The meaning and the significance of September 21, 2013 – a unique day in the calendar of Jaffna – can be grasped only if it is placed in its proper historical context. It is a red letter day that goes beyond the rhetoric of Tamil triumphalism. After the defeat of the violent Tamil terrorists in Nandikadal, 21/9/13 is projected as the non-violent electoral victory of the Tamils over the Sinhalese. That is the least important aspect of 21/9/13. Tamils have voted on similar lines before. And no one expected the results of 21/9/13 to be different from previous elections. So the ethnic slant given to the interpretation of the results is really shallow. Besides, an electoral victory within an undivided, unitary state is not the same as sealing a victory in a separatist battlefield where the dividing territorial boundaries are demarcated with a degree of finality.
The voting, of course, gives the TNA the foremost place among its rivals. But how long will that last? Will their performance in office enable them to retain the same strength further down the track? The TNA is also a loose coalition of contradictory forces. Can TNA’s centre hold the competing and the ideologically diverse forces together? Though the voting on 21/9/13 was predictable their future is not. In any case it is rather superficial to read the voting results as a victory of the Tamils over the Sinhalese. What is significant is the victory of the Tamil people over the fascist tyranny that dominated their entire political history. Never ever in its history – from Sankili who massacred 600 Catholics for owing allegiance to the Pope and the King of Portugal to Velupillai Prabhakaran — were the people of north given a free choice to elect their representatives to run the north as a separate administrative unit. From Sankili to Prabhakaran the northerners were kept under the jackboot of ruthless Tamil leaders, including the Vellahlas sub-rulers, who controlled Jaffna with a casteist iron fist.
It is against this unrepresentative, undemocratic background that 21/9/13 assumes its great significance. On this date Tamils of the northern territory were given the first opportunity to exercise their political will freely and elect their chosen candidates to act on their behalf without the overwhelming impact of the casteist/fascist culture that denied the Tamil people their elementary right to be human. Sir. Ponnambalam Ramanathan and the Vellahla elite who opposed the Donoughmore reforms of granting universal franchise in 1930 were finally defeated on 21/9/13. The pendulum that swung from the extreme of Vellahla caste fascism to Prabhakaran’s political fascism has finally come to rest in the democratic middle of the Provincial Council. This also marks the entry of Jaffna into the 21st century, after meandering its way traumatically and violently through feudal casteism and Tamil Pol Potism of Prabhakaran.
The revolution that took place on 21/9/13 was to institutionalize democratic structures to end the ingrained fascist culture of Jaffna. The new democratic political culture, introduced on a firm footing for the first time on 21/9/13, will test the ability of the Tamils to govern themselves on democratic principles. The TNA consists of inexperienced novices who had never touched the levers of power on such a grand scale. The TNA leaders have been mere “yes-men” collaborating willingly with the fascist culture that ruled the north under the jackboot of Prabhakaran. They were pliant tools of Tamil fascism, not leaders of democracy. Like their political ancestors who ruled Jaffna during feudal, colonial and post-independent periods with a fascist whip, suppressing their own people under casteist and Prabhakaranist tyrannies, they have shown no capacity, nor tendency to abide by democratic norms. This is the first time the Tamils of the north were liberated and given a domain to run their own administration on democratic principles. The democratization of the Northern Province ultimately was enabled by President Mahinda Rajapakse. First he laid the foundation for a democratic future when the Tamil tyrant Prabhakaran was eliminated from the political equation on May 18, 2009. The second time was on September 21, 2013 when he empowered the Tamil people by giving them the free choice to elect their first ever administration in the north.
They, of course, did have the freedom in the post-independent era to elect representatives from pocket-size electorates, some of whom shared power in the successive Cabinets of “Sinhala governments” as equals. For a brief while they even had an Indian puppet, Varadaraja Perumal, to run the north and east jointly. They also exercised limited powers in municipal and other local bodies through their elected representatives who were invariably the English-educated Vellahla elite who ran local administrations focused mainly on imposing and perpetuating the fascist casteist culture – a political reality exposed by Jane Russell in her masterly study of communalism from 1931 – 1947. As highlighted in Yalpana Vaipava Malai, the most revealing historical sketch of Jaffna written in the Dutch period, Jaffna was ruled by the “insane fury” of its cruel rulers who denied human dignity to anyone living in the north, be they Muslims, Sinhalese, Catholics or their own Tamil people.
