When looking at the victory, it is evident that the new president has received a clear mandate from the minority in the North and the East. Even though the Tamil National Alliance initially had several concerns, they finally came forward to support the New Democratic Party (NDP) campaign which clearly strengthened the support of the Tamil voter-base in the North.
TNA MP M. A. Sumanthiran told The Sunday Leader that the minority votes played a decisive role in this election and therefore the weight of the minority votes is equal to the weight of the majority votes. – Excerpts of the interview:
By Waruni Karunarathne
Q: What is the part the TNA played in the victory of the new president?
A: I think it was a decisive vote. We supported him without any conditions to the Tamil national question on the promise that he would restore democracy, rule of law, independence of commissions, etc. And that is the democratic approach that we can take forward and arrive at a resolution that would be acceptable to all communities. On that understanding we extended the support and the TNA was able to marshal almost the entirety of the Tamil votes to support him.
We are glad that our people responded to our call despite some calls to boycott which came even from within the party. However, people responded to the TNA’s collective voice and gave their support overwhelmingly – which gave him the victory when looking at the final analysis. We are glad that it has happened. We hope the promises given by the new President will be kept and we will give our fullest support for him to achieve those.
Q: We could see that there was a clear support from the minority community in the North and East. How do you expect the new President to meet the aspirations of the Tamil community?
A: Basically, the communities that are smaller in number must also have equal access to power. That is the whole issue of majoritarianism. This election has shown that Maithripala Sirisena’s victory was assured by those people who are numerically in the minority and therefore the weight of their votes equal to the weight of the vote from the majority community.
What we expect is that people would be treated equally as equal citizens and that means even as communities, not as individuals, but collectively as different communities also people should have equal access to decision making processes and state powers. And we expect that this particular phenomenon of this election of those communities making the decisive vote would cause difference in approach and the government in power will be conscious that this is not a homogeneous society but consist of different people. As different people, we must build the nation together.
Q: How comfortable is the TNA to work with the JHU and SLFP?
A: Well, the JHU is also a component of this politics. We must work with everybody. The JHU was with the Mahinda Rajapaksa government. We also talked with the Mahinda Rajapaksa government.
It is not a question of being comfortable. They also have to be comfortable with us and we also have to be comfortable with everybody else. All have to accommodate each other. That is how we can move forward.
Q: The TNA had several concerns including the withdrawal of the Army from the North, vesting land and police powers with the provinces and implementation of the 13th Amendment and beyond. How much priority would you give to these issues at present?
A: Those are issues that will remain unresolved. The new President in his mandate has said that all unresolved matters political, social or economic will be addressed in the new democratic space that we open up.
We will address these issues and get people to understand our position. We will try to understand their position. And through mutual respect and understanding we can resolve these issues.
Q: What are the immediate issues right now that need addressing especially when it comes to the Tamil community?
A: Immediate concerns are the land that they are being excluded from. The new President has clearly given some assurance publicly that lands that are being taken away for various other uses other than the national security will be given back to the people to reoccupy.
We will see how that will be taken up. That cannot be done over night. We will start that process once the new government is in place.