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‘No regrets’ on backing Sirisena, claims TNA leader

The leader of the Tamil National Alliance said he had “no regrets” over his party’s decision to back Maithripala Sirisena in Sri Lanka’s 2015 presidential elections, despite criticism from several human rights groups and civil society organisations over the lack of progress on the island.

TNA leader R Sampanthan justified his decision by claiming Mr Sirisena is “was one of the strongest supporters of a just and reasonable solution to the Tamil question”. Mr Sirisena’s alliance with the United National Party also brought “an opportunity for the emergence of a multi-party consensus, particularly between the two main political parties, on the Tamil question,” he added.

“I have no regrets about the decision we made,” said Mr Sampanthan, though he added that the “Tamil people, and consequently those of us who represent them, expected greater performance from the government”.

When asked by The Hindu on “substantial gains made by the Tamils”, he went on to admit that there had been little progress on key issues.

“The government has not yet addressed its commitments on the question of accountability adopted by the UN Human Rights Council, and co-sponsored by the Government of Sri Lanka in 2015,” he said, noting that “the Tamil civilian population is bitterly disappointed about the delay”.

However Mr Sampanthan also said that on issues such as the occupation of land by the Sri Lankan military, the continued detention of Tamil poltiical prisoners and the tens of thousands of disappearances reportedly carried out by the state, “I will not say that nothing has been done... I would certainly say that much more could have been done.”

“One must realise that under this government, the rule of law is maintained, we don’t have the culture of impunity that prevailed earlier, and the independence of the judiciary and civilian institutions has been restored,” he added.

When the 84-year-old politician who was recently hospitalised was asked about succession plans for the TNA, Mr Sampanthan replied,

“I have not been really planning anything or having any definite focus on anyone or any particular course of action. I think it must play out over a period of time, as early as possible. Let us see what happens as we go along. I cannot be there forever, we need to have someone take over. It is not easy — you have to be cautious, you have to be patient and you need not be answering everybody, that is not possible”.

See the full interview with The Hindu here.