File photo: Sritharan at a remembrance event for Balasingham in 2018.
Former TNA MP and Kilinochchi candidate Sivagnanam Sritharan backtracked on comments he made comparing TNA spokesperson M A Sumanthiran with LTTE political strategist Anton Balasingham, just three days after making the initial remarks.
Following weeks of controversy after Sumanthiran was criticised for expressing anti-LTTE sentiments which he was forced to recant, Sritharan urged Tamils to accept Sumanthiran’s “immense skillset and analytical strategies”, even commenting on his resemblance to Anton Balasingham.
“In so many instances, when we had to face the backlash of the Indian army or the peace talks with [the then president] Chandrika, Anton Balasingam’s role during those times took our faith a long way. The times we faltered, it allowed us to rise again. His immense skillset, his analytical strategies - that is the same kind of man Sumanthiran is.”
The comparison sparked outrage among some Tamils, forcing Sritharan to backtrack three days later. In an interview on IBC Tamil, the anchor asked Sritharan to explain his ‘hurtful’ comments and to justify how he could compare “someone who frequently speaks against the Tamil struggle to a key figurehead in the Tamil struggle.”
“I never said he or anyone was equal to Bala Anna!” Sritharan insisted, referring to Balasingham by the common endearment of elder brother. “I said that we must create people like Bala Anna, and that Sumanthiran could become one of those people – he should become one of those people!”
Sritharan has frequently highlighted his past connections to the LTTE leadership, takes part in memorial events including Maaveerar Naal and heavily draws on the narrative of the armed struggle in his political campaigning.