Former Jaffna District Parliamentarian and Spokesperson of the Tamil National Alliance(TNA) and Ilankai Thamil Arasuk Katchi(ITAK), Mathiaparanan Abraham Sumanthiran is currently in the eye of a political storm. The you tube interview given by the 56 year old Presidents counsel cum politician to the “Truth With Chamuditha” show conducted by senior journalist Chamuditha Samatawickrama is the reported cause of the controversy.
A few of the questions and answers in Sinhala were picked up by sections of the Tamil media who seem to have deliberately mistranslated the words of Sumanthiran with duplicitous twists and mischievous slants. Many Tamils opposed to Sumanthiran either believed or pretended o believe this and indulged themselves in an orgy of “manufactured rage”. This in turn led to a cacophony of angry voices , over the mainstream Tamil media and social media – within and outside Sri Lanka – berating Sumanthira n for what he had “purportedly”stated. He was – and is being – attacked viciously.
“Truth With Chamuditha”
Political attacks being launched against Sumanthiran is nothing new. The lawyer -politician with liberal, relatively moderate views is the favourite target of “ hawks” on either side of the ethnic divide. As far as Tamils are concerned, the green-eyed monster runs amok in the hearts and minds of many Tamil politicians both within and outside TNA/ITAK folds. This is due to the remarkable rise of Sumanthiran in both Tamil and national politics within a comparatively short period.Thus the “Truth With Chamuditha” interview provided an opportunity for these elements to draw their daggers separately and strike jointly at the ex-Jaffna district MP.
Many TNA ex-MP colleagues of Sumanthiran including ITAK leader Somasundaran”Maavai” Senathirajah issued statements critical of Sumanthiran without even contacting their erstwhile fellow parliamentarian to verify facts. This was followed by many Tamil media reports about a series of “consultations” organized by Senathirajah among TNA ex-MP’s to discuss the removal of Sumanthiran as party spokesperson and ouster from the ITAK. There was also a botched attempt to sabotage a meeting scheduled between Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and Sumanthiran. The meeting however took place as scheduled despite these underhand efforts.
Origin Of The TNA
One of the interesting aspects that was highlighted in this anti-Sumanthiran drama was the origin of the TNA itself. Chamuditha Samarawickrama in his interrogative style harped on the TNA being the creation of the LTTE through a barrage of “hostile” questions. He even charged that LTTE leader Veluppillai Prabhakaran had chaired the inaugural TNA meeting. Sumanthiran denied the charges with unflappable dignity. He emphasized the fact that the TNA was not formed by the LTTE in 2001.Sumanthiran also poined out that his party the Ilankai Thamil Arasuk Katchi(chief constituent of the TNA) had been formed (in 1949) long before the LTTE came into existence.
This provided further ammunition to the anti -Sumanthiran elements within Tamil politics. They began stating that the TNA was indeed formed by the LTTE leader. Many kept insisting that the TNA had been founded by Tiger leader Veluppillai Prabhakaran himself and therefore Sumanthiran being a member of the TNA had to support the LTTE.
Although TNA leader Rajavarothayam Sampanthan has consistently stated that the TNA was not formed by the LTTE, critics of the TNA continue to accuse the TNA of being a tiger creation. What has complicated matters further is the tendency in recent times of several TNA personalities to claim that the party had been formed by the LTTE. Since some of the anti-TNA Tamil hardliners like CV Wigneswaran,Ananthy Saitharan, MK Sivajilingam, Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam and Selvakumar Gajendran are singing the “Pulippaattu” or Tiger song, these TNA politicians also pose in “tigerish” garb. They think (erroneously) that by saying the TNA was created by the LTTE, they can score over their political rivals. Incidently many of the TNA persons claiming to be the offspring of the LTTE nowadays were not around when the TNA was formed in 2001
Sumanthiran’s 12 Minute YouTube
Finally Sumanthiran released a twelve minute you tube where he gave an “explanation” of what had actually transpired and how his interview in Sinhala was being distorted by interested parties to vilify and attack him. The ex-MP from Jaffna stated that he had responded to many hostile questions by the interviewer with restraint as he wanted to explain some points to a Sinhala audience.Sumanthiran pointed out that a TV aligned to the ruling regime had taken a few of his comments out of context and publicized them in a distorted manner .
The TNA spokesperson also expressed regret over the fact that none of his colleagues including ITAK leader Senathirajah had extended to him the courtesy of seeking his version of events before unilaterally issuing statements criticizing him. To his credit Sumanthiran has defiantly stood by all what he actually stated in the interview as opposed to the unfounded accusations of his critics. This you tube by Sumanthiran seemed to have turned the tide in his favour . A lot of people who had rushed to condemn Sumanthiran were now confused and feeling awkward. Furthermore many people began to defend Sumanthiran and criticize those who criticized him over social media.
