Two prominent political groups representing Sri Lanka’s Tamil minority, in the north-east and the hill country, have decided to work together in the wake of the Easter terror attacks. The decision was taken following a meeting between leaders of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and the Tamil Progressive Alliance (TPA) on Friday.
“Such times warrant such collaboration,” said Mano Ganesan, a Cabinet Minister and leader of the TPA, an alliance of three parties representing Malayaha Tamils, living mostly in the Central, Uva and Southern Provinces, and Colombo. Over 2,00,000 people of the nearly million-strong community work in the island’s tea estate, earning foreign exchange for the country.
“In addition to old concerns and long-pending demands of our communities, a new challenge has emerged in the country, following the IS-claimed bombing. Addressing this threat is crucial, but Tamil concerns cannot take a back seat,” he told The Hindu on Saturday.
Three TPA MPs hold ministerial positions in the government. The TNA, which has 14 legislators, is in opposition. It has been the main political alliance representing Tamils in the war-hit north and east, demanding a political solution.
Pushed to a corner
The coming together of the two groups foretells a potential regrouping. Iconic hill country leader Savumiamoorthy Thondaman was one of the founder-members of the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) that demanded a separate state for Tamils in the 1970s. However, in the past two decades, the political leadership of the two Tamil communities have largely remained apart, focussing on the specific demands of their respective constituencies.
M.A. Sumanthiran, TNA spokesman and Jaffna district parliamentarian, said that the leaders of both alliances would continue to stand by Muslims, who are vulnerable after the attacks. They would “not fall prey” to attempts by some to drive a wedge between Tamils and Muslims, he added. “At the same time, the TNA and the TPA will look at ways of bringing to the fore the concerns of the Tamils that have now been pushed to a corner,” he told The Hindu.
Pointing to heightened searches and checks in the north and east following the attacks, Mr. Sumanthiran said security forces appeared to be “relishing” the fact that they can “intimidate and harass Tamils in the guise of enhanced security”. “We are not suspects in this instance.”
Concurring with him, Mr. Ganesan said the emergency regulations that came into effect after the Easter bombings had given more clout to the security apparatus. “I have already conveyed to President [Maithripala] Sirisena that the focus should be on eradicating the new threat brought by the IS. The people in the north and the east have no appetite for another armed struggle or for separatism. We shouldn’t allow the security sector to artificially create panic and fear in those areas,” he said.