Sri Lanka Parliamentary Polls Bring Tamil Radicalism to the Fore

COLOMBO: For the first time since the end of the Sri Lankan war in 2009, Tamil radicalism has come to the fore in a Lankan election. In the parliamentary elections slated for August 17, the brazenly pro-LTTE  Tamil National Peoples’ Front (TNPF) and Crusaders For Democracy (CFD), backed by pro-LTTE elements in the Tamil Diaspora, are challenging the 14-year electoral dominance of the moderate Tamil National Alliance (TNA).

The CFD, a new outfit comprising hardcore ex-LTTE cadre, might draw a blank. But the TNPF, an older group headed by leading lawyer Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam, is expected to get at least one of the seven seats in the Jaffna-Kilinochchi electoral district. The TNPF is contesting after boycotting two earlier elections.

Exploiting the Tamils’ disappointment over the lack of progress in resolving their  problems even five years after the war, the TNPF is advocating an aggressive approach. It seeks “full self-determination” under which any unification with the Lankan State will be based on “a pooling together of two separate sovereignties” namely, Tamil sovereignty and Sinhalese sovereignty.

genocideThe TNPF says that the TNA’s demand for “internal self-determination” through a federal structure does not recognize the Tamils’ separate sovereignty. Internal self-determination only envisages devolution of power to the Tamil province by a single, sovereign, Sinhalese-dominated parliament at the Centre. That parliament can take back the devolved powers at will.

Unlike the TNA, which wants to secure the Tamils‘ rights with the consent of the  Sinhalese South and India, the TNPF is for a confrontationist approach backed by  international forces.

The TNPF is against any domestic Lankan inquiry into the alleged war crimes, even if it is done with UN technical assistance. The TNPF’s stand has forced the TNA to project the same view. The TNA has also stated that Southern Sinhalese parties cannot take its support for granted.

Diaspora’s Role

Both TNPF and TNA have harnessed the moral authority of the Tamil Diaspora. The TNPF is supported by the pro-LTTE section, whose principal English organ is The TNA is supported by moderate outfits like Global Tamil Forum, British Tamil Forum and Canadian Tamil Congress, which are sanctioned by their host governments.

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