India has a big role to play in Sri Lankan Tamil affairs, says C.V. Wigneswaran, TNA’s Chief Ministerial candidate

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa has a crucial role in addressing the issue of Indian fishermen poaching in Sri Lankan waters, according to C.V. Wigneswaran, the Tamil National Alliance’s (TNA) Chief Ministerial candidate contesting the Northern Provincial Council elections.

Indian fishermen using big trawlers, he said, came fairly early into Sri Lankan waters, caught all the fish and left the local people high and dry. The Sri Lankan and Indian Navies had a role to play in addressing the problem, he said.

It also had to be discussed with Ms. Jayalalithaa, he said, as “she is very much involved and interested in the welfare of the fishermen in her area.”

When TNA leader R. Sampanthan chose Mr. Wigneswaran as the Alliance’s Chief Ministerial candidate, there was a considerable resistance within the TNA. Some feared that the retired judge’s Colombo background may distance him from the Jaffna people and also pointed to his family links to the south – Mr. Wigneswaran’s daughters-in-law are Sinhalese. However, others felt he was the right candidate as he could boldly challenge the Sri Lankan State.

Over the last few weeks, Mr. Wigneswaran has been travelling across the Northern Province, meeting war widows and other women, whose husbands are among the “disappeared”, and who now find themselves single-handedly supporting three to four children.

“You see you have been living in an ivory tower and never had the occasion to be with the people to understand their suffering. The more you understand their suffering the more determined you are that you can do something for them, or that you should do something for them.”

In line with TNA’s known reliance on New Delhi, Mr. Wigneswaran sees India as having a big role to play in Sri Lankan Tamil affairs, as the 13th Amendment was a product of the Indo-Lankan Accord of 1987.

“We must not blame India for the shortcomings in the 13th Amendment. The spirit of the 13 Amendment was India’s, the wording was that of J.R. Jayawardene. There was a fox’s cunningness in the wording of it as expected of Jayawardene.”

Much needed to be done to make the amendment work, and if different parties could talk, it could be the first step towards reconciliation in this country, he said. India could currently play an important role by pressuring the Sri Lankan government in regard to demilitarisation and appointing civilians as governors in the north and east instead of people from the army.

It also appears that Mr. Wigneswaran might be open to ideas that would have been anathema to the LTTE.

He has spoken on the need for Tamil parties to strike an alliance with Sri Lanka’s Muslims, who are Tamil speaking but were targeted by the LTTE.

In addition to keeping alive the possibility of merging the Northern and Eastern provinces – a significant Tamil-speaking Muslim population resides in the East – he sees the larger Tamil-Muslim equation becoming very smooth with time.

No hatred

It was also wrong to have feelings of hatred towards the Sinhalese in the south many of whom, he said, were more articulate than even the Tamils on the rights of the Tamils.

Echoing the TNA’s politics, Mr. Wigneswaran said it was difficult to get rid of its predominantly Tamil nationalistic rhetoric, which critics see as being rather narrow, restrictive and even fundamentalist at one level.

“People speak from the bottom of their hearts about their dear ones who were killed or brutalised. This rhetoric is an outcome of that,’’ he said.