While the government is in the process of obtaining public opinion on the proposed constitutional reforms, the Tamil People’s Council (TPC) on January 31 laid out its constitutional proposals, the contents of which are widely discussed in the Tamil political circles at the moment.
The TPC, since its formation has gained a considerable momentum due to the backing of several civil organizations and political parties, some of which had fallout with the Tamil National Alliance (TNA). At the current juncture, the formation of an outfit such as the TPC could be welcomed since Tamil politics is badly in need of a fresh approach towards solving the issues of the Tamil speaking people.
The involvement of political parties, civil society organizations, and rights activists, and in addition, the fact that it is led by the Northern Province Chief Minister, C.V. Wigneswaran, will no doubt result in a wholesome set of proposals to the short-and long- term issues of people in the North and the East.
However, what needs to be looked at is the backdrop in which the TPC was established. It is no secret that most of the politicians who are part of the TPC were once with the TNA and then went their own ways. The likes of Suresh Premachandran, Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam and several others part of the TPC had not tasted much political success after losing successive parliamentary elections post war.
Even Wigneswaran, despite being elected Chief Minister through the Ilankai Thamil Arasu Katchi (ITAK) ticket, has had verbal spats with the TNA Parliamentary Group Leader, R. Sampanthan, and Parliamentarian M.A. Sumanthiran just before he formed the TPC.
This led to speculations that there was an internal crisis within the TNA. However, Wigneswaran stated that the TPC would complement the TNA and that there were no problems with the party.
But, reports also emerged that certain members of the Northern Provincial Council had written to Wigneswaran, requesting him to keep away from the event organized to launch the TPC proposals. This has only resulted in further confusion among the people.
However, on the other side, Tamil politics needs a fresh approach if the long standing National issue is to be solved. While criticisms have been levelled against the TNA for approaching this issue at a snail’s pace and not divulging its proposals to the public, it also needs to be understood that the TNA too backed the United National Front for Good Governance (UNFGG).
Today, TNA has a much broader role in addressing Sri Lanka’s political issues because its responsibilities are not limited to the North and East. Sampanthan is the Leader of the Opposition and therefore needs to look at the interest of the entire country when placing the party’s proposals.
The absence of the LTTE has today paved for various political parties in the North to come to the forefront and express their respective views without much fear.
The Northern political scenario has seen a considerable change over the past seven years. Before that, it was the LTTE which dominated the political scenario in the North and East. One was either for, or against the LTTE and that was it.
However, it is during the absence of the LTTE that the TNA saw internal rifts within the alliance, which resulted in several members moving away from the alliance. While this is good for a democratic environment, as far as the minorities are concerned, it will not do them much good if they fail to come to a common understanding and work together for the people.
The TPC in its proposals has demanded that the government agree with the Tamil people on a basic framework before working on the constitutional reforms.
It also proposed that the reforms recognize the Tamils’ right to self-determination. In addition, it also proposed the merger of the Northern and Eastern Provinces to form a single Tamil-speaking province with special provisions for Muslims.
The TNA too had recently urged the government to include power devolution in the proposed constitutional reforms. In addition, it has also stated that it would study the proposals made by the TPC.
The next step here is to look at ways where both parties could find a common ground to work together to make their demands for the people.
There could be views for and against the proposals from politicians and various segments of the society. But the important thing is for the representatives of the people to unite.
On the other side, the current political environment is also conducive for Tamil and Muslim parties to present their demands. The move to end the Independence Day celebrations by singing the National Anthem in Tamil is proof enough that the doors are still open.