A significant event in Tamil transnational politics occurred a fortnight ago in historic Philadelphia city in the US state of Pennsylvania. About 70 -75 persons gathered on Monday May 17th for a three-day conclave. The venue was the National Convention Center situated on Philadelphia’s Independence Mall at 525 Arch Street.
TGTE Representatives in Philadelphia
Both the dates and location were symbolically significant. It was in Mid-May last year that the Sri Lankan Armed Forces defeated the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) militarily at the Karaithuraipatru AGA division in the North – Eastern district of Mullaitheevu.
May 17th, 18th and 19th of 2009 were tragic yet important days in LTTE history.
It was on May 17th that the besieged LTTE leader Veluppillai Prabhakaran and a large number of his senior commanders made a desperate attempt to break through the military cordon.It was on May 18th that Prabhakaran and many of his deputies died in a last ditch stand.It was on May 19th that the LTTE supremo’s body was discovered and then Army Commander Sarath Fonseka announced officially that Prabhakaran was dead.
The discovery of Prabhakaran’s body on the banks of Nandhikkadal lagoon signalled the fact that the armed struggle for political liberation conducted by the LTTE for more than three decades was effectively over. The vulgar exhibition of triumphalism that followed in the wake of Prabhakaran’s demise gave rise to an impression that Tamil nationalism itself had died on the Nandhikkadal shores.
That impression however soon proved wrong and various shades of opinion fitting the broad description of “Tamil Ultra-nationalism” continue to be expressed in various forms in Sri Lanka and abroad.
Members of the Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora living in democratic Western countries are able to articulate their thoughts freely and exercise their fundamental freedoms such as association, free expression and political opinion. There are few constraints here.
Moreover in the current context some Diaspora circles feel that only they can express Tamil ultra- nationalist opinion freely without fear of adverse repercussions. Unlike their kinsfolk in Sri Lanka the expatriate Tamils need not fear the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) or emergency regulations. As such there is a viewpoint in these circles that only expatriate Tamils can give voice to the suppressed voices in Sri Lanka.
It is against such a backdrop that the Philadelphia convention was held.A section of the global Tamil Diaspora overtly supportive of the Tamil Eelam cause assembled there to hold the inaugural sessions of what was described as the Provisional Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam.
The dates of May 17th-19th were deliberately picked to demonstrate to the Sri Lankan Government and the world at large that ultra-nationalist Tamil political opinion was not crushed after the Nandhikkadal debacle. In fact the iniative to form a Transnational Tamil entity was taken in June last year as an act of symbolic defiance to demonstrate that “Tamil Eelam” was not extinct like the Dodo but was akin to a Phoenix rising from the ashes
Similiar symbolism was also visible in the choice of location. It was in Philadelphia that representatives of the original thirteen American states had convened as the second Continental Congress in July 1776 and unanimously endorsed the declaration of Independence from Britain. It was also in Philadelphia that the Congress of the Confederation had initially convened to discuss and draft the US Constitution passed in 1783.
It was the historic importance of Philadelphia that made it the venue of the first meeting conducted by members of the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE).Symbolism was enhanced further by the fact that two US historic monuments like the Liberty bell and Independence Hall were situated a few blocks away from the NCC venue.
The Philadelphia meeting was the culmination of a year long effort by influential pro- LTTE sections of the global Tamil Diaspora to form a democratically elected organization representing more than a million Tamils of Sri Lankan origin dispersed in different parts of the world.
The TGTE in a sense is a re-branded manifestation of the LTTE overseas structure. The first guiding principle of the TGTE is unambiguously clear about the ultimate goal being the creation of Tamil Eelam. Although it does not explicitly endorse the LTTE the TGTE’s commitment towards the LTTE was demonstrated clearly at the Philadelphia summit where the tiger flag fluttered boldly despite the LTTE being a banned foreign terrorist organization in the USA.
