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Sri Lanka’s Northern and Eastern parties will join winners of Parliamentary Election in new government- Raghavan

FILE PHOTO – Former MPs Vijayakala Maheshwaran, Tilak Marapana, Douglas Devananda and M A Sumanthiran at an event in Point Pedro/Undated Facebook

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Tamil politics will experience a sea change after Wednesday’s election, predicts the former governor of the Northern Province Suren Raghavan with parties in the North and East seeking alliances with major Southern parties.

Raghavan, an academic, was appointed Governor of the Northern Province by former President Maithripala Sirisena and is currently a National List candidate of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna.

He says that during his tenure as governor the central government implemented a number of key projects in the Northern Jaffna Peninsula including the launch of a drinking water project, the upgrading of the Jaffna airport for international flights and work on fishery harbours.

“This has prompted the Northern political parties to include development work in their manifestos,” Raghavan told EconomyNext.

The Tamil National Alliance, which is contesting seats in the North and East as the Ilankai Tamil Arasu Katchi (ITAK) does have developmental work included in their manifesto along with demands for international inquiries into alleged war crimes committed during the civil war.

Raghavan also claimed that after the elections politicians from the North are likely to “seek alliances with the governing party in the South and accept ministerial positions.”

M A Sumanthiran, a leading member of ITAK was quoted in the Virakesari Sunday newspaper last week as saying that the long-standing clause in the party’s constitution barring members from joining governments led by Southern parties “should be reviewed.”

Political sources told EconomyNext that there were “back-channel” talks between ITAK and Prime Minister Mahindra Rajapaksa for a post-election alliance.

Our repeated calls to Sumanthiran and other ITAK leaders over the past week have not been answered.

The major national parties have had representation in the North in the past and during the last government, Vijayakala Maheshwaran of the United National Party was a Deputy Minister and State Minister for Children’s Affairs. She was a two-term MP. Before that, her husband, T Maheshwaran, was also a Minister, until he was assassinated in 2008.

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Being part of government is important for the benefits to come to the regions, says Prof T Jayasingham a former Vice-Chancellor of the Eastern University.

He told EconomyNext that in the East the Muslim community had benefited “because their community have had Cabinet Ministers in every government in the last 25 to 30 years. The Tamils used to have ministers but not anymore.”

ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL – Sri Lanka Muslim Congress Leader Rauff Hakeem campaigns

Jayasingham says the people of the North and East “continue to feel that they should be allowed to manage their own affairs.”

He went on to say “when governments keep on making pro-Sinhala Buddhist statements, we in these regions feel isolated.”

ITAK which won 14 out of the 28 seats in the Northern and Eastern Provinces in 2015 is expected to dominate the polls once again. This position gave the prestigious Leader of the Opposition post in Parliament to its head Rajavirotham Sampanthan.

The Sri Lanka Muslim Congress is also expected to hold its own in the East.

There are also two ex-LTTE militant leaders in the fray this year. One is the former Chief Minister of the Eastern Provincial Council 45-year old Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan better known by his nom de guerre “Pillayan” and the other is the controversial “Karuna Amman” Vinayagamurthi Muraleetharan. (Colombo, August 2, 2020)