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Tamil politicians should join ‘extra-parliamentary agitation’

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The Tamil political leadership should join the “extra-parliamentary” agitations across the North-East in order to achieve the political goals of  power-sharing, accountability and demilitarisation, argued journalist J S Tissainayagam in an article for the Asian Correspondent last month.

Tissainayagam states that ahead of next week’s Sri Lankan presidential elections “boycott alone would be ineffective for Tamils”. Instead he says that a boycott must be “part of a larger post-election campaign, where Tamil parties amplify the boycott message by joining and enhancing other types of extra-parliamentary agitation already in progress”.

“In this light, a boycott of forthcoming elections by Tamils will have little benefit if Tamil political leaders behave as if their power is derived from holding on to the coattails of Sinhala government leaders both in parliament and the presidency,” he says.

“The truth is that Tamil parliamentarians were elected by the Tamil voter and it is from them that they derive power.”

He goes on to state, that “merely articulating demands within formal governing institutions is clearly inadequate”.

Tissainayagam concludes by stating,

"Hence, Tamil politicians should combine parliamentary and extra parliamentary methods much in the line of the Ilankai Thamil Arasu Katchi (Federal Party) of the 1950s and ’60s. The Federal Party at least negotiated successfully with the Sinhala governments to commit to their demands in pacts until Sinhala chauvinism forced it to demand secession in 1976.

Boycott of elections is a weapon in the armoury of non-violent agitation in countries where formal channels to articulate political grievances are broken.

But if Tamils want the boycott not to be a one-off event, they should persuade Tamil political leadership not to leave extra-parliamentary agitation only to survivors but join this struggle to add and build on it."

See the full text of his piece here.