A crucial difference between the earlier tiger or pro-tiger organizations of old within the Diaspora and newly evolving entities such as the TGTE are the elements of democracy and transparency. The TGTE exercise has been generally open and election of representatives was ostensibly through democratic procedures.
Although the TGTE has been described as a government – in – exile in sections of the media the new organization takes pains to refute such description. TGTE literature points out that a government in exile needs a host country to recognize it. It also says that a government needs to exist before going into exile.
Proponents of the TGTE claim that the new venture is an exciting new experiment in democracy. Representatives of the Tamil Diaspora who met in Philadelphia have transformed themselves into a Constituent Assembly. Their immediate task is to draft a new Constitution not for the Tamil Eelam state-in-formation but for the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam-in-formation.
The inaugural sessions of the TGTE resulted in New York based Lawyer Visuvanathan Rudrakumaran becoming the “numero uno” of the TGTE. Rudrakumaran known generally as Rudra was earlier the International legal adviser of the LTTE and had participated in the Govt-LTTE peace talks as a resource person of the LTTE delegation.
Rudra along with Selvarasa Pathmanathan alias KP had been the co-architechts of the TGTE proposal. After KP was seized in Malaysia in a dramatic operation and transported to Sri Lanka, the task of taking the TGTE effort forward was shouldered by Rudra alone.
With the support of some like-minded persons within the Diaspora, the 52 year old son of former Jaffna mayor Rasah Visuvanathan, had worked hard to make the TGTE dream a reality. Rudrakumaran who was the co-ordinator of the TGTE formation committee was elected as the Interim Chief executive of the TGTE at Philadelphia.
Following the election of Mr. Rudrakumarn, An Interim executive committee was also formed. The delegates selected seven members to the Interim Executive Committee.
The members of the executive committee are Mahinthan Sivasubramanium; Sam Sangarasivam; Gerard Francis; Selva Selvanathan; Vithya Jeyashanker; Sasithar Maheswaran and Janarthanan Pulendran.
The elected members of the TGTE legislative body had earlier transformed themselves into a Constituent Assembly. The Assembly then formed a Constitutional Affairs Committee to draft the constitution of the TGTE.
In addition to the Constitutional Affairs Committee, the Assembly also formed the following committees: the Committee for Education, Heritage, Health and Sports; the Committee for Trade and Commerce; the Committee for International Support (media, lobbying, advocacy); the Committee for Internally Displaced People and Human rights (Refugees); the Committee for the Welfare of the Families of Martyrs and Cadres; the Committee for the Protection of Resources; the Committee for the Release of Prisoners of War; the Committee for Economic Affairs; the Committee for the Investigation of War Crimes; and the Committee for Women and At Risk Groups (children and elderly).
The Assembly also decided to appoint an expert panel to provide Assistance to the above committees.
The Assembly also elected unanimously Mr. Pon Balarajan from Canada as the Speaker for the first Constituent Assembly of the TGTE.
Becoming the TGTE’s interim chief executive was a personal and political triumph for Visuvanathan Rudrakumaran. Although Rudra is frequently referred to as the new leader of the LTTE in sections of the media the truth has been somewhat different.
The overseas LTTE structure has been deeply divided since the demise of tiger supremo Velupillai Prabhakaran.
Though the official news releases of the TGTE seek to convey an impression that everything is hunky-dory the reality has been quite the opposite. Rudrakumaran and his allies have had to face much opposition and intrigue in fostering the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam.
Rudra faced and continues to face overt and covert challenges from within tiger and pro-tiger elements. His success at Philadelphia may provide Rudra with a respite but fresh, future efforts by his adversaries to topple him cannot be ruled out.
The internecine warfare within Diaspora tiger elements to establish control has resulted in a rise of extremist rhetoric and positions. One consequence of this tendency has been that of the TGTE itself becoming more hawkish than dovish.
A brief re-run of recent events is necessary to understand the dynamics of Transnational Tamil Eelam Government politics.
