Tamil and Muslim parties shed differences for the sake of IDPs

By Satarupa Bhattacharjya

A week and half ago, five political parties representing Tamils and Muslims of the country came together to co-author a statement highlighting the plight of people who have been displaced by the war.

It was the first joint communiqué issued by the group comprising the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), Democratic People’s Front (DPF), Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC), Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) and Akhila Illankai Tamil United Front (AITUF) since the war between the Sri Lankan government forces and the Tamil Tigers ended in May. It is both strange and significant that signatories to the statement included leaders who so far have been political rivals.

TULF politician Veerasingham Anandasangaree for instance has been a vocal critic of the LTTE and did not join the TNA in the 2004 elections. In his own words, the former parliamentarian who suffered electoral defeats due to the Tamil Tigers is still bitter about his past experiences with AITUF leader K Vigneswaran. But Anandasangaree did not mind endorsing the joint statement issued on September 30.

“There was nothing objectionable in the joint communiqué. So, I signed on it. This is a common Tamil cause,” Anandasangaree later told the Sunday Times. The statement has urged the Sri Lankan government to “immediately release” the war displaced people from camps so that they could return to their places of origin. “The forcible detention of hundreds of thousands of Tamil citizens of Sri Lanka in camps for IDPs is illegal, without basis in the Constitution and in gross violation of international human rights norms,” the five political parties had said in their joint communiqué.

“As far as I am concerned, this is not a move for a political alliance,” said Anandasangaree when asked if the joint effort would result in the consolidation of Tamil and Muslim parties in post-LTTE Sri Lanka. “We have common concerns and therefore we should work together. But at this stage, I can’t say much else,” TNA leader R Sampanthan who signed the statement told the Sunday Times. “It is too early to comment on whether this will lead to a political formation but I think parties that represent the Tamils and Muslims of this country must develop a set of principles on which we can work for our people,” DPF leader Manoharan Ganesan told the Sunday Times. Ganesan, another signatory to the joint statement, added, “my party is for a united Sri Lanka.”

The joint statement also spoke about the need for the Muslims who had been driven out of the North by the erstwhile LTTE administration, to return to their homes. The political parties have sought government’s help in this regard.

Although the informal grouping of the five parties has so far resulted in the issuance of a joint statement, Anandasangaree feels that a deeply fragmented Tamil polity may not help achieve a better future for minorities in the island. “I see a bleak future for Tamil politics unless representative parties really start thinking about the Tamil peoples’ interest,” Anandasangaree said.

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