What the TNA's volte-face signifies
The process of political realignment in the run up to the Jan. 26 polls has taken a dramatic turn with arch rivals joining forces and friends falling out. There could be seen many a strange bedfellow on either side of the political divide.
However, it is the TNA's volte face that takes the cake! The moment former army chief Gen. (retd) Sarath Fonseka announced his intention to contest for the presidency, the Diasporic Tigers flew off the handle. Jumping up and down and letting out a howl of fury, they swore that he would not get any support from the Tamils at home. But, a few weeks on, they have made a U-turn, as evident from the TNA's decision to back Fonseka. They seem to have decided to go on the so-called my-enemy's-enemy-is-my-friend basis in a bid to further their interests in the post-LTTE Sri Lanka!
On the sidelines of peace talks between the LTTE and the UNF government in 2002, the LTTE demanded that the then Jaffna Security Forces Commander Maj. Gen. Sarath Fonseka be removed from the North immediately. When the government delegation asked Anton Balasingham why the LTTE wanted him removed, he accused Fonseka of using an iron fist in dealing with the populace. The LTTE was desperate to have Fonseka transferred as he did rightly resist attempts to dismantle high security zones at that time. And he, to the consternation of the then government, also prepared a report citing reasons why extraordinary security measures could not be compromised in view of increasing LTTE threats.
The TNA, which was the LTTE's mouthpiece, used to disrupt parliamentary proceedings with all kinds of protests accusing as it did the army of human rights violations under Gen. Fonseka's command. TNA parliamentarians also did a Hanuman by setting Tamil Nadu ablaze by claiming that the army resorted to genocidal violence thus causing Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi to go so far as to threaten to pull out support for the Congress government unless India intervened to put the kibosh on the conflagration across the Palk Strait.
It was the TNA's anti-Sri Lankan campaign at the behest of the LTTE and the attendant vivisection by South Indian politicians of the Sri Lankan army that prompted Gen. Fonseka to vent his spleen on the Tamil Nadu leaders; he bluntly called them a bunch of jokers. He got into hot water over that remark which also figured in an Indian Parliament debate. (Backing Gen. Fonseka, we said in these columns that he had been quite charitable in describing the pro- LTTE Tamil Nadu politicians, whom we called a gang of criminals aiding and abetting terrorism.)
Gen. Fonseka drew a great deal of flak from the LTTE, the TNA, and the Diasporic Tigers who called for an immediate international intervention in Sri Lanka, claiming that thousands of civilians were perishing at the hands of the army. The other day, Fonseka in a statement to a Sunday newspaper denied the occurrence of war crimes and said he took the full responsibility for all that the army had done under his command.
It is a supreme irony that the TNA and the Diasporic Tigers have had to eat their words. By throwing their weight behind the former army chief, they have admitted, for all intents and purposes, that they misled the world by levelling allegations of genocidal violence against the army. They have been caught with their pants down! At least now, they must stop claiming that the army committed war crimes because they are of the considered opinion that Gen. Fonseka is fit to be the President (as well as Commander in Chief). Would they ever have supported him, if they had had the slightest suspicion that the army he commanded was responsible for war crimes?
Interestingly, while Gen. Fonseka was waging the war, New Left Front leader Dr. Wickramabahu Karunaratne, who is also running for the presidency, led an anti-war campaign against tremendous odds. The latter's mission dovetailed well with that of the TNA and the LTTE. But, the TNA and others of its ilk, who were full of praise for Wickramabahu for his courage and concern for the civilians trapped in the war zone, have left him in the lurch. They have embraced the man of war and spurned the man of peace!