When the LTTE met its waterloo in May 2009 Selvarasa Pathmanathan alias KP was its international relations head. There was a time when KP was all powerful being in charge of international LTTE branch administration, global fund raising and overseas purchasing (euphemism for arms acquisition).
Convulsions within the LTTE after the Oslo facilitated ceasefire of 2002 had resulted in the wings of KP getting clipped. Veerakathy Manivannan alias Castro was placed in charge of LTTE overseas administration. As a result KP went into voluntary retirement in 2003.
Castro transformed the LTTE overseas structure by reducing the functional autonomy enjoyed by branches under KP administration. They were brought under a structure of centralised control in the Wanni. He also removed veteran tiger activists and operatives regarded as KP loyalists and replaced them with his relatively inexperienced cronies.
When full – scale war broke out in 2006 the fortunes of the LTTE began declining gradually. Within a few years the LTTE was in dire straits. The writing was on the wall. One contributory factor to this state was the inefficient functioning of the overseas branches under Castro.
A desperate Prabhakaran turned to KP again in late 2008. Due to his loyalty to the Tamil cause and his leader Prabhakaran , KP who was living comfortably with his Thai wife in a Bangkok suburb came out from blissful retirement.
KP was appointed International Relations chief (an euphemism for international chief) by Prabhakaran in 2009 January.He was expected to take over overseas administrative functions,fund-raising and overseas purchasing activity.
There was however no smooth take –over of authority by KP because much water had flown under the Vattuvahal bridge since he went into retirement in 2003. The “Nediyavan” phenomenon was a major stumbling block.
Castro had virtually established a personal fiefdom among overseas LTTE branches over the years. Almost all key functionaries abroad were his minions. Castro kept regular personal contact with them.
When the war escalated and maintenance of regular contact with all branches became difficult Castro appointed the Norway-based Nediyavan to be the overseas LTTE Branches administrative co-ordinator . Nediyavan meaning “tall man” was to directly report to Castro alone. All overseas branch heads were to report to Nediyavan.
34 year old Nediyavan whose real name is Perinbanayagam Sivaparan had joined the LTTE at the age of 18.He was sent to Russia for higher education by the LTTE but apparently Sivaparan did not complete his degree there.
Nediyavan later functioned in the LTTE’s political wing and accompanied SP Thamilselvan for the 4th round of peace talks in Thailand. Thereafter he re-located to Europe.
The LTTE during the peace talks period from 2002-2005 had sent a number of operatives abroad. Most of these cadres were from the political and intelligence wings. Nediyavan took up residence in Norway.
Sivaparan alias Nediyavan married Sivagowri Shanthamohan. Her father’s brother was Gnanendramohan alias Ranjan Lala. Gnanendramohan was one of the pioneering members of the LTTE and a trusted confidante of Prabhakaran.
Ranjan Lala was shot in Jaffna by the Army when riding a motor cycle.
This matrimonial alliance strengthened Nediyavan’s clout within the LTTE.With Castro’s authority he spearheaded resistance to KP taking over as global tiger chief. The cold war erupted openly abroad after the LTTE’s military debacle. Castro himself had committed suicide in Mullivaaikkaal.
Realistically all that was left of an “active” LTTE was its overseas structure. Thus the overseas chief would in practical terms be the head of a post-Prabhakaran LTTE. When KP tried to don the leadership mantle, Nediyavan opposed it. He was supported by an assortment of Diasporic tigers united in being against KP.
After much intra-tiger discord a settlement of sorts was arrived at in July 2009. The LTTE abroad was re-structured with several divisions under different secretaries and a chief secretary being in overall charge. KP became chief secretary and Nediyavan the secretary in charge of branch office administration.
Meanwhile KP had also embarked on a new course of action. He had convened a meeting of 35 Diaspora personalities in Malaysia to discuss the future of Tamil politics. Some of the attendees were not tiger supporters but ardent Tamil nationalists.
