TNA Decides to Support Maithri

by Kelum Bandara & Darshana Sanjeewa, 'Daily Mirror,' Colombo, December 30, 2014

The Tamil National Alliance (TNA), which extended its support to common opposition candidate Maitripala Sirisena, said today the election of a new president would be a positive step towards the evolution of a political solution to the national question.At a news conference at which the TNA stance was announced, party leader R. Sampanthan said his party had not struck any electoral deal with the opposition presidential candidate. In a statement issued at the news conference it underscored the fact that democratic values, good governance and the rule of law had suffered an unprecedented assault under President Mahinda Rajapaksa and as examples, the TNA cited what it described as the subversion of the independence of the judiciary, the illegal impeachment of the Chief Justice on frivolous grounds, the devaluation of Parliament as a legislative body and the abolition of the 17th Amendment.When asked about the boycott of the 2005 presidential election by the Tamil people at the dictates of the LTTE,  Mr. Sampanthan admitted that the people, including his party was ‘freer’ to act with the LTTE ceasing to exist.

Statement released by the TNA

The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) has given careful consideration to the positions and pronouncements of the two main candidates at the upcoming Presidential election and has also undertaken an extensive process of consultation to hear the views of the Tamil speaking people, particularly those in the North and East. As the political leadership of the Tamil people in Sri Lanka, we have a historical duty to guide our people and the wider citizenry in the choice they will be called on to make at the election.The values of democracy, good governance and rule of law have suffered unprecedented assault under the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime. The most critical consequences of this assault are:1.    Sri Lanka’s inexorable move toward dictatorship and totalitarianism, with the Executive President becoming, in effect, the sole repository of all powers of governance. The removal of the two term limitation on the office of the President was clearly intended to perpetuate this dictatorship and authoritarianism.

2.    The subversion of the independence of the judiciary, particularly of the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal, so as to render the judiciary subservient to the Executive President. The illegal impeachment of the Chief Justice on frivolous grounds, and the numerous steps taken thereafter leading up to the judicial determination on the current Presidential election illustrate this reality. We are proud to note that the TNA resolutely opposed the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution and the impeachment of the Chief Justice inside and outside Parliament, and are heartened that, even at this stage, those who supported the Eighteenth Amendment and impeachment have had an opportunity to reflect critically on those mistakes.

3.    The devaluation of Parliament as a legislative and oversight body by the Rajapaksa regime through enticing opposition MPs to the government by offering monetary inducements and executive posts, so as to achieve a two- thirds majority in Parliament and effect vital constitutional changes. As a consequence, Parliament has become a mere appendage of the Executive President, in violation of its constitutional role.

4.    The intentional violation and subsequent abolition of the Seventeenth Amendment to the Constitution, and with it the Constitutional Council, thereby removing the existing scheme designed to ensure independent appointments to the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, Judicial Services Commission, Elections Commission, Public Service Commission, Police Commission, Human Rights Commission, Bribery Commission, and the Offices of the Attorney General and Auditor General. The devaluation of the higher judiciary, Parliament and formerly independent institutions has resulted in the replacement of the rule of law by the unfettered fiat of the Executive President.

5.    The authoritarianism of the Executive President has been consolidated by the restraints imposed on the free media and civil society through threats and intimidation; the denial of the right to freedom of information; and the impunity with which the President and his subordinates function.

The TNA therefore believes that it is essential for the health of Sri Lanka’s democracy that the authoritarian and dictatorial trajectory on which the Rajapaksa regime has set the country be reversed urgently.

The Rajapaksa regime has been particularly harmful to the wellbeing of the Tamil speaking peoples of Sri Lanka. The TNA has been committed to the evolution of a just, reasonable, workable and durable political solution within the framework of an undivided Sri Lanka. We have defined the contours of such a solution orally and in writing and publicly stated our position. Despite the opportunity presented by the end of the armed conflict, the Rajapaksa regime has signally failed to engage genuinely in a process of evolving an acceptable political solution, except to engage in deceitful and dilatory exercises.

Hundreds of thousands of Tamil speaking civilians displaced by the armed conflict in the North and East have not yet been resettled, rehabilitated and provided with housing and livelihood. Instead, tens of thousands of acres of private lands have been grabbed by the Rajapaksa regime in the North and East, despite commitments made to the contrary in the Supreme Court and in Parliament. Now, such land grabs are taking place in other parts of the country as well. Apart from the construction of roads, bridges and buildings at exorbitant costs which burden the tax payer, the Rajapaksa regime has refused to rebuild the lives of people in the devastated North and East and failed to bring any improvement to their quality of life. The Tamil speaking population in the North-East has been subjected to numerous other hardships: the denial of livelihoods; shelter; food; self-respect; physical safety, particularly for women and children who have been targeted by sexual violence; and justice in respect of the dead, the injured, the disappeared and those detained for long periods. The Rajapaksa regime has only brought pain and suffering to the Tamil speaking peoples of this country.

