TNA thumbs up for Maithri
Wednesday, 31 December 2014 00:40
- Political solution cannot be achieved through backdoor deals, says TNA Leader
- Urges Tamils to vote “enthusiastically” in 8 January election
- President squandered post-war opportunity to reach political settlement says TNA
- JHU no impediment to dealing with Sirisena on national issue says Sampanthan
- Recalls TNA engagement with Mahinda while JHU was in ruling coalition
TNA Leader R. Sampanthan (centre) gestures at the news conference yesterday in Colombo flanked by MPs M.A. Sumanthiran (left) and Mavai Senathiraja – Pic by Kithsiri De Mel.
By Dharisha Bastians Making an eleventh-hour decision, the Tamil National Alliance yesterday extended its fullest support to common opposition candidate Maithripala Sirisena at next week’s crucial election. Officially announcing its support for Sirisena at a press briefing in Colombo, TNA Leader Rajavarothiam Sampanthan said President Mahinda Rajapaksa had failed to deliver on a political solution to the ethnic problem for 10 long years. “We have watched President Rajapaksa’s performance for the past 10 years. We would rather repose our faith in Mr Maithripala Sirisena rather than expect what has not happened in the past 10 years to happen hereafter,” TNA Leader Sampanthan told reporters in Colombo The announcement coincided with a series of opposition rallies in the formerly embattled Northern Province including Jaffna, which Sirisena attended. The TNA urged the Tamil people to vote with “even more enthusiasm” than they did in the Northern Provincial Council elections of 2013, in which 70% of registered voters turned up to cast their ballots. The TNA said the party had not yet decided to attend opposition rallies or campaign actively for Sirisena in the North and East. “But let’s make no mistake. We want Maithripala Sirisena to be elected President of this country,” he charged. Sampanthan said President Rajapaksa had failed to use a conducive environment post-war to pursue a permanent political resolution to the ethnic problem. “Our decision was taken after earnest consultations with our people, in the North and East and other parts of the country,” the TNA Leader said. Sampanthan denied that the Tamil party had signed agreements or understandings with any party, amid Government accusation of secret pacts between the TNA and the opposition candidate. “The TNA position is that the national question cannot be resolved by backdoor deals,” the TNA Leader charged. “The TNA is not ready to go down that road,” he said. Sampanthan said his party believed the whole country should know and be prepared to accept a final political solution to the ethnic problem. “We are committed to a peaceful, honourable solution, one that is just to all communities and acceptable to all communities,” the TNA Leader said. Sampanthan noted that for 10 years the TNA had talked to President Rajapaksa and engaged in serious bilateral talks. “The evolution of a political solution is a continuous process. Given the circumstances, the election of a new President could be a positive step towards the evolution of that solution,” he said. Senior, experienced politicians like Sirisena must be given an opportunity to address the national question, Sampanthan observed. Questioned whether the nationalist JHU’s position within the alliance would preclude negotiations about devolution under Sirisena, the TNA Leader dismissed the concerns. “The JHU was with President Rajapaksa for a long time. We negotiated with Mr Rajapaksa when the TNA was part of his alliance. So I don’t understand why the JHU being with Mr Sirisena should hinder negotiations,” Sampanthan explained. The TNA also cited Sri Lanka’s “inexorable move towards dictatorship and totalitarianism with the executive president becoming the sole repository of all powers” as a reason to support Sirisena, who is pledging to abolish the executive presidency within 100 days and establish a parliamentary governance model. “The TNA, therefore, believes that it is essential for the health of Sri Lanka’s democracy that the authoritarian and dictatorial trajectory on which the Rajapaksa regime has set the country be reversed urgently,” the party said in a statement detailing reasons for their endorsement. “The experience of our people has been that the struggle for democracy over dictatorship is inextricably linked to the pursuit of our most cherished values: equality, justice, dignity and freedom. We, therefore, call on all citizens to turn out in great numbers and defeat the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime,” the Tamil party urged. The TNA decision will further hamper President Rajapaksa’s chances to obtain a portion of minority votes at next week’s election after the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress and the All Ceylon Makkal Congress also threw in their lot with Sirisena this week. Political analysts claim that with the Sinhala Buddhist vote likely to split between the two major candidates, minority voters could prove a decisive factor at the poll.