Tamil National Alliance (TNA) MP MA Sumanthiran has announced that the party will need to rethink its strategy of engagement with Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe unless his government produces “actual progress” before the next discussion on 10 January.
“We have been highlighting three specific areas for immediate action – the release of political prisoners, answers to families of [forcibly] disappeared persons, and the persisting land grabs in the north and east. Despite making promises, the government is yet to take any action” Sumanthiran told reporters following the third meeting between the TNA and the Sri Lankan president.
The TNA controversially decided to abstain from a vote on the budget presented by the Sri Lankan president which will see an increase in the military budget. Sumanthiran explained the decision stating;
“We took a decision not to cast our votes against the Budget [...] because the President has on numerous occasions in the last few days repeatedly said that he wants to resolve the Tamil national question and has invited the Tamil parties to have discussions with him".
President Wickremesinghe claimed he would solve the island’s long-standing ethnic question before the country’s Independence Day on 4 February 2023.
Speaking before parliament, Sumanthiran stated:
“We have consistently sought meaningful devolution, and firmly believe it is possible only within a federal arrangement…the President not only expressed confidence that we can arrive at such a solution but has also committed to a timeline for this exercise”.
The TNA is the largest political party representing Tamils and holds 10 MPs in the 225-member legislature. They have come under criticism from Tamil civil society organisations and the families of the disappeared for engaging with both Wickremesinghe and the Rajapaksas. The Tamil National People’s Front (TNPF), which has two MPs, has refused to engage in discussions maintaining that there is the point in speaking with the president unless he explicitly agrees to a federal solution.
The North East Coordinating Committee, a civil society group, staged protests on Thursday demanding that all political parties come together and demand a federal model of power-sharing.
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