| by I.S. Senguttuvan
( April 09, 2012, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) The reputation of the Rajapakses in the eyes of the world, badly bruised and battered long before the Geneva debacle, may find a deliverer from a somewhat unexpected quarter. There have been indications for sometime the Rajapakse regime, more to win the goodwill of both Tamilnadu and Delhi against its consistent record of serious violations against the Tamils of Sri Lanka in the light of recent developments was looking for a well known name to be fielded as a candidate for the post of Chief Minister of the Northern Province . It has to be one not tainted by opportunistic politics or the gun culture that consumed the politics of the NEP in recent decades. The long-suffering Tamil people cannot be blamed if they yearned for someone outside the regular box.
The lawyer-son of the late Tamil Nationalist leader S.J.V. Chelvanayakam – S. C. Chandrahasan – has been living in Chennai since 1983. He came into Indian and international limelight during the Rajiv Gandhi tenure as Indian PM when Indian immigration authorities initially refused to allow him in from his plane. The controversy was eventually settled with the then Tamilnadu CM fighting very strongly on his behalf. Since then he has been living a low-profile life – visiting the Lankan diaspora in Britain , E/U, the USA and, occasionally brief visits to Sri Lanka . He heads OfERR – the Organisation for Eelam Refugees Rehabilitation – dedicated to help the large number
of Sri Lankan refugees that flowed into India in waves as and when the conflict in the Island deteriorated. The good work done by OfERR has engaged the respect of successive Tamilnadu governments, Delhi as well as many relief agencies in the world. The gentle and soft-speaking lawyer has made many friends in the political, academic and social network in India during his stay of over a quarter of a century. Through his work at OfERR he has also built a future to benefit hundreds of youth living in these camps not only to continue their education but also enable them to find jobs in the growing economy in India hungry for hands. The good work Chandrahasan does has throughout won the appreciation of Tamilnadu political leaders. Nearly 70,000 Lankan refugees now live in 414 Tamilnadu camps in 26 Districts awaiting return to the Island . They cannot be blamed if the continuous assurances by the Rajapakse regime to the effect normalcy and safety has returned in their home areas is not taken upon. It was only a few days ago Leader of the Opposition Ranil Wickremasinghe who charged in Parliament this year alone 56 abductions have been reported of which 19 filed in the records of UNHRC in Geneve this March. If this is the state of affairs in the safe South the situation has to be feared in the Tamil areas where it is claimed there is a soldier or Policemen for every fourth Tamil breathing over the necks of the people in the North.
In a show of support CM Jayalalitha recently increased the monthly stipend of Lankan refugees to nearly Rs.5,000 per family. She also ordered an increase to them in the quantity of rice & subsidiaries the Indian government made available to them from the time they entered India . In addition, many women were given Sewing machines and other educational equipment aimed at income-generating purposes. Chandrahasan is in record of having expressed his appreciation to CM Jayalalitha on behalf of OfERR and the refugees.
Chandrahasn gave indications of his desire to return to the Island when he campaigned in Colombo on behalf of Tamil candidates during the April 2010 Parliamentary Elections – more as a personal friend than on considerations of Party allegiance. These were not candidates of the leading Tamil parties – the TNA, TULF or EPDP. By that visit, obviously in consultation with high sources in the government, he was signalling his intention to enter the Island ’s political landscape in due time.
The present speculation Chandrahasan may be a government-favoured candidate for the post of Chief Minister of the bifurcated Northern Province is a good one. Indications are the perception even among hardliners in the Sinhala South is changing to a more inclusive one and that sensitive advantage must be acted upon. If Chandrahasan’s candidature happens it is bound to benefit many individuals, political parties and will, in fact, go far to serve the process of unity in the Island – now veering towards disintegration. I must hasten to add this is more due to the mediocre style of governance of the Rajapakse clan than of any other. In the event of the PC Elections itself, likely to be held during mid-20112, the greatest beneficiary will be President Rajapakse and his family – the virtual power structure in the Island where Parliament has been reduced to a rubber stamp. As to the main Opposition, it dissipates most of its time and energy fighting the already reduced Parliamentary Group – many of whom presently well entrenched in government ministerial ranks.
It is not known under what Party Chandrahasan may decide to contest. It is unlikely he will come through the ranks of the TNA, whose equation with the government has not been the most accommodative. It is not possible he may work with Douglas Devananda’s EPDP – that is far too stained and washed out both internally and externally. This leaves only the TULF of the major parties – that appears to be the most likely choice. TULF, after all, is the party associated with his much revered father. Although the TULF itself went through a process of distintegration with Anandasangaree going one way and the other senior Parliamentarians the other, the latter is still held in esteem by the Tamil people who may flock behind it if Chandrahasan choses to contest under its name. The other likelihood is for a TNA-TULF Coalition backing Chandrahasan’s candidature – which appears to be the more likely possibility. In such an event a huge mandate for Chandrahasan will have an almost unanimous flavour. The government is likely to delay the NP elections until some of the infra-structure projects undertaken and likely to improve the general condition of the popular (electricity, drainage/water), more by donor funding, in the Province gestates. Chandrahasan might welcome a later date because there is so much to catch up with in a Province that has turned topsy-turvy in the past many decades. Last May when a common friend visited Chandrahasan in Chennai and enquired about the Swimming Pool at Jaffna Central College , he claimed no knowledge of it. He even went out to suggest there was hardly any space in the school for a Pool. The new Pool was opened with much fanfare recently and is held as a showpiece of the Rajapakse regime’s – a “Gift of Friendship to the people of Jaffna town” as some Rajapakse insiders tell me. It certainly is something to be happy about.
A Chandrahasan candidature and an eventual victory – supported directly or otherwise by the government – will go far to repair the image of President Rajapakse – locally, in India and internationally – as someone who has by design harmed the Tamils in many a way. He has continued to deny this. But being in denial, it has been proved over and over again, is a prerogative of the Rajapakse siblings – now turned into a dubious art.
Ensuring the son of the very man who gave substance to the separatist agenda to be placed in the reins of power in the Tamil-dominated Northern Province , will have multiple benefits to the Rajapakses. It certainly will cushion the growing anger and agitation in Tamilnadu – that invariably ricochets in Delhi . It will put off for many decades, even for good, any semblance of the Tamils choosing a Separate State. It will engage the warmth of Delhi , the USA , Great Britain and the international community if the Tamil areas really reap the benefits of self-rule and State-inspired Infra-structure development. But it will not be easy for the Rajapakses. Their biggest obstacles come from the hawks within. Gothabhaya Rajapakse’s retort “What singing of the National Anthem in Tamil? We will never allow that” is only a further senseless precursor of his earlier insistence “What devolution? There is nothing more to devolve. We have given everything we can. There will be nothing more” He (GR) will know by now while potty dictators have their own delusions, today’s world at large, where the R2P mechanism and many such, are putting paid to the petty dreams of 2-bit mini-tyrants. GR is not the only problem within. The Weerawansas, Ranawakes, Dinesh Gunawardenas, Elle Gunawansas, Nalins, Amerasekeras, Mervin Silvas are not going to easily yield in giving up the inganage vanaya (beggar’s wound) viz:- the Tamil bogey.
Ranawake, ignorant of Cabinet responsibility, threatened to take his hordes to the streets of the recommendations of the LLRC are implemented. President Rajapakse preferred to remain silent on his crude threat.
It is upto Mahinda Rajapakse to gather up the necessary backbone to lead the country, lead against the contradictions within his fold and steer the country away from disintegration – towards unity and reconciliation. The time and place are right for this.