In the very first days of the Northern Provincial Council (NPC) one can only hope that 21/9/13 will liberalize Jaffna and open a new democratic space in its oppressive, anti-democratic and mono-ethnic history. This liberation of the Tamils from the grip of customary fascist leadership is the greatest gift given by President Mahinda Rajapakse to the Tamils. The two stages must be reiterated for emphasis: First President Rajapaksa physically liberated the Tamils from tyrannical fascism of Prabhakaran. Second, he empowered them with the power to elect democratically their own leaders to govern them. The second is a consequence of the first. For the first time in the history of Jaffna the Tamil people gained the constitutional guarantees to share power with the center like the rest of the nation in the other eight provincial councils. Consolidating peace and introducing the democratic institutions to an ingrained fascist culture is no mean task. It is a task that America, the mightiest power on earth, could not achieve in Iraq even after investing 60 billion during its ten-year occupation of Iraq in the name of restoring democracy. Bombs are still going off in Iraq with no end in sight.
More importantly, President Rajapakse has handed over to the TNA leadership a revitalized Jaffna ready to take off from the current rehabilitated stage he has put in place. Will the TNA throw away the last chance for peace by reverting to the failed politics of the past? In the usual litany of complaints of the Jaffna Tamil leadership consistently blamed the Sinhala outsider. But no outsider has killed more Tamils than the Tamil leaders. No outsider has suppressed and oppressed the Tamils as the Tamil leaders. No outsider had ever denied the Tamil people the right to walk in daylight just to keep the purity of the sight of the casteist supremacists. No outsider has forcibly prevented the oppressed Tamil outcasts from entering their sacred places of worship. No outsider had plucked Tamil children from their parents and thrown them into a futile war of a “liberator” with the wiling collaboration of the TNA and its leaders. No outsider had denied the right to dissent the way the Tamil fascists decimated the entire leadership of the Tamils who did not submit to the ruthless tyranny of Prabhakaran. The list of crimes committed by the Tamil leaders against their own people throughout their history is longer than the entire coastline of the northern province.
Now the ball is in the court of the Jaffna leadership to make their first elected administration work and deliver to their people a civilized form of governance which would restore dignity and liberty denied to them by their ancestors. If they go back to the perennial “insane fury” derived from hate politics – one of the dominant forces peninsular politics that ruled Jaffna — then there is no one to blame except themselves. They have the first ever opportunity to break away from the fascist past and prove that they too can work within a democratic framework, like in the south, however defective it may have been. The responsibilities placed on the elected councilors’ shoulders will test their ability to work within a non-violent framework seeking pragmatic solutions jointly with the rest of the nation. In the post-independent period in particular they have been obsessed and driven by extremist hate politics. The choice before them in the post-Nandikadal period is between their failed politics of the past and economic prosperity of the future.
The immediate need of the northerners at the end of a 33-year-old war is jobs, houses, education, health and other essential needs for the growth of the individuals to regain their dignity suppressed by their traditional leaders. Prabhakaran’s “liberators” siphoned off the medicine and the food sent by “the Sinhala Government” to feed their cadres denying the Tamil civilians in need. “Paki” Saravanamuttu and Jehan (Pacha) Perera joined Prabhakaran in blaming the “Sinhala Government” for not sending sufficient essential provisions even though the UN said that the GOSL was the only government that provided essentials to civilians in a rebel-held territory. Will Wigneswaram go down the same path to blame the “Sinhala Government” for their failures to deliver services to the north?
There is, of course, the discontent about the quantum of powers they wish to possess. Their pre- and- post-independent cry has been to demand more political power to serve their people. There was no nationalism but only a demand for bigger share of power, starting from 50-50 to 12% of the population. If political power is a sine qua non for economic, cultural and personal growth why didn’t the north blossom under Prabhakaran – the Tamil Pol Pot who wielded the maximum power in the history of the north across a large swathe of territory?
