Ilankai Tamil Sangam

24th Year on the Web

Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

Uphold Democracy, Strengthen Tamil Muslim Unity!

by Sri Lanka Democracy Forum (SLDF), Sri Lanka Islamic Forum – UK  (SLIF) Tamil Forum for Peace (TFP), Social Development Organisation of Sri Lankan Dalits (SDOLD), May ?, 2008

We appeal to the people of the east to be wary of the motives of those forces that crush the just aspirations of the peoples of the province, and seek to strengthen the hands of those who wield guns...The only way to successfully challenge the growth of radical Sinhala Buddhist nationalism is for the minorities in the country to build a strong united coalition.  The combined efforts of the Tamil and Muslim communities in the east can pave the way for this united coalition by, with other minorities, challenging the government for a long-term sustainable political solution to the ethnic conflict.

10 May 2008 – Provincial Council Elections in the East-

Uphold Democracy!!

Strengthen Tamil Muslim Unity!!

We appeal to the people of the East to exercise special caution and act with clear purpose on 10 May 2008 when the   Provincial Council elections will be held. 

These elections are likely to have significant long term social and political consequences  for the  Tamil and Muslim communities living in the East.   These consequences will bring about far reaching  changes to the political future of this province, more than ever before. 

The eastern provincial elections should create an atmosphere of peace and normalcy, enable members of all communities to exercise their democratic rights fully  and affirm and establish the political representation of the different constituencies living in this province in a due manner.

However, the propaganda deployed for the elections and the manoeuvres and techniques employed by the various political actors do not convince the people that they are working towards the above objectives. In fact the methods employed appear to polarise the communities even further.

It would be correct to say that the local government elections that took place about a few weeks ago did create certain objective conditions for the creation of a democratic space in the east.  It is important to recognise that the people have after nearly two decades been given the opportunity to act freely and independently without having to bear the brunt of  LTTE repression and brutality.  This is a positive development from the circumstances that prevailed before.  However, now, more importantly, our attention should turn towards the political forces that aim to fill this democratic space. 

The people of the east are fearful that arms still play a big role in determining their political future.  Some of the political parties that claim to have joined the democratic mainstream still raise the spectre of fear and terror at the point of a gun.   This does not allow the people to free themselves from the experiences of the past fully.   While the people living in the East expect to live free of any LTTE domination, they also yearn for the freedom of their province from all acquisition of political power through unlawful armed activity.

These elections could make this province an example of a healthy democracy, in which all three communities coexist peacefully. However, the debates that are being pursued now, such as whether the Chief Minister should be a Tamil or a Muslim, are indicative of the dangers that these elections could bring to this region.  These elections could become a process by which the differences between the Muslim and Tamil communities could be exacerbated and ethnic rivalries and tensions could be set ablaze.    Various communal forces in the country are acting in a deliberate manner to increasingly polarise the different ethnic communities.  It is imperative that the people of the east do not become the victims of such diabolical political games played out by these communal forces.   

 The government weakened  the Vanni Tiger faction’s dominance in the Eastern province by using the Tiger movement’s internal power struggle to its advantage, but at the same time the government made no moves towards creating a conducive atmosphere for the prospect of democratic politics and recognising the basic  rights of the people  of the region; it made no positive gestures to give hope to the people of the east, such as a permanent resolution of the ethnic conflict and the war. Instead, with its military victories in the east, the government has sought to hold these elections rather hastily to consolidate its position in the region.  This has not inspired much confidence amongst the ordinary people of the east.  However, the people in this region have no alternative but to live in the hope that with the elections the circumstances and conditions could improve, and that they could move into a new phase of the province’s political future. 

Many Tamil and Muslim persons living in the eastern province express fears that this election could in the long term cause serious problems through a process of further ethnicisation of politics. 

The people of the east have undergone unbearable suffering throughout the last two decades of the war, and continue to suffer.   They have paid a heavy price in the form of  huge losses of life, resources and property and mental and physical trauma.  

Many of the problems faced by the Muslims and Tamils in the East have been created and perpetuated by successive governments, such as the Sinhalaisation and militarisation of the east, heavy-handed repression by the armed forces, and the exacerbation of differences between the Tamil and Muslim communities. It is important that a reasonable and acceptable political solution is found to put an end to these deleterious developments in the East. This is also the heartfelt demand of the people living in this region. 

Through these elections a provincial administration will begin to function in the east for the first time in many years; on the other hand, it is imperative that a parallel  political process be instituted to bring about nationwide democratic reforms and a sustainable political solution that can positively address the grievances of the minorities.   

We appeal to the people of the east to be wary of the motives of those forces that crush the just aspirations of the peoples of the province, and seek to strengthen the hands of those who wield guns; those who seek to elide democratic values in politics; those who nurture ethnic animosity and competition, particularly between the Tamil and Muslim communities, during these elections.  We request the people living in the east to be aware of the problems that could arise as a result of the ethnic competition that is being fuelled in this election. 

We request the people of the east to be mindful of the country’s overall political direction and future. The only way to successfully challenge the growth of radical Sinhala Buddhist nationalism is for the minorities in the country to build a strong united coalition.  The combined efforts of the Tamil and Muslim communities in the east can pave the way for this united coalition by, with other minorities, challenging the government for a long-term sustainable political solution to the ethnic conflict.

 It is important for a strong civil administration to be formed in the eastern province. If this administration is built on the foundations of firm Muslim Tamil unity, then it could become the basis for creating fundamental and positive changes in Sri Lankan politics. 

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Joint statement released by: [diaspora organisations of] Sri Lanka Democracy Forum (SLDF), Sri Lanka Islamic Forum – UK  (SLIF) Tamil Forum for Peace (TFP), Social Development Organisation of Sri Lankan Dalits (SDOLD)