Jaffna is the capital city of the predominantly Tamil speaking Northern province of Sri Lanka. It was at the time of independence from Britain, the second largest city in the Island, next only to Colombo. Jaffna gradually declined in the post-independence years dropping to fourth place at the 1981 census. Thereafter with the escalation of the ethnic conflict, Jaffna along with many other places in the Northern and Eastern provinces got drastically affected by the war. Disruption of the economy and mass migration saw Jaffna drop to 14th place when an Island wide census was taken in 2012. In fact there are more Sri Lankan Tamils living in Colombo,London and Toronto than in Jaffna now.Nevertheless Jaffna known as “Yaarlpaanam” in Tamil and “Yahapanaya” in Sinhala continues to retain its glory as the cultural capital of the Sri Lankan Tamils.
In that context the recently concluded elections to local authorities in February saw the municipal elections in Jaffna assuming great political significance . Winning the Jaffna municipal poll and electing its candidate as Mayor became a prestigious political party battle. Seven political parties or groupings were in the race for the Jaffna municipal stakes comprising 45 seats(27 wards and 18 PR.) The contenders were the Tamil National Alliance(TNA) contesting under the Ilankai Thamil Arasuk Katchi(ITAK) symbol of house.The TNA comprises the ITAK, PLOTE and TELO; the Tamil National Peoples Front(TNPF) contesting under the Ahila Ilangai Tamil Congress(AITC) symbol of cycle; the Eelam Peoples Revolutionary Liberation Front(EPRLF) contesting under the Tamil United Liberation Front(TULF) symbol of Sun along with the TULF;the Eelam Peoples Democratic Party(EPDP);the United National Party(UNP);the Sri Lanka Freedom Party(SLFP) and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna(JVP).
There were 56, 245 registered electors of whom 40,916 voted at the polls. With 586 votes being rejected, 40,330 votes were counted as valid. The ITAK polled the highest 14,424(35.76%)and were entitled to 16 seats. The AITC coming next polled 12,020(29.08%) and obtained 13 seats. The EPDP came third polling 8,671(21.05%)and getting 10 seats. The UNP garnering 2,423(6.01%)had 3 seats.The SLFP with 1,479(3.67%) got 2 seats. The TULF got one seat polling 1,071(2.66%). The JVP having only 242 (0.6%) votes did not get any seats.
With the fragmentation of seats among the different political parties, the end result was that of a hung council in Jaffna. This situation however was not in Jaffna alone but also prevalent in a very large number of local authorities all over the Island. This was mainly due to the new voting system which was reportedly a mixture of the first past the post winner mode and the proportionate representation method. As a result in many instances the situation was one where the party that came first found itself outnumbered by the other parties and being unable to form a viable administration in spite of gaining more votes and winning more directly contested wards. The “overhanging” factor was the cause in most cases.The TNA consisting of the ITAK,PLOTE and TELO suffered greatly as a result of this syndrome. The TNA had contested in 55 local authorities in the North and East.Of these 48 were Tamil majority local bodies. The TNA Came first in 40 of these local authorites. However the TNA found itself unable to form a viable administration in over 30 of these bodies including the prestigious Jaffna municipality.
“Vaazhu, Vaazhavidu”(Live and Let Live)
The TNA leadership after internal discussions devised a “Vaazhu,Vaazhavidu” (Live and Let Live)policy to resolve this deadlock. it was left to the TNA and ITAK spokesperson Mathiaparanan Abraham Sumanthiran MP to express this formula publicly. Pointing out that parties and independent groups other than the TNA had also come first with the most number of seats in some urban councils and Pradeshiya Sabhas and were facing a “hung” situation, Sumanthiran suggested that each entity which came first in a particular local body be allowed to elect the Mayor or Chaiperson and form the administration in a spirit of mutual respect and tolerance without himdrance from the other parties.
