COLOMBO: The manifesto of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) for the August 17 Sri Lankan parliamentary elections has become a major issue among the Sinhalese majority in the island nation.
The TNA’s demand for “self-determination within a united but federal Sri Lanka” is being interpreted as a stepping stone to an independent Tamil Eelam. The TNA wants the 13 th. Amendment of the Lankan constitution to be scrapped and replaced by an amendment ensuring a federal structure with greater devolution or power to the provinces
Parties aligned with the United Peoples’ Freedom Alliance (UPFA) led by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa are not only voicing fears of Tamil separatism but asking the Sinhalese parties friendly to the TNA, to explain their stand on the manifesto.
UPFA candidate Tissa Attanayake dubbed the TNA manifesto as a “national security threat”. The UPFA is trying to taint the United National Party (UNP)-led United National Front for Good Governance (UNFGG) as an “anti-national” combine which should be shown the door. The UPFA hopes that the TNA manifesto will enable it to strengthen its hold on the Sinhalese-Buddhist community, which had supported it strongly in the January 8 Presidential election.
The high voltage UPFA campaign forced Prime Minister and UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, to declare that his party is for “devolution of power to the provinces within a unitary constitution and not a federal constitution.”
Merger of North And East
Another controversial aspect of the TNA’s manifesto is its demand for the re-unification of the Tamil-speaking Northern and Eastern Provinces to form a single North-Eastern Province as per the Indo-Lanka Accord of July 1987. The Muslim parties are dismayed by this because the Muslims will become an insignificant minority in a unified North-Eastern province. The Muslims are in substantial numbers in the Eastern Province. So far, two of the three Chief Ministers of the East have been Muslims.
If the UNFGG does not clarify its stand on the merger issue, a section of the Muslims in the East could vote for the UPFA which had detached the North and East by securing a Supreme Court order in 2006.
However, TNA’s spokesman, Suresh Premachandran said that the party’s manifesto did not say anything that it had not said in its earlier manifestos. “We have only reiterated our known position that the Tamils are seeking devolution of power within a united but federal Sri Lanka.”