Sri Lanka’s Eastern Province, where Tamils are a third of the population, has a Council of Ministers in which there is not a single Tamil!
In the five-member Council of Ministers, formed after the September 8 elections to the Provincial Council, there are four Muslims, including the Chief Minister, and a Sinhalese, but no Tamil.
Out of the 37 members in the Provincial Council, 13 are Tamils, constituting 35 per cent of the House. Eleven of the Tamils belong to the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and two to the ruling United Peoples ‘Freedom Alliance (UPFA). And yet, there is no ministerial berth for this community.
The two Tamils in the UPFA benches are, former Chief Minister Pillayan (elected) and Dr Navaratnarajah (nominated). Sources said that Pillayan was offered a ministerial berth, but he declined saying that President Rajapaksa had reneged on his promise to re-appoint him as CM if the UPFA were to win the snap polls. The post was given to Najeeb Abdul Majeed. Later, Rajapaksa persuaded Pillayan to accept the post of “Presidential Advisor on Eastern affairs” - a sinecure.
In the last provincial government headed by Pillayan, Tamils, Sinhalese and Muslims were represented. This enabled Rajapaksa to boast in world forums that there was a “truly Sri Lankan” multi-ethnic government in the Eastern Province, large parts of which had been under the control of the LTTE prior to liberation in 2007. Rajapaksa had used Pillayan, a reformed Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) cadre, as a showpiece in international meetings. Pillayan was displayed as a symbol of the success of Rajapaksa’s policy of rehabilitation, reconciliation and democracy in areas formerly under the grip of the LTTE.
However, even now, Rajapaksa needs to show the world that that there is fair representation for the Tamils. In March 2013, Sri Lanka has to face the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.