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Common presidential candidate is detrimental to Tamil aspirations - Sumanthiran tells forum in Jaffna

Tamil lawmaker M A Sumanthiran speaking at the People’s Forum in Jaffna this week told the audience that Eelam Tamils have made their desire to decentralise power clear and that there’s no need to repeat it through an election. 

“A common candidate is not beneficial and can be harmful, especially for the Tamil community. As Tamil leaders, we should not take part in events that destroy our identity,” he said.

"Elections are political events. The people did not elect and send the civil society to lead the people in politics. People have given us as leaders the orders. We are the ones who can guide the people politically. We cannot abdicate our responsibility and neglect people.”

He called on political leaders and parties to propel the Tamil aspirations forward adding that while civil society can offer their advice, it is the leaders that must take a firm stance. 

The parliamentarian said that Tamils should collectively work against a common candidate. “If someone is identified and promoted as a Tamil candidate, we should campaign against it. Because when he loses the election, we can safely say that this is not our political position.”

He added that a political position should not be used to comprise the Tamil aspirations adding that Tamils should campaign against such a candidate.

Sumanthiran’s comments come weeks after Sri Lanka's President Ranil Wickremesinghe told Tamil parliamentarian C.V. Wigneswaran that the Tamil people “do not have the unity, capacity and background to field a common candidate” for the upcoming Sri Lankan presidential polls, which are scheduled to be held later this year. 

There have been varied voices from the Tamil community with some calling for a common candidate to uphold the demand for an international referendum for an independent state of Tamil Eelam. The Tamil National People’s Front have been distributing leaflets in Jaffna calling on Tamils to boycott the elections in its entirety. 

In a statement, the TNPF said Tamils must refrain from casting their votes until the Tamil aspirations are also fulfilled. 

“The Sri Lankan government looks to the Tamil homeland as enemies,” their statement read. “They continue with their Buddhization, militarization, and structural genocide in the homeland. As long as the majority representation is in their hands, they will not consider the Tamils as their people but enemies.”

Meanwhile, Ilankai Tamil Arasu Katchi (ITAK) MP Charles Nirmalanathan told reporters earlier this year that Tamils were “yet to identify a Tamil leader of the likes of Velupillai Prabhakaran,” referring to the leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). 

“The Tamil political parties are yet to reach a mutual consensus on whom to field or support as a common Tamil candidate ahead of the presidential polls,” Nirmalanathan told reporters in Mannar. “Even though Tamils have voted continuously in every preceding presidential election, their rights have been denied outright. This makes restoring faith in politics and hope in a common candidate difficult.”

Eelam People’s Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF) on the other hand have called for a common Tamil candidate to represent the Tamil aspiration on a national forum adding that they must make the government of Sri Lanka realise that there cannot be economic progress without solving the ethnic issues. 

 

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