As a result of these consultations KP decided to form a strong Transnational Tamil organization elected democratically. He was supported in this by Rudrakumaran based in New York. Thus the concept of a Provisional Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam came into being.
Both KP and Rudra were keen to demonstrate that the Tamil Diaspora was not demoralised by the LTTE debacle. Thus an advisory committee to formulate guiding principles and proposals for setting up the TGTE was formed within 30 days of the war’s end.
The KP-Rudra partnership was dealt a severe blow when KP was captured in August 2009. Thereafter it was the lot of Rudrakumaran to proceed further with the TGTE concept. Nediyavan and his cohorts perceived the TGTE as a structure aiming to appropriate full authority over the overseas LTTE branches.
As a result Rudra had to bear the brunt of attacks by the Nediyavan faction. On the other hand KP loyalists began rallying around Rudrakumaran who was being reluctantly yet inevitably thrust into the role of a tiger factional chief. Fate compelled the unambitious, unassuming Rudra into a leadership role in a hostile environment.
Initially many of those advocating the setting up of a new Transnational organization wanted it to distance itself from the LTTE. Pragmatists realised that no organization could be really effective within a global context as long as it was seen as an extension of the tigers.
Rightly or wrongly the LTTE was branded as a terrorist organization by Countries of the EU, USA, Canada, India and Malaysia. Against that backdrop any organization perceived as a LTTE front could not emerge or be recognized as a credible, legitimate representative of the Tamils internationally.
Besides such an organization could not mobilise all shades of Tamil opinion under one umbrella as the non-LTTE or anti-tiger sections could not or would not join any tiger oriented set-up.
With the LTTE being banned in India there would not be any support from the Indian mainstream in general and Tamil Nadu in particular if the new organization was linked to the LTTE. Only the fringe groups of Tamil Nadu would be supportive.
More importantly a Tamil Diaspora organization with tiger links would be highly suspect in Sri Lanka. The Colombo government would be hostile. The Tamil people in Sri Lanka notably democratic political parties would not interact with the organization.
The rational elements within the Diaspora also realised that a legitimate platform was required to embark on successful political activism in the future. Those capable of dissecting past failures dispassionately understood with the wisdom of hindsight that the massive world-wide demonstrations conducted by the Diaspora in 2009 failed to achieve tangible results because they were identified with the LTTE.
Consequent to these lines of thought it was envisaged at one stage that the proposed TGTE should not be identified with the LTTE. The idea of a flag for the prospective TGTE was not dealt with directly to avoid dispute. The various country working groups were packed with those not having any direct or overt links to the LTTE.
What some pragmatic proponents of the TGTE proposal had in mind was the establishment of a powerful Tamil transnational organization devoid of blatant tiger links or influence. The TGTE would be democratically elected through transparent procedures and clearly desist from violence. It would campaign for Tamil rights through democratic, non-violent methods.
However lofty the original intentions were the course of intra-Tamil Diaspora politics took turns for the worse. The Nediyavan faction worried by the TGTE momentum commenced a vicious campaign to undermine these efforts.
TGTE inaugural session
Charges were levelled that the TGTE had sold out and disassociated from the goal of Tamil Eelam. It was also said that the TGTE had denounced the LTTE and rejected the tiger flag. The pro-tiger Diaspora elements were told that extending support to the TGTE effort was an act of treachery.
While these attacks continued at one level attempts were on at another level to set up alternatives to the TGTE. One such Attempt was the Global Tamil Forum(GTF). The other was the Tamil Eelam Peoples Assembly (Thamizh Eezha Makkal Peravai). Both the GTF and the Tamil Eelam Peoples Assembly (TEPF) had begun while KP was a free man. After his capture these organizations accelerated their activity.
The GTF was formed with five existing organizations in different countries coming together. The key organization in the GTF was the British Tamil Forum. Subsequently more organizations under the indirect control of the Nediyavan faction joined the GTF. Former Vicar-General of the Catholic Diocese of Jaffna Rev.Fr.S.J Emmanuel now based in Germany became the GTF President.
