With Tamil separatism crushed, one of Sri Lanka’s oldest Tamil militant groups-turned-party has decided to shed from its name the words “Eelam” and “Liberation”.
One of the two factions of the Eelam People’s Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF) is set to announce the decision on Saturday in Jaffna in the island nation’s north, a former war zone.
Tamil sources told IANS that the name change had become necessary in view of the radically changed scenario in Sri Lanka following the 2009 military defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
The new name is likely to be “Social Democratic Party of Tamils”.
The EPRLF is a Left-leaning group that was born in 1981 and subscribed to the idea of an independent Tamil Eelam state for years.
At one point, it was aligned, with other Tamil militant groups, with the LTTE, which spearheaded a bloody separatist campaign for three long decades.
Later, the ERPLF registered itself as a political party and embraced electoral politics.
The LTTE turned viciously against the EPRLF after the latter joined the India-backed provincial administration in Sri Lanka’s northeast in 1989. In 1990, the LTTE massacred the EPRLF’s top leadership in Chennai.
The EPRLF then broke into two factions. One group, calling itself the original EPRLF, joined the LTTE-backed Tamil National Alliance. The other named itself the Pathmanabha-ERPLF after its slain leader K. Pathmanabha.
It is the Pathmanabha-EPRLF which is going for the name change.
The Pathmanabha-EPRLF is now meeting in Jaffna, with delegates coming from all parts of Sri Lanka’s northern and eastern provinces as well as the West including Canada, Britain, Switzerland, Germany and France.
The EPRLF, like most Tamil groups, has been a vocal advocate of devolution of powers to provinces in Sri Lanka so that minorities there enjoy a sense of autonomy.
But a Tamil source told IANS on telephone from Jaffna that the idea of autonomy was widely viewed in the Sinhalese-dominated regions of Sri Lanka as a stepping stone to eventual separation — and so was not popular.
“The continuing ethnic divide overshadows the real rationale for devolution of power,” the source said. “We can’t keep ignoring this. After all we need to take everyone along in Sri Lanka.
“Devolution should not be seen as if to mean devolution only for Tamils.”
Tamil sources said the Pathmanabha-EPRLF will go for a new constitution to effect the name change.
Delegates at the Jaffna meet will also discuss the political situation in Sri Lanka, issues related to human rights, and relationship between Muslim and Tamil communities in the island nation.(New Kerala)