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Selected Writings by Dharmeratnam Sivaram (Taraki)
The scramble for candidates begins!
7 December 1997
All Tamil parties and groups are quite eager to contest the local government elections in Jaffna. They see this, among many other things, as an unique opportunity to prove to the Tamil people and to the world they do have a place in the Tamil political heartland.
Their alacrity in the matter, however subdued, is such that they seem little bothered by the dire calamities in the Wanni war front which may further delay the seven month old Op. Jaya Sikurui from opening the road to Jaffna.
Nominations have been called for elections to 17 local government bodies in the peninsula. Of these thirteen are Pradeshiya Sabhas, three are the Urban Councils of Valvettithurai, Pt. Pedro and Chavakachcheri and the Municipal Council of Jaffna. The thirteen Pradeshiya Sabhas are Kayts, Delft, Velanai, Valigamam west, Valigamam north, Valigamam southeast, Valigamam south, Valigamam east, Vadamaradchi southeast, Pt. Pedro, Chavakachcheri, Nallur and Pachchilaipalli. Some of these are either no go areas or fall within the boundaries of military bases.
The Tamil parties and groups have not been deterred by the increasing activities of the Liberation Tigers in the peninsula. On the eve of Maaverar day, the LTTE distributed printed leaflets of Prabhakaran's speech to every house and business in Jaffna town. Another group of Tigers lit lamps at the now demolished LTTE martyr's memorial in Kopay. This group later attacked an army patrol near the St. Mary's church in the area. The army was again attacked by the LTTE in Manthivil and in an area west of Nagar Kovil. On Friday evening a grenade was thrown on an army position near the Jaffna railway station in the heart of the high security zone defended by the 51-2 Brigade.
Despite this, the scramble for seeking out suitable and willing candidates for the local government polls in Jaffna has begun.
The SLFP branch in the peninsula met on Thursday and unanimously resolved to contest the local government polls. The SLFP's deputy organiser for Jaffna Mr. Thevakulanayakam who works as a peon at Vaiththeeswara college says a list of candidates for the Jaffna municipality elections will soon be prepared in consultation with the party's head office in Colombo. That another organiser of the party was shot dead in his home in Jaffna's high security zone has not prevented other SLFPers from joining the fray.
The most important and unique factor in the elections for the Jaffna Municipal council will be the TULF's decision. The party's politburo will meet this morning to discuss whether should contest the elections. There is a general view in the party leadership that it should not have kept away from the L.G polls in the east in March 1994.
The party leader M. Sivasithamparam has said so on several occasions. It is most likely the TULF will field candidates for elections to the Jaffna municipality and a few other local government bodies. Even if the security situation compels the party to review its decision, it might still tacitly back an independent group consisting of candidates of the TULF's choice. It is understood that Mr. Maavai Senathirajah and the lawyer Raviraj flew to Jaffna yesterday to assess the situation and most probably find candidates. Several people to whom I spoke in Jaffna town were of the opinion that the TULF may find it somewhat difficult to get the number of candidates below 35 years as stipulated by the LG election law. The party has little support among the youth in Jaffna.
The PLOTE was the first group to categorically announce it will contest the polls. Its military wing leader Maanikkam Daasan will be the mayoral candidate.
Daasan is from the Jaffna town. He has sought to build up a positive political image in the peninsula and elsewhere in recent times by staging anti government demonstrations and satyagrahas in support of the arrested and disappeared in the north.
The EPDP is depending on the role it has played in backing and promoting the organisation for the arrested and disappeared in Jaffna and the assistance it has been able to grant to a large number of people in the peninsula through its nine members of Parliament. Douglas and his men seem to think the large number of people who daily throng to their office in Jaffna town is an indication of the popular support they enjoy in the peninsula. The EPDP also thinks it stands a good chance as the only Tamil group that has not been tainted by any of the calamities which befell the Tamils of the northeast since 1986 and particularly under the Indian army. But it remains to be seen whether the Jaffna mind (if we can reify such things for explanatory convenience) has permanently dissociated Douglas, the military wing commander of the EPRLF from Douglas, the leader of the EPDP. The EPRLF is anathema in the peninsula. It has, however, boldly opened an office in Jaffna town, hoping against all hope that the TNA conscription disaster and its days with the IPKF will be forgotten and perhaps forgiven.
The TELO and the EROS have very little time to pull their act together before nominations are closed. Meanwhile to add colour (one cannot think of anything else) to the Jaffna LG polls the EPDP's two rebel MPs Rameswaran and Ramamoorthy are also currently exploring the possibility of fielding some candidates independently. They are expected in Jaffna soon.
However, a well informed person in Jaffna town (whose opinion is well regarded by the Jaffna security forces commander and other military officials) said on Friday that if certain community leaders in Jaffna town who are still identified with the LTTE by the general public were to form an independent group with tacit approval of the Tigers, then, according to what he solemnly asserts, the Tamil parties and groups may have nothing much to hope for in the Jaffna local government elections.
But Prabhakaran has made it quite clear to the people of Jaffna in his Maveerar Day speech which was delivered to their doorsteps, that he, right now, is in no mood for politics.