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Updated, 27 July 2011: Listen to exclusive interview with Suresh Premachandran here.
This statement on the results of the recently concluded local government elections (covered in detail by Groundviews here) was issued originally in Tamil by Tamil National Alliance MP Suresh Premachandran. Download PDF here. Only brief excerpts in English have been picked up by domestic and international media.
In order to stimulate wider debate over its content and points, we’ve translated Premachandran’s full statement in English. Though we’ve checked it for accuracy twice, a note from our translator is worth keeping in mind, “The meaning [of the statement] is captured though every subtle nuance and emphasis is not. The entire thing is written in free flowing passive voice Tamil which while lyrical, is difficult to translate.” We also encourage our readers to suggest better translations of key phrases and words through comments.
In a closed email exchange with colleagues, we wondered if a more conciliatory approach, eschewing triumphalism, could have made the reasons why this victory was significant for the TNA and Tamils more appealing to the Sinhalese, some of whom today openly profess – much like the President himself – that racial identity is no longer a factor in post-war Sri Lanka, suggesting instead that “working together” (as ‘patriots’) to acknowledge and address legitimate Tamil grievances is the way forward. Perception is reality. There is in media, polity and society a tendency to conflate the TNA with LTTE, which could easily lead to trenchant claims that their electoral performance on Saturday is proof that separatist tendencies and ideology are alive, albeit in new forms. This perception can in turn fuel the racism in sections of Central Government and its core vote base that no matter what ‘we’ do for ‘them’, the Tamils will always support secession. The result is continued suspicion and fear that justifies a high military presence in the North and East, plus increasing encroachment into civilian administration.
Statement by TNA MP Suresh Premachandran
This election was concluded at an important time where the United Nations and the international community are pressuring the government over claims that they committed war crimes and that a fair investigation is necessary.
In an effort to escape this difficulty, the Government worked hard to win these Local Government elections and demonstrate that the Tamil people are on its side. The entire state machinery was deployed and the Government approached the election as if it was a war. They threw piles of handouts at the people and promised people jobs. They attempted to buy over some [TNA] candidates at any price while threatening others into dropping out of the election. They caused a great deal of panic among the people and prevented them from voting. In addition, some voters were attacked with waste oil.
However, the people defied the sweet talk and threats by ensuring a great victory for the Tamil National Alliance and a bitter defeat for the government and those on its side.
The Tamil people’s demand is that they exercise full powers of self-rule within their homeland consisting of a merged North and East. Once again, the Tamil people have declared that they will not relinquish their political aspirations for any amount of giveaways or on account of any level of intimidation by ensuring the victory of the TNA.
The TNA requests the Government to adhere to the democratic verdict of the Tamil people and offer a political solution without any further delay.
The Tamil people have – by ensuring the victory of the TNA – accepted and supported the recommendations of the UN [Panel’s report], which state that the government’s war crimes and human rights abuses require an impartial international investigation.
The TNA asks that this verdict of the Tamil people be respected and that the government accept and allow an international investigation. The TNA requests that the international community continues to pressure the government to provide a political solution that allows the Tamil people to live in their homeland with dignity and freedom.
The TNA expresses its heartfelt gratitude to the Tamil people who in the midst of various threats and difficulties considered it their national duty to go to the polling booths in their numbers to cast their vote for the Tamil National Alliance.