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Sri Lanka presidential elections: Tamils need an alternate path

15 10 0
15.11.2019

REGARDLESS which of the two frontrunners in Sri Lanka’s forthcoming election becomes president, Tamils’ aspirations for equal rights and accountability will not be met.

This is due to both frontrunners focussing on satisfying their Sinhala vote base only, while Tamil politicians have failed to negotiate well on Tamil demands.

Hence, Tamils will have to find alternative democratic pathways in their fight for accountability, human rights and justice.

SEE ALSO: Sri Lanka elections: A one-off Tamil boycott will achieve little

The frontrunners are Sajith Premadasa, of the Democratic National Front – a coalition whose core is the United National Party (UNP) – and a senior member of the current regime, and Gotabaya Rajapaksa of the Sri Lanka People’s Party (SLPP) and former defence secretary in his brother President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government.

Rajapaksa as defence secretary oversaw the country’s civil war and is accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity. He is also accused of other human rights violations that victimised not only Tamils, but Sinhalese and Muslims as well. His election, it is predicted, will lead to new offensives against democracy and human rights.

Premadasa, on the other hand, has no such baggage, but belongs to the Sinhala nationalist wing of the UNP. His manifesto focuses more on economic development in the Tamil areas and not on accountability, justice or human rights. His father, President Ranasinghe Premadasa was assassinated by rebel Tamil Tigers (LTTE) in 1992 during its armed campaign for secession.

A woman hangs clothes to dry near electoral posters of deputy leader of the ruling United National Party (UNP) and New Democratic Front (NDF) presidential candidate Sajith Premadasa in her neighbourhood in Colombo on November 14, 2019. Source: Jewel SAMAD / AFP

Therefore, the choice for the Tamils is between an unsympathetic candidate and an apathetic candidate.

It was early indications of shortcomings in Rajapaksa and Premadasa that led students of the University of Jaffna to convene a meeting of Tamil political parties to compile a set of minimum demands from the presidential candidates that embodied the concerns and aspirations of the Tamils. The result was a 13-point document that covered three broad areas of Tamil concern: power-sharing based on federal........

© Asian Correspondent