In a letter dated October 18, 2014, Anandasangaree has told President Rajapaksa: “Your offer to abolish the Executive Presidency, if the TNA and the Tamil Diaspora are ready to stop working for separation and the establishment of Eelam, had drawn the attention of many, irrespective of their ethnicity. But unfortunately, the dominant section of the Diaspora, which has its own agenda, and the TNA, which is functioning under the control of the Diaspora and very well looked after by them, will be reluctant to concede to your request.”
In a letter to Prime Minister Modi dated October 2, 2014, Anandasangaree said: “All concerned parties should now accept that both the TNA and the ITAK (Ilankai Tamil Arasu Katchi) had been revived by dishonest means on the instigation of the LTTE to look after its interest.”
The TNA was formed on October 20, 2001. It consisted of the TULF, All Ceylon Tamil Congress (ACTC), Tamil Eelam Liberation Organization (TELO) and Eelam Peoples’ Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF). Two days later, the TNA issued a press release stating its policies, which were unabashedly pro-LTTE.
“For the past two decades, the LTTE has, through its tireless armed struggle, made unparalleled sacrifices. The Tamil national struggle has gained international recognition. The LTTE’s struggle and sacrifices have been the most important contributor to the internationalization of the Tamil issue. It is the LTTE which has shown the world that the Tamils cannot be subdued by violence. If talks with the LTTE are to succeed, there should be no talks with any other group. We are standing for the parliamentary elections only to press the government to accept our view that talks should be held only with the LTTE,” the press release said.
As a member of the TULF, Anandasangaree was part of the TNA, and apparently also subscribed to its pro-LTTE stance. He also contested the 2001 parliamentary elections as a TNA candidate and won. In June 2002 he became President of the TULF upon the demise of M. Sivasithamparam.
But soon enough, Anandasangaree became disillusioned with the TNA because its leaders, other than himself, were giving in to all the demands of the LTTE, making it a supporter of senseless violence and brazen dictatorship. He found this to be contrary to the principles enunciated by the TULF stalwart, A. Amirthalingam, after the TULF had got into parliament in 1977 with a popular mandate to fight for separation.
Amirthalingam, who was then Leader of the Opposition, told parliament: “The Tamil people gave us a mandate for Tamil Eelam, but if the government will suggest a reasonable alternative, the TULF, if its leaders are satisfied with the alternative, will take it before the people and get their approval.” Anandasangaree pointed out that even after the TULF’s electoral sweep in the North and East based on a separatist manifesto, its Supremo, Amirthalingam, was willing to settle for a solution within a united Sri Lanka.
Anandasangaree refused to toe the pro-LTTE line urged by R. Sampanthan, M. Sivasithamparam, Mavai Senathirajah and others. Moves were afoot to oust him from the Presidency of the TULF at the goading of the LTTE. When this did not succeed, the LTTE got most of the leaders or the TULF to break away and revive the Ilankai Tamil Arasu Katchi (ITAK), also known as the Federal Party (FP), which had been dormant since 1972 because its leader, S. J V. Chelvanayakam, had formed a broader Tamil front with the ACTC and S. Thondaman’s Ceylon Workers’ Congress (CWC).
LTTE’s hand in revival of ITAK
In his letter to President Rajapaksa, Anandasangaree recalled that the ITAK had been formed after Senathirajah met S. Thangan, the LTTE’s Deputy Political Commissar, on October 14, 2003. This was a ‘great betrayal’ of the ITAK’s and TULF’s founder, S. J. V. Chelvanayakam, who was “fully committed to non-violence,” and was called “Eelam’s Gandhi”, Anandasangaree said.
The revival of the ITAK was opposed tooth and nail by Amirthalingam’s widow and political activist, Mangayarkarasi. In a statement she issued, Mangayarkarasi said: “My husband preserved the registration of the Federal Party for the sole purpose that no undesirable elements could misuse its symbol and the name. He never wanted to revive the party. It is a pity that some of those who have been groomed by him have attempted to misuse the name of the Federal Party and are trying to revive it. They have only breached the trust he had placed on them. Thus, I categorically make it clear to all that I have neither approved nor blessed the revival of the Federal Party but instead condemn it, as this act is a ploy to destroy the TULF which was formed by our great leaders.”
However, on October 19, 2003, Senathirajah gave his version of the events in an interview to a Sunday paper. He said that Anandasangaree had not responded to an overwhelming call to hold a party convention to discuss key issues. No convention had been called for 20 years, he pointed out. Also, since the ACTC had left and had held a convention, it was time the ITAK also established its identity and held a convention, Senathirajah argued.
