The Sri Lankan President, Mahinda Rajapaksa, now has the support of three Tamil parties in his bid to run for a second term -- the Ceylon Workers' Congress, the People's Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam and the Eelam People's Democratic Party.
In the build up to the January 26 Sri Lanka Presidential election, the chances of a third contender in the form of a consensus Tamil candidate are fast receding with the Tamil parties declaring their loyalties to either the incumbent Mahinda Rajapaksa or the commander turned politician, Sarath Fonseka.
On Wednesday the Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP) leader and Social Welfare Minister in the Rajapaksa Government, Douglas Devananda, made it known that his party has decided to plug for a second term to President Rajapaksa.
The EPDP is the third Tamil party to come out openly in support of handing over the Presidency once again to Mr. Rajapaksa. Earlier the Ceylon Workers’ Congress (CWC), pre-dominantly representative of the Indian-origin Tamils in the hill districts threw its weight behind the President.
People’s Liberation Organization of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE), a militant group turned political outfit with some base in the Vavuniya district was the first to announce its alignment with the sitting President.
Besides, the Chief Minister of Eastern Province and chief of Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal (TMVP), Sivenesathurai Chandrakanthan met President Rajapaksa and discussed the upcoming Presidential elections. English paper, Daily Mirror in a report on its web site said, “During the meeting the TMVP secured a seat for one of its members in the Eastern Provincial council to replace another member who had gone overseas”.
These developments have put a spanner in the works of some political parties that 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 the 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 last week.
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.”
With three Tamil parties announcing their loyalties to Mr. Rajapaksa, on Wednesday Mr. Ganeshan put out a media statement hitting out at them and demanded to know answers to questions related to the welfare and development of Tamils and Muslims.
“We demand responses from Ministers Douglas Devananda, Arumugan Thondaman, P. Chandrasekaran, chief minister Chandrakanthan, Tamil leaders Anandasankari and Siddharthan. Tamil people are not going to cast their votes closing their eyes. We will vote after classy classifications of what is in offer as political solution. Since the war is over now, there is no more time left for national leaders to play election politics on the political solution to the ethnic question”
“For Tamil and Muslim parties it is a classic case one step forward and two steps forward. Less than ten ago at a historic gathering at Zurich they had resolved to maintain unity and explore areas for cooperation”, a political observer told The Hindu.
The reference of the observer was to 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.
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.