A group of residents in Mullaitivu took to the streets last week demanding that their homes and lands be given back to them. The protests which commenced on January 31 lasted for 14 days until President Maithripala Sirisena agreed to solve the issue.
They did not demand a political solution, but a solution for their basic need. They protested, urging the government to release their homes and lands that were occupied by Air Force personnel.
Everyone needs a home to come back to. A roof above your head gives that assurance that all is not lost. You need a home to fight your daily battles of life. This is what the people of Keppapilavu wanted.
The protestors received a respite when President Maithripala Sirisena assured that their demands would be looked into and steps would be taken to release their lands. The assurance was made by the President to the Minister of Resettlement D.M. Swaminathan.
These residents have been alienated from their homes though the civil war had ended eight years ago. Instances such as these indicate that things are not completely back to normal in the war-affected areas yet.
Eight years have passed and Sri Lanka is still in the transition phase. On one hand, it is understood that the scars of war which lasted 30 years could not be healed overnight. But, is the healing process too slow?
Today, these residents do not have a home of their own and are felt alienated. This should not go to a point where a certain section of the community should feel alienated. That was the exact reason why Sri Lanka faced turmoil in the first place. The government is responsible to provide a suitable solution or a response to its people whether in Mullaitivu or Matara.
When these residents protested, Batticaloa witnessed the second edition of the Ezhuga Thamizh (Tamils Arise) event. The event was first held in Jaffna last year and created controversy due to comments made by Northern Province Chief Minister CV Wigneswaran. This time too, the Chief Minister made statements that indicated all was not well with the TNA.
The main focus of the event was to bring out the issues of the people to the fore. To those who protest on the sides of the road, Ezhuga Thamizh should have been the perfect platform to bring out their woes.
Instead, the event turned out to be a platform for political rhetoric, a place to point fingers at other Tamil political leaders, including members of his or her own party.
Since lately, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) has continuously faced accusations of failing to address the issues of the people. The internal rift reported between several party members has also hampered the progress of the TNA towards reaching a solution on several issues of the people.
When we speak of permanent solutions, the majority of us would automatically think of a solution to the ethnic question. But is the political solution the need of the hour. Yes, it is understood that all this bloodshed was for a political solution and the delay in reaching towards one could lead to another fighting.
But what about the immediate needs of the people. The protest by Keppapilavu residents was an indication that there are burning issues than the political situation that need to be addressed before going for a political solution.
Has the TNA worked towards this? Or has it let the people down?
Former deputy minister Vinayagamurthi Muralitharan, popularly known as Karuna Amman also accused the TNA of letting the people down despite having the opportunity to push the government to look into the needs of the people.
Muralitharan made a fresh comeback into mainstream politics on February 11 when he launched his new party Tamil United Freedom Front (TUFF). This is not the first time he has launched a party. He first launched the Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal (TMVP) after his split from the LTTE. However, the leadership had changed due to internal rifts and currently headed by Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan alias Pillaiyan.
Muralitharan said that the Tamils needed a fresh leadership since the TNA had let them down. He added that the TNA was preoccupied with its own internal issues.
Muralitharan has a point. The Tamils need a strong leadership that could ensure that the people who were affected get some relief. However, whether his party would fill that vacuum is something that we have to wait and see!