A concerted move by five (four+One) stalwarts of the Ilankai Thamil Arasuk Katchi(ITAK) – the chief constituent of the Tamil National Alliance(TNA) – to remove the party General- Secretary K. Thurairajasingham from his post through a no confidence motion ended in a dismal failure at a conclave held in Vavuniya on Saturday August 29th 2020. In spite of a lot of sound and fury being emitted by unruly members at the gathering, the meeting ended on a conciliatory note with a motion of censure being passed against the Gen-secy expressing disapproval for adopting incorrect procedure in nominating a national list MP to Parliament on behalf of the TNA.
The Central Working Committee (Mathiya Seyal Kuzhu) Meeting of the ITAK known in English as the Federal Party(FP) was held from 10. 30 am to 5.30 pm on Saturday at the Princess Rose Hotel in Kurumankaadu, Vavuniya.
The meeting presided over by ITAK president Somasundaram Senathirajah known as “Maavai” Senathirajah had an attendance of over 50 persons. These included TNA Parliamentary Group leader and veteran Trincomalee district MP Rajavarothayam Sampanthan and other ITAK MP”s, Ex-provincial councillors and local authority representatives.
The meeting had aroused much interest and concern as moves were initiated by elements close to ITAK leader “Maavai” Senathirajah to remove the ITAK General-Secretary Krishnapillai Thurairajasingham by passing a no confidence motion against him. Senathirajah had accused Thurairajasingham of acting unilaterally by nominating Thavarasah Kalaiarasan hailing from the Amparai district as TNA national list MP without his knowledge. Although Senathirajah took umbrage at himself being allegedly kept in the dark by Thurairajasingham, it was well known that the actual reason for the ITAK president being miffed was at his not being appointed mational list MP. Senathirajah who had been elected to Parliament from Jaffna district since 2000 was defeated at the last elections coming sixth among TNA candidates receiving preference votes.
“Gang of Four” Plus Another
Four important ITAK officials – all of them aligned to Senathirajah – gave notice of a no confidence motion against ITAK general secretary Krishnapillai Thurairajasingham. The wording of the motion called for immediate removal of Thurairajasingham from the office of General through a vote . The four signatories – dubbed as the “gang of four” by wags -were former Northern Provincial Council Chaiman CVK Sivagnam, ITAK party treasurer K. Kanagasabapathy, ITAK Mayor of Jaffna Emmanuel Arnold and Ex-Northern provincial councillor Paranjothy.. Subsequently a fifth person, ITAK Committee member Prof. Kuhapalan also added his signature. Sivagnanam and Kanagasabapathy are regarded as the right and left hands of “Maavai” Senathirajah.
Interestingly enough it was Sivagnanam and Kanagasabapathy who had gone to Trincomalee to meet Sampanthan and urge that Senathirajah be appointed as National list MP because the ITAK Jaffna branch had passed a resolution to that effect. Furthermore it was two other signatories Paranjithy and Kuhapalan who had propsed and seconded the resolution calling for Senathirajah’s nomination. Now four persons who were deeply involved in the move to get Senathirajah appointed as MP were trying to move a vote of no confidence motion alleging improper conduct on the part of the General secretary. Having failed in their attempt to secure the MP post for Senathirajah,they were downplaying their role in that sordid exercise and were now diverting the issue by ganging up against Thurairajasingham and extracting revenge for thwarting their plans.
Chief Strategist C.V.K. Sivagnanam
Senathirajah’s chief strategist C.V.K. Sivagnanam had been communicating with members of the central committee in a bid to canvass support for the no confidence motion. He had also told sections of the Tamil media that the no confidence motion was being brought against the Gen – secy for acting unilaterally without discussing the matter with the ITAK leader Senathirajah. It is learnt however that Sivagnanam had realised the motion against Thurairajasingham succeeding at a vote was doubtful because the “silent majority” of Central Working Committee members was not supportive.
When the meeting commenced ITAK treasurer and co-signatory , Kanagasabapathy began reading the text of the motion. ITAK/TNA spokesperson and Jaffna district MP Mathiaparanan Abraham Sumanthiran raised an objection to the motion being presented for a vote at the Central Working committee meeting. Sumanthiran pointed out that the Gen – Secy had been elected by the “Podhu Sabhai” (General Council) and ratified at the party convention. The Central Working Committee had no authority to remove the Gen-secy. It was the General Council that could remove him. As such the No Confidence Motion could not be taken up at this meeting.
MA Sumanthiran also pointed out that the ITAK party Constitution had stipulated that the Central Working Committee could have 41 members only. These consisted of representatives elected by each district and ex-officio members. However in recent times the ITAK leader had acted arbitrarily and appointed more persons to the committee. This exceeded fifty in number. Sumanthiran who is a president’s counsel said that if the no confidence motion issue went to court – as it would very likely – then the courts would have to ascertain whether the Central Working Committee was constituted properly according to the Constitution. Since the members present exceeded the stipulated the prescribed number of 41, the courts may not recognize the legality of any decision in this regard said Sumanthiran.
