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General election: GTF discourages voters from backing major parties…

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…warns of authoritarian rule

The UK headquartered Global Tamil Forum (GTF), which has been working closely with Tamil National Alliance (TNA), has urged the Tamils to vote for those only contesting the northern and eastern regions. In addition to the TNA, the Thamizhi Makkal Tesiya Kootani or the Tamil People’’s National Alliance led by former Northern Province CM C.V. Wigneswaran are in the fray in the former war zones.

 The GTF, in a statement issued yesterday said: “First and foremost, ensure that people appreciate the significance of this election and the power of their vote – every vote matters. Second, no vote should be wasted on the multitude of independent groups and those representing countrywide parties, as these could only dilute the strength of the Tamil representation for future political engagements. Overly unrealistic agenda and an inward-looking insular political strategy is not the most suited in the present circumstances. The question for the Tamil voters is among the parties that represent Tamil national interest, which party and candidates are the best suited to navigate Tamil politics through the turbulent times ahead.”

  The GTF urged all citizens of Sri Lanka, including those from Tamil and Muslim communities, to view the election with long-term perspective and exercise their franchise prudently and responsibly. Otherwise, the price of apathy could be too high.

 The GTF alleged the election was being held amidst authoritarian presidential rule through decrees and task forces, key civilian functions entrusted to serving and retired military officers (some of whom credibly implicated in serious human rights violations), an atmosphere of intimidation and fear leading to media self-censorship and silencing of civil society activists, and insecurity among the minority communities.

 The GTF said: “It is in this atmosphere that Rajapaksas are seeking 2/3rd majority to change the constitution, in particular, to abolish the 19th Amendment. It is not difficult to contemplate where this will lead to – executive power without checks and balances, marginalisation of Parliament and Judiciary, and key institutions made irrelevant. In such a quasi-democracy, rule of law and human rights will become expendable, and impunity will reign. The argument that a strong leader with unconstrained power is a must for development and prosperity is phony and self-serving.”

 The GTF statement: “The last two attempts at constitution making (1972 and 1978), where the political parties that drove the process had 2/3rd majority, were disastrous, and their effects are still crippling the country. Democratic fundamentals and the multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, multi-religious character of the state were severely compromised to satisfy the power greed of the rulers. There is no indication that politics or statesmanship will be any different this time. In fact, if history is a guide, the outcome could be worse than what was achieved during the last two attempts. It is crucial, therefore, that all citizens should unite in denying the present rulers unfettered freedom for constitution making, rather ensure that only a widely consulted and compromised charter will be possible.

 “While a functioning democracy with checks and balances are important for all citizens, it is so paramount for the minority communities. When the fangs of the majoritarian state unfairly target minority communities, even the theoretical possibility of legal recourse can be significant. So, it is vital that Tamil, Muslim and Christian communities study their electoral options and act wisely.

 “Eleven years after the end of war, re-evaluating political circumstances and electoral possibilities is a must for the Tamil community. Gaining a respectable and secure status in the country is still a dream and there are many disappointments to contend with – no tangible outcomes on constitutional and accountability fronts, lack of momentum in returning to normalcy for the war-affected, and lingering concerns about protecting identity of the Tamil majority North-East. However, it is also undeniable that during the last five years there was notable relief for the Tamil people due to de-escalation of the military stranglehold in the North-East and people enjoyed some normalcy and freedom which included the right to memorialize the war-dead. How much of these could be lost due to the electoral outcomes is one important question to consider.

 “The Tamil political leadership during the last decade has earned some positive marks on the national politics of the country – its role in the 2018 constitutional crisis being one notable example. A far-sighted political approach has somewhat weakened the apprehensions and animosities existed between the Tamil and other communities. Further, the Tamil nationalistic politics in Sri Lanka is viewed in the major capitals of the world as a far more progressive one than what it used to be. These fundamental building blocks are crucial for future political settlements, and need to be further strengthened, not weakened, as Tamil struggle moves on.

 “Tamils in Sri Lanka is a significantly weakened community today – the population is relatively small with reduced electoral strength, and its educational and economic performances are among the worst in the country. Meeting political aspirations, though overwhelmingly the dominant issue for Tamils, is one of many objectives for the rest of the country. While the Tamil community should never take its eyes off from achieving political outcomes, it is no longer tenable that it be approached in a sequential manner, i.e. – ‘political resolution first, economic development later’. It is crucial that the Tamil political leadership become more cognizant of this reality and take necessary initiatives in this direction.

 “The Sri Lankan political leadership’s intransigence in accommodating the legitimate aspirations of the Tamil community, made the Tamils look to the international community and India, with hope and expectation. While this is an integral part of the Tamil political struggle and need to be strengthened and leveraged to the maximum, this cannot substitute an effective political and civil society engagement with all communities in the country. This, too, needs to be a factor when Tamils consider their political choices.

