Thousands of Tamils on Saturday participated in a rally in Jaffna, led by Northern Province Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran.
Thousands of Tamils on Saturday participated in a rally in Jaffna, led by Northern Province Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran, drawing attention to “Sinhala colonisation” and “rampant militarisation” of Sri Lanka’s North and East.
The rally, titled Eluka Tamil [Rise, Tamil!], was organised by the Tamil People’s Council (TPC), an organisation that Mr. Wigneswaran heads. A host of Tamil political parties, including some constituents of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), participated.
In a message to Tamil-speaking Sri Lankans on the eve of the rally, Mr. Wigneswaran had said that while the government in Colombo made big promises to the international community, it was yet to meaningfully devolve powers to the Provinces.
“If we remain silent just because a new Constitution is being written, they will let us down,” he said.
The TPC, in a declaration released after the rally, put forth a host of demands, including a call for federalism, return of land in the Army’s control, release of political prisoners and addressing of concerns relating to missing persons.
Further, it highlighted challenges facing Northern Tamil fishermen.
Some political leaders and participants reportedly compared the Eluka Tamil rally, which described itself a “Tamil nationalist political event”, to the pro-LTTE Pongu Tamil (Tamil Rising) rallies during the ceasefire period from 2002 to 2004.
A section of Tamil intellectuals were concerned by the apparently explicit Tamil nationalist rhetoric. Rajan Hoole, a retired academic from the Jaffna University, said the Sinhalese involved in the “colonisation” were among the poorest who were given false hopes. “It is counterproductive to treat them as the enemy and we must give the government some time… that is why the TPC making this an issue of confrontation will not do the Tamils any good.”
He said Jaffna University, where the demonstration began, has many Sinhalese students. “The University is a good place to form common bonds and take up rights issues in a way that would ensure success.”
Senior TNA politician and Leader of Opposition R. Sampanthan, whose party ITAK did not participate in the rally, said: “People are entitled to their democratic expression. While the new government has taken positive steps, many Tamils are discontented with the inadequate progress”, he told The Hindu. “But we should also be careful so the process as a whole is not sabotaged.”