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A ‘Raw Deal’

| by N. Sathiya Moorthy

( August 4, 2013, Chennai, Sri Lanka Guardian) Across the world, it is CIA still! Nearer home in neighbouring India, it is ISI everywhere and in everything. In the rest of South Asia, the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW), commonly known as ‘RAW’, has been the whipping-boy for everything that has gone wrong with domestic politics in individual countries. Imagine India’s might, both inside and outside the South Asian neighbourhood, if even a percentage of what is being attributed to the external intelligence outfit were to be true!

It is a sad commentary on the imaginative skills of self-styled ‘Sinhala nationalists’ that they should brand Justice C. V. Wigneswaran, the TNA’s chief ministerial nominee for the Northern Province, as a ‘RAW agent’. According to news reports, they also protested against India outside the Indian High Commission in Colombo. Sudden wisdom seems to have dawned on them only after the TNA named Wigneswaran for the chief minister’s job. They are only belittling their own great nation by branding a Tamil jurist of their Government’s choice, thus.

‘United Sri Lanka’

Not long after his nomination, Wigneswaran has been quoted by the media in Sri Lanka and elsewhere – India in particular – that broadly indicated the realistic need for a ‘home-grown solution’. It coincides with the view of some in the Government, starting with the Defence Secretary and sections of the ‘Sinhala nationalist’ JHU in the matter, but the protestors outside the Indian High Commission seemed to have greater knowledge and better ideas on the matter.

Referring to the Tamil Nadu polity in South India, Wigneswaran said as much: “It is natural for friends in Tamil Nadu to show emotions, but the Sri Lankan issue is being used there for political gain. To them, I will only say this: ‘You are welcome to give us any other kind of support, but please allow us to work out our own solutions to our own problems within a united Sri Lanka’”.

No one else in Wigneswaran’s place could have been expected to say as much – particularly against the Tamil Nadu polity.

Two, and even more important, he has sworn by a ‘united Sri Lanka’. It is also the official – and not-so-official – line of the TNA in the post-war era in particular. There, he has indicated a desire for finding a negotiated settlement to Sri Lanka’s ‘national problem’ within Sri Lanka itself.

‘Betrayers of the Tamil cause’

If Wigneswaran has to prove his larger Sri Lankan identity, going beyond the well-defined Tamil identity, he does not have to go far. Our ‘Sinhala nationalist’ friends have to only read their ‘Tamil nationalist’ counterpart to know his true colours. Whether the LTTE is around or not, the self-styled protagonists and protectors of ‘Tamil nationalism’ have made it a habit to brand those who are not ‘separatists’ in their perception, as ‘betrayers’ of the ‘Tamil cause’.

From across the Palk Strait, in Tamil Nadu, the likes of MDMK’s Vaiko have been targeting the TNA even more. They do not approve of the TNA leadership meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other officials of the Government of India, labelling both as ‘betrayers’, one way or the other. Self-styled ‘Sinhala nationalists’ should have taken the cue, but they have their own political compulsions.

Job cut out

The TNA has its job cut out, particularly through the Northern PC poll campaign. To be able to run a post-poll administration successfully and meaningfully – both in terms of rehabilitation and reconciliation – they need to define their benchmarks beforehand. They need to tell the Tamil voters of the North, and the larger Tamil population elsewhere in the country and outside, as to what they are voting for – and, not what they are hoping for.

At the end of the day, it should not become a story of the blind men and the elephant. If nothing else, any ambiguity on the part of the TNA to define their hopes and expectations about a post-poll political process on finding a negotiated settlement to the ethnic issue should not allow ‘Tamil separatists’ to own up victory, or disown the TNA. By doing so beforehand, the moderate TNA leadership would have also put the ‘Tamil nationalists’ nearer home on notice – and where they actually belong.

In turn, a broad spectrum TNA position on the ethnic issue, pre-poll should also put the ‘Sinhala nationalists’ on notice. If such worthies are within this Government, they too should be exposed.

It is one thing for the Government and sections of the ruling SLFP-UPFA combine under President Mahinda Rajapaksa to play ethnic politics with election campaign in the North. It is another matter for them to believe in their poll-time positions, post-poll. It could not create confidence. It would only generate further mistrust.

Addressing media editors, President Rajapaksa has clarified that he had no problem working with an elected TNA administration in the North, if the people there so willed it. He however has reiterated his hardening position on Police and Land Powers, which otherwise exist as a part of the Sri Lankan Constitution. Such pre-determination ahead of the promised PSC discourse also has other consequences, both ahead of the Northern PC polls nearer home and the upcoming Commonwealth Summit and UNHRC session, otherwise!

(The writer is Director, Chennai Chapter of the Observer Research Foundation, the multi-disciplinary Indian public-policy think-tank, headquartered in New Delhi. email:Sathiyam54@gmail.com)

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