By Dharisha Bastians
Northern Province Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran has urged Tamil people to participate in a demonstration scheduled in Jaffna tomorrow, to oppose the systematic settlement of Sinhalese people in the Tamil dominated region and the erection of Buddhist statues in an area devoid of Buddhist devotees.
“Tamil speaking brothers and sisters, I urge you to participate in the Ezhuga Tamil demonstration,” a letter by Chief Minister Wigneswaran that was published on Wednesday said.
The Tamil People’s Council (TPC) led by Chief Minister Wigneswaran is leading the ‘Ezhuga Tamil’ (Arise Tamil!) demonstration, which has also garnered the support of the EPRLF and PLOTE – both constituent members of the Tamil National Alliance – and the Tamil National People’s Front (TNPF) led by Gajen Ponnambalam. EPDP Leader Douglas Devananda is also leading support for the rally.
The group is hoping to muster large crowds in Jaffna tomorrow to protest against attempts to change the ethnic composition of the Northern Province and subsume the Tamil cultural identity in the majority Tamil region, among a list of other demands.
ITAK – the largest constituent party in the TNA – and TELO are not participating in the demonstration. TNA Spokesman and Jaffna District MP M.A. Sumanthiran, who is a member of ITAK, said the party was not opposing the demonstration but only urging people to consider the timing of the controversial event.
“We are not opposing the protests. We only urge the people to consider the timing of the rally. It is a time when the TNA is engaged in serious negotiations with the Government on a settlement to the Tamil question,” Sumanthiran told Daily FT yesterday. ITAK Leader Marvai Senathirajah has already spoken out in the north against the demonstration organised by Wigneswaran’s TPF, saying that Tamil representatives were engaged in a process to find solutions for long standing grievances, in which their bona fides should be very clear. Senathirajah has also questioned how the Tamil people could stand with Devananda and others who worked with the Sri Lankan military forces until the end of the war.
In his published letter calling for support for the protest, the Chief Minister said that pogroms against the Tamil people from the 1950s to 1983, had led to the militant uprising by Tamil youth. In spite of this history, the grievances of the Tamil people are yet to be addressed, the letter continued.
“Even though promises have been made about sharing power with the Northern and Eastern Provinces, not a single Government has delivered on this promise. This demonstration is being held to pressure the Government to release private citizens’ land held by the military, the release of political prisoners and finding the disappeared,” Wigneswaran’s letter to the people explained.
According to the Tamil People’s Council, the Government has systematically settled some 10,000 Sinhalese families in Vavuniya, Jaffna and Mullaitivu where such settlements had not existed before.
The demonstration is raising eyebrows in the island’s south, where Wigneswaran is increasingly viewed as an uncompromising Tamil nationalist hardliner, who stands against moderate positions being adopted by TNA Leader R. Sampanthan, Tamil political observers told Daily FT.
The analysts said the demonstration was likely to draw crowds of up to 5000 people, because of the alliance of parties collaborating to mobilise people in different parts of the Northern Province. If the TPC and its collaborators on the ‘Ezhuga Tamil’ demonstration manage to garner a crowd of 10,000 people in Jaffna, that would send a strong warning to the TNA leadership, the observers explained.