Colombo Telegraph

No Rainbow, Just A Way Out Sinhala Presidential Election

By Usha S Sri-Skanda-Rajah –

Usha S Sri-Skanda-Rajah

The SriLanka Sinhala Presidential Elections: I Can’t Yet See A Rainbow In This Rainbow Coalition Other Than A Way Out

Part 2 on the subject of Referendum: Follow UK’s Example – Hold That Referendum On Independence In The NorthEast [1]

It is as expected. Sadly another grim chapter in the history of the Tamil struggle for equality in this island is about to begin only with yet more intrigues and regrettably no relief in sight. Whilst the situation seems bleak, Tamils should not lose heart, they just have to find a way out. I am not about to advice the TNA on what to do, for that’s their prerogative, except to say the Tamil electorate must be prepared to vote. Vote they must, but rally we must the Tamil Diaspora to take a united position on a referendum on independence in the NorthEast because, “that’s the baseline to resolve the Tamil National Question,” according to Visuvanathan Rudrakumaran and quite rightly so. It’s only after a consensus is reached amongst us on the subject can we embark on persuading the international community that a UN sponsored referendum is the only way out for Tamils.

The Saffron Tide, Race Card and the Sinhala Politician

I see this ‘memorandum of understanding’ as a non-starter; I mean the move to present a ‘common candidate’ to run in the Srilanka Sinhala presidential elections against Rajapaksa, signed by supposedly 36 different factions and possibly more, with a recent signatory in saffron robes sounding the death-knell to hopes of a political solution by extracting stiffer conditions for joining, adverse to Tamil interests but nonetheless agreed upon, closing the door to devolution or reconciliation[2] – I see it as a non-starter – Actually I see it as a move devised essentially to bring about regime change to promote the personal, racist and political agendas of some, bolster the flagging political careers of yet others and continue the Sinhala Buddhist supremacist dogma that Sinhala Buddhist politicians are not willing or unable to shake off for fear the opponent would use it against them. The ‘Race Card’ most surely a vote getter, everything else matters not, realistically speaking!

No Great Leap Forward

This move by Rajapaksa‘s opponents, hailed as the “The great leap forward” by Tissaranee Gunasekara[3] for who, but for the disgruntled of the Sinhala polity, is on the other hand as far as Tamils are concerned described as a fait accompli, thrust upon them where they’re forced into a corner as unwilling bystanders with no real options but to participate – that which promises them little or nothing except more enslavement and heart ache; giving power to Sinhala Buddhist regimes to continue to do more harm than good to them!

Pandora’s Box with No Solution for Tamils

Rajapaksa’s call for early elections has opened a ‘Pandora’s Box’ that could pose yet more problems than solve it for Tamils. And for the Tamil electorate in the island of Sri Lanka and the Tamil Diaspora who have an equal stake in the destiny of Tami Eelam, the stakes are indeed high. with Rajapaksa on one side and his now defected Minister of Health on the other side.

Where Would Maithri Stand After the Executive Presidency is Scrapped

There’s no denying that people at the opposite end of the political spectrum have come together, choosing not one of their own, but one who stood side by side with their opponent – the very opponent they want to topple, in the name of Maithripala Sirisena, promoting him as a panacea for all Rajapaksa ills, but what’s there for Tamils in this unholy alliance, that can fall apart as suddenly and fast as it was put together after the elections? If within 100 days they intend to scrap the executive presidency and with it the 18th amendment, then what would happen to Maithripala Sirisena’s winning ticket is a reasonable question to ask? Would it be business as usual for this ‘Rainbow Coalition each going their separate ways?

A Fault in His Stars?

It seems as though people are leaving Rajapaksa’s sinking ship and speculation is rampant the brothers may be forced to declare martial law  and carryon. Whilst all the “parikaarams” (remedies) that his astrologer recommends would be carefully adhered to, the bad showing in the Uva Provincial Council elections would definitely be worrisome to the Rajapaksa clan.[4] Still by ‘hook or by crook’ as the saying goes, the Rajapaksas could and would win; for they have too much at stake to lose; it would not be just one individual called Rajapaksa and his family that would suffer but a loss of the presidency puts in jeopardy the lives of a clan of people including his brothers and their families and their families.

Should it be the Devil We Know or the Devil We Don’t

Rajapaksa is the devil we know alright. How about the devil we don’t know? Is Maithripala Sirisena the archangel we have been waiting for? Is he the Sinhala politician turned statesman we have been dreaming of who would deliver the goods for us?

