The decision by the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) to support common opposition Presidential candidate Maithripala Sirisena at the Presidential elections this week, has not gone all that well with the Tamil Diaspora.
The International Council of Eelam Tamils (ICET) said that almost all the Diaspora Tamils and Tamil people living in Sri Lanka oppose the decision taken by the TNA to support Sirisena.
Professor R. Sri Ranjan, Co-chair of ICET said that they do not see a difference between Sirisena and President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Excerpts of the interview: By Easwaran Rutnam
Q; Do you back the TNA decision to support Maithripala Sirisena and why?
A; Mostly all Diaspora Tamils and Tamil people living in the Island of Sri Lanka oppose the decision of TNA to support Maithripala Sirisena. A few leaders in the TNA can never say that they are talking on behalf of the Tamil people, when most of the representatives of TNA are not happy about the decision made by their leaders without having an internal debate.
We always think that the people have the last word to decide what they want. We do not see any difference between Mahinda and Maithripala, when we examine their stand in this election which is only aimed at the Sinhalese people living in the island. As the election manifesto of each candidates does not even mention the existence of Tamil people living in the country.
This shows that these candidates are still talking about a Sinhalese Sri Lankan state. Since 1948 elections Tamils’ votes were used as a bargaining chip by all political parties in Sri Lanka. However, today they have completely left out the Tamil Nation living in the island clearly making a statement that this election is only about the Sinhala Nation.
Why should the Tamil Nation be excited about this election? Before a country talks about reconciliation, they should look back in the history of the island which is replete with failed promises and State-aided pogroms against Tamils by Sinhalese people. This history led to 30 years of war which ended with the massacre of tens of thousands of Tamils and rape of women.
Their properties are being forcibly colonised, putting people into dependence and Sinhalisation is on the march and there is nothing in the manifestos which mentions justice or reparations for the Tamils or expression of any mechanism to bring normalcy to their lives. So we do not believe that neither Maithripala, who was in the same government till the announcement of the election, nor Mahinda would bring any positive change for the Tamils living in the country.
The TNA should have used this opportunity to show the international community that, the Sri Lankan constitution offers nothing to the Tamil people and there is nothing to get out of these candidates.
Q; Sirisena has not made any clear policy statement on the Tamil issue. Why then should Tamils support him?
A; There is absolutely no reason to support either of the candidates in the upcoming elections. Neither candidate has made any commitment on ending the military occupation of the Tamil homeland, stopping land grabs or the release of political prisoners.
Neither candidate has made a commitment to resolve the national question based on the sovereign Tamil nation’s right to self-determination in their homeland. In fact, Sirisena has made it clear that he will do absolutely nothing to support international accountability for Sri Lanka’s violations of international law.
He has made it clear that he will do nothing to support even a federal solution to the ongoing ethnic conflict. Neither Sirisena nor Mahinda have made any clear policy statement on the Tamils issue.
So we do not think the Tamils should vote for them to continue their hardline racial politics. There have been changes in international politics on the rights of the people but Sri Lanka has never changed and we do not believe that neither of these candidates will change their anti-Tamil stance which is clearly aimed at the Sinhala-Buddhist vote bank.
Q; Can the Tamils trust a coalition which includes the JHU, a party which has a strong Buddhist ideology?
A; Tamils cannot trust a coalition which includes the JHU or the support of BDS to Mahinda, as both have strong Buddhist ideology. So Tamils cannot trust both candidates and that’s why we say that this is an election for the Sinhalese people and among the Sinhalese people.
Q; What are the core issues you would like to see a new Government address?
A; From 1948 to 2004 Tamil core issues had been put forward to all governments which ruled the island of Sri Lanka. During the Provincial Council elections the Tamil people had put forward and voted on the core issues.
Even after massacre of tens of thousands of Tamils, there was no expression of remorse about these massacres from any Sinhalese leaders. The Sinhala Nation should think, that the governments which has ruled the country, has destroyed fraternity among the peoples living in the island.
To be of any relevance to the Tamils any new government must resolve to end the occupation of our land, stop the settlements, and release political prisoners as a minimum guarantee. For any incoming government to make an existential difference for Tamils, the national question must be immediately resolved along the lines of the Thimpu Declaration of 1985. Building highways and hotels, selling the country in pieces to international investors in the name of development does not make a country beautiful.
A country is beautiful when all people can live in harmony with equal rights where human rights are respected. These governments, whoever it is, whatever party it is has destroyed the country. The fundamental rights of self-determination of all the people should be respected and the constitution of Sri Lanka gives no space for it.
So the constitution of this country should be changed to recognise the existence of the Sinhala Nation and the Tamil Nation as equal partners before true peace and harmony can prevail in the island