COLOMBO: The Chief Minister of Sri Lanka’s Tamil majority Northern Province, C.V.Wigneswaran, appears to be planning to break away from the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and form his own radical Tamil party with the support of an influential section of the Tamil Diaspora.
And the leadership of the TNA may allow this to happen as he has become an embarrassment and a thorn on their side.
Wigneswaran’s politics of confrontation with the provincial Governor Reginold Cooray and the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government in Colombo, clashes with the TNA leadership’s policy of cooperation with them.
The Northern CM has been giving primacy to the Tamils’ political demands and the provincial administration’s rights vis-à-vis the Centre, to the virtual exclusion of the empirical and more pressing issues relating to administration and economic development. Neglect of the latter had led to his returning to the Central government more than 75 percent of the funds allocated for the development of the Northern Province. On the other hand, the TNA’s leadership would like Wigneswaran to take a more balanced and practical approach to politics and administration.
In his standoff with the TNA’s leaders, Wigneswaran had gone to the extent of openly supporting the TNA’s radical rival, the Tamil National Peoples’ Front (TNPF) in the 2015 parliamentary elections, although he was elected to the Northern Provincial Council (NPC) and made CM, by the TNA.
After a series of embarrassing confrontations with the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government, Wigneswaran began to train his guns on the provincial Governor, Reginold Cooray, publicly confronting him at every available opportunity. When Cooray said that Sinhalese-Tamil intermarriage would help national integration, Wigneswaran retorted on the spot saying that a political solution to the Tamil question should precede inter-ethnic marriages.
More recently, Wigneswaran publicly criticized some remarks which the Governor had allegedly made at a press conference instead of taking up the issue privately. The Governor not only denied the allegation but sent the CM a recording of what he said to prove his point.
Not to be outdone, Wigneswaran objected to a meeting the Governor had called to discuss the development of Jaffna, saying that it could not be called without prior consultation with him. But the Governor said that any issues that the CM and the NPC might have, could be discussed at the meeting, and that was indeed the very purpose of the meeting!
Wigneswaran boycotted the meeting and publicly criticized local TNA MPs who attended it saying that they had done so without consulting him. However, the meeting was held with the participation of the TNA MPs and good section of the NPC. But given Wigneswaran’s truculence, the Governor declared that he will not call for such meetings hereafter, indicating the beginning of a cold war.
Prior to this incident, Wigneswaran stripped Minister Sathialingam of three portfolios, namely, Social Welfare, Rehabilitation and Women and Children’s Welfare apparently because he sensed that the TNA’s leadership might put up Sathialigam as his successor. It is also suspected that Wigneswaran might give “de facto” charge of these politically relevant portfolios to Ananthi Sasitharan, a fiery radical who enjoys Diaspora support.
Meanwhile, worried about the growing rift between Wigneswaran and the TNA leader R.Sampanthan, some TNA leaders tried to get them to talk to each other. But informed sources say that both Wigneswaran and Sampanthan were reluctant.
Political circles expect divisive issues to crop up and widen the rift between the CM and the Governor on the one hand, and between Wigneswaran and Sampanthan on the other, leading to the exit of Wigneswaran to form his own outfit in the hope of winning the hearts of the Tamils through radical posturing.