contesting.He had been MP from 1977 to 1983.
Dr.Jeyakularajah is a native of Thaniootru in Mullaitheevu district. He was arrested in 1982 for allegedly providing medical treatment to LTTE cadres injured in the attack on Chavakachcheri Police station. At Welikade he had a miraculous escape from the Sinhala prisoner mob.
Jeyakularajah was one of the detenues who escaped from Batticaloa in the 1983 break-out. He went to Chennai and rendered medical care to Tamil refugees. He obtained a pardon under the Indo –Lanka agreement of 1987 and returned to Lanka. Jeyakularajah later served in Govt hospitals in Jaffna and Mullaitheevu districts until his retirement
Sithamparapillai Selvarajah was a political science lecturer in Peradeniya and Jaffna universities. He had later gone to Australia and lectured in Universities there. Selvarajah a native of Thavasiyakulam in Vavuniya district returned home from Australia to serve his people. Several of his siblings were earlier members of organizations like the PLOTE,TELO and LTTE.
Soosaithasan a chartered accountant by profession is from Vangalai in Mannar district.When serving as MP from 1977 to 1983 Soosaithasan was chairman of the Public Accounts Committee and highly respected. He relocated to Canada in 1990 and worked in the Canada Revenue Agency.
After retiring Soosaithasan returned to Colombo a few years ago. He then moved back to Mannar. A devout Roman Catholic Soosaithasan has a good relationship with the Catholic Church hierarchy including Tamil and Sinhala bishops
When the elections campaign got underway a “divide” was visible between the old trio of Adaikalanathan, Vinotharahalingam and Anandan and the newcomers. The trio worked together . While Adaikalanathan and Vino focused on Mannar district Sivasakthi Anandan concentrated on Vavuniya.
When results were announced the old trio got the first three places while Dr.Jeyakularajah came fourth. It appeared that the Wanni voters preferred known devils to unknown angels. The inability and/or unwillingness of displaced Tamils to vote in large numbers also helped the established MP’s to get re-elected.
Jaffna electoral district comprising the administrative districts of Kilinochchi and Jaffna return nine seats. This would not be the case after 2011 when a national population census is to be conducted. The last official All-Island census was in 1981.
Of the current Jaffna voter lists it i estimated that 40 – 50 % percent are not resident in Jaffna anymore. Relocation to other places in Sri Lanka and migration abroad has taken its toll. It is said that the number of seats from Jaffna would drop to five after 2011.
In the 2004 elections the TNA had got eight of the nine seats with Douglas Devananda of the EPDP getting the ninth.
The 2004 TNA victory was a blemish as massive rigging had been done with the backing of the LTTE. LTTE stooges like Selva.Gajendran and Padmini Sithamparanathan were elected with unprecedented preferences.
Two of the eight elected are no more. Nadarajah Raviraj was allegedly killed by EPDP gunmen in Colombo while Sinnaiah Sivanesan fell victim to a landmine planted by an Army deep penetration squad. Their vacancies were filled by Nallathamby Sreekantha and Solomon Cyril respectively.
Only two of the eight TNA Jaffna district MP’s contested again on the TNA ticket in 2010. They were Somasundaram Senathirajah (Mavai) and Kandiah Premachandran (Suresh).There was high political drama and controversy preceding this state of affairs.
MK Sivajilingam and N. Sreekantha were from the TELO. Sivajilingam had spent many months in India hobnobbing with the Hindu nationalist BJP and Tamil Nadu pro – tiger elements.
When Presidential elections were announced Sivajilingam returned to Sri Lanka and together with Sreekantha demanded that the TNA field a Tamil candidate. When this was refused Sivajilingam supported by Sreekantha came forward as a Presidential candidate.
In what was perhaps an immense political blunder Dr. Vickramabahu Karunaratne misjudged Sivajilingam to be a progressive and teamed up with him. How a leftist leader like Bahu could join forces with someone close to Hindu fundamental BJP was a puzzle.
But then politics does make strange bedfellows. But associating with Sivajilingam affected Bahu badly as many Tamils refrained from voting for him due to this.
After the Presidential elction split the Sivaji-Sreekantha duo kept on criticising Sampanthan and the TNA. It was therefore a foregone conclusion that the duo would not be with the TNA at general elections.
As expected the duo formed a separate party the Tamil National Liberation Alliance. They contested under the umbrella symbol of Vickramabahu’s Left Front.
In the words of Marx, history repeats itself first as a tragedy and then as a farce. If Bahu teaming up with Sivaji for presidential elections was a tragedy then aligning with him for Parliamentary polls was a farce.
The Sivajilingam factor put off both progressive Tamil and Sinhala voters. One cannot understand how revolutionary Bahu sahodaraya could join forces with the reactionary Sivajilingam. In any case the Sivaji-Sree duo fared miserably at the 2010 hustings
Apart from the Sivaji – Sreekantha duo the Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam – Padmini Sithamparanathan – Selva Gajendran trio also struck out separately.In what as perhaps a fatal miscalculation Gajendrakumar hitched his wagon to the Padmini-Gajendran star and seriously damaged his political future.
