The TNA and the ‘Trust Issue’

The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) does not trust the Government. Nothing wrong in that. If all political entities trusted and agreed with one another there wouldn’t be separate political parties for too long, never mind the fact that politics would be quite boring. Mistrust, however, is not a one way street. Those who do not trust and harp on the fact all the time in order to play ‘No Show’ can but expect their political ‘others’ to distrust in return. If ‘trust’ is an issue to say ‘no’ to all exercises initiated by the Government, it amounts to a ‘no’ to all discussion on all issues.

The TNA has every right to say ‘We don’t trust you’, after all no entity, least of all political ones, can be trusted totally. The TNA has on this basis repeatedly refused to submit names to the Parliamentary Select Committee set up to deliberate on grievances and formulate solutions to alleviate the same. Now the TNA has said that it will reject the findings of the census on missing persons. One of the reasons cited for this rejection is ‘circumstances of disappearances and deaths not accommodated’. This is a barefaced lie and has been roundly refuted by the Department of Census and Statistics.

Director General of the Department D.C.A. Gunawardena, while pointing out that the exercise was modeled on international standards and practices of data gathering, responded to the TNA’s concerns thus: “If it’s a loss of life we even inquired into who the people they thought were responsible and whether it was people in civilian clothing or in uniform. We also checked the documents or any other material evidence of the relatives or family possessed in order to ascertain the authenticity of their claims.”

The TNA could of course charge that numbers and information can be fiddled around with. That’s always a possibility. However, if all relevant information was made public there would be ample opportunity for any interested party, the TNA included, to point out any error. As things stand, the Director’s assertion that the TNA was merely ‘playing politics’ seems to be an accurate sum-up.

Let’s flip the story. Is the TNA scared of the truth? Is the TNA scared that the numbers won’t support party rhetoric? Is the TNA scared that it would be revealed that many of the allegedly ‘disappeared’ are alive and kicking outside Sri Lanka? Are interested sections of the expatriate Sri Lankan community scared that the world would have to acknowledge that their perennial whines are based on falsehoods?

Some in the TNA have said the party will carry its own census. Even if we assumed that a political party has the money, personnel and expertise to conduct such an exercise, why on earth should anyone trust the outcome, considering the TNA has its own ‘trust issues’?

The TNA, after all, was the mouthpiece of the LTTE. The LTTE not only held Tamil civilians hostage but fired on those who tried to flee. The TNA remained silent through it all. The TNA claims it speaks for the Tamil community and voices their grievances, but remains silent about the greatest threat to the livelihoods of Tamil fisherman – Indian poachers. The TNA does not acknowledge that such an issue exists in the first place only because Sri Lankan Tamil fisherman can take to the sea, a privilege that accrued to them thanks to one fact alone: the military defeat of the LTTE by the Sri Lankan security forces.

There’s a lot of half-talk from the TNA. Those silences do not help build trust. If it’s all about ‘independent inquiry because of trust-lack’ then the TNA can move to reject all state programs in the Northern Province. Roads, after all, may be mined. Vaccinations maybe doctored. Curricula could be full of ‘distortion’. There is a Government minister at one end of each one of these programs.

The absence of wholesale rejection can be defended on the case-by-case principle, but then again the TNA has appeared to follow a principle of ‘outright distrust’ and given its long history of servility to gun-rule by a thug and a manifest tongue-twist when it comes to censuring even a single act of Thug-Thambi, the charge of ‘Political Fraud’ will be made. It will stick too.

Brinkmanship is allowed of course, but this is not a matter of trying to get the other to blink first. The TNA seems to be scared out of its wits to confront issues head on. Instead it draws from myths and legends, tendentious claims and outright lies. Rhetoric is good for elections but can be disastrous when it is pushed beyond the point of sobriety.

As of now the TNA is on the verge of falling from the edge of reason. That is not astute representation of constituency. That’s the art of political survival. That has been the bread and butter of the likes of R. Sampanthan and S. Premachandran. The tragedy is that people like C.V. Vigneswaran and M. Sumanthiran can do no better than tagging along behind these two-bit politicians. Perhaps they like the ‘Spoiler’ label.
Written by Malinda Seneviratne

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