Aside from a sporadic sign of dissatisfaction there has been no big hoo-ha about the arrest of KP, the self proclaimed Tamil Tigers’ new leader Selvaratnam Pathamanathn, in place of former commander in chief VP. KP’s arrest has long been merely a question of when rather than if. That was one of the reasons for Tamils not to bother too much about his arrest on 06th August 2009.
When VP’s death was confirmed, the Sri Lankan government had lots of breathing space, a mood of relief and KP was not their public enemy no 1, they did not attempt to go for him as a must do job. However KP’s interview on Channel 4 on 22nd July 2009 seemed to be the red button being pressed. KP’s 3.30 minutes interview out of 9.36 minutes brief documentary about the aftermath of the Tamil Tigers may be the reason for the Sri Lankan government to speed up the chase for KP.
Most people considered that the interview was a missed opportunity. He could have put his case for Tamils across to the international community more effectively. He should have made the international community think that it was time for them to put full scale pressure on the Sri Lankan government, if not intervening in Sri Lanka. Since he was aware of the interview he was supposed to give, he could have at least prepared to talk sensibly, but nothing happened in fulfilling the expectations of anxious Sri Lankan Tamils worldwide. Rather it alerted the Sri Lanka government to prepare for their very calculated move against him.
On 19th May 2009 KP announced that the Tamil Tigers silenced their weapons, but on 22nd July 2009, quite contrarily or more rightly saying, stupidly announced that there were 1500 carders waiting for his instructions. What at most could those 1500 carders do at his order? For argument’s sake 1500 suicide attacks, killing 15,000 or another zero added amount of more people. Would that bring a separate Tamil Ealam or would that kind of talk at least encourage the government, which bravely confronted the risk posed by a 24,000 or so Tiger fighters, to mend the way they had against Tamil Tigers. His appalling interview in the capacity of a leader of a society, which is totally confused for the direction for their political journey, irritated many. And in my view made them ask one important question as to who’s next. This question cannot necessarily be who’s going to be in the government’s arrest list. But who’s the next in line for hierarchy with substance.
In finding a suitable head , one would remember the German sociologist Max Weber’s classification of leaders. He says there are three types of them, namely, traditional, bureaucratic and charismatic. Theses are the leaders who come and go in ruling countries, leading nations in their struggle, finding solutions to the issues which emerge all of a sudden without any warnings.
In the Tamil community and Sri Lanka as a whole we had all kind of leaders as Weber ascribes, but none of them delivered the right solution to the very delicate issue of ethnic strife in a country which has an ethnic mosaic.
Traditional leaders, like anyone in the TNA, keep changing their stand according to their personal gains rather than society’s. Tamils have been having this sort of leaders since the independence. They have been useful for sorting out small things such as providing employment and bringing a modern building to their constituency with their own money making motive. People do not pay that much attention to their ulterior motives because of these leaders’ temporary tenure. However they have not been capable to be entrusted for a big job like solving ethnic problems or nation building.
Bureaucratic leaders cannot be much different from traditional leaders apart from their stand to stick with rules. These kind of leaders normally do not have creativeness nor are interested in finding ways of solving problems, their method of running a public office is almost a routine and keeps an eye on the ways of retaining power.
Charismatic leaders, on the other hand, always have a magical power to make people listen and believe what they say. But it’s not yet proven that this type of leaders survive forever politically, because they tend to do things which are not right but which they believe will be accepted. Once this is confronted they cannot accept that and try to manipulate it to prove they are right.
Though the above classifications still prevail and we are faced with these kind of leaders again and again in Sri Lankan politics, the post modern society , however, indentifies different sort of leaders. Bureaucratic military ones with intelligence and well informed of the trend. The other kind , the leaders, who do not need positions or office to lead a nation, but remain as leaders. These are the so called people’s leaders.