The ghost of Prabhakaran is still haunting the “new” leaders who have begun on the wrong foot. Hailing Prabhakaran as the hero of the Tamils is an ominous sign. It is not a sanguine symbol for democracy and individual liberty. It portends the revival of a trend that goes back to a failed past. This is similar to reviving Neo-Nazism which is banned in Germany. Besides, there is no future in this failed past. This throw-back to Prabhakaranism is a malaise wrapped in jaundiced Jaffna jingoism – an extremist expression of ethnic perversions marketed by the Vellahla elite and their allied political pundits as “Tamil separatism/nationalism”. Prabhakaranism was like the cyanide pills handed to the Tamil youth — a suicidal ideology for the Tamils. What did the Tamils gain by following Prabhakaran’s suicidal pills? And what can they gain by reviving the ghost of Prabhakaran? When, for instance, Wigneswaran raises the ghost of Prabhakaran he is not only insulting his own intelligence but also attempting to turn the wheels of history back to square one. He is attempting to revive the Pied Pipers of Vadukoddai who led them to Nandikadal.
I won’t be surprised if the NPC passes a resolution to erect a statue for Prabhakaran in the heart of Jaffna. Considering the hero-worshipping cult initiated by the Chief Minister, C. V. Wigneswaram, the possibility of erecting a statute for the biggest killer of Tamils is very much on the cards. Such a move will not only expose the bogus commitment of Wigneswaram and his fellows-councilors to human dignity and democracy but also add to the pain of millions who suffered under the Tamil Pol Pot. Ms. Navi Pillay is reported to have questioned why the statue of D. S. Senanayake is standing at the Independence Square. What will she have to say when a statue is erected for Prabhakaran in Jaffna? Or will she turn a blind eye? When the statues of Stalin, Hitler, and Saddam Hussein are brought down ignominiously by the people who suffered under these inhuman tyrants the erection of a statue for Prabhakaran will be an insult to all the people who were persecuted, tortured and murdered by the brutal Tamil Pol Pot.
In all probability “Paki” Saravanamuttu and Jehan (Pacha) Perera will raise Cain crying that this is another instance of the “Sinhala Government” suppressing the democratic rights of the Tamil people. They would probably insist that they have the democratic right to erect a statue even to Hitler – a figure banned in civilized world. Wigneswaram’s descent to the low depths of hero worshipping a Tamil who had killed more Tamils than all the others put together is a despicable act, unworthy of a man who sat in the highest court of the nation. He is now the Chief Minister and he is signaling that there is nothing wrong in embracing and reviving Prabhakaran – the man who symbolizes the “insane fury” of the Tamil political culture that went berserk targeting their own children.
Predictably, “Paki” Saravanamuttu and Jehan (Pacha) Perera are screaming their heads off criticizing the presence of the military in the north. But they have not uttered one word to condemn the militarism embedded in the Vadukoddai Resolution and its personification in Prabhakaran revived by Wigneswaram. This is a serious threat to the newly installed democratic institutions in the north. This should be a warning signal for the Sri Lankan state not to demilitarize the north when its “new” leaders are raising neo-Tamil Pol Potism embedded in the Vadukoddai Resolution. As long as there is the move to raise Prabhakaran from his grave – and that too by the “new” Tamil leaders – there is no reason for the Sri Lankan forces to be withdrawn from the north.
It is the people of Sri Lanka who have to pay with their lives for any fascist militarism coming from either the north or south. The state has the right to maintain security forces in whatever part of the island that is threatened with the rise of fascist militarism. Tamil fascist militarism, as spelt out in the Vadukoddai Resolution, was the most devastating violent cult that ruined lives in all communities.. The state has introduced democracy for the first time in the north and any ideological, political or social threats moving in the direction of Prabhakaran must be nipped in the bud. All leaders – from Obama to Manmohan Singh – have argued in the current session of the UN that they have the right to protect their national interests against external or internal threats. Sri Lanka too has the same right on the same principles and strategies (including the equivalent of drone strikes etc.,) pursued by these big powers.
The mandate given to the new Tamil leadership is not to breathe new life into Prabhakaran. It is a mandate to take the north away from the fascist violence of Prabhakaran. If Wigneswaram and his cohorts decides to step out of line then they must be brought back into line before they pose a threat to the nation. President Mahinda Rajapaksa did not sacrifice the lives of his people to let another gang of Tamil fascists destroy the democratic institutions he has put in place to liberate the Tamils.