While acknowledging the fact that this policy if accepted by all concerned would help the TNA immensely in being able to form the administration in over 30 bodies including Jaffna, Sumanthiran also pointed out that it would also help the parties in a leading position in other local authorities. The Jaffna district TNA parliamentarian said that others like the EPDP and AITC in Jaffna, an independent group in Kilinochchi, the Tamil Makkal Viduthalaip Puligal(TMVP) in Batticaloa would also benefot from such an arrangement. “We will take over in the councils and Sabhas/Sabais where we came first, you all take over in councils and Sabhas/Sabhais where you came first. We will support you without blocking you or trying to undermine you. You support us without trying to obstruct or undercut us. Let us all run efficient local administrations and serve the people who elected us” was the message. This was strongly endorsed by ITAK President and veteran Jaffna MP Somasundaram “Maavai” Senathirajah.
The ideas propounded by the TNA/ITAK resonated well with the people at large. After all the voters who elected their representatives would like to taste the fruits of their franchise rather than languish indefinitely in a state of uncertainty. But as is usual in contemporary Tamil politics there was a hitch in the form of a nay-sayer. This was none other than the “Nawab of Negativity” Gajendrakumar Gangaesar Ponnambalam popularly known as Gajen Ponnambalam. Despite his educational qualifications and political pedigree, the leader of the AITC/TNPF has never been known for pragmatism or flexibility in politics. Besides his party that had been virtually written off at the 2015 parliamentary poll had made a commendable comeback by performing well at the 2018 local polls. Gajen Ponnambalam regarded as the “Darling of the Tamil Diaspora Hardliners” was cock a hoop after the local polls.
So Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam who had perhaps over estimated his political clout rejected the olive branch held out by the TNA. Not only would the AITC/TNPF form the administration in the Point Pedro and Chavakachcheri urban councils where his party had come first , but he would also capture power in some local bodies where the TNA had come first, said Ponnambalam. Tamil media reports stated thst Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam had specifically referred to the Jaffna Municipal council, the Valvettithurai Urban council, the Vadamaratchy South -West and Nallur Pradeshiya Sabhas in this respect. The AITC/TNPF leader seemed very optimistic in his being able to ascend the Jaffna municipal throne despite the TNA being in the lead there.
It soon became apparent that Gajen Ponnambalam had set his sights on Jaffna and was seemingly sure of gaining control there in spite of his party having only 13 of 45 seats in the council. On the one hand there was a personal element in this mindset as Gajen’s grandfather GG Ponnambalam snr had been the Jaffna MP from 1947 to 1960 and 1965 to 1970. The Tamil Congress had been a force to be reckoned with in the politics of Jaffna town for decades. This however had changed with the advent of Gajen’s father GG Ponnambalam jnr known generally as Kumar Ponnambalam. When Kumar Ponnambalam contested Jaffna in the 1977 Parliamentary poll as an independent under the tree symbol he had lost badly to Vettivelu Yogeswaran of the TULF. After Kumar Ponnambalam took over the party the Tamil Congress had fared poorly in the Jaffna municipal poll of 1979 too. So it may have been a matter of family prestige for Gajen for the Tamil Congress to capture Jaffna and regain the lost paradise.
Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam’s Grandiose Expectations
Apart from this Gajen Ponnambalam could have been determined to win the Mayoral contest in Jaffna due to another reason too. There was a distinct possibility that the Tamil Congress with only 13 out of 45 seats could win Jaffna due to cross party voting.As he himself boasted to supporters and well-wishers, Gajen expected a large number of municipal councillors from both the TNA and the EPDP to vote against the official TNA Mayoral candidate Emmanuel Arnold. Ponnambalam was sure that several MMC’s from these two parties would vote for the TNPF nominee Visuvalingam Manivannan. He also demanded that the voting should be by secret ballot to facilitate this potential cross party voting. In order to understand why Gajendrakumar Ponnamblam had such grandiose expectations , it is importantly necessary to delve briefly into the political environment which prevailed in Jaffna before the local authority poll of February 10th 2018.