At this crucial point of political journey of the Tamils, it is natural to look for a leader, not anyone under the classification of Weber, but a different one, maybe a hybrid one. No doubt the late Tiger leader VP would come to many people’s mind as a strong military leader, until we were informed of his suspiciously cowardly death at the bank of Nanthi lagoon. But the question to answer is still, was he also intelligent enough to lead a nation, and well informed of the political trend of the global village? A commonly accepted point, except by diehard Tiger supporters, that he’s neither a committed military personnel nor intelligent one nor had a matured political outlook. For many he was merely a hit and run guy. However he had talent to make his followers believe that he had unprecedented leadership qualities or that he was a sort of 007, who always acts to produce ultimate triumph.
Previously self proclaimed leader VP has left a legacy , which what a large proportion of the Tamil community believes, to be a political vacuum. However I strongly argue that this is not the case. This so called political vacuum has not been created by the demise of VP, but at the time when he proclaimed himself as sole leader of the Tamils without their mandate or at least at the time of the assassination of Mr. A. Amirthalingam. Therefore a real political vacuum started to emerge before he died. The situation since 18th May 2009, has been merely a semblance of political vacuum. This is a reassuring period, which will soon disappear and with or without a leader the political journey of Tamils will go ahead. As it had been from the time of assassination of Mr. Amirthalingam to the Nathikadal saga.
If the post VP situation required a leader and KP was one of the contenders for the leadership, how pathetic was it for a foreign elite like Mr. V. Rutherakumar, an attorney, to declare implicitly that they under the leadership of KP were contemplating to set up a transnational government, possibly a consortium for money making activities, in foreign soil in the name of Tamils. Once again without their mandate. What leadership qualities, if any, of KP suggest that he would have been the right person to lead the Tamils through this miserable phase of their political journey. Did KP fit into any of Weber’s classifications. Or was he in the inner circle of military strategists. Was he able to effectively convey a message to the world. After all he appeared to be physically a sick man without any potential, other than procuring arms. His arrest maybe a good omen for the peace loving Tamils in Sri Lanka.
Still it is not clear whether the self proclaimed sole lessee of the Tamil community, the Tamil Tigers, have identified any suitable person to lead them. Once it is done then that leadership has to confront with possible arrest or extradition or even an assassination attempt like the one, which caused the life of Mrs. Morgan Tsvangirai of Zimbabwe or Dr. Kelly of UK or the local example of Lasantha Wicramasinge. Once he is immunized from the above permanently then to face the people to confirm his leadership. Nothing will happen if they behave with the mentality of a “born again Christian”, who reassure themselves that they will not go back to their past ways, but fail to question their overall integrity.
After all why the remaining Tamil tigers or the pro tigers think that they have a moral duty to offer political leadership to the Tamils, since they killed their own people, for whom they said they fought, but treated the people like sand sacks to protect themselves, I do not think that they have to bother any longer. No governments locally or internationally will be engaged with the tigers. Tamils cannot afford to pay a huge price again simply because the tigers think they are the right people to protect the Tamils.
Why can’t the remaining tiger supporters compromise with recent initiatives taken by some neutral bodies in addressing Tamils issues with a broader outlook. One of them is the initiative, which is taking shape in the form of minimum of understanding (MoU), an idea to accommodate all Tamil speaking (Tamils and Moors)to work on a common ground. The initiative is based on the principle of bottom to top approach. An idea which confirms some firm minimum standards to be met before any political talks begin to see any solution with a capacity of evolving to adopt new situations.
Refusal to work with others by the tiger supporters means that they are not really caring for the Tamils back home. And they are afraid of losing their grip on vulnerable Tamils. And they are scared of being marginalised or totally ignored by the wider society. Ultimately this is the unavoidable end to them. Therefore they have to integrate into the society before it is too late for them.
Tamil tiger supporters in the diasporas community seem firmly to believe that history did not make the man; the man (Velupillai Prabaharan) made history. In that sense they may come up with a new experiment of putting a surrogate leader like Y.Gopalasamy or one time vibrant Rev. Father Kaspar in charge of the Tamils. My humble advice for the pioneers of new experiments is that they should think about the English expression “Cometh the hour, cometh the man.” Therefore desperately looking for a leader now is like quickly preparing a prey in the name of Tamils. Let time spin and nature produce someone with the required leadership qualities to settle the due. Not only the Tamil speaking people but also the whole Sri Lanka needs a saviour.