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There was ‘no point’ in talking with Ranil Wickremesinghe says TNPF

TNPF reiterates call for international justice process in Sri Lanka | Tamil  Guardian

The Tamil National People’s Front (TNPF) said that there was “no point” in trying to engage with Ranil Wickremesinghe ahead of lawmakers electing a new Sri Lankan president, as he was actively working with a party that was against the changes that are currently taking place on the island.

Speaking at a press conference last week TNPF leader Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam, said that Wickremesinghe had tried to get in touch with the party before parliamentarians voted but the TNPF had refused to meet.

“We are not going to meet Ranil Wickremesinghe because he is with a party that is working directly against the changes taking place today,” said Ponnambalam. “Hence, our position is that there is no point in talking to him. We are speaking openly about it… We had also told him frankly about our position, that is, we will not have any contact with him.”

The TNPF abstained from voting in parliament this week, as lawmakers picked Sri Lanka’s president for the first time in the history of the island. “The election of President on Wednesday offers no choices for the Tamil people or the TNPF,” said the party ahead of the vote, as it laid out its position.

Ponnambalam detailed his party’s decision last week, revealing discussions with each of the main candidates. Reflecting on the 2019 presidential election, Ponnambalam recalled how Sajith Premadasa had rejected a set of 13 demands put forward by Tamil parties at the time.

“He had also been categorical that he was not ready to consider it at all,” the TNPF leader said, explaining their call to boycott that election.

“Why we took this stand is because what could have been the aspirations of the Tamil people has been consistently rejected… as far as we are concerned, there are no major differences between the policy of Rajapakse’s party and the policy of Sajith Premadasa.”

“If the Tamil National People's Front are to withdraw from that position, there should be a change from Mr. Premadasa's position, too.  That change should be to recognize the political aspirations of the Tamil people.“

But instead their discussions with Premadasa proved fruitless, said Ponnambalam. Instead, he said Premadasa claimed “I am not a racist at all, but have in mind the panchayat system practiced in India in matters of power sharing.”

With regards to the JVP candidate Anura Kumara Dissanayake, Ponnambalam said that the stance the JVP took during the war was “not acceptable”. Regardless, TNPF parliamentarian reportedly met with a prominent JVP member and called for “a clear answer to the political aspirations of our people and an apology to the people for their behaviour during the war, and a conviction on their part that they have constructively departed themselves from their past attitudes towards Tamils”.

Ponnambalam concluded the press conference by stating that regardless of who came to power, “the burden of the Sri Lankan government will keep increasing heavily day by day, so long as they deny the rights of the Tamil people and the Tamil nation”.

“As long as they act with such a racist mindset, the Tamil people will be continuing their protest and fight for their rights.”

“We want to tell the ordinary Sinhalese people who are struggling today that the Tamil people are not the enemies of the Sinhalese people.  We are ready to fully support your struggle.”

“We have fought this far, against genocide, for our fundamental rights and a peaceful existence.”

Original comments were in Tamil and translated to English.

See the full press conference in Tamil below.

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