Hours ahead of the news conference scheduled by the retired General turned politician, Sarath Fonseka to announce his plans for the January 26 Presidential election, the leader of the People’s Liberation Organization of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE) Dharmalingam Sithadthan said that his party would back President Mahinda Rajapaksa for a second term.
Talking to The Hindu Mr. Sithadthan said, “We would support the winning candidate and it has nothing to do with our personal equation with Mr. Rajapaksa. Our aim is to ensure a fair deal to the Tamils as well as Muslims in the island nation”.
The declaration of support of PLOTE to Mr. Rajapaksa has come even as some political parties are exploring the possibility of fielding a common Tamil candidate to provide an opportunity to voters who do not want to vote to either Mr. Rajapaksa or military commander turned politician.
The dilemma before some of the parties representing minorities was evident from the comments made by the Democratic Peoples Front (DPF) leader, Mano Ganeshan, when approached by The Hindu after a meeting of his party three days ago.
He said: “Our decision is to work for the defeat of Mr. Rajapaksa. We would choose from one of the two options of either backing General (retd.) Fonseka or fielding a common Tamil candidate by next Thursday.”
“We will be working with (the president) for elections. One thing is the political experience. Personally I believe (President Rajapaksa) is going to win. A large number of people believe that he is going to win.”
Despite PLOTE having been a militant group, Sithadthan said his political party will never support a presidential candidate with a military background, from any party.
Mr. Sithadthan said though Fonseka has every right to run for office as a civilian, he has concerns about a former military leader becoming the president and thereby inheriting the powers of the chief of the armed forces.
The PLOTE leader further said that minority issues can be addressed more effectively with Rajapaksa. “We have a good relationship with the government,” Mr. Sithadthan represented PLOTE at the first of its kind Zurich conference of representatives of Sri Lankan Tamil and Muslim parties including the pro-LTTE Tamil National Alliance (TNA) held from November 20 to 22.
In a joint statement has appealed for unity to develop an effective common programme to hold the government accountable for the protection of minorities, and to act as a serious and dependable negotiating partner representing the demands of minorities in the development of meaningful proposals for reform in the island nation.
A joint statement released here said, “We, the representatives of the political parties of the Tamil-speaking peoples unanimously: Affirm the historic meeting enabling an exchange of views, and express a full commitment to a common forum among representatives of all Tamil-speaking peoples;
“Recognize ‘Tamil-speaking peoples’ comprises three distinct peoples: Tamils, Muslims, and Tamils of Indian origin; Respect the distinct and separate identities, interests and positions of the parties;
“Recognize and affirm the need for unity and consensus among the Tamil-speaking peoples while acknowledging differences with regard to some issues and the paths to pursue them;
Commit to the engagement by all segments of society towards a just and durable political solution through a dignified, respectful and peaceful process; Agree and commit to continuing our dialogue”.
A press release on the conclave said that those who participated in the three day deliberations committed themselves to the engagement by all segments of society towards ‘a just and durable political solution’ in the island through a dignified, respectful and peaceful process and agreed to continue the discussions.