Who Is Maithripala Sirisena? The Same, Only Packaged Differently

Is he going to be our saviour? Apparently not! All of Maithripala Sirisena’s pronouncements and actions before and after his defection does not auger well for Tamils.

What’s more disconcerting is the possibility that Tamil leaders, having no other choice, may end up endorsing this man for president to the Tamil electorate. This is not to blame them though.

In an article “Who is Maithripala Sirisena, the Tamil Guardian gives us a sense of who he really is: [5]

This man until a few days ago was not only Rajapaksa’s Health Minister and member of his cabinet, the general secretary of his political party who wanted out those , “who seemingly were supportive of the UNP at one time” but a diehard advocate of the war; who instigated Rajapaksa to break the cease-fire that was in place for 6 years; a partner in crime i.e. war crimes, presiding over tens of thousands of civilian deaths; who “in 2010, alleged that the Tamil National Alliance and the, then opposition candidate, General Fonseka, had betrayed Sri Lanka to ‘terrorist’ demands by pledging to withdraw armed forces from the North, dismantle the High Security Zones, re-merge the North East, release LTTE suspects and give autonomy to the province.”

According to the Tamil guardian, In 2012 this man commended India for making amendments to the US sponsored resolution against Sri Lanka that actually according to him “safe guarded Sri Lanka from UN interference.” He has accused the TNA and the UNP of, “assisting LTTE activists to help re-establish the LTTE.” He has repeatedly rejected the call for an international investigation and hitting hard at those who supported the resolution: “..these invasive forces who ruled Sri Lanka from 1505 to 1948 are conspiring against the country based on the misleading information provided by the LTTE rump overseas, when Sri Lanka is in the process of rebuilding the country through national reconciliation process with the end of terrorism,”  he said.

In July 2014 according to the Tamil Guardian, Sirisena cast aspersions on the UN and the OISL Team of investigators:

“The ghosts of the LTTE are behind all these ‘strategies’ implemented against Sri Lanka. We have already agreed to the conventions of the UN. Therefore, no matter who visits this country or who probes us, they should remember that Sri Lanka is a member of the UN. We have no faith in this team, or that panel, we have no faith in those who give evidence…“They say they will never reveal the names of the persons who give evidence for another 20 years. They say they will seek evidence from countries such as Canada, Netherlands, Norway etc. This shows how biased the probe is. We do not have faith in this one sided biased probe”. “Their objective is very clear. They have a totally different agenda. Their real but hidden agenda is changing the democratically elected government and the leadership of Sri Lanka,” the Tamil Guardian recounted Sirisena’s words.

In September 2014 Sirisena also castigated the Northern Provincial Council for passing a resolution that called for the UN investigators to be allowed in: “All provincial councils including the Northern Provincial Council have pledged to act within the constitution of Sri Lanka. They cannot violate it,” he  warned, the Tamil Guardian recalled.

This is the man masquerading as the alternative to Rajapaksa who shares Rajapaksa’s ideology  of pursuing a culture of impunity for  war crimes and is dead set on protecting Rajapaksa, his family and security forces, vowing to all and sundry that after his victory he’ll not allow anyone to be tried for war crimes: “I won`t allow international forces or the Tamil Diaspora to drag President Rajapaksa, his family or security forces to the International War Crimes Court,” he categorically declared at a press conference.[6]

No Rainbow in this ‘Rainbow Coalition’

I can’t see a rainbow in this rainbow coalition other than a way out for Tamils, unless a sea change in attitudes occur in the minds of either of the candidates standing in this, I repeat for all intents and purposes a Srilanka Sinhala presidential election.

Why Not a Tamil Speaking Candidate or even a Boycott?

Malaiyoor Pannahaththan in a well argued piece puts forward the case for a Tamil speaking candidate.[7] i say if TNA so decides it could be a realistic prospect for consideration with no fear of which of the two candidates whose interests it would serve. According to Pannahaththan, for Tamils it would not matter who wins, as the two already running speak the same language as far as Tamil interests are concerned anyway, he contends, for they don’t care for the Tamils; for them we are a non-entity and by their win the ongoing structural genocide of Tamils is not going to end; although we would not win, let’s put forward a Tamil speaking candidate, he says, whether he or she is a Christian or a Muslim and show the international community and the Sinhala populace our strong stand. When the Sinhalese are so decisive why can’t we be strong on selecting our own, he asks? He quotes Priyadharsana Yapa as saying they don’t need the support of the TNA and UNP’s Sajith Premadasa as vowing that the first thing they would do after their win would be to destroy the Tiger crowd in the Tamil Diaspora. He concludes we can send a strong message to show the world that only by selecting and voting for a Tamil speaking candidate, we can win back our rights.

