Forty years ago unfavourable conditions emerged not only from the South but even from the Tamil militants in the North to the first Tamil Opposition Leader late Appapillai Amirthalingam to discontinue from his representation in the Parliament.
Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF), emerging as a formidable political force at the Parliamentary polls in 1977, became the main Opposition Party in the United National Party Government led by J.R. Jayewardene. However, following the rise of Tamil militancy in the North and the East as well as with the introduction of the 6th Amendment to the Constitution demanding the TULF Parliamentarians to swear an oath unconditionally denouncing support for a separate state alone had prompted Amirthalingam to relinquish his position as the Leader of the Opposition and to walk out from Parliament along with other TULF Members of Parliament, in 1983.
A somewhat similar situation has emerged after thirty three years creating an uneasy situation to Leader of the Opposition R. Sampanthan by the chauvinist elements over his recent presence in the vicinity of a military installation in KIlinochchi.
Opposition Leader on par with Prime Minister
In a democratic country the Leader of the Opposition remains on par with the Prime Minister. Sampanthan being a veteran politician unlike his predecessors has given remarkable leadership to the Tamil National Alliance towards the country’s integrity and in stabilizing the democratic process in the North and the East in the recent history of the country.
The TNA’s role in ousting the Rajapaksa regime and creating the new government in the Presidential as well as in the Parliamentary polls last year was significant.
In 2013 Sampanthan had even led the formation of the Provincial Council in the Northern Province in order to strengthen the democratic activities in a region which had been devastated by civil strife for three decades.
Presence at Independence Day
Despite the strong Opposition from the Tamil hardliners in the island as well as abroad Sampanthan became the first politician of the Illankai Tamil Arasu Katchchi (ITAK) in several decades to make his presence at the island’s Independence Day celebration at the Galle Face Green last year.
The Tamil hardliners abroad had even set on fire the effigy of Sampanthan, protesting against his presence at the Independence Day celebration at the Galle Face Green.
Certain political parties in the South staged a protest outside the Leader of the Opposition R. Sampanthan’s office on Wednesday in Colombo saying that he was instigating Tamil separatist forces by forcibly entering a military installation in Kilinochchi.
Those who agitated outside Sampanthan’s office didn’t know that a couple of weeks before that, at a meeting in Kilinochchi, the Leader of the Opposition elaborated on his role in trying to convince LTTE Leader V. Prabhakaran to enter the political mainstream and give up the militant struggle. He also went on to say at the Kilinochchi meeting that if the LTTE Leader had listened to him he would have still been living, also saving the lives of thousands of innocent civilians.
Sampanthan in North
Sampanthan visited the Northern Province a week ago to have discussions on the TNA’s political activities in the North. He had to deal with several problematic issues with regard to the functions of the Northern Provincial Council, release of Tamil political prisoners and on the resettlement of Internally Displaced Persons in the North.
During Sampanthan’s stay in Jaffna former TNA Parliamentarian Suresh K. Premachandran also came out with hard hitting comments against him for not taking proper action over reducing the military presence in the North as well as on the issue of releasing the Tamil political prisoners.
So during his tour in Jaffna Sampanthan had visited the Paravipachchan village in Kilinochchi to see the state of the Internally Displaced Persons in the area where he had gone passing an Army sentry point. He didn’t have any obstacle when he went through the Army sentry point. Some TNA Parliamentarians had also accompanied Sampanthan to Paravipanchan area which is situated in the East to the A-9 Highway.
It was on the insistence of the IDPs from there that Sampanthan had visited the particular area and found there were more acres of land belong to the IDPs still in the possession of the Army.
However, Sampanthan’s visit to the area has now been exaggerated as if he had forcibly entered a military camp, by the ‘mushroom’ political parties which are struggling for mass support in the South.
Minister of State for Defence Ruwan Wijewardena commenting on the issue has categorically said that the Leader of the Opposition had not forcibly entered the Army camp in Kilinochchi.
Earlier the Army Spokesman also confirmed that Sampanthan didn’t enter any camp forcibly.
Therefore, the agitation by the political parties accusing Sampanthan of forcibly entering a military installation has backfired by strengthening the TNA’s claim of excessive military presence in the Northern Province.
Sampanthan entered Parliament in 1977 and amassed a wealth of experience by interacting closely with the moderate Tamils as well as with the hardcore Tamil militants has now adopted a non-confrontational stance towards finding a durable solution to the Tamil question.
The right thinking people of all communities in the island and the international community have appreciated the present stance taken by the TNA Leader in handling the North and East issue.
As the majority of peace loving people look forward to greater peace and reconciliation in the country and consider Sampanthan as the best bet to solve the ethnic question, the ‘mushroom’ political forces meddling with the Opposition Leader have exposed themselves as the very elements creating obstacles for whatever efforts made in creating peace in the country.