Douglas Devananda’s Budget Speech and the Tamil National Alliance

|by S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole
( November 26, 2012, Washington DC, Sri Lanka Guardian) Hon. Douglas Devananda’s budget speech on the 17th was a defence of the government’s record in the North and an anti-TNA diatribe. His claims are worth an internal TNA review for its own edification.
The pacifist SJV Chelvanayagam’s Federal Party is the senior partner in the LTTE-originated Tamil National Alliance led by R. Sampathan from the FP. TNA MPs contested under the FP symbol because the TNA is not registered.
The other constituents of the TNA want it registered but the Federalists are opposed. This has led to serious rifts where the FP’s partners are well-represented on TNA committees but the Federalists at the grassroots. Despite the resolution to register, Sampanthan has not done so and with good reason. Reports speak of the TNA partners laughing at the dignified elder as he tried to defend his not implementing the decision.
Devananda’ speech underscores Sampanthan’s reluctance. Devananda, in his critique of the TNA (much of which is petty like calling M.A. Sumanthiran a backdoor entrant to politics despite his yeoman service to Tamils through well-placed fundamental rights applications), mentions three other MPs who, it may be correctly argued, do no justice to the FP heritage. It explains why the Federalists do not want to be subsumed under the TNA aegis with its blemished history under the LTTE.
Devananda refers to an MP (probably Saravanabavan) whose Shabra Investments cheated many of their savings, leading to several suicides, and the MP’s newspaper Uthayan (Dawn). Playing on the English transliteration he renders it as Ooththayan (Dirty Fellow). Uthayan – see Box 1 – is a newspaper with unethical journalistic standards. But given how the government controls the press (even buying up the Yal Thinakkural recently, thereby diminishing Tamil space), Uthayan’s is a powerful and important alternative voice. But it can destroy its enemies. It explains why the TNA gave its candidature to the man.
Devananda also refers to another TNA MP (probably Premachandran) who was once the head of the Mandayan Group (Skull Group for putting bullets into skulls), the EPRLF’s assassination squad. This man, says Devananda, is a so-called human rights activist today. A fourth MP he refers to is a TNA MP who helped the LTTE gather people as human shields in 2009 for the LTTE but saved himself by running away in a Red Cross vehicle with LTTE loot which he now uses to run his own media. My guess is that the reference is to associated with Sritharan.
The rest of Devananda’ speech is nonsense. Facing a murder trial, being a proclaimed offender in India, and living in Sridhar Theatre which he has taken over by force from its rightful owner to use as his palace, he should be the last person to preach about murder and corruption. His budget speech boasts how he has been elected MP since 1994, without mentioning that with the LTTE boycott, many of his MPs got elected with under 10 votes and survive today through rigging, murder and the protection of the armed services in the islands (see The Sunday Leader 24.07.2011 and Box 2). Devananda boasts of development without mentioning that much of the development has focus on colonizing Tamil areas with his collusion.
For his services, Devananda is allowed to call himself “the government representative of Jaffna district.” In exchange, at the LLRC hearings his thugs appeared with pistols tucked into their trouser waists, but selectively visible by moving up the shirt – for the express purpose of dissuading the families of the disappeared from testifying to what the government had done. Devananda’s cadres have been implicated in several murders and they are not even questioned by the Sri Lankan police, says Reporters without Borders.
With Devananda’s firm grip, even some dignified people in Jaffna have fallen into his net by begging for University Council seats, where many members do not qualify as intellectuals fit for running a university and are seen in bathroom slippers at meetings. Without these petty positions, in Jaffna there would be no active life for them.
As I write, Devananda has interfered in Jaffna University. The appointments of computer application assistants, selected after testing by the university, are on hold. As his personally selected VC placed a new list with his stooges among the Council papers and Deans objected, the appointments have dragged on for several noisy meetings. Although Devananda controls the Council, Dean K. Kandasamy in charge of the tests walking out has made the stooges including the VC reluctant to ram through the EPDP list. The VC says the Registrar is responsible for the new list whereas he tables only papers given to him.