Additionally there are a substantial number of Tamils who are calling for a boycott of this SriLanka Sinhala presidential elections, whilst others are opposed to it, remembering the (honest) mistake of the past boycott that brought Rajapaksa to power.

A Way Out: Diaspora Must Take A Unified Position on a Referendum on Eelam

But there is a way out. It’s one that the TGTE is pushing hard, with its Prime Minister Visuvanathan Rudrakumaran urging the Tamil Diaspora to take a, “unified position on a referendum on Tamil Eelam,” which he believes should be the, “the baseline to resolve the Tamil national question.” [8]

At the Penang International Tamil Conference 2014 held on the 7th 8th and 9th of November in George Town, Penang, Malaysia where he once again laid out the case for a referendum on Tamil Eelam, Rudrakumaran spoke of the, “international dimension of the ‘Tamil National Question’ raising, “the lack of political space within the island of Sri Lanka,” as an issue, which he pointed out, “has placed the Tamil National Struggle on the shoulders of the Tamil Diaspora,” stressing the “relevance and importance of the Tamil Diaspora,” which he said is, “felt more so now than ever before.”

Recalling the birth of, “26 new countries.. within the last two decades,” and citing the examples of, “the Kosovo referendum, the South Sudan referendum, the Serbia-Montenegro referendum, the Scottish referendum, the upcoming Northern Ireland referendum, and the upcoming Bougainville referendum,” Rudrakumaran said these are, “all testimonies to this trend..that increasingly, national questions are resolved through referendums.. if the right to choose and decide their own future can be conferred upon the Kosovo people, South Sudanese people, Northern Irish people, Bougainville people, why should the same right not be granted to the people of Tamil Eelam,” he asked.

“Due to Tamil Eelam’s strategic location in the Indian Ocean and the increasing importance of the Indian Ocean attributable to the sea lanes which account for more than half of the world’s container traffic, the Tamil National Question is increasingly becoming an international issue. For us, for the Tamil Diaspora to play an effective role in the international arena, we should become a power center. We need not come under one umbrella, however, we should have a unified political position and a coordinated political program. We should set our own agenda and set our international strategy, instead of acting on a chessboard set by others. We should shape and determine our future,” Rudrakumaran reiterated.

It is significant that the call for, “a United Nations monitored referendum for the restoration of an Independent and Sovereign State of Tamil Eelam on the island of Sri Lanka,” was among one of the eight resolutions that constituted ‘ The Penang Declaration’ adopted by the Penang International Tamil Conference – the resolution also stated the, “referendum should be conducted among Tamils descended from the northern and eastern regions of the island of Sri Lanka, as well as the Tamil Diaspora from there, including refugees.”

Unity of Purpose So Vital

In this continuing “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” saga, a curse that’s befallen Tamils with the Tamil pundits coming up with what we can do and can’t do in the race for the Srilanka Sinhala presidency, I say even if we sit this one out, (for there are some who believe the Diaspora must shut up and not be the spoiler, in case Maithri has something to offer, but let’s not be fooled) this is the time to show the strength of the Tamil Diaspora. That means putting forward a united front and taking a united position on a UN sponsored referendum and making a declaration to that effect. This is within our control to promote and so critical at this juncture. This unity of purpose is so wanting, so vital now more than ever as we Tamils find ourselves at a cross road; do we continue to be bewildered, disillusioned, anchorless, rudderless, directionless, helpless in the most part, pathetic as it seems, disunited with no consensus as to how to proceed as we face yet another dilemma in this long and arduous journey towards freedom? Remember the seed that was planted by our founding fathers and heroes to liberate our mother land Tamil Eelam is in our hands to nourish and nurture until it bears fruit. A referendum could be the way out…

To be continued


[1] https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/follow-uks-example-hold-that-referendum-on-independence-in-the-northeast/

[2] http://www.thehindu.com/news/international/south-asia/sri-lankan-opposition-candidate-maithripala-sirisena-rejects-tamil-federalism-plan/article6654876.ec

[3] https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/finally-a-way-out/

[4] http://www.economist.com/news/asia/21635072-mahinda-rajapaksa-expected-coronation-instead-he-faces-tricky-election-fault-his-stars

[5] http://www.tamilguardian.com/article.asp?articleid=12929

[6] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UHR8ws1SQVg

[7] http://www.tamilwin.com/mshow-RUmszCTWKZkp4.html

[8] ://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/tamil-diaspora-must-take-a-unified-position-on-tamil-eelam-referendum/

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