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The nationalist prerogative in a post-LTTE election

By Malinda Seneviratne

(April 04, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) This is the first General Election since 1977 where the spectre of terrorism is absent. It is nevertheless an election that is not absented by the Eelam wish. Indeed, the absence of the LTTE-factor has perhaps made it imperative for Eelamists to put their full weight behind the reinvention of Eelamism or, to be more precise, to replant the Eelam seed. This is the logic of the manifesto that the TNA has come up with.

What seems to have happened is that with the extremist articulation being erased from the equation, Tamil nationalism has decided to bypass civilized options and opted to return to the chauvinism of the TULF. If Prabhakaran and the LTTE perished in the Nandikadal Lagoon in May 2009, it seems that the perishing gave re-birth to the ghost of Appapillai Amirthalingam. And so, in April 2010, we see a bitter, ageing and without-ideas Tamil political leadership wiping the dust off the Vadukoddai Resolution. If that’s what political survival has necessitated, then Tamil nationalism is indeed poor.

The Vadukoddai Resolution (VR henceforth) was embraced by the Tamil voter. That was a moment for reflection, it has been pointed out, and an opportunity that was missed. It was a moment not (as some say) to recognize Tamil grievance, but to understand Tamil aspiration and Eelam’s marketable dimensions, for the ‘Utopia’ promised did not correspond to ‘grievance’ articulated and articulated grievance was made more of embellishment than truth.

Who would not vote for the most mouth-watering basket of goodies? People do vote for candidates promising the sun, moon and slices of the universe. Voting is one thing, getting the promise delivered is something else altogether. What happened in 1977, one can argue, was that people voted for a promise and what happened subsequently is the outcome of frustrations over non-delivery which the TULF blamed on Sinhala chauvinism. That frustration had other sources no doubt, but these elements were also present. In the end, after about 70,000 people died, it is ironical and unforgivable that the Tamil political leadership should go back to the drawing board and come up with the VR.

The TNA document is full of Eelamist posturing and should make people like Stanley Thambiah and Gananath Obeyasekera salivate (they are ‘Anthropologists’ and we know that myth and legend is the bread and butter of such people).

The TNA should understand that a lot of things have changed since 1977. The Sinhalese have the arguments and are ready and willing to use them. They don’t have to resort to the JR method of skullduggery (1977-1987) and the ‘appeasement through legitimation’ methods followed by JR and later by Chandrika and Ranil. All they have to do is to say, ‘Bring your best brains and bring your evidence; ladies and gentlemen, we are ready to talk history. Are you though?’

They will not tell R. Sampanthan and others clearly focused on pushing this island into another extended season of bloodletting that this ‘right of self-determination’ is nonsense in terms of the geographical, demographical and historical records. They will say ‘power sharing’ is silly because the notion that Tamils are a ‘nation’ is untenable, and that there is nothing to say that each and every community should have a nation. They will point out that the majority of Tamils live outside the so-called ‘traditional homelands’. They will also say, ‘The North and East cannot and will not be treated in any preferential manner compared with other provinces’.

I have no idea how the TNA will fare at the elections. However, now that the TNA has decided that it wants to be the reincarnation of the TULF and is dead set on creating another blood-thirsty Prabhakaran, it is giving a message to the Sinhalese as well, intended or otherwise.

The Sinhalese should understand this: the LTTE is dead but Eelamism is not. The Sinhalese should understand that Tamil chauvinism as articulated by the TNA and as buttressed by long-time apologists for Eelam has to be countered in ways that the TNA and the cub-LTTE was not; i.e. with reason and sobriety.

I believe that the threat still exists and that this threat will find its way into Parliament on April 8, 2010. It does not matter if the TNA gets 20 seats or two or just one, that Eelamism requires is a parliamentary presence at this point.

This is why I believe it is imperative for all those who want Sri Lanka to remain a unitary state and one where separatism is defeated ideologically and politically to ensure that they do their ‘bit’ on April 8, 2010. I believe that regardless of political preferences, it is incumbent on nationalists to ensure that there is a strong nationalist presence in Parliament.

Thus, if you have decided to vote for the UNP, you should use your preferential votes judiciously and make sure that at least one goes to someone who has the necessary knowledge, experience and skill to counter all threats to national unity, territorial integrity and sovereignty as could be posed by the TNA and other Eelamist outfits.

Nationalists have to understand that in all parties there are people who purchased uncritically and/or for reasons of political expediency the Eelamist argument and promoted the Eelam project’s first step, ‘Federalism’. It is against the national interest to elect such people over those who always advocated against them and did not mince their words when it comes to dealing with Eelamism and terrorism.

I don’t want to endorse any candidate from any party at this point, but UNPers will know who the nationalists are and who were willing to sell the nation down the river to a bunch of terrorists. The same goes for UPFA candidates. Everyone knows who touted federalism, who wanted to ‘negotiate/surrender’, who saw Prabhakaran as ‘freedom fighter’ etc., and who called him ‘terrorist’.

Time is long. Ideologies don’t die easily. Desperate politicians (like Sampanthan) will pawn the future of the very people they claim to represent just to survive. The Nesiahs of this world will continue to beat the communal drum because that’s what they have to do to remain professionally relevant. That’s their prerogative. What’s ours?

I believe our prerogative is to vote in those capable of countering these Eelamists who just don’t want a fraternal embrace among different communities. This is the hour of nationalism. Yes, the ‘hour’ did not end on May 18, 2009. There is a price that we have to pay if we are not vigilant. We paid it for over 30 years. We should not make our children pay for errors we could commit today.

Malinda Seneviratne is a freelance writer who can be reached at malinsene@gmail.com

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