While the GTF was propped up as a global entity comprising country –based organizations the Peoples Assemblies were set up on a country by country basis. While the more educated bi-lingual or tri-lingual Tamils went into the GTF the comparatively less-educated, mono-lingual Tamils joined the TEPF structures.
A joint effort by these structures was the conducting of referendums on a country by country basis. The issue at each referendum was that of expressing support for the Vaddukkoddai resolution of May 14th 1976.
It was on this day that the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) was formed at a party convention held in Vaddukkoddai and the resolution demanding a socialist, secular Tamil Eelam comprising the Northern and Eastern provinces of Sri Lanka was passed. The TULF contested on a separatist platform in 1977 and won 18 0f the 19 North-Eastern Tamil majority seats in Parliament.
The tussle within LTTE and pro-LTTE supporters about the course of action to adopt resulted in many internal cleavages. Three broad schools of thought emerged. They were namely the TGTE, GTF and TEPA schools. Not all adherents were necessarily restricted to a single school of thought. There was a blurring of lines. Also a single country based organization could also have inner divisions.
Nevertheless the three schools of thought became known as the KP or Rudra faction, The GTF or Fr. Emmanuel faction and the Makkal Peravai or Nediyavan faction (Ani). However Fr. Emmanuel has been trying to reconcile the KP and Nediyavan factions to the best of his ability.
But the GTF school of thought too is divided between the KP and Nediyavan factions. The British Tamil Forum for instance is pro – Nediyavan while the Canadian Tamil Congress is of the pro-KP faction.
Though Nediyavan is the head of the faction operating under his name Sivaparan is not the brains behind it. A cabal consisting of persons running various media organs amidst the Diaspora retains heavy influence over Nediyavan.
Chief among this coterie is Jeyachandran alias Jeya Annai the Editor of “Tamilnet” website. Jeyachandran like Nediyavan is resident in Norway.
There is a jocular reference among Diaspora Tamil circles to Nediyavan and Jeyachandran as “Norway Thalaiver” and “Norway Mathiyuraignar”. This is a take – off from Prabhakaran and Anton Balasingham. The former was Thalaiver or leader and the latter “Mathiyurainjar” or Adviser. Now Nediyavan and Jeyachandran are called that.
As a result of these developments the TGTE adherents also started changing course. The pragmatic, flexible approach of earlier times began to give way to a more hardline, rigid approach. Those with a moderate outlook took a back seat or dropped out. The hawkish tendency increased. Thus the TGTE was now firmly for Tamil Eelam. It also began identifying more openly with the LTTE.
Notwithstanding these attitudinal changes the TGTE began making slow and steady progress. This was mainly due to the persistent, personal efforts by Rudrakumaran. Though slandered by his adversaries as being an agent of Colombo and New Delhi and as having betrayed the LTTE leader Prabhakaran, the New York based lawyer went about his mission zealously.
The impressive panel of advisers consisting of academics and professionals helped Rudra greatly in this respect. Thereafter Rudra set up country working groups in western countries having substantial concentrations of Tamils. When the Nediyavan fation infiltrated these groups and stymied efforts Rudra began relying on smaller, core groups of committed personnel to continue with the task.
One of the biggest hurdles for Rudrakumaran was the absence of effective media support particularly in the Tamil language. With the exception of a few most Diaspora media was controlled by the Nediyavan faction. The TGTE project was either blacked out or vilified. A vicious personal attack was also launched against Rudra. The Nediyavan faction had correctly identified Rudrakumaran as the heart and soul of the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam project. The vicious attacks on Rudra in particular and the TGTE in general had the objective of pressurising Rudrakumaran to back out.
The Nediyavan faction had miscalculated that the mild-mannered Rudrakumaran would wilt under pressure. The opposite happened. Rudra surprised both friend and foe by remaining resolutely steadfast to his convictions and objectives. Thus the TGTE movement gathered momentum despite drawbacks.