Gajendran and Padmini had been close to the LTTE hierarchy earlier. They used this “clout” to undermine and defy the TNA leadership. Like the cobra around Lord Shiva’s neck inquiring the well-being of the Karudan or Kite bird this duo had disregarded the TNA leaders due to their tiger influence. They had disrespected several other academics and professionals in Jaffna too.
Both were also involved with Jaffna university politics. They were instrumental in politicising undergrads to unacceptable pro – tiger levels and were instrumental in organizing a series of “Pongu Thamil” (Tamil Upsurge) demonstrations. They were also involved in inciting students into violent demonstrations on the lines of the Palestinian “Intifada.”
But after Mahinda Rajapakse became President and his brother Gotabhaya the defence secretary the State began striking back. Fire was met with fire.
A massive crackdown through routine channels and unorthodox methods was launched against tiger and pro-tiger elements in Jaffna. Naturally sections of the student population had to bear the brunt of this “anti- tiger offensive”
But Gajendran and Padmini who had played a major role in instigating these students were not there to stand by the victims to whose misery they had contributed.
Instead they took refuge first in the Wanni and later in foreign countries. After exposing the student community to danger and hardship this couple was nowhere to be seen during troubled times
However when elections were scheduled both Gajendran and Padmini returned home and prepared to contest again. But the long-suffering TNA leadership was not prepared to oblige.
Furthermore substantial sections of the Jaffna student population as well as Jaffna academics and professionals indicated quietly to the TNA leaders that nominating the couple would not be welcomed.
Thus the TNA leadership took the bold decision of denying nomination to both. But Gajendran and Padmini Sithamparanathan latched on to Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam.
Earlier Gajendrakumar had some disputes with the TNA leadership about the Presidential election. Egged on by some Tamil extremists in the Diaspora, Gajendrakumar had wanted a boycott.
Now the same Diaspora elements played a huge role in cementing an alliance between the discarded duo and young Ponnambalam.
In Quixotic fashion Gajendrakumar began tilting at windmills to rescue imaginary maidens from imaginary dragons. He canvassed intensely for nominations to be given to both.
When places on the nomination list were offered to Gajendrakumar and Tamil Congress president Appaputhurai Vinayagamoorthy , Gajendrakumar spurned it and instead requested that those places be given to Gajendran and Padmini Sithamparanathan.
This led to the parting of ways between Vinayagamoorthy and Ponnambalam. Vinayagamoorthy who had been a Jaffna district MP from 2000 to 2004 threw in his lot with the TNA leadership and accepted nomination.
Gajendrakumar along with Gajendran and Sithamparanathan broke ranks and formed the Tamil National Peoples Front. They filed nomination under the ACTC symbol of cycle in Jaffna and Trincomalee districts.
Then began an election campaign that viciously attacked the TNA leadership consisting of Sambanthan, Senathirajah and Suresh.
Thus five of the earlier TNA Jaffna Parliamentarians split and contested under different political formations. The other ex-MP Solomon Cyril was also denied nomination.
He had earlier been involved in the co-operative sector on behalf of the LTTE. Cyril however did not make a fuss on being refused nomination.
So Senathirajah and Premachandran were the only two ex-parliamentarians elected in 2004 to get nominated in 2010 for Jaffna. Vinayagamoorthy who had contested Wanni unsuccessfully in 2004 was also nominated. Former Jaffna municipal Commissioner CVK Sivagnanam who contested unsuccessfully in 2004 was also nominated.
Several new faces like the Human Rights lawyer Remedius, School principals Arunthavapalan and Sritharan, University professor Sivachandran and media proprietor Saravanabhavan were also nominated.
The TNA found it being assailed on one side for its pro-tiger past and on the other for moving away from its radical political stance. The Sivajilingam and Gajendrakumar political formations focused almost entirely on the TNA and virtually ignored the Government.
The EPDP contesting under UPFA auspices also lashed out at the TNA as it was identified as a potential winner.
The TNA in its new avatar had very correctly attempted to distance itself from its pro – tiger past. It tried to eschew radical rhetoric at the beginning. But the elections campaign had its own compulsions. In a bid perhaps to counter ultra- national criticism several TNA candidates resorted to inflammatory and unrealistic rhetoric.
Even though the pro-tiger Diaspora media provided massive publicity to the anti-TNA dissident outfits it soon became clear that the real fight for top position was between the TNA and EPDP contesting as UPFA. It was also anticipated that Vijayakala Maheswaran the UNF candidate would secure one seat.
When the results were announced the TNA had won five of the nine seats including the bonus seat. Three EPDP candidates had won under the UPFA betel symbol. Douglad Devananda got the highest number of preference votes (28,585). Vijayakala Maheswaran with 7,160 preferences was elected as the only woman MP from Jaffna.
Gajendran, Sithamparanathan and Ponnambalam who were the first three in terms of preferences in 2004 were demolished . So to was the Sivaji-Sree duo
Three “old” faces were elected. They were Senathirajah, Premachandran and Vinayagamoorthy. They got 20,501, 16,251 and 15,311 preference votes respectively.
