Focus/Spotlight

Hope for a political solution dwindles

By Easwaran Rutnam

Hopes of achieving a political solution for the Tamil issue has begun to dwindle with even members of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) losing confidence.

TNA Leader R. Sampanthan informed two visiting European Union (EU) parliamentarians last week that a draft of the new constitution was expected to be tabled in Parliament next month.

The TNA hopes the draft will lead the way to a new constitution which will address the main concerns of the Tamil community.

However, TNA member and People’s Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE) Leader Dharmalingam Siddarthan said that he did not have faith in a political solution being achieved even by the current Government.

Siddarthan said that the push for a political solution would not stop, but he doubts a solution acceptable to the Tamils would be achieved any time soon.

He noted that despite international pressure on Sri Lanka, he did not feel the process to ensure a political solution for the Tamils would go beyond a certain point.

“But we cannot and will not give up our efforts. We cannot let go on the basis that this will not work,” he asserted.

Siddarthan also said that the current political climate in the country was such that it was very unlikely there would be a consensus among the main political parties for a new constitution that addressed the issues of the Tamils.

He said that it was unlikely the new constitution would have enough votes in Parliament to be passed.

When contacted by The Sunday Morning, another TNA MP S. Shritharan said that he could not comment on moves to bring about a political solution at this moment.

TNA member and Tamil Eelam Liberation Organisation (TELO) Propaganda Secretary M.K. Sivajilingam told The Sunday Morning that in his opinion, Tamils would never get a political solution.

He said that there needs to be international pressure, particularly pressure from the United Nations (UN), for Tamils to receive a political solution for their issues.

“As long as there are Sinhala extremists and as long as governments fall to pressure from these groups, we will not see a political solution,” Sivajilingam said.

Minister of National Integration, Official Languages, Social Progress, and Hindu Religious Affairs, and Tamil Progressive Alliance (TPA) Leader Mano Ganesan said that in 2015, the Tamils were promised they will be given a permanent solution to the national issue.

However, speaking as the Leader of the TPA, Ganesan told The Sunday Morning that he feels there is no political determination to address the issues of the Tamils.

“The going is not good,” he stressed.

Ganesan, who is also a member of the steering committee responsible for the business of the Constitutional Assembly and for preparing a Draft Constitutional Proposal for Sri Lanka, said that the TNA and the TPA supported the Government from within and outside in 2015, expecting a political solution for the Tamils.

“However, the end result is much less than what was expected in January, 2015. We are very disappointed,” he said.

He also said that Tamil parties are concerned and disappointed over the behaviour of some political parties in the South, particularly the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) and parts of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), who are playing politics with the Tamil issue.

“They have miserably failed to learn from the mistakes of the past,” he said.

During a meeting with the visiting Member of the European Parliament and member of the Friends of Sri Lanka group in the European Parliament Geoffrey Van Orden, TNA Spokesman and Jaffna District Parliamentarian M.A. Sumanthiran had said that the draft constitution which was done by a panel of experts, which was to be presented to Parliament on 7 December, 2018, will be presented by 4 February, 2019.

Ganesan said that the process to implement a new constitution for Sri Lanka still has a long way to go.

“We have not even come to the level of a constitutional draft. What we have is only a dossier of the experts committee, which has been submitted to the steering committee. This has to be forwarded to Parliament and discussed, go back to the steering committee, and then a draft constitution will be produced,” he said.

The draft constitution will then need to be presented to Parliament and be discussed, and then passed with majority of two-thirds and finally taken for a public referendum.