Belated recognition dawned on the Nediyavan faction members that the TGTE was going to materialise despite their opposition. There was a sudden change of tactics. Instead of opposing from outside the Nediyavan faction decided to get inside and capture the TGTE organization.
The TGTE project envisaged elections being held in every country with a sizable number of Tamil residents. The TGTE assembly was to consist of 115 elected and 20 appointed representatives.
The distribution of the 115 elected representatives is: Australia 10; Benelux 3; Canada 25; Denmark 3; Finland 1; France 10; Germany 10; Ireland 1; Italy 3; New Zealand 2; Norway 3; South Africa 3; Sweden 1; Switzerland 10; UK 20; and USA 10.
The distribution of the 20 appointed delegates is: Caribbean & South America 1; India 5; Malaysia 3; Mauritius 1; Middle East 2; Oceania 1; Rest of Africa 1; Rest of Asia 1; Rest of Europe 1; Singapore 2; and South Africa 2.
Elections were held in each country on the basis of the Tamil population dispersal both numerically and geographically. Thus certain zones or regions in each country were demarcated and number of candidates allocated. Each country determined a sum of money as election deposit. These were rather high in some countries like Canada where candidates were required to furnish 3000 dollars each.
As elections began on a staggered basis in each country the Nediyavan faction started fielding candidates. Using the media resources at their disposal virulent campaigns were conducted against those aligned to Rudrakumar and KP and other neutral candidates.
They were depicted as stooges of the Sri Lankan and Indian governments. The SIS in Sri Lanka and RAW in India were accused of financing their election campaigns. When candidates sponsored by the Nediyavan group won, Jeyachandran’s “Tamilnet” hailed their victory by describing the winners as candidates of “common opinion”.
There was also some intimidation in certain areas though actual physical violence was absent. The absence of violence was due to the elaborate election arrangements in place. In most cases the chief Elections officer was a respected non – Tamil citizen of the country concerned. For example the CEO in the USA was Ramsey Clark who had been the US attorney-general from 1966 – 68 under President Lyndon B Johnson.
The election campaigns were quite hectic within the Diaspora circles. In Toronto candidates advertised extensively in Tamil newspapers, Radio and TV. Tamil shops displayed attractive colour posters of candidates. Flyers and leaflets were widely distributed. Telemarketing campaigns were conducted. House to house visits were organized. Electioneering was done by some as if they were candidates contesting mainstream elections to Municipalities, provincial and Federal parliaments.
When flagrant electoral malpractices were perpetrated in countries like Britain and France the election results of affected constituencies were set aside and fresh polls ordered. Some others suspected of winning through fraudulent means were persuaded to withdraw by resigning.
A large number of women and youths contested the polls and won. Many of the youngsters were women. In some places candidates were elected unopposed. But in some places there were keen contests and campaigns.
Though campaigning was intense the actual voter turn –out was not impressive at all. Despite many instances of vote rigging the number of votes polled was comparatively low. In most Countries the number of votes amounted to about 10% -15 % of the total Tamil population.
By mid – May 2010 at least 87 persons had been elected to the Transnational Tamil assembly. These included 25 from Canada,10 –USA,17-Britain,10 – Switzerland,07 – France,03-Germany,03 – Norway,03 – Denmark,01-Sweden,06-Australia and 02- New Zealand.
The calibre of some elected representatives left much to be desired. Several illustrious candidates were defeated though many of those elected possessed excellent credentials. However there were quite a few winners with close connections to the LTTE.
Though 87 had been elected polls had to be conducted for some more constituencies. Three representatives had to be elected from Italy and one each from Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Finland and Ireland respectively.
Since some election results had been declared null and void due to electoral malpractices fresh polls were required for three representatives each in France and Britain respectively.
In addition elections for seven representatives in Germany and four in New South Wales, Australia had to be held. Also new arrangements had to be made for appointing three representatives from South Africa instead of electing as intended earlier.
