21 May, 2024


Why A Tamil Common Candidate In The Presidential Election?

By Amirthanayagam Nixon

Amirthanayagam Nixon

Tamils living in the north-east of Sri Lanka want to field a Tamil common candidate in the upcoming presidential election. Civil society activists have gathered and are discussing the fielding of a Tamil common candidate in the presidential election. It appears to be about 95 percent compliance.

A total of 46 civil organizations from the North East are moving this initiative together. No representatives of Tamil National Parties were included in it. The civil society organizations will meet with the Tamil National Parties and explain only after setting up a “Common Mechanism” regarding the issue of Tamil common candidates.

Civil society organizations are leading this initiative in a democratic way. Attempting to field a Tamil common candidate in the presidential election is not a racist act. It is a democratic right.

The Constitution of Sri Lanka does not directly say that a Tamil or a Muslim cannot hold the posts of President and Prime Minister.

Because 75 percent are Sinhalese. Even if all the Tamil Muslim and Upcountry Tamils voted unanimously, the Tamil common candidate would not be able to get the minimum 51 percent votes required to become the President.

In that case, a significant number of Sinhalese people should vote for the Tamil common candidate. But the political culture of Sinhalese voting for a Tamil has not yet developed in Sri Lanka.

But Tamil Muslim people have voted for Sinhalese candidates in presidential elections on many occasions.

It is an unwritten rule in the Sri Lankan Constitution that the Tamil Muslim people must vote for a Sinhalese candidate of their choice. However, the Upcountry Tamils and Muslims voted for Sinhalese candidates contesting from their regions in the Sri Lankan parliamentary elections. They are also accepted as representatives of their people.

But the Tamils and Muslims living in the North East will vote only for their Tamil Muslim representatives. Since the majority of Tamil Muslim people live in the North-East, even if the Sinhalese representatives contest the parliamentary elections, they cannot win.

It is because of this that the Sinhalese settlements are planned in the North East, but every Sinhalese representative who comes to power claims that it is not a Sinhalese settlement and that the North East is the historical habitat of the Sinhalese people.

In the India-Sri Lanka Treaty signed in 1987, the North-East is called “Historic Habitat”. It is not mentioned as the traditional homeland of Tamils or Tamil Muslim people. This was one of the reasons why Tamils refused to accept the 13th Amendment Act as a political solution.

But the Tamil Muslim people are saying that the North East is their traditional territory. Tamils still believe that the North East is their traditional homeland.

The Sinhalese political parties are still attributing to the Sinhalese people that the North-East problem arose from the armed struggle of the LTTE. But this problem started during the British regime itself.

The Sinhalese-Tamil conflict that arose when the Sri Lankan National Movement was split in 1920 and the Tamil Maha Sabha was formed in 1921 widened further during the formation of the Donoughmore in 1930 and the Soulbury Constitutions in 1947.

Even history textbooks for school students have stories about it.

Now I do not want to delve into these histories fully for the sake of length. But the main purpose of this article is to point out that it is in the background of these histories that North East Tamils are thinking of fielding a common candidate for the first time in this year’s presidential election.

After the armed struggle of the LTTE in 2009, Tamils felt that a Tamil electorate was necessary in the presidential election for the first time. Because the Sri Lankan government does not want to provide even the minimum political solution in the 15 years after 2009, it is the accusation of the Tamils.

The non-violent struggle started by Tamil leaders like V Navaratnam, SJV Chelvanayakam (Thanthai Chelva) and A Amirthalingam in the 1960s failed to find any political solution.

After that in the 1970s the armed struggle started by the Tamil youth could not get the political power sharing of the Tamils.

So Tamils feel that they have been cheated continuously for more than seventy years. In 2009, superpowers like the US and India had supported the Sri Lankan government for the final war. They also provide financial support to the current economic crisis of the Sri Lankan government.

These international countries will only put heavy pressure on Sri Lanka to provide a political solution. A political solution should be presented while providing economic assistance. Or they will press for reconciliation in Sri Lanka. They will also make a statement that human rights must be protected.

Since 2012, several resolutions have been passed at the Geneva Human Rights Council calling for Sri Lanka to be accountable for war crimes investigations and political solutions.

But for 15 years since 2009, the Sri Lankan government has not presented any political solution. No accountability. In 2020, the then Gotabaya Rajapaksa government publicly rejected the Geneva Human Rights Council resolution.

But international countries like the US and India, which supported the war in 2009, are not asking about it. But focusing on regional geopolitics, the main objective of these countries is only to negotiate with the Sri Lankan government to get the natural resources and political economic interests they need in the North East.

But within the island of Sri Lanka there is no permanent political solution and no justice for the Tamils.Therefore, Tamils are continuously appealing to the international community with a strong belief that international justice will be available, especially after 2009, that they want international justice and that it will protect their political rights.

In a speech in Parliament in 2020 January, Mr. R Sampanthan said that the US-Indian envoys in Colombo had told him in 2009 that after the elimination of the LTTE, there would be a permanent and just political solution for the Tamils.

However, even after ten years, no political solution has been proposed till date, Sampanthan was worried in the speech. In that speech, Sammanthan said that he was disappointed.

But in the post-2009 environment, countries like the US, India and China are focusing their full attention on setting up a suitable government in Sri Lanka. But regime changes in 2010, 2015 and 2020 achieved nothing.

Especially the change of regime in 2015 had ruined the hopes of everyone. Even the superpowers who cooperated with the regime change have not been able to achieve anything they wanted from the government.

In 1994, North Eastern Tamils had unanimously voted for Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga. But during his eleven-year reign, war took place. Chandrika’s weak regime in 2000 saw several political crises.

International countries therefore fail to understand that only complete political power sharing within the island of Sri Lanka is conducive to lasting peace and economic development. However, these histories are not unknown to the international community.

