Members of Sri Lanka’s Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) on Monday said they would work together on a progressive political agenda for the country, including their respective campaigns on the abolition of executive presidency and power devolution for the island’s minority Tamils.
“We told the JVP that the TNA’s position on the executive presidency is that it must be abolished. If the matter comes up for a vote in Parliament, the TNA will certainly vote for its abolition,” said M.A. Sumanthiran, TNA spokesman and Jaffna district parliamentarian. The JVP, in turn, reiterated its support for substantive power devolution, the central demand of the TNA’s pursuit of a political solution.
The meeting comes a fortnight after the TNA leadership met President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, with senior MPs from all sides, on expediting the Constitution-making process that has been on the back-burner.
“While there is no political consensus yet on the question of abolition of executive presidency or on electoral reforms — another key agenda to be addressed in the new Constitution – all parties are agreeable on going ahead with devolution. We conveyed that to the JVP and urged them to continue to support the process,” said Mr. Sumanthiran.
The JVP and TNA have also resolved to work together for “a broader, progressive politics” for the country, which would challenge the two mainstream parties — the United National Party and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party — according to those present. The meeting, anchored by JVP Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake, TNA Leader R. Sampanthan and select MPs from both sides, lasted over an hour and covered a range of topics pertaining to the current political situation in Sri Lanka.
The discussion marks the beginning of a formal dialogue between the JVP and TNA, which represent two very different constituencies in the island. The two parties together played a crucial role during Sri Lanka’s unprecedented political crisis last year, which lasted seven weeks, challenging Mr. Sirisena’s moves in both the legislature and the courts.
In an interview to The Hindu in November 2018, JVP leader Mr. Dissanayake had said that the JVP and the TNA, which represent constituencies in the south and north and had suffered state repression in the past, had “a duty to fight together and protect democratic rights”.
“Considering that we were the only two political groups during the political crisis to a position based on principle, and not for the sake of power, there is an expectation that we work together to give political leadership to a progressive political project,” Mr. Sumanthiran said. This collaboration, was outside the realm of elections, he added.