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Gajendrakumar clarifies differences in TNPF-TNA polity

[TamilNet, Monday, 10 August 2015, 23:37 GMT]
In an interview to TamilNet on Sunday, Tamil National Peoples Front (TNPF) leader Mr Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam clarified the differences between the TNPF polity and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) polity on the question of solutions to the national question of Eezham Tamils, amidst claims by TNA politician Mr M.A. Sumanthiran that both the TNA and the TNPF talk of the same thing. Whether Tamils like to confirm the line of guided polity taken by imperialisms of own interests over the island, or whether Tamils like to edify (if not confront) the imperialisms by passing a strong message, is the difference between voting for the TNA and voting for the TNPF, commented Tamil political observers in Jaffna.

The Eezham Tamils have to be prepared for a confrontation approach if the message is not effectively passed in the election to the ultimate culprits, the political observers in Jaffna further commented.



The implied message of TNPF leader in the interview is that while the TNA pursues a subdued polity, influenced by the outside elements that are not prepared to accept the fact that the question of ‘internal self-determination’ is exhausted in the case of the nation of Eezham Tamils, the TNPF argues for the fact that the so-called internal self-determination and ‘domestic’ mechanisms are essentially an agenda of the outside forces betraying the ground realities.

Mr Gajendrakumar cited the solid evidence of the election campaign of all the mainstream political parties of the Sinhala nation that are not prepared even to accept any federal solution, but standing for unitary ‘Sri Lanka’, despite the tall claims of solution under the sleeves by the outside elements.

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Some of the excerpts from the interview follow:

On Federalism and Sovereignty:

The basis on which our party, the Tamil National Peoples Front (TNPF), when we talk in terms of a political solution, we use the term two nation one country, and the term a federal arrangement.

What we mean is that two distinct nations, sovereign in their own right, shall negotiate and come to an agreement with regards to what matters those nations will co-operate on a federal level, on a higher level, in order to make the feasibility of a united country meaningful.

As to what those competencies are, that we are going to share at the federal level, is something that can only come out through discussions.

Primarily, the distinction between the federal arrangement we talk about, and federal arrangement which the TNA promotes in its manifesto is that the TNA clearly states that they are for an devolutionary path, it effectively means, as a matter of fact that the TNA will accept the Sri Lankan state sovereignty as it is right now, and they will say that the Sri Lankan parliament is sovereign and they will ask the SL State's parliament to devolve powers to the peripheries.

The federal arrangement of the TNA means that it is the Sri Lankan parliament, which is ultimately sovereign, and it is that parliament that will choose to devolve some of its sovereignty to its provinces.

“As far as we are concerned, we find it problematic, because legally a power that is sovereign, and choses to devolve some of its sovereign powers, has the right to withdraw those powers that it devolves.

The distinction between the TNA and us is that in our case, we insist that it is the Tamil nation, it is the concerned nations themselves, who are sovereign in their own right, and it are those nations through a process of negotiation and understanding who are to choose to give up some parts of their sovereignty or pool some parts of their sovereignty at a supra level in order to create a united country.

We are very clear in what we are saying that we are for a federal arrangement, and what that federal arrangement is, is only going to be determined through a process of negotiation

As far as we are concerned, the definition for a federal arrangement also includes, confederation. It can even include a quasi-federal state, which is obviously a much more centralized state.

But, as you know, when you talk in terms of nation and concerned nations being sovereign in their own right, then we are looking at a federal arrangement, which is far more advanced, and certainly tilting much more close to a confederation.

Right to Self-Determination vs ‘Internal self-determination’:

As far as we are concerned, and it is widely accepted, although there are now certain sections of the legal academia, who try to contest this fact. If you take all the UN instruments, there is no mention of the right to internal self-determination, but only a clear and consistent mention of the right to self-determination.

The right to self-determination means that a nation or a people choose by themselves, they have the right to choose their own political destiny by themselves. Whether that decision is one of where they choose to cohabitate with another nation albeit within a state or whether they choose to form a distinct and separate sovereign state of their own, is their right.

The Oslo communiqué, very mischievously, in my view tried to limit that Right, it tried to say that there is a separate right to internal self-determination. The logic behind that is that is that you only have the right to the so-called external self-determination, where you have exhausted your rights under this so-called notion of internal self-determination. They are limiting the Right to self-determination, to one of internal (Self-determination) which means that people actually don't have the completely right to decide by themselves.

Our view is that there is no such law, it is very clear that this is international politics which are being applied, it is not law it is not a legal principle. It is international politics, and the expediencies of the interests of powers, which are trying to make use of this false notion of internal self-determination, and try to dichotomize the whole concept of self-determination in its entirety.

