A welcome dialogue | Daily News


A welcome dialogue

The recent signals emanating from the main Tamil community political alliance, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), of a readiness for serious political dialogue on a multitude of issues concerning their community will be welcomed by all right thinking Sri Lankans. It is a reassuring sign of an evolving community outlook conducive to national harmony.

Last week a senior TNA politician called for a direct dialogue with the current Governmental leadership. In fact, they had already attended several meetings with the Government leadership that the rest of the Opposition boycotted, such as a Temple Trees meeting with Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa on the Coronavirus response. This augured well for events that would follow.

Subsequently, the Alliance’s leadership, including most of its former MPs of the last Parliament, met in Vaddukoddai, Jaffna, to map out a new strategy of direct engagement with the national leadership in Colombo. The Alliance reportedly hopes to develop a new platform of manageable issues suitable as an agenda for this engagement.

Readers will recall that it was also in Vaddukoddai, in 1976, that the then ‘Tamil United Liberation Front’ (TULF), the direct predecessor of the TNA, held its national convention of representatives of the various Tamil community-based political parties and unanimously adopted the infamous ‘Vaddukoddai Resolution’. That resolution called for the building of a separate ‘Tamil nation’ in the event of failure to achieve a solution to what were listed as the problems faced by the Tamil community.

Although this Resolution was the significant secessionist posture adopted for the first time by the collective Tamil mainstream leadership, there was already, at that time, several radical small groups that had been espousing a separate Tamil state. Some of these small radical separatist factions had already become actively engaged in an armed insurgency even as the mainstream leadership adopted a separatist position for the first time, though only one dominant group – the LTTE - emerged from the infighting among them. It would later be branded as the world’s most ruthless terrorist group by the FBI.

The Vaddukoddai Resolution declared: “This convention directs the action committee of the Tamil United Liberation Front to formulate a plan of action and launch without undue delay the struggle for winning the sovereignty and freedom of the Tamil Nation.”

The normal ‘rest is history’ phrase fails to capture the ensuing violence, terror, sheer devastation and human displacement that were experienced by all Sri Lankans from the fatal gunshot fired at eminent lawyer and Jaffna Mayor Alfred Duraiappah in July 1975 for nearly three decades, until the Security Forces finally crushed the LTTE in May 2009.

As prolonged and bitter warfare inevitably does, all sides in the conflict were consumed to differing degrees by the fires of violence. These wounds and scars will take generations to heal among all communities. Ironically, the civilian politicians of the TULF – whose constituent parties still lead the current TNA – were among the first to fall victim to the flames of insurgency. The piecemeal armed actions of the militant groups soon evolved into a fully-fledged internal war, encouraged, no doubt by regional and global actors who sought to wield influence over our strategically located Indian Ocean island.

While the separatist movement was definitively crushed 11 years ago, the subsequent varied politics of the Tamil community did not provide for much interaction between national leaderships on all sides that could lead us to the long-sought goal of complete national unity and reconciliation. Rather, the lack of clarity over a future strategy among the post-war Tamil leadership and the fissiparous tendencies within Tamil community politics have not helped - failing to provide adequate focus for engagement by the other national political leaderships.

The recent pronouncements by some TNA leaders are also significant in that the mainstream Tamil leadership seems to have decided to directly politically engage with the Gotabaya Rajapaksa administration. There is an indication of readiness not simply for a general round of talks by all and sundry, but instead, for a focused dealing with the top figures of the Government itself.

These various statements by leading TNA personalities indicate a recognition of the superior significance of the regime in power for the purposes of a sensitive dialogue impinging on matters crucial to State and Society. Most importantly, these statements seem to be a fruition of a growing perspective in the mainstream Tamil leadership of their community’s location within the single body politic rather than of a fractured island polity.

Equally important is the TNA’s readiness to deal with the very national political formation that so determinedly and soundly defeated the secessionist enterprise back in 2009. The mainstream Tamil leadership, in that sense, has returned to the political sanity of the pre-Vaddukoddai era which had preferred institutionally channelled negotiations within a singular nationhood rather than divisive confrontation. This is a sound basis for a national discourse that will hopefully and eventually resolve the outstanding issues faced by all aggrieved communities.

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