The two Tamil parties- Tamil Makkal Kooteny (TMK) led by former Northern Province Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran and Eelam People’s Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF) led by former MP Suresh Premachandran, teamed up with the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) in working out a common document to be handed out to the presidential candidates.
The TNA is already an amalgam of three Tamil parties- Ilankai Tamil Arachu Katchi (ITAK), Tamil Eelam Liberation Organization (TELO) and People’s Liberation Organization of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE). Accordingly, five parties have come together in presenting a common document to the contestants of the presidential elections.
The document, prepared after much deliberation, includes demands such as the merger of the northern and eastern provinces, power sharing with right to self-determination, a pardon for the Tamil political prisoners (the LTTE suspects held under the Prevention of Terrorism Act), the release of land held by the military, ending the colonization of the northern and eastern provinces with Sinhala people etc.
- The TNA is not that euphoric this time
- They will decide whom to vote depending on responses from the candidates
- The Tamil people are also not that enthusiastic about participating in this election
The Tamil National People’s Front (TNPF), led by former MP Gajendra Kumar Ponnambalam, participated in deliberations, but he opted out from signing the document at the last minute because his demand for rejecting the interim report on Constitution making by the Steering Committee of Parliament was not entertained by the other parties.
Now, the TNPF which made significant inroads into the TNA vote base at the last Local Government Election will have a different standpoint as far the presidential elections are concerned. At any presidential election, the contest is always between the two main candidates.
As such the contest is only between Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna’s (SLPP) presidential candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa and New Democratic Front candidate Sajith Premadasa though there are as many as 35 candidates in the fray. Both Rajapaksa and Premadasa are cautious enough not to ruffle southern constituents’ feathers by agreeing to demands such as the merger of the north and the east, a Federal solution and the release of the LTTE suspects. Hence, the Tamils parties will find it difficult to elicit any written assurance or public commitment from any of these candidates to realize the demands of these Tamil parties. So, one can wonder as to why these parties came out with a set of demands which keep the presidential candidates in a spot.
north because of this ground reality. However, Rajapaksa will not try to appease the Tamil parties since it will be detrimental to his base in the south. Also, he is not that concerned about getting a majority of Tamil votes from the north
But, the representatives of these parties are planning to engage the presidential candidates including National People’s Power candidate Anura Kumara Dissanayake soon. Depending on their responses, the parties will decide whom to support.
At the 2015 presidential elections, the TNA leaders, namely R. Sampanthan and M.A. Sumanthiran, played a vital role in identifying and promoting President Maithripala Sirisena as the common candidate. It is true that the TNA formally announced its support to President Sirisena as the then candidate even after postal voting took place. But, its leaders were party to real politicking behind the scene in fielding the common candidate. The TNA is not that euphoric this time. Likewise, according to TNA sources, it does not seek any written assurance or commitment from the major candidates on these demands. They are just planning to have talks with each candidate. They will decide whom to vote depending on responses from the candidates.
Generally speaking, the UNP, as a party, has been more accommodative to the demands of the TNA in recent years. So, Tamil people will mostly be inclined to cast their ballots in favour of Premadasa no matter what the TNA decides. Premadasa has one advantage over Rajapaksa in the north because of this ground reality. However, Rajapaksa will not try to appease the Tamil parties since it will be detrimental to his base in the south. Also, he is not that concerned about getting a majority of Tamil votes from the north. Otherwise, he would not have made remarks critical of the UNHRC resolution on Sri Lanka at the press conference he gave for the local and international media on Tuesday.
The implementation of the UNHRC resolution is a major concern of the Tamil parties. Rajapaksa said it was unacceptable and had no legal binding in Sri Lanka. It annoyed Tamil constituents in the north.
Alongside, the Tamil people are also not that enthusiastic about participation in this election because no main candidate is seen as overly pro-minority. They also have anti-incumbency sentiments because the present government did not deliver on a political solution as expected by them. Probably, it will result in low voter-turnout.
Sajith at pain to distance himself from govt In his election rallies conducted during the last few days, Premadasa was at pain to distance himself from the government as far as some its policies were concerned. Kurunegala district MP Nalin Bandara Jayamaha, who is a main speaker of Premadasa’s stage said there will be a new UNP if his party wins the presidential elections. That is an attempt to counter anti-incumbency sentiments running high among people these days.
Premadasa fears his neck will also be on the block unless he detaches himself from the government which is responsible for so many wrongs committed during the last four and half years.
At the 2015 presidential elections, the TNA leaders, namely R. Sampanthan and M.A. Sumanthiran, played a vital role in identifying and promoting President Maithripala Sirisena
Accordingly, Premadasa does not identify himself with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in campaigning at this hour. Wickremesinghe does not seem to be involved in active propaganda work these days. Likewise, Premadasa said he would not act like a dummy of anyone if elected to office.
For the first time, Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) attended the meeting of the party leaders backing Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Tuesday evening. On behalf of the SLFP, MPs Mahinda Amaraweera and Dayasiri Jayasekara took part in it but with a complaint about them being booed by the supporters of SLPP at electoral rallies.
The two MPs said it was a problem for them. Then, Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa said it appeared to be an organised move to create such disruptive activities at the SLPP rallies. Everybody suspected that former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga was behind it.
Rajapaksa said the electoral organizers of each district should take steps to prevent such disturbances.