EconomyNext – Sri Lanka’s main minority Tamil party said they would support opposition presidential candidate Maithripala Sirisena in the January 8 presidential poll, further eroding incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s chances of re-election.
The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) members told reporters they had hope for a change in the political situation if Sirisena is elected.
They blamed Rajapaksa for subverting the judiciary and eroding the independence of public institutions like the police, public service and judiciary with constitutional amendments.
"Unfettered" presidential power had replaced rule of law under Rajapaksa, members of the TNA, the main political party of minority Tamils, told a news conference, Tuesday.
TNA lawmaker R Sambandan said they decided to extend their fullest support to Sirisena after consultations with TNA supporters in recent weeks in the north and east and other parts of the country and examining the stances of the two main candidates.
"The values of democracy, good governance and rule of law have suffered unprecedented assault under the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime," he said.
Under Rajapaksa Sri Lanka was moving towards dictatorship and totalitarianism, he said.
"The removal of the two-term limit on the office of the president was clearly intended to perpetuate this dictatorship and authoritarianism," Sambandan said.
Asked why the TNA would support Sirisena who had not put forward specific proposals to address Tamil grievances, the TNA members said they had lost faith in Rajapaksa and hoped for a better deal from Sirisena’s opposition coalition.
Sambandan said the Tamil parties have had 10 years of talks with Rajapaksa but failed to work out a fair deal with him to solve their political problems.
"The election of a new president would be a positive step towards the evolution of a political solution."
Sambandan said the TNA would ask their supporters to vote "enthusiastically" for Sirisena.
Rajapaksa’s regime has been accused of human rights abuses in the military campaign that crushed a campaign by Tamil Tigers for a separate state for minority Tamils in the island’s north and east in 2009.
Rajapaksa has also resisted calls for devolution of power to address grievances of minorities.
Sirisena was a former health minister under Rajapaksa who defected in November as soon as the latter called a snap presidential poll two years ahead of schedule.
More defections since then including the defection of other Muslim and majority Sinhalese parties from Rajapaksa’s regime have seriously weakened his chances of re-election.