The Progressive Forum in Colombo has highlighted the importance of Tamil speaking minorities recognizing the crucial nature of the upcoming Presidential elections and on why they should vote for the common Opposition candidate Maithripala Sirisena.
Issuing a statement in light of the upcoming elections, the Joint Convener of the PF, Dr.Selvy Thiruchandran has noted that in working towards a political solution for the Tamil speaking minorities through a devolution-based solution within a united Sri Lanka, it is important to refrain from isolating and focusing on a single race based issue.
It has listed the following points as some of the reasons that should be considered by the Tamil speaking minorities, to vote in favour of the common candidate:
– It would help gain allies in the push to achieve main political goals of the Present Tamil leadership to gain a maximum possible devolution within a united Sri Lanka
– Proposals of the common Opposition movement to promote a more democratic parliament, independent judiciary and a less corrupt administration are of considerable significance to Tamil speaking minorities as well
– The incumbent President’s failure to limit the loss of life at the war
– Abuse of captured combatants and non-armed civilian employees of the LTTE who surrendered to the Army
– Government condoning anti-Muslim behavior
– Need for the Tamil speaking people to gain the support and appreciation of leaders within the majority community to pursue a single-country political solution and permanent reconciliation
The PF in Colombo has therefore stated that all Tamil speaking minorities should actively engage in all crucial national issues common to all people of Sri Lanka and consider the upcoming presidential polls as one such challenge.
We publish below the statement in full:
- Why Tamil speaking people should vote for the Common Opposition Candidate Mr.M.Srisena?1) The main political goals of the present Tamil leadership (i.e.TNA) are broadly to seek maximum possible devolution within a united Sri Lanka, using soft power that includes lobbying, discussions and persuasion, legal challenges both within and outside Sri Lanka, etc; and to bring about relief to those seriously affected by the War. To achieve these goals needs allies most importantly within the South of the country and our Parliament. By standing with the opposition in this election, it is possible to gain new allies who may offer conditional support to the Tamils in their struggle.2) The proposals of the opposition to promote a more democratic parliament, an independent judiciary and a less corrupt administration are not without considerable significance to Tamils. Consider the judiciary. Key decisions of the Judiciary in the past have gone against the aspirations of the Tamils. The verdicts to separate the North and East under provincial administration, and to concentrate regional land management powers in the Colombo administration are two important issues in this context. The Judiciary’s failure to lend a hand to defend the Tamils against needless mass killings especially in the final phase of the war, disappearances, illegal and undocumented imprisonment, torture , rape and killing of detainees etc have seriously hurt the Tamils. It is reasonable to expect a fully independent judiciary not to succumb to political and chauvinist pressures.3) Consider corruption. Large scale state sector corruption in the nation affects all people including ordinary people in the North and East. Nearly a third of all funds allocated for projects to the North are being lost due to wastage and/or corruption. In the recent period, losses due to corruption in the North amount to billions of rupees that represent several times the annual development budget of the Northern Provincial Council. Even with the limited self governance and greatly restricted political freedom, Jaffna would receive greater economic benefits from comparable funds allocated under a clean administration in Colombo.
4) The Tamil voters are obliged to examine the suitability of each candidate before deciding to vote or abstain. Several issues reflect adversely on the incumbent. There was broad consensus especially among the majority Sinhala community that the LTTE should be militarily crushed. The Government could have won the war with minimal civilian casualties. The civilian President as the Supreme Commander of the armed force was required to ensure unarmed civilians are protected from collateral damage as much as possible. He did not. Where collateral civilian deaths should have been limited to the thousands, actual loss of life ended up in tens of thousands due to the President’s personal failure.
5) The post war treatment of the captured combatants and non-armed civilian employees of the LTTE who surrendered to the Army after the end of the war, including murder and rape, detention beyond reasonable periods, refusal to release information on persons detained, and whether named persons were alive or dead , are all serious crimes; these were committed not to ensure security of the state but as dictated by a political agenda, ultimately focused on personal and family gains, and nothing less. The incumbent president should have given instructions to protect the dignity and rights of individuals who were under his sanctuary. He did not. Considering all the above, the Tamils are obliged to vote him out by supporting the main opposition candidate. They cannot abstain.
6) It is important to recognise that a majority of Muslim leaders were with the Government in recent years, some holding cabinet positions, and others receiving various perks. Yet ordinary Muslim people including women and children were subjected to abuse in various forms, physical threats and violence, and forced to live in fear and in indignity for short periods repeatedly. Probably there were some powerful people within the Government who condoned anti-Muslim behaviour. The Muslims should take whatever steps required to eliminate this threat from becoming permanent. As one of the necessary steps, they have to vote out the incumbent President.
7) In order to pursue a single country political solution and permanent reconciliation with the majority using soft power approaches, the Tamil speaking people need to gain the appreciation and support of leaders within the majority community. The incumbent President did have a period of over five years to negotiate with the minorities, work out a settlement and mobilise the support of the Sinhala people for such a settlement. Instead, his Government pursued largely a racist agenda, ignoring the 13th Amendment, recommendations of the LLRC, the Tissa Vitharane Majority Report, and the stated wishes of the regional and international communities. However, many of his political associates focused on making gains perpetuating and exploiting the racial divisions in the country. The Common Opposition has one or two leaders, though they too fought the LTTE with heavy weapons and caused much civilian death and damage, yet, they had at some times in their past, e.g. in 1994 or 2002, argued forcefully and converted a majority of the Sinhala people to accommodate minority grievances. There is little evidence that the present incumbent will ever mobilise the majority community for genuine national reconciliation and to satisfy the minorities.
8) The incumbent had an opportunity to work towards genuine reconciliation by accommodating at least some of the requests of the Chief Minister of the Northern Provincial Council (NPC). He promised some positive measures but none were implemented. Apparently these measures were blocked by the supporters of the President’s in the North who were totally rejected by the people at the last provincial elections. The present administration in Colombo is an obstacle to higher level functioning of the NPC. Th e present impasse inhibits large private capital inflow into the North from other parts of Sri Lanka, foreign countries and the Sri Lankan Diaspora. The majority of the population in the North remain economically disadvantaged.
9) The Tamil speaking minorities should recognise that working towards a devolution based solution within a united Sri Lanka is not best served by isolating and focusing on this single race based issue. The Tamil leadership should actively engage in all crucial national issues that are common to all our people. The current Presidential election is one such challenge. The Rajapakse administration can indeed claim credit on several fronts. Among these are their refusal to accept traditional IMF sponsored austerity measures, a minimum commitment to welfare measures, active promotion of foreign employment and infrastructure development with foreign assistance Yet overall, corruption and systemic exploitation of race for political gains, ignoring the huge economic losses from continuing racial conflicts, have wiped out any net flow of benefits to ordinary people. Unprecedented corruption has damaged the economic foundation for stabilising prices and pushed up the cost of living beyond endurance levels. The prospects of sharp rises in per capita incomes would be held back by the punitive national debt linked in part to corruption. The minority communities should look beyond the immediate problems of their communities, and consider national issues as well. It will be very clear that they should vote out the incumbent by casting their ballot for the Common Opposition Candidate.