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Eelamism, As Livelihood

2013 Jul 09

Rasika Jayakody

Almost 14 months after the JVP insurrection in 1971, Eelamist Tamil Student League Leader Sathyaseelan attempted to murder A. Tiyagarajah, a Tamil Congress MP who dissented from the party, joined the ruling coalition and extended his support to the constitution of 1972.  That was one of the earliest landmarks as far as the Eelamist struggle in Sri Lanka is concerned.

The first Police force member to be killed by the Eelamist militants was A. Karunanithy, a Tamil constable attached to the Kankesenthurei police station. That was almost two years after Sathyaseelan’s attempt to murder Tiyagarajah.

Starting from that, Eelamist terrorists carried out a massive onslaught against Tamil police officers in the North during the mid 70s. ITAK, formed by S.J.V. Chelvanayagam who fathered the Eelamist militancy in Sri Lanka, whole-heartedly approved such killings and encouraged them, overtly and covertly. Chelvanagayagam protégé A. Amirthalingam was the fiery orator of the ITAK back then who later went on to form the TULF and became the opposition leader in 1977, when the SLFP suffered a landslide defeat.

It would take a bout of amnesia to forget that the first victims of the Eelamist terrorism in Sri Lanka were Tamils. They first attacked Tamil police officers and Tamil politicians who represented mainstream political parties such as the SLFP and the UNP, in Jaffna. It is widely known that the first significant act of terror, committed by Velupillai Prabhakaran, was the killing of Alfred Duraiappah, the then Mayor of Jaffna, who represented the SLFP. Not only Prabhakaran or the LTTE, but also the other Eelamist Tamil groups such as TELO, EPRLF, PLOTE and EROS, who were at the incipient stage, also resorted to the same strategy.

This was no coincidence. The conspicuous objective of the onslaught against non-Eelamist Tamils was to eliminate non-Eelamism  from the North and tilt the playing field. TULF represented Eelamism on the parliamentary front and Tamil militants represented the same on the military front, thus creating a two-pronged approach to form a separate Tamil state on the soil of Sri Lanka. Towards the end of the 1970s, the TULF and the Tamil military groups whom the TULF pampered and nurtured became the proprietors of Eelamism

In the same way, when the LTTE became the most powerful Tamil military group in the North, during the 1985-1987 period, Prabhakaran launched a massive onslaught against other Tamil militarists such as the members of TELO, PLOTE and EPRLF. In April-May 1986, a considerable number of TELO activists were burnt alive in Jaffna by the LTTE and a few months later, other Tamil military groups too faced the same destiny, making Eelamism a fiefdom of Prabhakaran and the LTTE. By 1989, Prabhakaran killed A. Amirthalingam, fearing that India would favour the latter, after militarily vanquishing the LTTE through IPKF.

Until his death in May, 2009, Prabhakaran, the ruthless leader of the LTTE, was the sole proprietor of Eelamism. There was no non-LTTE Eelamist movement as an alternative to the LTTE. Anyone who dissented was forced to do away with Eelamism and pushed towards aligning with the “government of Colombo” primarily to protect their lives. If not, they were left out of the equation using the incomparable military power of the LTTE. (Not to mention non-Eelamist Tamils)

As a result of this extreme polarization, when the LTTE leader was killed by the Sri Lanka Army near the Nandikadal lagoon in the Mullaitivu district, the Eelamist concept, for which tens and thousands of Tamil militarists fought for more than three decades, also died. There was no one was else to take over the ‘Eelam baton’ on the soil of Sri Lanka and continue any form of political struggle..

Today, four years after the death of Prabhakaran, even if the Rajapaksa government , by any chance, accedes to the formation of a separate state in the North and East, the Eelamist state will not see the light of day simply because it clashes with the ground reality! There are no subjective or objective conditions on the ground for the formation of a separate state.

It was in this context that V. Rudrakmaran became the Prime Minister of the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam, aiming to create a separate Tamil homeland in Sri Lanka. Rudrakumaran has a shadow cabinet and a consultative committee. Last week, Thinamurusu, a Tamil weekly critical of the LTTE, reported that meetings of the Provisional Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam take place via skype. They collect funds, organize demonstrations and do constant lobbying. They also hold referendums and pass resolutions. They are well organized and committed to the core. One might wonder why they display a commitment of this magnitude for a concept that has lost viability in their so called ‘homeland’.

It is unlikely to believe that Rudrakumaran and the top echelons of his TGTE government are unaware that subjective and objective conditions for the formation of a separate state in Sri Lanka are non-existent. But the TGTE and the LTTE rump are very much in action. Why?

One reason is the numerous funding channels to which they have access. Another reason is the clout they have in the electoral process of countries where there is a large population of Tamils and the bargaining power it generates. People love money and power. And they want to compromise on things that would bring them money and power. Rudrakumaran and TGTE are no exception. If they acknowledge the ground reality, that will deprive them of their slogans; in a business context, their selling points.

Considering the present state of affairs in the TGTE, one can come to the assumption although ‘Eelamism’ has lost its viability as a political concept; it is still effective as a way of sustenance and livelihood.

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