The elected representatives numbering 115 were to select the 20 appointed representatives in due course. Although the full quota of elected representatives were not filled, 75 % of the polling was over.
Rudrakumaran himself had been elected uncontested to one of the two nation –wide constituencies in the USA. He and many of those elected were keen that the inaugural sessions should be held on May 17th, 18th and 19th to coincide with the Nandhikkadal debacle anniversary in a symbolic show of defiance.
Earlier the decision was for the TGTE to convene in Geneva. Several candidates contesting elections had stated that the TGTE would be inaugurated in Geneva. But the Nediyavan–Jeyachandran duo had other ideas. They wanted the conclave to be in London. There was a hidden agenda in this.
Former Tamil National Alliance MP from Batticaloa district Senathirajah Jeyanandamurthy was a resident in London. Jeyanandamurthy had fled Sri Lanka fearing a threat to his life and sought asylum in the United Kingdom. He had been a correspondent for “Tamilnet” and was under Jeyachandran’s sphere of influence.
Jeyanandamurthy had contested TGTE elections in London at the behest of Nediyavan and Jeyachandran and had been elected with a relatively large number of votes. Now the duo wanted him to challenge Rudrakumaran for TGTE leadership. The idea was to wrest control of the TGTE and oust Rudrakumaran.
Since Jeyanandamurthy was a refugee applicant his travel documents were not in order and therefore could not travel outside Britain. If the inaugural sessions were held in London it would make things easier for Jeyanandamurthy to contest. Also London would be easily accessible to Nediyavan’s goons who could then engage in intimidatory tactics. “Thanam” the current tiger chief in Britain was of the Nediyavan faction.
Articles began appearing in Tamil websites extolling the virtues of Jeyanandamurthy and virulently attacking Rudrakumaran. Some crudely advised Rudra to retire from the TGTE and resume his legal practice.
Jeyanandamurthy issued a statement that there were no divisions among them but it was common knowledge that the Nediyavan faction propping up Jeyanandamurthy was gearing up for a grand showdown in London to capture control of the TGTE and eject Rudrakumaran.
It was propagated widely that the Nediyavan faction commanded a majority among elected representatives and that Jeyanandamurthy would be elected as interim chief executive of the TGTE over Rudrakumaran. Since the LTTE branches and heads were all under Nediyavan many felt that Rudrakumaran was on his way out.
But Rudra also displayed manipulative political skill. He began interacting with several of his supporters in various countries and conducted a quiet, discreet campaign to win over some of the elected representatives. In a deft manoeuvre Rudra also arranged for Philadelphia in the USA to be the venue for the inaugural meeting.
This surprise move curtailed Nediyavan-Jeyachandran – Jeyanandamurthy machinations to some extent. As a compromise tele-conferencing facilities were arranged to enable participation of European representatives. 14 elected representatives including Jeyanandamurthy gathered in London while another 12 met in Geneva. They were tele-linked to Philadelphia.
47 elected representatives of the TGTE converged in Philadelphia. The meeting was open to the Tamil public. There were also some non – Tamil friends like Ramsey Clark, US lawyer Karen Parker, Swedish academic Peter Schalk and US Professor Francis Boyle. The gathering was around 75.
After the Nediyavan faction changed tactics and contested TGTE elections with a view to capture it the tiger flag was prominently displayed in the campaign. There were many instances of candidates sponsored by Nediyavan going to the polling stations with their supporters waving tiger flags.
Any plans the anti-Rudra elements may have had about exploiting the tiger flag issue were scuttled as the red and yellow flag with the roaring tiger in a circle of 33 bullets and two crossed guns fluttered on the podium along with the US stars and stripes national flag.
Rudrakumaran himself was responsible for this act. Apparently some were planning to walk out of the meeting if the tiger flag was absent. But this was pre-empted. Rudra also delivered a stirring address in Tamil that was quite impressive .He explained the goals of the TGTE and appealed for unity and support.