When the local authority elections loomed large on the political horizon last year, there were internal convulsions within the Tamil National Alliance which is the premier political configuration of the Sri Lankan Tamils. One of the TNA constituents the EPRLF charged the ITAK of dominating the TNA and pulled out of the grouping. The remaining PLOTE and TELO organizations also engaged in some squabbling with the ITAK which is the largest and key constituent of the TNA. After some bickering and grandstanding the ITAK,PLOTE and TELO agreed upon a formula to contest local polls. There were 48 local authorities with a clear Tamil majority in the North and East. It was decided that the ITAK would be given pride of place in 32 while the TELO and PLOTE would get 12 and 4 respectively.According to this arrangement the mayor/chairperson positions and 60% of candidates would be given to one party while the deputy -mayor/deputy chairman posts and 20 % of candidates each would be given to the other two parties. TNA Candidates were selected and confirmed on these lines.
The Jaffna municipal council was the jewel in the crown for the TNA. Candidates were selected on the sharing formula agreed upon. The ITAK picked Emmanuel Arnold as its Mayoral candidate. The TELO selected Thurairasa Eesan as its nominee for deputy – mayor. Emmanuel Arnold hailing from Paashaiyoor in Jaffna is an old student of St.John’s’ College Jaffna.He graduated from the Jaffna university with a BA degree specializing in economics. Arnold is a devout Catholic and does not belong to the protestant christian Arnold families of Jaffna. Actually his fathers name is Emmanuel but instead of going by that surname the son prefers being called Emmanuel Arnold. After graduating, Emmanuel Arnold joined Janashakthi insurance and rose up from the ranks to become regional sales manager for the North.
Arnold was a politically active youth with a social conscience. He had excelled in sports particularly soccer as a student. It is said that he may have played soccer at a national level but for the ethnic conflict which devoured the youthful days of many Tamils including Arnold. He was very popular as an undergrad and was president of the Jaffna varsity students union. Arnold who is a powerful orator organized many student protests and demonstrations at the Jaffna varsity during his undergraduate days. He was once photographed giving a clenched fist salute at a political event and detained at Boosa as a LTTE suspect. He was cleared of all suspicion after being interrogated intermittently for six months and released with a clean chit.
Sobriquet “Sinna Maavai” Or Little Maavai
Arnold who is married with two children involved himself with the youth wing of the ITAK after the war ended in 2009. “Maavai” Senathirajah who was the General-Secretary of the ITAK took a liking to the energetic and enterprising young man with a pleasant countenance and an amiable disposition. Arnold too modelled himself on Senathirajah known as “Maavai” and adopted the ITAK leader’s way of public speaking thus earning the sobriquet “Sinna Maavai” or little Maavai.
“Sinna Maavai” Arnold was picked as an ITAK candidate by ” Periya Maavai” Senathirajah for the first ever Northern provincial council (NPC)elections in 2013. Arnold polling 26,888 got the sixth highest number of preference votes on the TNA list. The five who polled higher than Arnold were CV Wigneswaran, Ananthy Sasitharan, Dharmalingam Siddharthan, P. Ariyaratnam and B.Gajatheeban. After the NPC started functioning Arnold was deputed to assist provincial education minister T. Kurukularajah who delegated sports and youth affairs to the young man from Paashaiyor. Being a keen sportsman himself Arnold took up his unofficial duties diligently and re-vitalised sports and atheletics in schools. He also organized several tournaments for youths in the North in general and Jaffna in particular. Arnold became quite popular among youths and students as a result of this.
Meanwhile Lawyer M. A. Sumanthiran who was appointed national list MP by the TNA in 2010 was assigned the task of identifying and cultivating a younger set of potential leaders within the NPC by TNA leader Rajavarothayam Sampanthan and deputy leader Maavai Senathirajah. Sumanthiran picked a few NPC councillors and began working politically with them. Chief among these was a trio comprising members of the Hindu, Christian and Islamic faiths respectively. They were Kesavan Sayanthan-Hindu, Emmanuel Arnold – Christian and Ayub Asmin -Muslim. Subsequently Sumanthiran himself contested in Jaffna during the 2015 Parliamentary poll. A vicious campaign financed by LTTE and pro-LTTE elements in the Diaspora was launched against Sumanthiran within and outside TNA folds. The Sayanthan-Arnold – Asmin trinity was greatly instrumental in leading the election campaign on behalf of Sumanthiran who won comfortably in 2015 while his open and furtive adversaries lost very badly.
