TNA’s M.A.Sumanthiran is reported to have been roughed up by angry protesters when he visited a protest site where people were demanding a fully–fledged Divisional Secretariat in the Kalmunai Municipal area
- Mano Ganeshan unleashes tirade against Govt. at Cabinet
- Tamils renewed and reinforced its long standing demand for a fully–fledged Divisional Secretariat in the Kalmunai Municipal area
Easter Sunday’s terrorist attack, killing more than 250 people, effected unforeseen changes in political dynamics of the country. The latest is the rise of anti-incumbency sentiments within the Tamil community, particularly in the eastern province, against the Government in general and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA). Otherwise, under normal electoral circumstances, the TNA swept the elections in the north and the east in the past.
The eastern province has been beset with communal tension for decades, and it climaxed in the aftermath of the terrorist attack. Amidst increased tension, the Tamils renewed and reinforced its long standing demand for a fully–fledged Divisional Secretariat in the Kalmunai Municipal area for their administrative work. Currently, the Kalmuani Divisional Secretariat functions, and it has a sub-office in the Kalmunai north area for the benefit of Tamil people in the otherwise Muslim majority electorate.
Tamils demonstrated, and a sit in campaign was launched demanding a solution. A few days ago, National Integration, Official Languages and Social Progress Minister Mano Ganeshan, along with TNA MP M.A. Sumanthiran and Primary Industries Minister Daya Gamage, rushed to the site of demonstration in the east to douse tension with the promise that the Government would sort out the issue within three months. Sumanthiran gave this assurance.
Furious, the protesters turned violent, and they vented their anger by taking Sumanthiran to task following his remarks. They roughed up Sumanthiran prompting his bodyguards to shield him from the angry mob. Sumanthiran’s bodyguards received most of the blows aimed at him in the melee. In the fracas, his trousers got ripped and his shoes were dislodged.
The general antipathy of eastern Tamils against the Government reflected well in the half-hour long tirade unleashed by Mano Ganeshan against the Government at Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting. In what appeared to be an emotional outburst Ganeshan, who is also the leader of the Tamil Progressive Front (TPF), said that the Government let down the entire Tamil community by failing to address any of its burning issues. He referred to constitutional reforms and the release of political prisoners (detainees under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) as key demands ignored by the Government during the past four and half years.
In the presence of both President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, he said that the Government had even failed to grant a separate Divisional Secretariat for Tamils in the east, albeit a political solution.
Mano says Govt has regards for Rishad, but not for Tamils
Initially, it was only the opposition that accused the Government of providing political protection to former Minister Rishad Bathiudeen who faces allegations linked to the terrorist attack on April 21. In his verbal attack on the Government, Ganeshan also did the same.
“I am glad that you have high regards for Rishad Bathiudeen. But, I will be happy if you have at least ten percent of such regards for the Tamils,” he said, his voice mixed with both anger and sarcasm.
His speech reflected the sentiments of the Tamil people. The TPF has been a staunch ally of the Government from its inception. Now, the TPF is also forced to take a tough stand against the very Government they formed and that is due to pressure from its constituents over recent happenings.
The tension between Tamils and Muslims has been simmering in the Eastern province for a long period, perhaps running into decades. It reached new heights after the serial bombings by a local group of terrorists called ‘National Thowheed Jamaath’ which has pledged allegiance to Islamic State (IS). Zion Church in Batticaloa in the east became one of the targets.
With regard to the separate divisional secretariat for Tamils in Kalmunai, it has been a long standing demand. Now, a sub office has been set up to attend to administrative needs of Tamils. Yet, it does not have the authority to deal with land and financial matters. Therefore, they request it to be upgraded to a fully-fledged divisional secretariat so that it can operate independent of the present Kalmunai divisional secretariat.
- Tension between Tamils and Muslims has been simmering in the Eastern province for a long period
- His speech reflected the sentiments of the Tamil people
These Tamils are traditionally TNA supporters. The TNA has evoked the wrath of the public due to the failure on its part to get their demand addressed by the government. The TNA has maintained healthy working relations with the ruling side though it remains in the opposition. In fact, Sumanthiran was in the forefront in restoring the United National Party (UNP) back to power after the regime change brought about by President Sirisena on October 26, 2018.
Their constituents now question the TNA as to what it received in return for its cooperation with the Government. The TNA supported the Government in the enactment of controversial legislations and the budgets.
The UNP-led Government apportioned a large sum of money for the development projects in the north and the east. But, its prime concern is a political solution.
Now a political solution in terms of constitutional reforms is unrealistic. Nevertheless, according to reports from the eastern province, people believe that there is no use of the TNA if it fails to obtain at least a divisional secretariat for them. This would have political ramifications for the TNA at a national election.
Prez goes against US interests
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo dropped Sri Lanka from his visit to the region. Many wondered as to why he cancelled his visit suddenly.
As things stand, the U. S. is involved in two projects at the moment- the agreement with the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) and the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).
Political animosity between the President and the Government doesn’t provide a favourable environment for such engagement with the U.S.
At Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting, the President was opposed to signing an agreement with the MCC to receive US $ 480 million approved as a grant aid for Sri Lanka without thorough scrutinization of its clauses. It is a grant aid meant to be disbursed in five years, conditional to the implementation of certain reforms in land administration and the modernisation of public transport system and traffic management.
Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera hailed this as an achievement by the Yahapalana government under its policies. The President sounded skeptical, though. He inquired whether this amount of money would be disbursed at once or over period of time.
“It will be over a period of five years,” came the answer from Samaraweera.
Then, the President started outlining reasons for his objection to any hurried agreement to obtain financial assistance from the MCC.
“The Government has only a few months to remain in power. There is a lot of public criticism about this arrangement with the MCC. Therefore, it is not worth to hurry through it. The current Government will be able to obtain only 25 percent of the amount announced,” the President said.
Prez asks whether Govt has any secret pact with the Rajapaksas
He didn’t stop at that. He even said, “By doing so, you are going to offer the next Government on a platter to the Rajapaksa-led political camp,”
In a sarcastic sense, he said,” I wonder whether you all have a secret understanding with Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa,”
Meanwhile, the President announced on Wednesday that he was opposed to the VFA as well.
Against such a backdrop, Pompeo’s visit was bound to be unfruitful. It may be the reason for him cancelling