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Sumanthiran calls for ‘federalism, democracy and protection’

Tamil National Alliance (TNA) parliamentarian M A Sumanthiran has reiterated his call for federalism, despite the new Sri Lankan president Gotabaya Rajapaksa repeatedly stating his opposition to devolving powers.

"Although Tamils and Muslims are minorities in Sri Lanka, they are the majority in many districts,” said Sumanthiran. “It is to have a say in running their own affairs and to escape the dominance of the majority in these districts that federalism is being proposed. It is important to note how minorities voted collectively – for a federal solution. That democratic message must not be lost – vox populi, vox dei – on our Government if it is to be the Government of all of us.”

Sumanthiran went on to state that current prime minister and former Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa “promised India in writing that he would go beyond the Thirteenth Amendment,” which mandates devolves land and police powers.

“It seems that promises are freely given with no intention to deliver on them,” the MP added. “It is by promising India and the international community that Mahinda Rajapaksa would solve our ethnic problem through devolution of powers, that his Government got assistance in prosecuting the civil war against the Tamil Tigers. It was in the Government that made these solemn promises to the world that current President Rajapaksa was Defence Secretary, and as such he has ownership in these commitments.”

“Today under this new Government the freedom to express ourselves freely has suffered a major setback. Our community will not cooperate with any oppressive measures that detract from our freedoms. It appears that the coming days will offer many challenges to democracy. I invite all communities to come together and add their voices to calls for federalism, democracy and their protection.”

Sumanthiran also called for answers to the whereabouts of the thousands of Tamils who had disappeared under the Rajapaksa regime.

“The then-Defence Secretary and present President is unable to answer legitimate questions about those who disappeared, especially those who publicly surrendered to the army at the end of the war,” he said. “Those who disappeared are one issue, but there are those who handed them over to the army in trust and need closure, wondering with guilt if they did harm to their relatives in handing them over to the army to be disappeared. Their testimonies cannot be brushed aside. That cannot be denied. Answers must be given. The President is escaping responsibility by saying we are politicising the matter and thinks that is an excuse for not addressing how people were disappeared. That is no answer. Lives are involved. The relatives need closure.”

See more from the Daily FT here.