There was an open revolt in 2017 within TNA councillors in the NPC against chief minister Wigneswaran who was accused of political double -games by his detractors who formulated a no confidence motion against the ex-judge. It may very well have been the end of Wigneswaran’s political career but for the intervention of TNA leader Sampanthan who provided refuge to the beleaguered chief minister in what is perceived as a monumental political blunder. The ensuing hullabaloo culminated with the exit of education minister Kurukularajah. Acting on the outgoing provincial minister’s recommendation the ITAK nominated Emmanuel Arnold to succeed him as Education minister. But CV Wigneswaran who had his own agenda appointed Ananthy Sasitharan instead. It was believed then that Wigneswaran was hostile towards Arnold because the latter had played a key role in the attempt to oust the controversial chief minister.
Triple “S” – Sampanthan,Senathirajah and Sumanthiran
When elections to local authorities became imminent the “Triple S” of the ITAK namely Sampanthan, Senathirajah and Sumanthiran finalised the selection of candidates for the polls. Emmanuel Arnold though a provincial councillor was picked as the Mayoral candidate for Jaffna. Arnold resigned his Northern provincial councillor post on December 14th 2017. It was obvious that he was doing so because he was hoping to become the Jaffna Mayor. This however was not to the liking of many within the TNA as well as outside it. One of the main reasons for this antipathy towards Arnold was the perception among anti- Sumanthiran elements that the prospective mayoral candidate was a protege’ of Sumanthiran. It was felt that Arnold becoming Mayor would strengthen Sumanthiran further politically.
There were other reasons too including one which went against the grain of traditional Tamil politics. One of the positive plus points of the long Tamil struggle for equality has been its secular nature. This enabled a large number of Christians to find common cause with their Hindu brethren in the quest for Tamil emancipation. It was this ethos of secular nationalism which made possible a protestant christian like Samuel James Veluppillai (SJV) Chelvanayagam to remain the acknowledged leader of pre-dominantly Hindu Tamils for decades until his death. Even the armed militant organizations were essentially secular in composition and outlook. All this however has been slowly changing in recent times after the war ended in 2009.
A process of creeping “soft Hindutva” is beginning to emerge among Sri Lankan Tamils. It is suspecteed that it is being ideologically inspired and financially backed up by elements connected to the Hindu Ultra-right wing “Parivar”(family) in India. Fortunately it is yet to take root in Sri Lanka but covert attempts are going on to nurture such growth.\. One such manifestation has been the recent phenomenon of leaflets and posters urging Hindus not to patronise non – Hindu businesses or vote for non – Hindus. Obviously the targets are Muslim businessmen and Christian politicians. So when Arnold was tipped to be the mayoral candidate such anti-christian, pro- Hindu sentiments were “mella,mella”(slowly,slowly) propagated in Jaffna. Posters were pasted in Jaffna-Nallur in the name of an organization called “Siva Senai”(Army of Siva) that called upon the Saivaite Tamil people to think and act in forming local bodies. The posters referred to Arumuga Navalar supporting Ramanathan over in nominations to the Legislative council during British rule. The implicit iference was to the fact that Brito was Christian and ramanathan Hindu(Ironically both were closely related).The Saiva voters were being indirectly asked not to vote for Christians(like Arnold).
One of those in the forefront of the anti-Arnold camp was a prominent member of the Northern provincial council. This self -styled scholar of “Saivaite wisdom” is like Northern chief minister Wigneswaran a disciple of “Swami” Premananda who was convicted of rape and murder by an Indian court.This person kept ranting and raving that a “Christian from a particular caste” could not become the Mayor of Jaffna which was a “Siva Bhoomi” (Lord Shiva’s ground). If this gentleman seemingly steeped in Saivaite wisdom objected to Arnold on a caste&religious basis another line of opposition took a different approach.
