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ITAK leadership race tightens as Yogeswaran back Shritharan in Batticaloa

The battle to elect the next leader of the Ilankai Thamil Arasuk Katchi (ITAK) has begun to heat up, as S Yogeswaran threw his support behind S Shritharan in Batticaloa last week, with the embattled political alliance set to choose a new head this weekend.

Speaking alongside Shritharan at a press conference in Batticaloa, Yogeswaran did not declare himself out of the race but did back his fellow ITAK member against the other candidacy of M A Sumanthiran.

Shritharan beat back suggestions that he would not be suitable for leader as he was not as fluent in English as someone like Sumanthiran, stating that “English proficiency and legal literacy alone will not provide a solution for the Tamil people”.

“Whoever sincerely carries the road map of our national liberation with energy and unity, as well as national consciousness towards the Tamil people, will take this path on,” he said.

“Just as our leader Prabhakaran took Tamil nationalism to the world today and identified the Tamil nation.  Did he do it with English proficiency and legal knowledge?...  Let us look back at the histories of many leaders who visited and had discussions with him.”

He went on to state that all three candidates, himself, Yogeswaran and Sumanthiran were all “fully qualified” to lead the party, and that his “roadmap is to mobilize and bring together the various Tamil parties in the diaspora on an extensive scale”.

“I would like to continue my journey with a roadmap of how to shape the path to achieving a permanent political solution for us with the support of the nations of the world, especially the Western and the international community, diplomacy as well as with the support of our people here and the diaspora,” continued Shritharan.

Shritharan also defended the Ilankai Tamil Arasu Kachchi (ITAK), stating the party “has never gone off the track”.

“In Tamil national politics, a system of governance where the traditional homeland of the Tamil people, their permanent political rights and sovereignty will be restored” were their goals, he said. “In order to create a system of self-government, the ITAK will take tangible steps to ensure that the East and the North are united, and the North-East will become suitable for the Tamils in that merged North-East soil. The ITAK will continue its journey in the same way that it nurtured national liberation and hitherto mobilised the people.”

Whoever becomes the leader of the Tamil National Allaince (TNA) “should be committed to Tamil nationalism,” said Yogeswaran. “But since 2010, I have been well aware that my elder brother Shritharan is the one who loves Tamil nationalism more, dedicates himself to the cause of it and carries forward his political work accordingly.”

He went on to claim that Shritharan could garner more than 90% of the votes in Batticaloa to elect him as the next leader of the TNA.

“I am happy to observe the determination that has blossomed in the soil of Batticaloa to make him the leader in recognition of his patriotism and his passion for nationalism,” he added. “In case [Shritharan] withdraws, I will be there to fill the void.”

The TNA will decide a new leader via a secret ballot in Trincomalee on January 21.

See a video of both remarks below

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