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Minority parties are key players in the equation

2018-12-06 00:00:08
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TNA member M. A. Sumanthiran speaks to media outside the Sri Lankan Supreme Court in Colombo after the judiciary suspended Mahinda Rajapakse’s powers as prime minister and ruled that his cabinet could not function until its legitimacy was established. (Photo by LAKRUWAN WANNIARACHCHI / AFP)

We see the predominant Sinhala-Buddhist community agitate more these days because they no longer have the power to elect the country leader of their choice. Wanni Parliamentarian Shanthi Sriskandarajah making a comment recently saying that ‘National parties must now kneel down before Tamil parties’ confirms this. 

She had told the Daily Mirror that she was offered a sum between rupees 60-500 million to make a crossover to strengthen the Government that Sirisena and Rajapaksa had formed after October 26. 

Reverse the clock back to 2009, the year when the Mahinda Rajapaksa backed security forces crushed the ruthless tiger rebels. Though constitutionally Rajapaksa was the president back then, people elevated him in their minds to the rank of ‘king’. But today, as Sriskandarajah points out Rajapaksa probably never dreamed of that the major Sinhalese political parties would have to depend so much on the Tamil minority parties if they are to assume or retain power. 

The present political impasse has strengthened the resolve of the minorities. This is the opportunity for them to lay out their demands; to ensure that the days ahead for these minority communities are going to experience some sunshine. 

The same must be said about the Muslim community. The Sri Lanka Muslim Congress led by Rauff Hakeem and the All Ceylon Makkal Congress led by Rishad Bathiudeen have worked towards the interest of the Muslim community. Hakeem in particular has worked towards the interest of the Muslims in a dignified manner, as opposed Bathiudeen

The same must be said about the Muslim community. The Sri Lanka Muslim Congress led by Rauff Hakeem and the All Ceylon Makkal Congress led by Rishad Bathiudeen have worked towards the interest of the Muslim community. Hakeem in particular has worked towards the interest of the Muslims in a dignified manner, as opposed to Bathiudeen. But there was a period during the Mahinda Rajapaksa rule when the safety of the Muslims was subject to threat. The Aluthgama incidents prove this. The Muslims have not erased this ordeal form their memories. 

Severe criticism 

Despite all this turmoil, the Elections Commissioner has announced that three elections-the Provincial Councils, Parliamentary and Presidential-would be held by October 30, 2020. 

Tamil Progressive Party leader Mano Ganesan has affirmed that a future election should be held only under a legal Government and after the president’s order to dissolve parliament is clarified. TNA parliamentarian M.R. Sumanthiran has said that the status quo must be reverted back to that of October 26. He has also said that the alliance should not support the UNP. 

In this present scenario one would be a little too optimistic to think that any minority party that opposes the Rajapaksa-Sirisena combine would automatically offer support to the UNP, led by Wikcremesinghe.

However, according to newspaper reports, the TNA has decided to support the UNP following a promise made by Wickremesinghe not to carry out any programme in the North and the East without the consent of the TNA. 

Whatever negotiations that the Wickremesinghe led UNP has had with the Tamil minority parties have been met with severe criticism from the Sinhalese politicians. The vociferous Sri Lankan parliamentarians have accused the Wickremesinghe camp of creating the path for the Tamil minority parties for federal rule. One recent Facebook post summed up the Rajapaksa rhetoric beautifully. It went like this, The society is divided into two; the group that does everything to strengthen Rajapaksa’s resolve in politics and the other group which supports terrorist separatism. 

When most things looked bleak due to the political impasse, the Appeal Court issued an interim order restraining the function of the Prime Minister, deputy, state ministers and Cabinet ministers. 

Wickremesinghe has been quick to point out that now arrangements can be made to revert the status quo to that which existed on October 26. This he has said would help reinstall the Cabinet in which he was the premier. 

But the TELO maintains that it’s not appropriate for the TNA to defeat Rajapaksa nor make Wickremesinghe the winner. They say that because they feel that the TNA failed to resolve the problems of the Tamils and that they can’t trust a UNP led Government. 

The vociferous Sri Lankan parliamentarians have accused the Wickremesinghe camp of creating the path for the Tamil minority parties for federal rule. One recent Facebook post summed up the Rajapaksa rhetoric beautifully

Now there is much talk about initiating moves to impeach the president. The manner which president Sirsena functioned and how he took decisions in the capacity of the head of state have come under severe criticism. However, TNA Leader R. Sampanthan has said that the alliance would not support moves to impeach the president. But he has also maintained that the TNA would not strengthen the hands of Rajapaksa, given the controversies associated with his wartime activities. 

Great demand 

Even if the interim order issued by the Appeal Court leads to a situation that reinstates the Cabinet that functioned before October 26, it wouldn’t bring about a total solution to this impasse. Political analysts opine that the country must go for General Elections and have a stable government. In this context the minority Tamil and Muslim parties would be in great demand. 

It is also important to take note that Hakeem has said that the minority parties must be consulted when making electoral reforms. We have moved into an era where the minority parties have begun to play a major role in Sri Lankan politics. The split in the Sinhalese vote base contributed much to the turmoil experienced in the country during the past three and a half years. But that storm has also given some value to the minorities. This is in the face of die-hard Sinhala voters blaming everything on the former Yahapalana regime during which the rupee devalued in scary proportions. But all what was lost has given us some hope that the judiciary would act independently and put everything in order. 

Sirisena has vowed to settle the political impasse within a week. But it’s wise for us to keep our faith in the judiciary to sort this mess in Sri Lankan politics. 


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