Ex-Parliamentarian Solomon Cyril as Mayor
A parliamentarian elected from Jaffna district proposed the name of ex -parliamentarian Solomon Cyril as Mayor instead of Emmanuel Arnold. Both Cyril and Arnold were Catholics and shared a common socio-cultural heritage. But Cyril who was involved in trade union activity earlier had been made an MP by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam(LTTE) when the tigers were ruling the roost in the north and exerting great control over the TNA. So the argument in favour of Cyril was that he had been a personal favourite of tiger supremo Veluppillai Prabhakaran and therefore was more suitable than Arnold to be Mayor. The Jaffna MP in question tries to portray himself as having been a close confidante of the tiger leader after Prabhakaran was no more to refute this assertion. Although this parliamentarian cloaked his opposition to Arnold on “tiger ideology”grounds , he was really against Arnold because of the latter’s perceived links to Sumanthiran. Not that he loved Arnold less but he hated Sumanthiran more!
All these happenings resulted in the extra -careful Senathirajah soft -pedalling the issue for a while. Senathirajah hailing from Chelvanayagam’s Kankesanthurai constituency is an avowed secularist and federalist. Although a firebrand in his youthful days, the septugenarian Senathirajah has mellowed with age and experience. So he is quite cautious in politics nowadays. Due to this cautious approach Senathirajah was delaying the official announcement about Arnold being the Mayoral candidate. At least three events scheduled to officially announce the candidature of Arnold were postponed. This delay somewhat diminished Arnold’s chances of victory and strengthened the hands of his opponents. It was at this point that Sumanthiran who was the accredited TNA spokesperson jumped the long -delayed gun and formally announced Emmanuel Arnold as the Jaffna Mayoral candidate. This caused quite a stir and a lot of excitement. It further re-inforced the belief that Arnold was a protege’ of Sumanthiran. The announcement however removed all doubts and settled the “Mayor Matter” once and for all.
The election campaign got underway and polls were held on Feb 10th. The results as stated earlier brought about a “hung” municipal council. The TNA came first with 16 out of 45 seats but was unable to get Arnold elected as Mayor.Among many reasons attributed for the TNA’s – not up to the mark – performance in the Jaffna municipal poll was the suspicion of sabotage. One example being the wards from a particular locality assigned for election work to the NPC member who opposed Arnold on religious grounds. Out of nine wards assigned to this individual the TNA lost in six. Was it a mere coincidence or was there more to it than which meets the eye?
It was against this backdrop therefore that the TNPF was gloating about certain victory at the Mayoral election and demanding secret voting. It was believed or suspected that the anti-Arnold elements within the TNA would persuade at least ten TNA municipal councillors to vote for the “Hindu” candidate from the TNPF/AITC as opposed to the TNA’s Emmanuel Arnold. Interestingly the third candidate in the fray Mudiappu Remedius from the EPDP also was like Arnold a Catholic from Paashaiyoor. Realising that the challenge to Arnold should not be taken lightly, the TNA leadership took two important steps. The first was to impress upon all elected TNA councillors that party discipline was important and that the official nominee should be supported at all cost. They were warned that any breach of discipline in the form of cross – party voting would be sternly dealt with resulting in loss of council membership.
“Maavai” Senathirajah Telephoned Douglas Devananda
The second step was to renew TNA efforts to win over the other political parties to practise the policy of letting each party that came first in a council or Pradeshiya sabha to be the head of each body and form an administration. So the Jaffna traders association was asked to talk to the TNPF/Tamil Congress again. The TNA also approached the EPDP. A TELO delegation led by Mannar MP Selvam Adaikkalanathan met EPDP secretary-general Douglas Devananda in Colombo.This was followed up by ITAK president “Maavai” Senathirajah who telephoned Devananda and re-iterated that each party be allowed to form an administration in the local body it had come first in. The TNA spokesperson Sumanthiran MP who had already discussed the issue with the EPDP’s designated mayoral candidate Remedius at an event held to celebrate the 50th anniversary of being called to the bar of veteran lawyer Murugesu Sittampalam (half -brother of TULF leader Murugesu Sivasithamparam) communicated with Remedius again.The TNA also communicated with the UNP and SLFP at a leader level. While the Tamil Congress/AITC rejected the “live and let live” invitation outright the EPDP emitted positive signals while remaining basically non – committal.
