The current visit to Sri Lanka by UN Human Rights Commissioner Ms. Navanetham Pillay known as Navi Pillay has aroused much interest and anticipation in the country. There is hectic activity by many Human rights activists and Non–Governmental Organization personnel to meet Ms. Pillay directly and air their grievances. It appears that meeting Navi Pillay in person is almost a status symbol for a certain category of persons. There are also attempts to derive political mileage out of such encounters.
One person who announced her intentions openly about meeting Navi Pillay was Ms. Anandhi Sasitharan contesting the Northern Provincial Polls on the House symbol of the Tamil National Alliance. Ms. Ananthi is the wife of former LTTE political commissar for Trincomalee district Sasitharan alias Ezhilan. He is one of the senior tiger leaders who went missing after surrendering to the Army in May 2009.
Anandhi a mother of three girls though married to Ezhilan was not a member of the LTTE. She was a Govt employee working at the Kilinochchi secretariat in the Samurdhi branch. She has obtained leave from the authorities to contest the Provincial polls.
Anandhi gained much media coverage in 2010 when she testified before the LLRC Commission that her husband a surrendee had gone missing. She later filed a habeas corpus writ on this matter in courts.
The outspoken Anandhi has been active in mobilising the wives and families of persons gone missing and organizing demonstrations in this respect.Her particular focus has been that of her husband and other senior LTTE leaders who had surrendered to the Army and are now regarded as missing.She has received much media publicity over these issues.
Anandhi Sasitharan has been utilised by several NGO’s and Human Rights organizations to mobilise affected family members of missing persons.The TNA parliamentarian Shritharan has also used her in these matters. The TNA has also nominated Anandhi as a candidate from Jaffna district in the Northern Provincial elections.
After being nominated as candidate Anandhi Sasitharan has been very much in the media spotlight. She has received media exposure equal to that of the TNA chief ministerial candidate former Supreme Court Judge CV Wigneswaran.
Recently at a press conference Anandhi Sasitharan announced that she would be representing the wives of missing persons at meetings with visiting UN Human rights chief Ms. Navi Pillay. Some newspapers reported her as saying she had been included in the delegation meeting Ms. Pillay while others stated she has sought an appointment to meet the UN High Commissioner.
Ananthi’s announcement that she was going to meet Ms. Navi Pillay received widespread publicity. LTTE and Pro-LTTE media organs projected it as a great event of far reaching consequences. Despite this media blitz it now appears that Ananthi Sasitharan meeting Navi Pillay in person is a very remote possibility.
There are two events in Ms. Navi Pillay’s itinerary where Ananthi would have got chances to meet her. One was on August 27th in Jaffna and the other on August 30th in Colombo. Both are occasions where representatives of disappeared and missing persons meet the UN Human rights commissioner. Public demonstrations of affected family members are also being organized to coincide with such meetings.
Ms. AnandhiSasitharan was involved in the organizational work of these demonstrations planned by NGO’s and HR organizations. She has been delegated the task of mobilising 150 families for the Jaffna demonstration and 50 families for the Colombo demonstration. It was also arranged that Ananthi would be part of the delegation meeting Ms. Pillay in Colombo and lead the delegation meeting her in Jaffna.
It now appears that the Human Rights outfits and NGO’s involved in these meetings do not want to include Anandhi Sasitharan in the meetings with Ms. Pillay. The reason given is that she is now a politician as a TNA candidate and cannot be regarded as a “civil Society”activist. Therefore she has lost her eligibility to meet the UN HR commissioner is the rationale.
But according to circles close to Anandhi the very same organizations who want to deny her an opportunity to meet Ms. Pillay have no qualms about using her services to mobilise people for demonstrations.They want her to help send the family members for the demonstrations but not meet Ms.Pillay in person. Some have even asked her to keep away from the demonstrations too.
According to informed sources a prominent human rights activist wants Anandhi to hand over the details compiled by Ms.Sasitharan to be presented to Ms.Pillay to her and to keep away from the UN Human Rights Commissioner.
Thus it seems that the Human Rights activists cum NGO community that procured Anandhi’s services to mobilise affected families and compile details are adamant in keeping her away from meetings with Navi Pillay on the grounds that she is now a politician and not civil society representative or human rights activist.
On the other hand the Tamil National Alliance that has nominated her as candidate and transformed her into a Politician is also reluctant to accommodate her. A high powered TNA delegation led by R.Sampanthan inclusive of CV Wigneswaran is scheduled to meet Ms. Navi Pillai on August 30th. The TNA hierarchy however has its own agenda planned out and does not want it diluted by including Ms. Anandhi in the delegation meeting Ms.Pillay.
Thus Anandhi Sasitharan is in the predicament of a person placing one foot each in two different boats and trying to sail.
The LTTE and Pro-LTTE media elements who lionised Anandhi Sasitharan’s image and widely publicised that “ LTTE leader Ezhilan’s wife will meet Navi Pillay “are now in a quandary and pressurising the TNA to include her.
Despite these pressures the possibility of Anandhi Sasitharan meeting Navi Pillay in person seems an extreme improbability at this juncture
Friends of Anandhi lament that she has been exploited by the media, TNA and NGO’s for their own purposes and thrown away like a “Karuveeppilai” (curry leaf).
DBS Jeyaraj can be reached at ~ firstname.lastname@example.org