By M.A. Sumanthiran MP
In less than a week, Sri Lankan citizens all over the island will go to the polls to select the country’s eighth executive president. There is no denying that, irrespective of the result, this election will mark a crucial turning point in Sri Lanka’s political history. A stark choice faced voters in the 2015 presidential election.
The people were called upon to choose between perpetuating authoritarian rule and turning a democratic corner. Despite the failures and disappointments of the past five years, I still believe our people made the correct choice that January day.
The 2019 presidential stakes have the same zero-sum quality.
As the country’s largest Tamil party, it was incumbent upon the TNA to make its position on the presidential candidates known to the people. That announcement was made last week. The TNA has endorsed the candidacy of Sajith Premadasa as the ‘better man’ in the 2019 presidential race.
Predictably, the announcement has brought out the worst in the Sinhalese extremists gravitating around Premadasa’s challenger. Allegations of “secret deals” and monetary hand-outs in exchange for the endorsement abound, ironically from the same political formation that admittedly paid to enforce a boycott and disenfranchise thousands of Tamil people in the North and East in 2005.
Our announcement has also escalated the unitary-federal rhetoric, as the SLPP seeks to misrepresent proposed constitutional definitions about the nature of the state, brought about by nearly three years of all-party deliberations, to monger old fears about separatism.
I believe a brief explanation of the terms under discussion is necessary to set the record straight.