D-day was on March 26th 2018. Forty – four of the forty-five Jaffna municipal councillors gathered at the municipal premises. The councillor elected on the TULF ticket had been convicted for an offence under the penal code and was absent. The municipal commissioner M. Patrick Niranjan presided at the election. Visvalingam Manivannan from AITC, Mudiappu Remedius from EPDP and Emmanuel Arnold of the ITAK were the contestants in the ring. In a symbolic gesture demonstrating that the TNA had closed ranks, it was Solomon Cyril who had aspired to the Mayor post earlier who proposed Arnold’s name in a show of unity.. Likewise former EPDP Jaffna mayor Yogeswari Patkunarajah who was not happy in being deprived of a chance to be Mayor again who proposed Remedius as a candidate.
An ebulliently confident Manivannan asked for secret voting while Arnold wanted open voting. The decision about mode of voting was put to the vote.The 16 TNA and 3 UNP councillors wanted open voting while the 13 AITC,10 EPDP and 2 SLFP councillors wanted secret voting. So secret voting was adopted. When the first round of voting was conducted Arnold came first with 18 votes while Manivannan and Remedius tied with 13 votes each. While Manivannan had been unable to attract votes from outside his party,Remedius had got three outside votes presumably two from SLFP and one from UNP. Thereafter the names of Remedius and Manivannan were written on pieces of paper and one slip was picked. Remedius was lucky and Manivannan exited from the contest. Now it was going to be a straight fight between Arnold and Remedius. The EPDP candidate then asked for a recess of 20 minutes which was granted by commissioner Patrick Niranjan. Mudiappu Remedius was then seen conversing animatedly with Manivannan and thereafter was seen to be engaged in a prolonged telephone conversation.
According to informed political sources Remedius had asked Manivannan for support from the Tamil Congress which was refused. Apparently the Tamil Congress claiming to be ‘Tamil nationalist puritans” was not prepared to support a group like the EPDP which had collaborated with the Rajapaksa regime.It was also felt that instructions given by SLFP national list MP Angajan’s father Ramanathan to the two SLFP councillors to vote for the EPDP at the 1st round of voting had been countermanded by the party hierarchy. The chances were that both the SLFP and UNP would vote for the TNA against the EPDP. With defeat being imminent if a vote took place Remedius was facing a difficult dilemma and consulted the EPDP leadership.
Mudiappu Remedius Drops Bombshell
When it was time again to resume voting the lawyer Mudiappu Remedius dropped a bombshell. He stated that he was withdrawing from the Mayoral race and went up to Arnold and shook his hands congratulating him. At this juncture the Tamil congress’s Visuvalingam Manivannan also a lawyer requested that he be allowed to contest against Arnold because Remedius had withdrawn. Patrick Niranjan however said that the election rules did not permit it. Manivannan therefore recorded his protest at the decision. Even if the rules had allowed a re-contest between Arnold and Manivannan it was highly unlikely that the latter would have won because the Tamil Congress by its “holier than thou”policies had isolated itself politically. The UNP ,SLFP and EPDP may have abstained or voted for the TNA rather than support the AITC/TNPF.
Under these circumstances Emmanuel Arnold was formally declared as the Jaffna Mayor. The announcement was received enthusiastically with TNA,UNP and even EPDP members applauding loudly. TNA Parliamentarians Senathirajah and Sumanthiran along with some provincial councillors were present and congratulated a jubilant Arnold. The new Mayor then retired to chambers donned the crimson cloak and presided over the next session in which Thurairasa Eeasan was elected deputy -mayor unopposed.
