All-Party Administration for the Eastern Province Feasible: TNA Responsive


by Tissa Vitarana

The results of the Eastern Provincial Council Elections provides an opportunity for the representatives of all three major racial groups to come together to develop the Province. This should not be missed.

One of the unfortunate features of the situation that has emerged in the East after the end of the war has been the continuation of the sharp divide between the Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim communities. This has been aggravated by the progressive intensification of racial politics right up to the end of the election campaign. This unhealthy trend must be halted if we are to build national unity.

The Socialist Alliance (of the LSSP, CPSL, DLF, SLMP and DVJP) contested the election for the three districts in the Eastern Province, under the "earthenware lamp" symbol, on a non-racial basis stating that all races must get together to solve the common problems affecting everybody and achieve maximum economic development in the common interest of the people of the Eastern Province. Unfortunately we were accused of splitting the Tamil vote in the Batticaloa District and the district organizer and two of the five candidates of the LSSP came under tremendous pressure and were forced to withdraw from our list. The three Tamil candidates in Ampara, while remaining on the list, dropped out of the campaign. Our Muslim and Sinhala candidates too came under racist pressure. Unless we put an end to this type of racial politics, we are going to head once again to a situation of racial conflict, and even war.

It is possible for the UPFA (which includes the NFF) together with the SLMC to form an administration in the Provincial Council. But this would leave out 11 of the 12 Tamil representatives, who have been chosen by the Tamil electorate from the Illankai Tamil Arasu Katchi, ITAK list (i.e. all three from the Trincomalee district, both from the Ampara district, and six of the seven chosen from the Batticaloa district).

The polarization that already exists in the East between the Tamils and the others would then be further aggravated in the period ahead, leading to further friction and problems. On the other hand the process of reconstruction and development in the East would best serve all communities if their elected representatives are in the administration of the Council, as proposed by the Left ( refer the Island of 14.09.12. regarding the letter sent to political leaders by Minister Dew Gunasekera, General Secretary of the CPSL). Therefore it is most desirable that the ITAK should be brought into the Provincial administration.

An invitation from the President to the ITAK would, in my view, going by all present indications, evoke a positive response. I had a conversation with ITAK leader, Mr.R.Sampanthan, where he clearly indicated his readiness to respond positively to such an invitation. His stand was that almost all the Tamil voters had supported the ITAK, which received 30.59% of the provincial vote, only 1% less than the UPFA. It would be undemocratic to leave them out of the administration.

From the outset Minister Rauf Hakeem, the leader of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, SLMC, the other key player, has been supportive of this proposal. He not only holds the view that an All-Party administration is feasible, but also that it is desirable. This inclusive approach would have a tremendous positive impact on the Tamil people not only in the Eastern Province but also across the country. It would be a positive signal that will do much to achieve national unity and reconciliation. It would also significantly help to restore our international image. I earnestly request the President to extend an invitation to the ITAK leader, Mr. Sampanthan, to bring his party into the provincial administration. Indications are that Dr. Sarath Amunugama has had a productive exchange of views with Mr.Sampanthan.

The UNP too should be brought into the administration, not only because it has one Muslim and three Sinhalese representatives, but also because it should be an essential part of what is a national reconciliation process. The same applies to the National Freedom Front which had one Sinhalese representative elected from Trincomalee. When I spoke to UNP leader Ranil Wickremasinghe he thought that the problem would be to get the TNA (ITAK) aboard. But now that it is clear that the TNA is prepared to join such an all-party administration it should be possible for the UNP too to come into the process. Minister Wimal Weerawansa had been agreeable to the idea, though he was skeptical about being able to get all to work together in a single administration.

The working out of a common agenda on the basis of the developmental needs of the Eastern Province should not be a problem, provided due attention is placed on the needs of each community in a spirit of mutual respect. The ITAK could take on some ministerial responsibility initially under a UPFA chosen chief minister. With time an appointment of an ITAK representative as the chief minister for a limited period could be considered. This would be a good test case under controlled, and controllable, conditions to prepare for the outcome of the anticipated Northern Provincial Council elections. It may also provide a suitable model.

The TNA would gain by acquiring administrative experience at provincial council level and also be called upon to play a constructive role, rather than a purely critical one. The unfounded fears that some people have about the dangers of a TNA administration in the North could be removed. The position of chief minister may be rotated in a mutually agreed fashion, with a turn for the SLMC as well, so that as a part of the Tamil speaking population they too are drawn into the process.

We of the Socialist Alliance hope that this opportunity will not be missed, and on our part we shall be happy to extend our fullest support to the President to take this process forward.

Tissa Vitarana, General Secretary of the Lanka Samasamaja Party (LSSP).

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