In contrast, Jeyanandamurthy’s “televised” speech from London was shallow and unimpressive. Any TGTE representative comparing the addresses of both would definitely have opined that Rudrakumaran’s performance was far superior. Jeyanandamurthy also made a fool of himself by saying that Prabhakaran was alive and that the leadership would go public at the appropriate juncture.
Another filibustering tactic by the anti-Rudra faction was to demand that the appointment of an interim chief executive and executive committee be postponed as some seats of the TGTE were yet to be filled. But Prof. Francis Boyle stated that elections could be held as a quorum was available. So elections were held.
When elections to the interim chief executive were announced there were two contenders. As expected the two were Rudrakumaran and Jeyanandamurthy.When the 14 representatives in London voted 11 were for Jeyanandamurthy and 3 for Rudrakumaran.In Geneva all 12 representatives were for Rudrakumaran. In Philadelphia an overwhelming number of the 47 representatives extended support to Rudrakumaran.
Realising the battle was lost Jeyandamurthy withdrew from the fray. Thus Rudrakumaran was the “unanimous” choice as interim chief executive of the TGTE. Thereafter the executive committee was elected through consensus rather than contest.
The TGTE sessions also provided opportunities for all the elected representatives to address the sessions. Three to five minutes each were taken by the speakers. Much of the TGTE proceedings were visible and audible on the internet.
Jeyanandamurthy who announced his withdrawal from the contest subsequently issued a statement saying the election was not conducted fairly as representatives assembled in Geneva and Philadelphia had not voted. He also said that there was only one National leader for the Tamils and that was Prabhakaran thus insinuating that Rudrakumaran was not the leader.
Anti – Rudra Tamil elements also started attacks in the overseas media that Rudrakumaran was trying to project himself as the Tamil national leader and that the TGTE was attempting to supplant the LTTE.
In Paris copies of the “Thai Nilam” (Mother Land) newspaper were seized from shops and burnt in the streets. The paper published Rudra’s picture with a front page story announcing his success.
As stated earlier the TGTE inauguration in Philadelphia was a victory for Visuvanathan Rudrakumaran. Given the fact that all the LTTE branches controlled by Nediyavan were against him the New York lawyer has certainly done well to get the TGTE project off the ground and overcome the Nediyavan –Jeyachandran conspiracy to oust him.
But the future is certainly not rosy as overseas LTTE intrigue and infighting is far from over. The Nediyavan–Jeyachandran–Jeyanandamurthy combination is likely to hatch more plots. Already there are moves to stage elections to the various Tamil Eelam Peoples Assemblies and weave them into a confederation rivaling the TGTE.
Against this backdrop the TGTE under Rudrakumaran will certainly have to face fresh challenges as it proceeds towards the immediate objective of drafting a Constitution for the Transnational Tamil Eelam government.
Whatever its merits or defects the concept of a Transnational government by LTTE supporters has evoked quite a bit of interest among observers. Despite obvious flaws it was indeed a rare sight to see diehard supporters of the LTTE adopt democratic principles and participate in elections.
This is perhaps the first time that Diaspora members of any ethnicity have formed a Transnational entity of this kind. The intellectual curiosity of several western academics seems to have been aroused by the concept.
It is a moot point as to whether others too would emulate this exercise in the future. One would not be surprised if Transnational communities like the Kurdish people follow suit in the future.
Predictably the Sri Lankan Government is firmly opposed to the TGTE and several ministers have stated so. Given the deep divisions in the pro-LTTE Diaspora the TGTE runs the risk of falling apart as a result of internal dissension.
If and when that happens the TGTE representatives who convened in Philadelphia may do well to remember the wise words of Benjamin Franklin who played an important part in the events leading to American Independence.
When the US founding fathers kept on quibbling among themselves during discussions and struck out in different directions Benjamin Franklin urged unity and cautioned his compatriots. Quoting Jesus Christ, Franklin said “A house divided against itself cannot stand” (Mathew 12:25)
DBS Jeyaraj can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org