The two new TNA faces were Easwaran Saravanabavan and Sivagnanam Sritharan. They got 14,965 and 10,057 preferences respectively.
The lawyer Remedius who is currently the TNA opposition leader in the Jaffna municipal council had come sixth.
Kanthaia Arunthavapalan the popular principal of Driebergs College, Chavakachcheri who was strongly tipped to win was unsuccessful. One reason for this was the “mysterious” poster campaign where it was announced that Arunthavapalan was bowing out of the contest and requested people not to vote for him.
The posters were visible in lsarge numbers in the Chavakchcheri electoral division where Arunthavapalan was expected to get most of his votes. Though Arunthavapalan placed newspaper advertisements the damage done by the “posters” seems to have caused his downfall.
A leaflet campaign was launched against the TNA’s Saravanabavan also. The present proprietor of the “Uthayan” and “Sudar Oli” newspapers had at one time been associated with a finance company named “Shabra”.
The “engineered” collapse of this institution in the eighties of the last century had resulted thousands of Jaffna residents losing their cash deposited in this company. The Shabra scandal occurred long before the recent “Sakvithi” and “Goldkey” affairs.
Just a day before Elections day, a torrent of leaflets were widely distributed in Jaffna against Saravanabavan. The anti_ Saravanabavan leaflets accused him of absconding with depositors money resulting in the collapse of Shabra finance company.
The scope and scale of the anti – Saravanabavan operation as well as the deceptive poster campaign against runthavapalan fuelled suspicion that the EPDP was responsible.
This was because no political entity in Jaffna has the resources or power to conduct “operations” like these at present.
Utilising the media power at his disposal Saravanabavan issued effective responses to the charges in the leaflets. Saravanabavan explained that he was only the General manager at Shabra and that two others had been GM after him. While admitting that a few of the company directors were his relatives Saravanabavan denied that he was ever a director or stockholder.
The newspaper proprietor flatly denied that he had swindled any of the funds as alleged in the leaflet and queried as to why these charges were being levelled at him after so many years. He challenged his detractors to reveal themselves without being anonymous cowards.
Saravanabavan also referred to the yeoman service done by the newspapers “Uthayan” and “Sudar Oli” in spotlighting the problems and grievances of the Tamil people. He charged that he was being attacked because the service done by his newspapers was unpalatable to some.
It is noteworthy that the newspapers owned by Saravanan were not squeamish about projecting the image of their proprietor. In fact one newspaper is edited by his brother-in-law Vithyatharan.
After an initial period of silence the newspapers began providing massive coverage to the speeches and statements of the TNA in General and Saravanabavan in particular.
Saravanabavan himself projected him as a media person though he was only the proprietor. Though journalists and other staffers had undergone hardship, detention and danger the proprietor was spared such problems in the past.
But Saravanabavan put up posters in Jaffna describing himself as “Oor Piracinaiyai Ulagariyach Cheidha OOdagap Poraali” (the media militant who drew global attention to local problems).
However controversial the newspaper proprietor may be he did manage to harvest success. In fact the most number of votes were polled in Vaddukkoddai for which Saravanabavan was in charge.
The fifth TNA parliamentarian is Sivagnanam Sritharan the principal of Kilinochchi Maha Vidyalayam. Sritharan incidently is the brother in law of former tiger military commander Velayuthapillai Bhaheerathakumar alias “Brigadier” Theeban having married his sister. He and his wife surrendered to the Army shortly after the demise of Theeban in the Aanandapuram battle of April 2008.
These then are the thirteen MP’s elected from the TNA in five electoral districts. The TNA is entitled to a national list seat too. Well-known human rights lawyer M. A. Sumanthiran is expected to be nominated as national list MP. If the TNA is entitled to a second slot that would go to Jaffna university History professor Sittambalam.
In terms of seats obtained the TNA is the third largest party in Parliament. Despite its faulty history and past flaws the Tamil people have elected them because the TNA seems the best bet out of what is available.
The TNA may have engaged in rhetoric during the elections campaign.It is now time to set it aside and act with responsibility ,sagacity and pragmatism.
Great and irredeemable harm has been done to the Tamil people by the LTTE. The TNA during its earlier phases has contributed to this by shamelessly supporting the tigers.
The TNA has to share the blame for the precarious position of Tamils today. The TNA must utilise the opportunity given during its third phase to do penance and rectify the damage done.
The era of confrontational politics is over. The TNA would do well to take cognizance of this salient fact and act accordingly.
Thirukkural திருக்குறள் Holykural
Kural குறள் - 533
பொருட்பால் - பொச்சாவாமை
எப்பால் நூலோர்க்கும் துணிவு.
'To self-oblivious men no praise'; this rule Decisive wisdom sums of every school.
Thoughtlessness will never acquire fame; and this tenet is upheld by all treatises in the world.
Translation by Rev. Dr. G. U. Pope, Rev W. H. Drew,Rev. John Lazarus and Mr F. W. Ellis