The TNA, which has been sweeping elections in the Tamil-speaking North and East of Sri Lanka, and had come within the ace of capturing the Eastern Provincial Council in the September 8 elections, may be heading for a split over the issue of registering as a single political party.
The Ilankai Tamil Arasu Katchi (ITAK), which is the biggest of the five alliance partners, is dragging its feet over formal unification and registration. But the Eelam Peoples‘ Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF), the Tamil Eelam Liberation Organization (TELO), the Peoples Liberation Organization of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE) and the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) are pressing for registration as a single political party. While both factions are denying any prospect of a split, the public spat is causing concern among Tamils, which is reflected in the Tamil press.
The ITAK is keen on retaining its identity primarily because it is the oldest party, having been founded by S J V Chelvanayakam, father of modern Lankan Tamil nationalism. In fact, since its formation in 2002, the TNA has been fighting elections as “ITAK”, under its symbol “House”.
The ITAK also believes that the TNA wins elections primarily because it has the ITAK in it. The ITAK has also been consistently anti-government, and it has never been an armed group, qualities which carry weight in the post-conflict political arena. The EPRLF, PLOTE and TELO cannot make such claims. But the ITAK’s claims are challenged by Suresh Premachandran, General Secretary of the EPRLF. The most recent election results would disprove the ITAK’s claims, he said.
“In the September 8 elections in the Batticaloa district, the ITAK was allotted 9 out of the 14 seats, and the other alliance partners were allotted 5. While the ITAK won only 2 out of nine, the other groups won four out of five. And the man who got the highest number of preferential votes was Thurairatnam of the EPRLF. The ITAK is ignoring ground realities and trying to project itself as the sole representative of the TNA and the Tamils.”
“We have been asking for a constitution for the TNA, which is necessary for registration as a political party. But instead of discussing this, the ITAK wants to work on a MoU between the constituent parties,” Premachandran said.
In a statement issued on Saturday, ITAK General Secretary Mavai Senathirajah said that his party was not against unification and registration, but felt that raking up such issues would weaken the TNA in the eyes of the Tamil people, India, and the world, when negotiations for a political solution of the Tamil question were on the cards. (IE)