Instead of pursuing reconciliation, the Rajapaksa regime has permitted extremist groups to carry out attacks against minority peoples and their places of religious worship. The regime’s inaction in the face of racist violence and hate speech is suggestive of its covert complicity in these attacks.

It is in the totality of this background that the Presidential Elections take place. We have taken note of and welcome the Common Opposition Candidate’s undertakings, amongst others, to abolish the Executive Presidency, repeal the Eighteenth Amendment, restore independent commissions and guarantee primacy to the rule of law. The TNA believes that genuine restoration of democracy to the country will only be meaningfully achieved when the Sri Lankan state is structured to accommodate the aspirations of all its diverse peoples to meaningfully access state power, and when all Sri Lanka’s citizens are treated equally. We sincerely hope that in the new consultative and consensus based political culture that would evolve pursuant to the victory of the Common Opposition Candidate, democracy will be restored to the whole country through good faith negotiations between all stakeholders with a view to ensuring a life of equality, justice, dignity and self-respect for all Sri Lanka’s peoples.

The experience of our people has been that the struggle for democracy over dictatorship is inextricably linked to the pursuit of our most cherished values: equality, justice, dignity and freedom. We therefore call on all citizens to turn out in great numbers and defeat the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime by casting their vote in favor of the Common Opposition Candidate Maithripala Sirisena and the Swan symbol.

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Sri Lankan Tamil Party Backs Opposition for President

December 30, 2014 04:19AM ET | Associated Press


Colombo, Sri Lanka (AP) — Sri Lanka’s main ethnic Tamil political party said Tuesday that it will support the chief opposition candidate in January’s presidential election, in the latest blow to Mahinda Rajapaksa’s bid for a third term in office.

Tamil National Alliance leader Rajavarothayam Sampanthan said his party will back Maithripala Sirisena, who defected from the Rajapaksa government last month, because it believes Rajapaksa has failed to heal the island’s long-standing ethnic conflict despite ending 25 years of civil war in 2009.

“We would rather repose our faith in the joint opposition candidate Mr. Maithripala Sirisena, rather than expect what has not happened in the past 10 years to happen hereafter,” Sampanthan said.

The country’s largest Muslim political party also announced on Sunday that it was leaving Rajapaksa’s camp to support Sirisena in the election. More than 20 lawmakers and ministers have defected to the opposition.

Rajapaksa led a military campaign that defeated the Tamil Tiger rebels, ending a long campaign for an independent state for ethnic minority Tamils. However, he is accused of reneging on promises to share power with the Tamil-majority north and multiethnic east, and of falling behind on rehabilitation efforts for war-affected Tamils.

“The Rajapaksa regime has been particularly harmful to the wellbeing of the Tamil-speaking peoples of Sri Lanka,” the party said in a statement. It said the government had “failed to engage genuinely in a process of evolving an acceptable political solution, except to engage in deceitful and dilatory exercises.”

It said instead of resettling, rehabilitating and providing livelihood opportunities for hundreds of thousands of Tamil civilians displaced by the conflict, the government had resorted to land grabs and denied justice for those died, disappeared or were detained for long periods without trial.

“The Rajapaksa regime has only brought pain and suffering to the Tamil-speaking peoples of this country,” it said.

While the Tamil party’s decision could provide more votes for Sirisena, it could also provide the Rajapaksa campaign with a way to accuse the opposition of siding with separatists. The Tamil party was considered a proxy for the Tamil rebels during the civil war but has since agreed to accept power sharing in an undivided country.

The Tamil party said it was concerned with the country’s “inexorable move toward dictatorship” under the Rajapaksa administration, with the president holding wide-ranging powers.

“The removal of the two-term limitation on the office of the president was clearly intended to perpetuate this dictatorship and authoritarianism,” it said.

Rajapaksa was first elected to office in 2005 and won re-election in 2010, riding on his popularity from defeating the Tamil Tigers. He used his party’s two-thirds majority in Parliament to abolish the term limit for the presidency and assumed powers to appoint judges, top bureaucrats, police and military chiefs.


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