Saturday, April 24, 2010

Time Opportune for Concerted Tamil Speaking Communities’ Force

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa through his convincing victory at the presidential election proved that he could win an election even without the support of the minority communities. Similarly, the ruling United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA) led by President Rajapaksa has proved through its resounding victory at the just concluded general election also that it could form a government without the support of minority communities. The landslide victory achieved by the president at both elections exposes the bitter fact that the bargaining power held by the minority parties has slipped out of their hands.

Representation of Minority Communities
Considering the victory by the majority parties in their attempts to slash down the representation of minority communities in Parliament, these communities are now plagued with the fear that the prevailing trend against them might take an ugly turn in the future. Confirming the accuracy of their fears the government recently revealed intentions of proscribing parties of minority communities which harbor aspirations for securing devolution of powers.

Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa had expressed sentiments to this effect relating to parties that insist on devolution of powers. Mithripala Sirisena, general secretary of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party has shown the green light to the proposal advanced by the defense secretary.

Broad Political Alliance
Therefore, as far as the minority parties are concerned the need of the hour is unity among them selves in order to safeguard the survival of the communities they represent. At this juncture the views expressed by Mavai Senathirajah, senior parliamentarian of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) relating to the formation of a broad alliance covering all minority parties gains significance.

In the circumstances, the TNA plans to form a broad political alliance comprising representation by Muslim as well as hill country Tamils to hold talks with the government. The formation of such an alliance will create a status quo which cannot be ignored by the government in carrying out its functions relating to concerns of the minority communities.

The TNA will submit its proposals along with the proposals submitted by the other parties in the alliance, to the government. This development would pave the way for the international community to speak to the government. The government is now under heavy international pressure. If President Rajapaksa fails to hold talks with this proposed broad alliance we will press on with our democratic struggle of non violence, mobilizing our people to achieve our legitimate objectives. The views expressed by him on behalf of the TNA are healthy and commendable.

Forming New Alliance
Meanwhile, we could also be positive about the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) readily coming into such a broad alliance. The SLMC has expressed its support on several occasions in the past for an alliance of Tamil speaking people. In the course of private discussions the writer has held with SLMC leaders, they have expressed their willingness to form such an alliance.

We should also not fail to underscore here the fact that SLMC leader Rauff Hakeem in the run-up to the elections often said that only a joint struggle of the Tamil and Muslim communities would help politically win the rights of both communities, either through agitation via Parliament or through joint struggles from without.

If he acts in keeping with his stated intentions, the possibilities of forming a wide Tamil alliance are not unrealistic. It is also essential to reckon with the upcountry political forces in this context.
When the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) dominated the political scenario through their armed struggle, the Muslim as well as up country parties were hesitant to work in tandem with the TNA. But the atmosphere now obtaining is different following the defeat inflicted on the LTTE. There are no such obstacles now to minority parties closing ranks with the TNA. The time would then seem opportune for the country political leaders to join such a mega political alliance.

Follies Committed in Past
The greatest folly committed by the LTTE and parties like the SLMC was their belief that they could win the rights of the communities they represent by waging independent struggles. But the Tamil and Muslim parties have now realized the error of their past convictions and it augurs well that they have now changed that mindset.

World history has recorded several incidents in which minority communities which once stood divided joined forces later to successfully win back their political rights.

Learning lessons from history the minority communities namely Tamils, Muslims, and upcountry Tamils should come together in a collective force with the aim of winning their political rights. Such a Tamil speaking alliance is an indispensable body for the objective of ensuring the political rights of minority communities.

Minority political parties have hitherto made gestures of agitation for their rights only during an election campaign. But there are no possibilities of an election being held in the new future. It will take another six or seven years for elections to be held. As such, coming out of the election myth, minority parties could now unite in a permanent entity on behalf of the communities they represent. The time is now most opportune for them to unite and work for the well being of the communities they represent.

The parliamentary election is now over and the UPFA is poised to form the new government without the support of the minorities.

The moment is also opportune for opposition MPs to join the government. As such there are possibilities for the UPFA to get strengthened further.

Against this backdrop the government would face no obstacle to fulfill its ulterior objectives such as proscribing the parties which clamor for devolution of powers, colonizing Sinhala people in the traditional homelands of Tamils, abolishing proportional representation and so on.

A single Tamil political party can never stem such destructive plans of the government against the minority communities. It would be possible only by a broad Tamil alliance.

Leaning on the government by certain Tamil, Muslim, and hill country parties is essential because this will help them to fulfill the expectations of their communities. We might even brand it as a kind of diplomacy.

If proposals such as a university in Vanni, houses for estate laborers, development of harbor in Oluvil, swift development of the North as envisaged by certain MPs are to take shape it is certainly necessary for certain MPs of the minority communities to back the government. This strategy will help develop Tamil areas while struggles are pressed to get the rights of Tamil people restored.

It does not mean that minority communities should give up their demands for their rights. Certain factions may not respond to our opinions. When we analyze the election results of the North and East we could see that minority communities have voted for the development of their regions.

Therefore, while leaders of minority communities focus their attention on our development they should also not give up their demands to fulfill the aspirations of their people.

Against this scenario, if the minority parties were to decide that they will not assist in the development process until they attain a federal system of government or the right of self-determination, it will not be a conducive approach. Therefore, while fine-tuning their struggles to thwart conspiracies hatched against the minority communities with the support of the international community on one hand the broad based alliance of minority parties should also concentrate on social development.

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