New Mayor Of Jaffna Emmanuel Arnold
A triumphant Emmanuel Arnold then thanked his fellow municipal councillors for electing him Mayor. Arnold called for inter-party unity in the Jaffna municipal council and invited all the newly elected members to accompany him on a challenging journey unitedly.He invited all councillors from the different parties to cooperate with him in making Jaffna a clean city and a green city. He also promised to safeguard the historical and archaeological heritage in Nallur. Thereafter his worship the new Mayor of Jaffna paid visits to Hindu, Christian, Buddhist and Islamic religious leaders in Jaffna and received their blessings and wishes. Thus ended the long saga of Jaffna’s Mayoral election. The TNA had succeeded in capturing the Jaffna mayoralty through deft political manoeuvring and get its nominee Emmanuel Arnold elected as the 24th Mayor of Jaffna.
The local authority tussle however did not end with Jaffna. TNA and ITAK spokesperson Sumanthiran announced that despite his party’s repeated request that all parties should refrain from contesting against each other and instead cooperate together by supporting the party that had come first in a local body, the request had been spurned and rejected. Therefore the TNA too will contest against the parties that had the highest number of seats in other local bodies instead of letting them form administrations without opposition as proposed by the party earlier. The inference was obviously to the AITC/TNPF that had got the highest number of seats in the Point Pedro and Chavakachcheri urban councils.
Chavakachcheri Urban Council
The TNA followed this up by entering the fray in Chavakachcheri and Point Pedro. The Chavakachcheri urban council has eighteen members. The Tamil Congress had come first with six and the TNA next with five seats. The EPDP got three, SLFP two and the UNP and an Independent group one each. The Tamil Congress fielded Y.Jeyakumar for the Chavakachcheri urban council chairperson post. The TNA pitted a woman candidate Ramanathan Sivamangai against him. With the EPDP, SLFP, UNP and Independent groups supporting the TNA Sivamangai got 12 votes while Jeyakumar got only his party’s 6 votes. Thus the TNA’s Ramanathan Sivamangai made history by becoming the first woman head of the Chavakachcheri urban council. A. Mayooranathan of the TNA was elected deputy – chair unopposed.
Point Pedro Urban Council
In the Point Pedro urban council there are 15 seats. The Tamil Congress/TNPF was leading here with six while the TNA/ITAK had five. The EPDP had two and the TULF and an independent group one each. K. Balasubramaniam of the Tamil Congress and Y.Iruthayarajah of the TNA contested. The EPDP supported the TNA while the TULF and independent abstained. The TNA’s Iruthayarajah therefore beat the Tamil Congress candidate Balasubramaniam by one vote.
Political Isolation of Tamil Congress
Thus the Tamil Congress despite being the party with the highest number of seats in the Point Pedro and Chavakachcheri urban councils failed to get its candidate elected chairperson and form the administration. Had the Tamil Congress acceded to the TNA’s initial offer and not fielded a candidate in Jaffna the party may not have been challenged in Chava and Pt.Pedro. But the supremely cocky Tamil Congress rejected the TNA offer , contested Jaffna and lost out in the end. Furthermore it was challenged by the TNA in the only two councils the Tamil Congress had come first and defeated there too. The AITC/TNPF lost the Pt.Pedro and Chava birds in the hand by trying to capture the Jaffna bird in the bush. The TNA by executing a skilful political operation had defeated the Tamil Congress and captured Jaffna, Point Pedro and Chavakachcheri.
The failure of the Tamil Congress to gain any support from an outside party within the local body, demonstrated the hawkish party’s political isolation. By adopting an uncompromising, combative approach the Tamil Congress has forfeited its chances of forming an administration in at least the two urban councils where it came first. It remains to be seen whether the hardliner Tamil Congress learns its lessons and functions in a more flexible manner in the future or whether it will continue in the tigerish mode of intransigience until doomsday.
This is an enhanced Version of an article written for the “DBS Jeyaraj Column” appearing in the “Daily Mirror” of March 31, 2018. it can be reached via this link:
DBS Jeyaraj can be reached at email@example.com