While Senathirajah and several other ex-MP’s of the TNA including TELO leader “Selvam”Adaikkalanathan and PLOTE leader Dharmalingam Siddharthan issued statements criticizing Sumanthiran, TNA leader Rajavarothayam Sampanthan maintained “silence”on the matter for quie a while. Most people anticipated that the veteran Tamil leader would be compelled to issue a statement clarifying matters and bringing the controversy to an end. The TNA leader did so by releasing a statement on May 15. Sampanthan’s statement was as follows –
TNA Leader Sampanthan’s Statement
“My attention has been drawn to the interview said to have been given to the media by Mr. M. A. Sumanthiran, President’s Counsel, former Member of Parliament Jaffna District, and Spokesman for the Tamil National Alliance.”
“Mr. Sumanthiran has been frank and forthright in his answers to questions that have been asked with the deliberate purpose of promoting mischief and disunity amongst the people of this country particularly amongst the Tamil people with the ulterior purpose of sabotaging efforts to find a resolution to the National Question within the framework of a single united undivided and indivisible Sri Lanka.”
“Over the past 30 years after the signing of the Indo Sri Lanka agreement and the enactment of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution much work has been done by successive Presidents and Governments, under the leadership of President R. Premadasa, President Chandrika Bandaranayaka Kumarathunga, President Mahinda Rajapaksha, President Maithiripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickeremesinghe to bring about a resolution to the National Question based upon substantial consensus catering to the needs of a multiethnic, multilingual, multicultural pluralistic society all of which are matter of record.”
“The questions posed to Mr. M.A. Sumanthiran are intended to promote confusion amongst all people, both the Sinhala and Tamil people. The purpose of this interview is to disturb the ongoing process amongst all people both Sinhalese and Tamils. The people should not get confused and misled by such mischievous endeavors.”
“During the history of a long political struggle for equality and justice such as the Tamil political struggle which commenced in 1949 and has lasted over 70years various events have taken place. The Tamil struggle when it commenced was democratic, peaceful and non-violent. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) commenced their armed struggle in the late 70s and early 80s, after a period of 30years since the commencement of the democratic peaceful and non – violent Tamil struggle.”
“If there had been a reasonable resolution to the Tamil Question in the first three decades, the LTTE would never have emerged on the scene. It was the failure of the majority leadership to implement pacts and agreements entered into with Tamil Leader Mr S.J.V. Chelvanayakam who was committed to non-violence that resulted in the emergence of LTTE. Even during the time of the armed struggle which lasted till 2009, the peaceful Tamil political struggle continued and continuous up to date.”
“The people of this country need to look at how the future can be bright for all people, on the basis of justice equality. Mr Sumanthiran whose ultimate interest is in a just and acceptable resolution has answered questions from this perspective. He has also expressed his own views on some issues. There can be progress and prosperity in Sri Lanka and for all its people only if the National Question is resolved on the basis of permanent peace evolved through a resolution based on justice, equality, self-respect and dignity.”
“I would appeal to all the people in this country, the Sinhalese Tamils and all others not to be misled by such mischievous endeavors and to concentrate on the efforts to find a reasonable and acceptable resolution to the National Question based on a substantial consensus.”
“I would like to communicate to the Tamil people of the Northern and Eastern Provinces that our strength to achieve a reasonable and acceptable resolution lies in your being united behind such a position rather than giving expression to contradictory views on issues that are perhaps not strictly related at present to the resolution of the National Question.”
“The Tamil people have suffered immensely in several ways during the past several decades. The Tamil people were subjected to racial pogroms even before the emergence of the LTTE. A very substantial number of Tamil people have fled the country. Tamil people will inevitably remember with pain what happened to them, but this should not confuse their thinking in relation to the main issue”
.”It is only an acceptable political resolution to the National Question that can provide permanent peace and relief to the Tamil people and permanent peace and prosperity to the whole country and all its people.It will be the duty of every citizen to strive unitedly to the achievement of this objective.”
Leader Tamil National Alliance
TNA leader Sampanthan in his cautious, carefully worded statement made it very obvious that he was standing by Sumanthiran. The TNA leader “blamed” the questions raised by the interviewer. His implied that the TNA spokesman had done no wrong and that those who criticized him were wrong. Nevertheless Sampanthan did not explicitly fault Sumanthiran’s critics within TNA folds. This presumably was to pour oil on troubled waters and avoid aggravating the intra -party crisis further. However there was no doubt that Sampanthan’s statement left a lot of Sumanthiran’s critics within the TNA with a lot of “Muttai”(egg) on their faces.
Tempest in the TNA Tea Cup
Sumanthiran’s explanatory “You Tube” and Sampanthan’s diplomatically crafted statemen have contributed greatly to undermine criticism against the party spokesman. The anti-Sumanthiran campaign began running on empty.. It appears now that the raging anti-Sumanthiran storm would gradually subside resulting in a tempest within the TNA tea cup. However relations between Sumanthiran and some Tamil politicians are likely to be drastically affected unless remedial action is taken.(ENDS)
DBS Jeyaraj can be reached at email@example.com
This is a Revised Version of an Article written for the DBS Jeyaraj Column in the “Daily Mirror” of May 16, 2020. It can be accessed here: