Sri Lanka’s main Tamil party representing the island’s northern Tamils on Tuesday pledged its support to joint opposition candidate Maithripala Sirisena in the upcoming presidential polls.
The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) had unanimously decided to extend its fullest support to Mr. Sirisena, said its Leader R. Sampanthan, releasing a detailed statement that accused President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s “regime of being particularly harmful to the well-being of the Tamil-speaking people of Sri Lanka.”
Mr. Sampanthan also said that though, following the end of the war, the environment was conducive for a peaceful and honourable resolution of the conflict, the Sri Lankan government and President Rajapaksa did not use the opportunity. “We feel a senior politician like Mr. Sirisena should be given the opportunity,” as Mr. Rajapaksa had displayed a desire to delay the process of arriving at a reasonable political solution, the TNA leader said.
On whether the TNA was hopeful of realising its long-pending demand for substantive devolution of political powers to the Tamils in Mr. Sirisena’s leadership — given that his manifesto is silent on the subject — Mr. Sampanthan said “we would rather repose faith in Mr. Sirisena.”
“We are looking for a peaceful, honourable and a permanent solution within the framework of a united and an undivided Sri Lanka.”
He said the TNA, having watched President Rajapaksa’s performance for the last 10 years — and particularly since 2010 when he began his second term — deemed it fit to back Mr. Sirisena “rather than expect what has not happened in the last 10 years to happen now [under President Rajapaksa]”.
The TNA leadership has been repeatedly pointing to Colombo stifling the Northern Provincial Council formed after the TNA secured a massive mandate in the September 2013 provincial elections. It has voiced concern over excessive militarisation of the North and alleged land grab by the army.
The TNA’s decision comes days after the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC), the primary Muslim party here, quit the government to join the common opposition platform.
With the main parties representing the island’s Tamil and Muslim minorities deciding to endorse the common opposition candidate, the January 8 contest appears closer now, since both President Rajapaksa and his challenger Mr. Sirisena come from similar Sinhala-Buddhist constituencies.
Amid concerns among sections over possible intimidation of voters to prevent them from participating in the elections, Mr. Sampanthan urged the Tamils to come out in large numbers and vote in favour of Mr. Sirisena.
“We appeal to the Elections Commissioner and the Inspector General of Police to ensure that people able to exercise their sovereign right to vote,” Mr. Sampanthan said.