 “The Tamil community faces monumental challenges today. The Rajapaksas-led political ‘movement’ does not have many parallels in Sri Lanka’s history. It relies entirely on Sinhala-Buddhist vote and highly insensitive to the concerns and aspirations of the minority communities. No commitment to accountability and reconciliation (withdrew from co-sponsorship of UNHRC resolution), increased militarisation of civil functions (military officers for every village in the North-East), and the appointment of all-Sinhala task force to ‘preserve the historical heritage of Sri Lanka’ in the multi-ethnic Eastern Province are a few examples. More ominous is the possibility of losing some of the fundamental reforms such as power devolution under 13th Amendment and the parity status for Tamil language. A major economic contraction Sri Lanka is expected to undergo could lead to intensifying authoritarianism and militarisation, and in all likelihood the minority communities will be used as scapegoats for the wrong doings of the powerful.

 “The period ahead will test the capability of the Tamil political leadership. Forming effective partnerships with the elected representatives from all minority communities and with those from the majority community with progressive views could be critical, so is fostering effective engagement strategies with the international community and India. If Rajapaksas are denied 2/3rd majority, such coalitions would be particularly powerful in preventing the constitution being amended on their own right. Perhaps the better strategy for the Tamil community could be protecting its hard-won gains, while exploring opportunities for furthering its community interests.

” Despite the fundamental weaknesses in Sri Lanka’s democracy, the country is often viewed favourably by the international community because it unfailingly conducts elections which are viewed largely as free and fair. In such circumstances, voting is fundamental and in fact the most powerful tool available to effect political, social and economic transformations in the country. The Global Tamil Forum (GTF) appeals to every citizen of Sri Lanka, and the Tamil people in particular, to cast their precious votes and cast it wisely, keeping the long-term interest of the country and their political, economic and democratic rights in mind.”

 

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Murder convicted SLPP candidate not allowed to vote

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The murder convicted SLPP Ratnapura district candidate Premalal Jayasekera, who was sentenced to death over a killing in Kahawatte during the Presidential Election in 2015, was not allowed to vote at Aug.5 general election, CaFFE Executive Director Manas Makeen said.

Although Jayasekera was sentenced to death there was speculation that he would be allowed to vote. The shooting took place on Jan 05, 2015 and caused the death of a supporter of then Opposition presidential candidate Maithripala Sirisena.

The UNP supporter, who was engaged in decorating a stage, was fatally wounded in the shooting and succumbed to his injuries in hospital on January 8.

The Pelmadulla Magistrate issued arrest warrants on the suspects involved.

Former Deputy Minister Jayasekara was arrested on January 10 that year over the election-related shooting incident while he had been released on bail on December 07, 2015.

Former Sabaragamuwa Provincial Councilor Nilantha Jayakody and former Kahawatte Pradeshiya Sabha chairman Vajira Darshana were also arrested over the shooting.

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Over 70 per cent turnout

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The overall voter turnout at yesterday’s general election was over 70%, according to election officials and monitors.

The overall turnout at the Vanni Electoral District was 74%, district returning officer S.M. Saman Bandulasena said. The Vanni Electoral District comprises of Mullaitivu (74%) Vavuniya (74%) and Mannar (76%) administrative districts

The turnout in other districts were: Galle 70%, Matale 72%, Nuwara Eliya 75%, Ratnapura 71%, Puttalam 64%, Kandy 72%, Polonnaruwa 72%, Hambantota 76%, Anuradhapura 70%, Matara 71%, Batticaloa 76%, Kalutara 70%, Trincomalee 73%, Digamadulla 72%, Kurunegala 65%, Kegalle 70%, Gampaha 68%, Colombo 70%, Badulla 74%, Jaffna 67% and Moneragala 75%.

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Mangala prepares to launch new movement

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…support for LGBTQ assured

Former Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera plans to launch a combined political-civil society campaign tomorrow against the authoritarian rule.
In a statement issued yesterday (5), Samaraweera, who quit the electoral contest after obtaining nominations from the Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) a few weeks before the polls, emphasized the need for re-commitment to democracy as the country hurled towards an autocracy with the rapid convergence of the executive, the military and the clergy; the legislature and the judiciary are being turned into mere rubber seals of the executive President.

Mangala Samaraweera

The former minister addressed lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights among other issues amidst indications the SLPP could comfortably form the next government. Samaraweera said: “The LGBTQ movement must be supported and encouraged in their struggle to do away with archaic Victorian laws governing same sex relationships between consenting adults. All human beings – irrespective of sexual orientation, gender, ethnicity, caste or religion should be treated as equal and diversity must be celebrated in all its manifestations.”

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