by D.B.S. Jeyaraj
The Tamil National Alliance(TNA) regarded as the chief political formation of Sri Lankan Tamils is gearing up to face the forthcoming elections to the Eastern Provincial council under the house symbol of the Ilankai Thamil Arasu Katchi(ITAK)without aligning with any other political party or group.
Earlier the TNA was exploring the possibility of tying up with either the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC)on a common symbol or contesting together with the chief opposition United National Party(UNP).
With the SLMC throwing in its lot with the ruling United Peoples Freedom Alliance(UPFA) the TNA has now decided to go it alone without any form of alliance with any other political party or group. The proposal to tie up with the UNP has also been abandoned.
The alliance which has 13 MP’s in Parliament has decided to field Muslim candidates also for the eastern poll.
Although the TNA mainly caters to the needs of Sri Lankan Tamils the alliance wants to include Muslim candidates also to denote the need for unity among Tamil speaking Tamils and Muslims who face common problems in the Province and also because Muslims are the single largest ethnicity in the Eastern province now.
The 1981 census placed the ethnic ratio of the East as Tamils 42%,Muslims 33% and Sinhalese 25%. Demographic changes have taken place over the past 30 yers and currently unofficial estimates place the eastern ethnic ratio as Muslims 38%,Tamils 36% and Sinhalese 26%.
The TNA is currently engaged in the process of finalizing its lists of candidates for the districts of Amparai, Batticaloa and Trincomalee. Amparai , B’caloa and Trinco districts will elect 14,11 and 10 members respectively to the 37 member Eastern Provincial council. Two bonus seats will be allocated to the party which wins the highest number of seats in polls.
Tamils are around 72% of Batticaloa district, 31%of Trincomalee and 20% of Amparai district.
The TNA has decided to field two Muslim candidates for Amparai district and one for Trincomalee district. It is undecided still on nominating a candidate for B’caloa district.
The TNA has decided on the Muslim candidate for Trinco while prospective candidates for Amparai district are being interviewed.
When the first election to the Eastern Provincial council was held in 2008 while the war was on with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) the Tamil National Alliance refrained from contesting.
This enabled the LTTE breakaway group Tamil Makkal Viduthalaip Puligal(TMVP) to get most of the Tamil votes in the polls while contesting as part of the UPFA.
Subsequently Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan alias Pillaiyan of the TMVP was appointed chief minister. The Eastern council however was dissolved one year ahead of its time for elections to take place on a directive of President Rajapaksa.
While nominations close on the 19th of July elections are likely to take place on September 8th or 15th.
Meanwhile the dissolution has been challenged in courts and the case is to be heard on July 20th a day after nominations close.
Re-configuration of Tamil politics in recent times has resulted in five parties being constituent partners of the Tamil National Alliance. They are the Ilankai Thamil Arasu Katchi (ITAK), Tamil Eelam Liberation Organization (TELO),Eelam Peoples Revolutionary Liberation Organization (EPRLF)Tamil United Liberation Front(TULF)and Peoples Liberation Organization of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE).
According to election laws the TNA will have to nominate 17 candidates for Amparai, 14 candidates for Batticaloa and 13 for Trincomalee.
Initially there was some intra-TNA friction with the non – ITAK parties demanding a greater share of nominations on the one hand and ITAK party stalwarts of the East wanting to exclude other parties and contesting alone on the other.
The TELO,EPRLF, TULF and PLOTE aligned together and exerted pressure on the ITAK to accommodate all parties on an equal basis. The demand was for each party to get 20% of the nominations each.
Later the equality demand was reduced to a fifty –fifty demand where the ITAK was to have 50 % of candidates and the other four parties 50 %.
This too was unacceptable to ITAK.
Finally a formula of allocation was worked out where the four party combine was to be given four nominees in Trincomalee and five in Batticaloa. It was decided to finalise nominations for Amparai district on the basis of selecting best candidates available irrespective of party affiliation or quotas.
While the TELO,EPRLF, TULF and PLOTE will get a nominee each in Trincomalee the TELO will get two and the others one each in Batticaloa.
The TNA has virtually finalized its candidate list for Trincomalee. The chief candidate for the district will be retired school principal and current education ministry consultant C.Thandayuthapani a nominee of the ITAK. The other candidates from ITAK on the TNA list for Trinco are ex –postmaster K.Koneswaran,Ayurvedic physician Indrani Dharmarajah,Verugal Pradeshiya Sabha chairman S. Vijayakanth, ex-registrar K.Vijayaratnam, Social worker S. Anthonipillai,Leader of displaced Sampoor Tamils K.Nageswaran and undergraduate C.Janarthanan. The Muslim candidate is MS Faleel from Pulmoddai.
Messrs K. Nithiyanantham,P. Yuganathan, V. Suresh and N.Kumanan will be the TELO, EPRLF, TULF and PLOTE candidates on the TNA list respectively.
The candidates for Batticaloa is yet to be finalized but it is learnt that former Batticaloa district MP , K. Thurairajasingham will lead the list. Thurairajasingham who is a lawyer by profession was TULF MP from 1994 -2000 and refrained from contesting thereafter. He is said to be quite popular in the Kalkudah electoral division and is also a senior vice president of the ITAK. He is also likely to be projected as the prospective chief minister if the TNA gets the required majority.
Other ex-MP”s who are likely to contest in Batticaloa are Karunakaran alias Jana of the TELO and Krishnapillai alias Vellimalai of the TULF.Karunakaran was P from 1989 – 1994 while Krishnapillai was MP from 2001-2004.Thurairatnam of EPRLF and Prasanna of TELO will also be candidates on the TNA B’caloa list.Thurairatnam is a sitting member of the Eastern provincial council.
The TNA list for Amparai will be led by former MP Chandranehru Chandrakanthan. Others likely to contest are Henry Mahendran of the TELO, Amirthalingam the opposition leader of Kalmunai municipal council, Karaitheevu Pradeshiya sabha chairman Rasiah and Navithan veli pradeshiya sabha chairman Kalai Arasan.
TNA leader and Trinco district MP R.Sampanthan and the three TNA MP’s from Batticaloa,- Ariyanendran, Selvarajah and Yogeswaran, along with Parliamentarians Mavai Senathirajah and MA Sumanthiran are in charge of finalising list of candidates from the ITAK.
They are coordinating with Selvam Adaikkalanathan, Suresh Premachandran, V.Anandasangaree and D.Siddharthan of the TELO, EPRL,TULF and PLOTE respectively to compile the final list of candidates for the TNA in the Eastern province.
The TNA is confident of garnering the bulk of Tamil votes in the Eastern province.It also entertains hopes of getting a reasonable number of Muslim votes.
DBS Jeyaraj can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org