Pillayan’s two-point political agenda after release
By P.K. Balachandran
COLOMBO – The Attorney General’s Department on Monday (11) informed the Batticaloa High Court that it will not be pursuing the criminal case against Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan alias Pillayan, a Member of Parliament and former Chief Minister of the Eastern Province. The case pertains to the assassination of Tamil National Alliance (TNA) MP Joseph Pararajasingham at St .Mary’s Cathedral in Batticaloa on December 25, 2005.
With the Attorney General’s decision Pillayan is expected to be released when the case comes up in the High Court on Wednesday (13).
Pillayan’s case has always been that he was framed and jailed on the basis of inadmissible confessions made by two of his colleagues in his political party, the Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Puligal (TMVP).
Following a Court of Appeal ruling that the said confessions were inadmissible, the Attorney General’s Department decided that it would not pursue the case against Pillayan.
Reacting to the possibility of release, Pillayan said once released, he plans to work on a two-point agenda: (1) safeguarding provincial autonomy and provincial powers (2) working for the economic development of the Eastern Province.
When Pillayan was Chief Minister of the Eastern Province from May 16, 2008 to September 18, 2012, he had earned a name for himself as a non-communal and development-oriented leader in a province where all three major Sri Lankan communities, Tamils, Muslims and Sinhalese, are equally represented. Those who met him in prison found him planning development schemes for his province. His work as a non-communal development agent was appreciated by Basil Rajapaksa who was the Economics Development Minister at the centre when Mahinda Rajapaksa was President of Sri Lanka. To this day, Pillayan remains an ally of the Rajapaksas, though he has his own outfit, the TMVP.
Pillayan’s development initiatives had won him a wide measure of support among the people of Eastern Province, especially in his native Batticaloa district. Journalist D. B. S. Jeyaraj writes that when the Local Governnment elections were held in February 2018, the TMVP contested eight Local Bodies, polled 42,365 votes and won 36 seats. In the parliamentary polls held in August 2020, the TMVP contested in the Batticaloa district with the imprisoned Pillayan as the chief candidate, to be Chief Minister if his party got the majority.
The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) topped the district with 79,460 (26.66%) of the votes, but the TMVP was a close second with 67,692 (22.71%). Pillayan got the highest number of preferential votes (54,198) and entered parliament.
If released Pillayan was expected to get a State Ministership, as he is an ally of the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) and its National Organizer, Basil Rajapaksa who thought highly of the Tamil leader as a promoter of regional development on a non-communal basis. But the criminal case stood in the way.
However, Pillayan had been attending Parliament with the permission of the court. The Gotabaya Rajapaksa government appointed him co-chair if the Batticaloa District Coordinating Committee along with Eastern Province Governor Anuradha Yahampath.