It was a relief to many that the Northern Provincial Council representatives for whom the people of the North had voted overwhelmingly, had reached a settlement today over their infighting over the sacking of their own four ministers for alleged corruption.
R. Sampanthan had made a trip for talks with Chief Minister C. Wigneswaran. Working round the clock, Sampanthan first met with his team and CVW with his. Ultimately a deal was sealed. The motion of no confidence by the Federal Party section of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) against the Chief Minister will be withdrawn by the FP. For Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran’s part, the two Ministers cleared by the Inquiry,
namely Balasubramaniam Deniswaran (Minister of Fisheries, Transport, Trade and Commerce, Rural Development, Road Development and Motor Traffic) and Pathmanathan Sathiyalingam (Minister of Health and Indigenous Medicine) will remain in office.
Although the latter two were cleared, CVW insists that files have gone missing and the clearance was because witnesses did not show up. He had insisted that they should go on leave so that new inquiries are not interfered with. Now after the deal, however, he has relented saying they may stay on but without interfering in any new inquiry. Initially Sampanthan had said he had no authority to give such an undertaking but that disagreement appears to have been ironed out.
Hatchets are buried for now, but for how long? Analysts say there are really no grounds for unity when the Tamil Congress’ Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam only wants vengeance against his grandfather’s nemesis, the Federal Party. Said a Federal Party Central Committee member, “Although the Federal Party is the only party negotiating for devolution and getting at least some army occupied lands released, Gajendrakumar is shouting against the FP claiming it has no principles. Suresh Premachandran of the EPRLF is resentful that he lost at the last elections and his brother Sarveswaran was not made a Minister in the NPC. PLOTE’s Tharmalingam Siddharthan should be grateful to us that we moved him from the Vanni where he had no chance of winning to Jaffna where he won by getting his father’s FP vote. But he is ungrateful.”
The next disagreement will be over whom CVW will replace the two sacked ministers with. Analysts say the FP would like trustworthy FP members while the Chief Minister will want Suresh Premachandran’s brother Kandiah Sarveswaran and Ananthy Sasitharan, both of whom stood by the Chief Minister in this mêlée.
Another bump on the road ahead is the allegation from the Chief Minister’s supporters that the two who were cleared are really guilty and got away because witnesses did not turn up. Tenders for Italian equipment for which a commission of 30% was asked for and declined, it is claimed by supporters of the CM, was paid when the dealer agreed to supply Chinese equipment with Italian labels for the tendered price. The rub from the FP’s point of view is that any new inquiry with new witnesses may lack credibility and be seen as a witch-hunt. One can go on holding inquiries until there is a guilty verdict, argued a Federalist.
A group of nonpartisan Tamil professionals met in Jaffna to discuss their concerns that this disunity would be bad for the Tamils as it is the time to negotiate with the government in strength. But at the same time, some felt that the problem is festering with likely bumps all along the road with no end in sight because of the inherent personality and policy differences masked only by the TNA label. It is therefore better, they argue, to be rid of the chief minister and the three partners of the FP, and move on alone even if with reduced strength. They underscore their point citing a group of 20 who went to discuss matters with the CM only to be told that he plans to form a new party on the framework of the Tamil Makkal Peravai. Recall that the TMP demonstrated on Friday (16th) for the CM, protesting the no-confidence motion him and causing untold misery to the public.
The CM has done further harm to his cause by holding talks last week with Douglas Devananda for support when it seemed that the no-confidence motion was likely to be moved. It was an anticlimax for someone trying to be V. Prabhakaran’s successor, praising him during the PC elections at a time when the TNA was trying to make-over from its radical past.
Prof. R. Sivachandran, once a member of the Federal Party Central Committee, points to the lack of principles in the CM and disclaiming any support for him. Prof. Sivachandrn says the basic problem is lack of democracy in the FP where nothing is done by the constitution. Nominations are handed out arbitrarily. He says he has been removed from the Central Committee while he was the Chief Organizer for Velanai where he braved Douglas Devananda’s thugs, but has never been told he has been removed and if so why and under what articles of the FP constitution. It is this lack of democracy, he asserts, that has led to all this turmoil including bringing CVW into the party without consultation. He recalls that at the last parliamentary elections, CVW refused to campaign for the FP.
Adds Prof. Sivachandrn, “I am sad that after all our struggles, our deaths, and our ongoing problems over occupied lands and Sinhalese settlements in our homelands paid for by the government, we are engaged in a prestige issue and making our youth tend towards extremism once again.”
Countered a retired Jaffna Tamil, “The only extremism is from the CVW side. But certainly when the corruption started with the Chunnakam ‘Oil in the Ground Water’ business, no one took a stand, not the Chief Minister, not Mavai Senathirajah. The CM’s office even helped arrange for the experts who gave false reports claiming the water to be pure. These basically gave former Minister Ainkaranesan a free hand. Now both sides are pretending to be stalwarts against corruption!”
Since Colombo Telegraph published Mr. R. Sampanthan’s letter to CM C.V. Wignesawaran yesterday, for balance we give the latter’s reply of 17th as well as all exchanges between them: