18 September, 2020

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Sumanthiran On Tamil Concerns And President’s Dither

By N. Lohathayalan – from Jaffna

Minorities right in Rejecting President: Devananda Must Resign

As our electorally victorious President’s political philosophy and its contradictions come out slowly, it is now proving to be right that our people did not vote for him – so said M.A. Sumanthiran, TNA/FP Member of Parliament, at a meet-the-press event in Jaffna on 17 December, 2019.

M.A. Sumanthiran

Elaborating, he asked “where are the policies of other parties [like the EPDP, and EPRLF] that promised that they would get the Tamil people’s vote for the President, and  thereby bring in cooperative rule at the centre and devolved rule in our areas?” This question was raised in the context of the President stating clearly now that there will be no devolution and instead minority aspirations will be met only through development. Therefore, Minister Douglas Devananda must reexamine the wisdom of being a Minister when the President clearly says he will not give what Mr. Devananda promised the people in campaigning for the President. It is also relevant that in the period we were under the President’s elder brother Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Breaking promises to India and IC 

Mahinda Rajapaksa, on three occasions he promised India in writing that he would go beyond the Thirteenth Amendment. It seems that promises are freely given with no intention to deliver on them.

It is by promising India and the International Community that Mahinda Rajapaksa would solve our ethnic problem through devolution of powers, that his government got assistance in prosecuting the civil war against the Tamil Tigers. It was in the government that made these solemn promises to the world that current President Rajapaksa was Defence Secretary, and as such he has ownership in these commitments. So noted the TNA/FP MP and Spokesman.

Federalism 

Although Tamils and Muslims are minorities in Sri Lanka, they are the majority in many districts. It is to have a say in running their own affairs and to escape the dominance of the majority in these districts that federalism is being proposed. It is important to note how minorities voted collectively – for a federal solution. That democratic message must not be lost – vox populi, vox dei – on our government if it is to be the government of all of us.

Today under this new government the freedom to express ourselves freely has suffered a major setback. Our community will not cooperate with any oppressive measures that detract from our freedoms. It appears that the coming days will offer many challenges to democracy. I invite all communities to come together and add their voices to calls for federalism, democracy and their protection.

Federal Constitution and India

Federalism is not a mere nameboard. We ask for meaningful distribution of power from the centre. The last government made several proposals contained in a constitution that never came to be. We are prepared to collaborate in making those proposals by the old government a reality under the new government. We do not need to wait for the next elections. India’s participation and inputs are essential.

Indian Law Excluding Musims

Mr. Sumanthiran did not wish to comment on India’s laws and new citizenship issues. [The new Indian law while offering Indian citizenship to citizens of neighbouring countries, excluded Muslims. Several Indian cities and universities have erupted in riots protesting the discrimination. A Sri Lankan human rights advocate who looks to India for leadership in issues of human rights, said he was disappointed with India, arguing that the  TNA must demand consistency from India in excluding Muslims from Indian citizenship for Afghans, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis. His point was that, arguing for Tamil rights in Sri Lanka we need consistency. We must always be for human rights, not just when it suits us. Fearing to offend India which usually is for our freedoms, makes our case weak]. 

As regards Tamil refugees in India, the TNA stand is clear said Sumanthiran – that they must come back. However, if they wish to remain in India, that must be handled according to international laws and treaties, and the refugees have a right to decide their future. It is not a matter to be considered in terms of the vote bank, whether in India or her. It is their entitlement to decide on their future. It is their fundamental right. 

Uncontrolled Sand Minding

At this time, the TNA will soon be initiating some legal measures in respect of the extensive sand mining going on in the North and East. In Mahinda Rajapaksa’s time in the neighbourhood of Point Pedro, that is, in Vadamaratchy East, there was day-time robbery through the Mahenswary Fund by illegally mining sand with government protection. That robbery is now on again.

Tamil Unity

These are times when the TNA pleads for Tamil Unity but regrets divisions that have appeared among us. Beyond the split in TELO, we are saddened by two members breaking off from TELO, said Sumanthiran.

When we [the TNA] call for unity, some, instead of saying yes or no, go into long discussions. They speak of an alternative Tamil leadership. [Writer’s note: here it was understood that Mr. Sumanthiran was referring to Former Chief Minister CV. Wigneswaran putting himself forward as the new Tamil leadership replacing the TNA, while the All Ceylon Tamil Congress makes strident claims to be being the alternative Tamil leadership. However, the public participating in the Presidential Elections as requested by the TNA and rejecting totally the call by the claimants to being the alternative, shows them to be untenable as leaders of any sort].

Mr. Aanandasangari

[Note: the spelling Aanadasanagari instead of the usual Ananadasangari has its origins in wanting to be listed alphabetically on the ballot paper before his rival Alalasundaram in the Kilinochchi electorate. Mr. Anandasangari was elected]. 

Mr. Anandasangari was involved in litigation involving Mr. Sumanthiran, claiming that Sumanthiran knows no  party history. [Writer: Mr. Sumanthiran did not say what the litigation was about, but I understand it concerns ownership of the TULF party symbol]. However, the court ruled in Mr. Sumanthiran’s favour and Mr. Anadasangari is angry with Sumanthiran for that. However, said Sumanthiran, he is my elder and is really one of us. Therefore, I do not wish to say anything adverse against him. 

The Disappeared

The then Defence Secretary and present President is unable to answer legitimate questions about those who disappeared, especially those who publicly surrendered to the army at the end of the war. Those who disappeared are one issue but there are those who handed them over to the army in trust and need closure, wondering with guilt if they did harm to their relatives in handing them over to the army to be disappeared. Their testimonies cannot be brushed aside. That cannot be denied. Answers must be given. The President is escaping responsibility by saying we are politicizing the matter and thinks that is an excuse for not addressing how people were disappeared. That is no answer. Lives are involved. The relatives need closure.

Northern Governor: An Indecisive President

Mr. Sumanthiran emphasized the need for a governor for the North when all the other eight provinces have their governor. The President who campaigned promising strong, disciplined leadership, seems to be in a tizzy, unable in a dither to make up his mind. As a result of his lack of leadership the northern province administration is at a standstill. We need a governor immediately. 

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    The Tamil community will continue to endure much disappointment under the Rajapaksa rule. Any Bauddha-Sinhala president (or politician) will tread very carefully when making conciliatory noises to the Tamil people. Do not expect them to do much, or anything at all. At the moment, Gota takes comfort that that there is much confusion as to who really leads the community. Ditto the Muslims.
    Welcome to our island in the sun – Sri Lanka in 2020’s.

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