The objection raised by Sumanthiran and the points mentioned by him had a dampening effect on the proponents of the no confidence motion. Although the “rowdy” sections kept protesting, the mastermind behind the motion, CVK Sivagnanam realised the gravity of the situation. CVK Sivagnanam is one of the two senior vice presidents of the ITAK although the party constitution has provision for only one.
The politically astute Sivagnanam then thought on his feet and switched gears. Sivagnanam abandoned the idea of a no confidence motion and suggested that a vote of censure expressing disapproval of the Gen – Secy’s conduct be passed instead. This was exuberantly welcomed by Senathirajah’s “Hurra boys” whose appreciation of the difference between a no confidence motion and censure motion was minimal.
Beleaguered General – Secretary
There was however much debate and discussion over the issue. The gathering gradually split into three broad factions. One was supportive of Thurairajasingham while another was hostile. The third and comparatively large faction kept silent but it appeared that their sympathies lay with the beleaguered General Secretary
Among those who were supportive of Thurairajasingham were TNA leader R.Sampanthan, S. Shritharan, MA Sumanthiran and “fresher”MP Rasamanickam Rajaputhiran Shanakkiyan. Among others who spoke in similar vein were former Northern provincial minister Dr. P. Sathiyalingam. Those speaking against Thurairajasingham were Senathirajah along with the “gang of four “, ex-MP and media “Mudalaali” Saravanapavan and Colombo based lawyer KV Thavarasa.
Two important facts came to light during the verbal onslaughts. The newly appointed National list MP Kalaiarasan shocked the gathering when he said that he was resigning as it was being alleged that he had been made an MP through improper procedures. Kalaiarasan said that neither he nor the Tamils of Amparai district were prepared to be insulted in this manner. This led to Senathirajah and his acolytes assuring and re-assuring Kalaiarasan that there was no improper procedure in his being appointed MP. They said Kalaisrasan fully deserved it and that none were objecting to the manner in which he was appointed by the Gen – secy. Their objection was only against Thurairajasingham because he had not discussed the matter with ITAK Leader Senathirajah.
Thus Kalaiarasan’s righteous indignation at being insulted and the response it elicited proved the point that there was no improper procedure adopted by the General Secretary as alleged in the draft no confidence motion. This left only the charge about Thurairajasingham not discussing the matter with Senathirajah. This allegation too was disproved when Thurairajasingham spoke out.
“Koochalidum Kumbal”(Howling Mob)
The former Batticaloa district Parliamentarian and ex-provincial minister spoke amidst hooting and heckling by the “Koochalidum Kumbal” (Howling mob) that was hostile to him. Many of these youths were involved in the abortive attempt to invade the main election counting centre for Jaffna district located at the Jaffna Central College premises. They were dispersed by the Special Task Force and Police Riot Squad then.
Despite the disturbances Thurairajasingham related his side of the story and stated clearly that he had not acted unilaterally without discussing with Senathirajah. Thurairajasingham revealed that he had spoken on three occasions with Senathirajah about the national list MP matter and that the ITAK Leader had indeed been informed of Kalaiarasan being nominated. This was not denied by Senathirajah.
Thus the wind was taken out of the sails of the charge that Thurairajasingham had not discussed the matter with Senathirajah. The only “offence” committed by the Gen -Secy was not keeping Senathirajah informed that the official letter nominating Kalaiarasan had been sent to the Election Commission.
Thereafter the envisaged motion of censure lost much of its proposed sting. The motion was drafted by CVK Sivagnanam who consulted lawyers Sumanthiran and Thavarasah while doing so. Finally the whittled down toothless motion reprimanding Thurairajasingham mildly for the lapse in informing the ITAK Leader was passed. It appeared that the mountains had laboured and brought forth a mouse. Despite the attempts to unseat him, Krishnapillai Thurairajasingham will continue to function as the ITAK General – Secretary!
What is saddening and maddening about this matter is that the Central Working Committee of the chief political party representing the Sri Lankan Tamil people had devoted its time and energy to such a trivial and ephemeral issue such as this at a time when the Tamils in particular and the minorities in general face a bleak future in the Island after the Presidential poll of 2019 and Parliamentary elections. Nero at least fiddled making music while Rome burnt. But the ITAK members keep attacking each other while storm clouds loom large on the political horizon.
Firecracker Fizzled Into Damp Squib
The expected firecracker of a no confidence motion fizzling out into a damp squib was not the only issue at the Vavuniya General Working Committee meeting. Much heat rather than light was generated at the conclave. Those matters can be related on another occasion.
D.B.S.Jeyaraj can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org