COLOMBO: The Indian Origin Tamils (IOT), who are 4.16 per cent of the Sri Lankan population of 20.3 million, are aiming to double their representation in a reformed Lankan parliament.
As on date, there are seven IOT MPs in the House of 225 members. The community is aiming to have up to 14 MPs in a parliament of 255 members to be elected under a new electoral system which is currently under discussion.
IOT leader Mano Ganeshan told Express on Sunday that if justice is to be done to the long neglected community, there should be at least 10 elected IOT MPs. Besides, another four or five should get in through the national or bonus list.
The IOT had lost representation down the years due to various factors. In 1949, when Lanka had just won independence, there were seven IOT MPs in a 95-member parliament. But representation was reduced to nil in the 1952 parliament, because only 5,000 of the 780,600 IOT had qualified for Lankan citizenship under the 1949 Citizenship Act.
The population of the IOT subsequently got reduced because of the Sirima-Shastri and Sirima-Gandhi pacts in the 1960s and 1970s, which envisaged partial repatriation to India. It was only in 1988 that a substantial number of IOT got voting rights and it was only in 2003 that all of them got voting rights.
Need For Fresh Delimitation
But the envisaged increase in the IOT’s parliamentary representation can be achieved only if there is a suitable delimitation of constituencies and the introduction of multi-member constituencies, Ganeshan said.
“It is time fresh delimitation was done because the last delimitation took place in 1976 when most of the IOT were stateless and without a vote. Since then, there has also been an increase in population,” he said.
IOT leaders are to meet Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Monday.
“We will ask for multi-member constituencies and redrawing of constituencies in the districts of Nuwara Eliya, Colombo, Gampaha, Ratnapura and Badulla to get more of us into parliament,” he said.