At the Teaching Hospital there are allegations of corruption by Devananda’s Director, Dr. Bhavani Pasupathirajah. To protect her, Devananda had sent a list of 26 names for rubber stamping as Hospital Development Society Members. Because of rivalry with one Thangarajah (claiming to be SLFP Jaffna District Organizer), the ministry had sent back 53 names. Since then Devananda, lacking control, has not called the Development Society to order as he does the University Council to give his orders.
Devananda ruining Tamil institutions sits well with government intentions. Intrinsically communal, it also does not want any one Tamil growing too big for his boots. So we have three persons – Devananda, Thangarajah and Angajan Ramanathan (who was shot at, beaten up and hospitalized by Devananda’s cadres according to him), claiming to represent the government. The attack on Ramanathan was never punished because that bickering suits the President.
At the hospital and the university, it is clear that Devananda’s reign is being challenged by dissension. It is said that the government is confident that Devananda can never be elected Chief Minister, given his local government performance, and that his protégé Prof. P. Balasundarampillai (former VC/Jaffna) who was appointed to the university Council by Devananda is sending out feelers if he could be the UPFA candidate. To Devananda’s horror, Minister Keheliya Rambukwella has reportedly said the president wants to encourage retired public servants entering politics on his behalf. With these squabbles within the UPFA, the sufferings of the Tamils will continue with unfit people as our administrators.
The government, however, will find letting go of Devananda quite difficult, given their shared dark secrets he can let out of the bag.
Box 1: Uthayan Newspaper
Uthayan is an unethical newspaper that has been bombed and whose reporters killed by government-allied forces. It would make a study on how bad editors become heroic and receive honours when attacked by undemocratic forces. Many like me are glad that Uthayan is there as an alternative voice although we too have suffered from it.
Editor Gnanasundaram Kuganathan in Intensive Care (July 2011)
It was late 2005 or early 2006. Uthayan was the LTTE’s voice. I was a VC candidate. Uthayan ran several articles against me with statements from non-existent organizations.
During this time I attended the Thurairajah Memorial Lecture at Jaffna University by Prof. Dayantha Wijesekera. Uthayan published an article saying that students had blocked my way with placards and that I had to leave without attending the lecture. I went straight to the editor and told him that I was there for the full lecture, had met no demonstrators and had left the lecture together with the speaker, the then VC and Chancellor Prof. M. Sivasooriar. (The placards were organized after my departure). The editor dissembled surprise that his reporter would be untruthful and promised to check. The next day he published what I had told him, but with the cryptic rejoinder that Uthayan had asked Sivasooriar who replied he could not comment as he had left the lecture early. That undid my account and I was made to look a liar with Sivasooriar’s authority. I do not know if they cooked up Sivasooriar’s statement or he replied out of fear.
BOX 2: The Two Friends Wanted for Murder: Nepolean [sic.] in Background with Devananda
Nepolean, (a,k.a. Sebastianpillai Ramesh) is Devananda’s Paramilitary Leader. Reporters without Borders, writing of BBC Correspondent Nimalrajan’s murder, states “Two of the suspects […] were released by the Vavuniya high court on 11 September [2003]. The judge ordered them freed on bail of Rs. 100,000 in response to a request by the EPDP lawyer. The judge did not even confiscate their passports although another suspect, Napoleon, had already reportedly fled the country.”
Reporters without Borders adds, that Devananda, “a government minister at the time of the murder, had never been questioned.”  Nepolean was able to travel to London where he now lives in luxury. Government obliged him with a passport under the name Roman Kumar Patrick de Silva
It was the same Nepolean who, according to D.B.S. Jeyaraj, led the gang of EPDP goons who accosted the TULF in Naranthanai and launched a brutal assault where two TULF activists were killed and Mavai Senathirajah and Sivajilingam sustained injuries. I have personally interviewed S.X. Kulanayagam, the FP Councillor on whose lap one of the victims died bleeding after his hand was chopped off.

Author: Sri Lanka Guardian

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