On the role of the LTTE in the whole affair, he said: “They (LTTE) have an understanding with the TULF. We are not a political party of the LTTE, but we have a mandate from the people to accept the LTTE as the sole representative of the Tamils. It was when the TULF leadership deviated from the original position that the inner struggle started. At the general election, people had given a mandate to the TNA to give prominence to the LTTE and have a dialogue with the government. But during the time of the talks, some members of the TULF tried to sabotage the peace process. Then we called upon the party to hold a convention, resolve the crisis and strengthen the unity of the Tamils. But some people were not interested in holding a convention.”
Much against Anandasangaree’s will, the TNA contested the 2004 parliamentary elections under the ITAK’s symbol. The TULF contested separately as an Independent Group but only to draw a blank, because of the pro-LTTE sentiment sweeping the North and East.
Pro-LTTE 2004 Manifesto
The 2004 election manifesto of the TNA was overwhelmingly pro-LTTE. It said:
1. We accept the leadership of the LTTE as the National Leadership. The LTTE is the Tamil people’s sole representative. On behalf of the Tamil people, we will support the LTTE’s ideals, honestly and steadfastly.
2. To enable the Tamil people to lead a life marked by dignity, freedom and justice, we will unite all people, irrespective of caste and creed, under the leadership of the LTTE.
3. We will support the political steps taken by the LTTE’s leadership for the security and freedom of the Tamil people.
4. If the just demands of the Tamil people are not conceded and repression is used to cow them down, then fighting to secure the sovereignty of the Tamils based on the Right to Self Determination will become unavoidable. The manifesto was signed by Mavai Senathirajah, General Secretary ITAK; G. G. Ponnambalam; General Secretary ACTC; Prasanna Indrakumar, General Secretary TELO; and Suresh Premachandran, General Secretary EPRLF.
In Sharp Contrast
The 2004 manifesto was in sharp contrast to the TULF’s 1994 election manifesto. Because the TULF was not under the thumb of the LTTE then, the 1994 manifesto was modest and sought a solution within an undivided Sri Lanka. It sought an immediate cessation of hostilities and commencement of peace talks; the framing of a new constitution to usher in a federal form of government; guarantee of the implementation of all international conventions on human rights and democracy; release of all political prisoners and the grant of amnesty to all charged under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA); payment of compensation for loss of life or limb during the conflict; and recruitment of an adequate number of Tamils and Muslims at all levels in the armed forces.
In the 2005 Presidential elections, the TNA obeyed the diktat of the LTTE and made the Tamils of the North and East boycott the elections.
Post War Stance
However, a change came after the elimination of the LTTE in 2009. The TNA sung a different tune in its manifesto for the 2010 parliamentary elections. There was no mention of the LTTE but there was a threat to use India and the international community to secure the ‘sovereign rights’ of the Tamil people based on the principle of ‘self determination’.
The manifesto said: “The TNA will implement an action programme soon after this General Election, first to make the government respect the democratic verdict of our People and to enter into a dialogue with us on restructuring the system of governance of this country that will recognize the sovereign rights of the Tamil People.
If the government continues to ignore the democratic verdict of our People as in the past, we will directly take these concerns to India and the International Community urging them to take due cognizance of the genocidal programme against the Tamil People and to take appropriate effective action.”
“If the Sri Lankan State continues its present style of governance without due regard to the rights of the Tamil Speaking Peoples, the TNA will launch a peaceful, non-violent, Satyagraha campaign of civil disobedience on the Gandhian model to win back the legitimate rights of the Tamil Speaking Peoples.
The continued denial of the right to self determination of the Tamil People and the consequent deprivation of access to governance in political, economic, social and cultural issues of grave and immediate concern collectively to the Tamil Speaking Peoples would inexorably lead to a situation where the international community will be called upon to consider what further action needs to be taken to recognize the right of the Tamil People to self determination.” The many radical resolutions passed by the TNA-dominated Northern Provincial Council elected in September 2013, such as the one against the stationing of the armed forces in the North; the decision of the NPC ministers and TNA party men to boycott meetings called by the Central government, even if they are chaired by the country’s President; leveling baseless charges such as ‘genocide’ only to get the international community to intervene; have made President Rajapaksa remark that the TNA is nothing but a ‘proxy’ of the LTTE. And pugnacious as he is, he has said: “I will not give the TNA over the negotiating table what the LTTE had not been able to grab through war.”
In this context, Anandasangaree has told Rajapaksa and Modi that Tamil parties wedded to Sri Lanka’s unity and non violence should be taken on board in any talks to find a political solution to the Tamil question. “The Tamil question is no more a monopoly of the TNA or ITAK,” he told Modi.
He also let the Indian Prime Minister know that he has been touting the Indian model of devolution as the ideal solution to the Sri Lankan Tamil question. To President Rajapaksa he said that given its history of non-violent action, “it is the TULF which has the right to negotiate on behalf of the Tamil people.”