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The TNA and ethnic realities 

2 years ago

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The year 2021 was rather special to Sri Lanka as far as its international relations and the international community’s stance on Sri Lanka’s social and political atmospheres were concerned. Dealings with India and China, most of which revolved around Sri Lanka’s Ports, loans and the vaccines for Covid-19, and also what was discussed at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and the European Union (EU) Parliament, gave rise to a plethora of concerns, controversies and questions, which Sri Lanka has to address very carefully.  However, what was raised by the UNHRC and the EU Parliament is quite unique and straightforward, and constitutes more or less, warnings for Sri Lanka. They are also opportunities Sri Lanka received to pay more attention to its internal issues; more specifically, they were human rights related matters Sri Lanka should not ignore.  The Morning yesterday (16 June) reported that the first ever meeting between President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) Leader and Parliamentarian R. Sampanthan, which was slated to be held yesterday (16), had been cancelled for reasons which remain unknown as of yet. According to a statement issued by TNA Spokesman, President’s Counsel and MP M.A. Sumanthiran, one of the topics that were to be discussed with the President was how to take forward the process of Constitutional reform.  It is true that the stance, objectives and demands of the TNA have been questioned and considered somewhat controversial by many, owing to the nature of TNA’s activities in the past few years. They are also considered by some as pro-Liberation Tigers of the Tamil Eelam (LTTE), and some North and South based political parties have alleged that the TNA does not really represent or address the true interests of the Tamil community.  However, the TNA is still one of the prominent North based political alliances and one of the political Parties that focused on political and policy decisions, including the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. Therefore, their concerns are hard to ignore.  The Government postponing the meeting in fact is a trivial matter. What is more concerning is the fact that Sri Lanka keeps showing a rather lackadaisical approach as far as the worsening inter-ethnic and post-war reconciliation concerns are concerned. These matters are internal matters. However, the UNHRC and the EU Parliament have paid significant attention to these matters, meaning that they have become matters the international community is also concerned with, for better or worse.  Speculation is rife that the nationalist forces within and outside the Government did not approve of this planned meeting and that this factor may have resulted in the postponement of the meeting. But, leaders need to understand that issues that affect the country and can continue to affect the foreseeable future, need urgent attention, not postponement. Discussions may not always lead to proper solutions and consensus between parties following different paths. However, discussions are a start.  The discussions in the international community concerning Sri Lanka are quite negative and as far as Sri Lanka's dignity and accountability are concerned, that negativity is the call to action to acknowledge the true nature of these problems and to address these long term issues. How long can Sri Lanka go on ignoring these warning signs is a question; the bigger question is why Sri Lanka should ignore them when most of the concerns raised by Tamil political parties including the TNA are actual issues Sri Lanka keeps ignoring.  Sri Lanka is yet to understand that upholding the country’s dignity does not mean fighting any and all voices that criticise the administration and governance of the country. Listening to them is sometimes a necessary evil, which can help Sri Lanka deal with longstanding and deep rooted problems and improve as a nation. The truth is, a country’s dignity is also about countering the reasons used by those who criticise the country. Essentially, it is not being criticised, but not giving a reason for another to criticise, that truly constitutes a dignified nation.

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