In the first of its kind, representatives of Sri Lankan Tamil and Muslim parties including the pro-LTTE Tamil National Alliance (TNA) are meeting in Zurich, Switzerland to take stock of ground situation, BBC Tamil service reported on Saturday.
Sri Lankan Social Welfare Minister Douglas Devananda, who heads the Eelam Peoples Democratic Party (EPDP), told BBC Tamil Service that though there was no fixed agenda the objective was to arrive at a “common ground” on issues affecting minorities and explore options of talks on safeguarding interests of minorities with the government.
With presidential and parliamentary elections round the corner and the likely scenario of President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the just retired General Sarath Fonseka being pitted against each other, the dilemma faced by minorities could well be imagined.
The idea of the Zurich gathering has not gone down well among influential sections of the Tamil Diaspora. TamilNet in a feature titled “Tamil, Muslim political parties find their table in Zurich” said, “Widely speculated as a drama backed by ‘high-powers,’ leaders of most of the Tamil and Muslim political parties in the island of Sri Lanka are meeting for the first time in Zurich, Switzerland, between Thursday and Saturday.
“The move is said to be for ‘extracting’ a joint proclamation of them necessary for further power manoeuvres in the island. A couple of years ago it was such a behind-the-scene move of some powers that made most of these parties except the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) to rally behind Mahinda Rajapaksa and pledge support to him in the war that brought in disaster to Tamils, writes TamilNet political commentator in Colombo”.
As per TamilNet, those headed to Zurich include Rajavarothayam Sampanthan, the parliamentary group leader of Tamil National Alliance (TNA), Suresh Premachandran (EPRLF-S, TNA), Gajendrakumar Ponnampalam (All Ceylon Tamil Congress, TNA), Arumugam Thondaman (CWC), Muthu Sivalingam (CWC), Mano Ganesan (DPA), Anandasangaree (TULF), Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan alias Pillayan (TMVP), D. Siddharthan (PLOTE) and Rauff Hakeem (SLMC).
The move is indeed an extraordinary development. The three communities have nursed grievances against the majority community, the political establishment of the day and among themselves.
Political parties representing these groups are divided on many lines and their affiliations vis-À-vis the majority parties are varied. Some are with the government, some with the opposition and others in-between.
Of all the three distinct minority communities, Muslims believe that they are the victims of the majority as well as minority politics and for good reasons. The oldest category of displaced persons is the minority Muslim community.
About 90,000 Muslim IDPs have been languishing in “temporary” government-run welfare centres in Puttalam since 1990. They were forcibly evicted from the North by the LTTE weeks after the last soldier of the Indian Peace-Keeping Force (IPKF) left the shores of Sri Lanka.