So understanding these histories and not dealing with other alternative approaches, these countries are indirectly and directly looking for someone who is favorable to them in the upcoming presidential election. But these countries have been denying from time to time that they do not interfere in Sri Lankan politics.

It is in this background that the civil society organizations are discussing to field a common candidate on behalf of the Tamil people in this presidential election with the aim of attracting international attention to them and hoping to get international justice.

Here, more than how many votes the Tamil common candidate gets, the reason behind the idea that the Tamil common candidate should be stopped is more important.

That causality makes public that International justice is the permanent solution for Tamils. It asserts the right of Tamils to self-determination.The idea of a Tamil common candidate also indicates to the world that Sri Lanka’s constitution has a unitary system.

It is true that some members of the Tamil National Parties are working in favor of the Sinhalese political party leaders centered in Colombo and at the will of some foreign countries. It cannot be denied. In the context after 2009, some Tamil members have been acting like this on many occasions.

Due to this, people have lost faith in Tamil National parties. Taking advantage of these occasions when the Tamil people have lost hope, some forces are trying to freeze the political liberation sentiments of the Tamils within Sri Lanka’s unitary politics.

At the same time, some Tamil progressive thinkers insist that Tamils should accept real politics. They say you have to go with what is, They call for the politics of conformity.

But the definition of “Real Politics” and “Conformity Politics” is always questionable.

It is not unknown to the world that for the last thirty years the Sri Lankan government has been arguing that the LTTE has not been able to present a sustainable political solution.

But if anyone says that the civil society organizations are preparing for the decision of the Tamil common candidate in the presidential election to make the international community aware of what happened in the last 15 years without the LTTE, there is no alternative.

*Amirthanayagam Nixon is a visiting media lecturer at universities. Contemporary geopolitical analyst

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Latest comments

  • 3

    This, I say, is a very creative position and a big improvement on the past. Usual Tamil political actions have been about damaging the Tamils — more due to stupidity than by intent we may grant — making their social-economic-political position worse than before any such action was taken. I cannot think of a single exception to this. This imaginative proposal in this piece is to take a useless action, which will achieve nothing, not even something negative to the Tamils. Bravo.

  • 2

    Nixon, I don’t understand why “ civil society organisations will meet with the Tamil National Parties and explain” when you say in another para that “ people have lost faith in Tamil National parties “ .

    There is a common belief that the present day Tamil National politicians are cheats and opportunists as their previous leaders. If civil society activists are unaware of this basic truth then I am sure that they are doomed to fail in their journey.

    By the way are they going to choose a common candidate from the existing politicians or an outsider ?

  • 8

    In 1982, 38.5% of the Tamil voters (N&E) voted for JRJ. But, what did the Tamils receive from him, 1983 Anti Tamil massacre. During his rein, he has massacred more than 10,000 Tamils.
    In 1988, 45% of the Tamil voters voted for RP. What did the Tamils receive from him, the continuation of the massacres. Another 10,000 Tamils lost their lives.
    In 1994, 85.4% of the Tamils voted for CBK, peace angel. What did the Tamils receive from her, occupation of Jaffna in Dutugemunu style, Semmani mass graves, Jayasikkuriu etc. Another 20,000 Tamil lives lost.
    In 1999, CBK came back to power with 37.5% of Tamil votes. She continued the massacre with vengeance. Thousands of more Tamils massacred.
    In 2001, Tamils voted for RW with 69% votes. What did he do? He used the peace talks to weaken LTTE. Bribed Karuna. Set up the butcher house for MR.
    In 2010, Tamils voted for a notorious war criminal SF, who is directly responsible for the genocide war on Tamil which killed more than 150,000 Tamil civilians, only to be defeated by another war criminal MR. What did SF say? “Look, Tamils voted for me. It means. there were no war crimes, there were no genocide, there were no human rights violations, and they completely supported the war I spearheaded”.

  • 1


    Hope you’re better than Richard.

  • 1

    “Tamils living in the north-east of Sri Lanka want to field a Tamil common candidate “
    Is this a fact or an opinion?

  • 0

    Kumar Ponnambalam did it with no fuss in 1982 ans polled well in the Jaffna District to humiliate JRJ who cam third after Hector Kobbekaduwa.
    He also exposed the TULF’s humbug by contesting based on the Tamil Eelam demand which the TULF had deserted soon after Amirthalingam became Leader of the opposition.
    Who will contest now and on what card?

  • 1

    What form of assessment was carried out to read the pulse of the people?

  • 1

    he fact is that there has been no resolution to the Tamil national question either before or after the civil war. What is required is a common front of the Tamil political parties and factions to draw with what is required for resolving of the continuing and simmering national conflict, and to present it all all presidential candidates for their response.

    It may be another unproductive exercise. However, it will have an unintended consequence of displace Tamil’s position now.

    It will be an absolutely useless exercise to aim for a single Tamil candidate, and to
    waste Tamil votes just to show the world of the division. If the world has not seen it during three decades of civil war, it is unlikely it will get elucidated better by this technique.

  • 0

    ” This was one of the reasons why Tamils refused to accept the 13th Amendment Act as a political solution.”

    If Tamils rejected the 13th Amendment in 1987 because of semantics, you can’t really blame the majority community. Also, even if a group of people faces discrimination, nothing justifies suicide bombing. Suicide bombing is an act of terrorism and all governments will use their maximum resources to crush terrorism. Lastly, FARC, ETA, and the IRA also gave up arms and joined the political process. The Scots also voted to remain in the UK rather than continue their bloody struggle for independence. Separatism is not necessarily the best solution – how about integration? Because Prabhakaran is a psychopath, he chose to fight to the last man at Nanthikadal, using Tamil civilians as a cover.

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