We reject that, we believe that the right to self-determination is indivisible, that there is only one right to self-determination, there is no internal or external, and it is that right to self-determination as a whole to which that the Tamil nation, like any other nation are entitled to exercise.

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Translated excerpts from the TNPF manifesto follow:

Currently a global competition centered on Sri Lanka is unfolding. Tamil people have a significant place in this global politics. This competition provides the Tamil people a significant negotiating power. TNPF firmly believes that if we use this power as a leverage and articulate the political desires of the Tamil people with vigor, we can move towards reaching our goal for self-determination.

The articulation above of two nations - one state should not be interpreted as us denying the rights of Muslims or Up Country (Malaiyaka) Tamils. We acknowledge the right to self-determination of the Muslims and Up Country Tamils. However, we believe that Muslims and Hill Country Tamils have to self-determine if they want to advance their politics as one relating to self-determination. We are unhesitatingly ready to join hands with the Muslims and Hill country Tamils in our struggle against the Sinhala Buddhist nation state of Sri Lanka.

Tamil peoples welfare can only be firmly established when we obtain international recognition for the Tamil homeland, our distinct Nationhood, and the right to self-determination.

We cannot attain these goals within the existing political structure which is essentially a Sinhala-Buddhist nation-state. Tamil peoples welfare and rights can be safeguarded only if a state reformation takes place where the sovereignties of the two nations are pooled to create a single State.

The demand for recognizing the Tamil Nation is not empty rhetoric. The demand has practical political connotations.

The Sinhala Nation asserts that the sovereignty lies exclusively with them.

Any power-sharing scheme based on the idea of devolutionary federalism within the idea of Sri Lanka as a Sinhala Buddhist nation-state will not deliver a permanent solution. Because, in such a scheme the powers that Tamils will enjoy are granted at the will of the Sinhala Buddhist Nation.

The Sinhala Buddhist Nation-State of Sri Lanka can thus revoke any devolutionary federal agreement through a new constitutional scheme. If a federal scheme is however based on the recognition of Tamil Nationhood and distinct sovereignty the Sinhala Buddhist nation then loses the right to unilaterally withdraw from any agreement – and if it does international consequences would follow.

It is this reasoning that has led us to our conviction that 13th Amendment or the Provincial Councils created under the 13th Amendment cannot be used even as a starting point to negotiate a political solution.

We regard the following three directions important to deriving at an acceptable final and just political solution:

  1. To strengthen the Tamil struggle by further consolidating and by building mass movements of Tamils living in our homeland and within diaspora Tamils.

  2. Include progressive Sinhala and Muslim activists in the righteous struggle to secure fundamental justice and rights.

  3. Use the position of Sri Lanka in the geopolitics of powerful states, and the importance of Tamil struggle in shaping the competition, to influence the International Opinion towards supporting Tamil political aspirations.


Any negotiations with the Sri Lanka Government mediated by international actors

If no results are forthcoming through negotiations, TNPF will amass support from the Tamil people to call for a Referendum.

We regard a referendum as a legitimate and required path to assert our right for self-determination. We would want to refrain from unilaterally setting up a time frame for reaching such results. We plan to consult the Tamil people and generate a time table with their participation. Our goal is to transform Tamil politics into a mass-citizen politics.

It is acknowledged that War Crimes, Crimes against Humanity and Genocide were committed against Tamil people. What we are seeking is justice through an international judicial process.

Various reports demanded by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) are insufficient to deliver justice.

Perpetrators of these International Crimes should be identified and produced in the Courts of Law. Any investigation into the crimes committed against Tamil people should include all international crimes, including genocide.

TNPF’s position is that the OISL report should recommend to the UN Security Council to refer Sri Lanka to the International Criminal Court or establish a distinct International Tribunal to adjudicate on the crimes committed against the Tamils.

The 1983, Sixth Amendment to Sri Lanka’s Constitution which suppresses freedom of speech of an individual in violation of International Human Rights Laws should be abolished.

We will work with the assistance of our diaspora Tamils, who form an inseparable component of our Nation, to find solutions to the day-to-day issues faced by our people.

TNPF will work jointly with the Tamil Nadu Tamils for a just political, social and economic advancement of our people. With the assistance of Tamil Nadu, we will nurture our relationship with people from other States of India, political leaders and civil organizations, and will work to obtain their support to expose the injustice inflicted on Tamils and to seek a just solution.

International Community failed to stop the genocide on Tamil people during 2006 to 2009 even under the pretext of humanitarian intervention.

Homeland, Nationhood, Right to Self-determination and Sovereignty are principles that are higher ideals than reconciliation. The above status form a fundamental tenet for safeguarding the welfare of our people.


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