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Tamil National Alliance

Tag Archives | Tamil National Alliance

Tamils take Control in Provincial Election Landslide

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Chief Minister-elect for Sri Lanka’s northern provincial government, retired Supreme Court Justice C.V. Wigneswaran in Jaffna, Sri Lanka. Eranga Jayawardena/AP

In a significant vote this weekend, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) won 30 out of 38 seats in Sri Lanka’s Northern Provincial Council.

Chief Minister-elect for Sri Lanka’s northern provincial government, retired Supreme Court Justice C.V. Wigneswaran in Jaffna, Sri Lanka. Eranga Jayawardena/AP

The ruling United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) won a mere seven seats. The Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) captured one seat. To fully comprehend what’s just happened, it’s helpful to put these numbers in perspective. In August 2009, a Municipal Council election was held in Jaffna, the most populous district in the country’s North in which the UPFA captured 50.7% of the popular vote and 13 out of 23 seats on the Council. When the country held parliamentary elections in 2010, the TNA won the majority in nine out of ten polling divisions in Jaffna district.

Overall in Jaffna, TNA won nearly 44% of the vote while the UPFA won just over 32%. In Kilinochchi polling division – also a part of the Jaffna electorate – TNA won 45.51% of the vote and UPFA obtained 36.55%. In July 2011, Local Authorities Elections were held in Jaffna. Those results pointed to widespread dissatisfaction with the UPFA. Elections were held for 16 local government bodies. The TNA won the vote in 13 of those contests. The three won by the GoSL – in Velanai, Delft and Kayts – were strongholds of the Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP). Overall, TNA captured at least 63% of the vote and UPFA 34% of the vote. In the recent September 21, 2013 NPC elections, if one takes Jaffna and Killinochchi, the TNA received 82.8% of the vote while the UPFA garnered just over 16.1%. The trend is unmistakable.

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Brief Thoughts on the Kerry Nomination and U.S.-Lanka Relations

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Senator John Kerry, right, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee addresses the committee as Senator Richard G. Lugar looks on

Senator John Kerry, right, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee addresses the committee as Senator Richard G. Lugar looks on

President Obama is still working on remaking his foreign policy and national security team, but it looks like John Kerry will be the next Secretary of State. Inside Washington, John Kerry has been a leading voice on foreign policy for decades. As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for twenty-seven years, John Kerry has built up a vast network of contacts abroad. John Kerry understands the politics of the Middle East. And he has already travelled extensively for the Obama administration – going to places like Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Susan Rice wisely withdrew her name from consideration. That was about more than Benghazi. She has the brains to be Secretary of State, for sure. Rice’s problem is that she’s not diplomatic, at all really. The late Richard Holbrooke will be remembered for his arrogance and vanity. Nonetheless, one doesn’t need to have a PhD from Oxford (like Susan Rice) to understand that pointedly displaying one’s middle finger at Holbrooke during a meeting of senior State officials is probably not a good idea. Besides, the diplomacy business can be far more tedious than State department meetings – just ask Hillary Clinton.

Senators on both sides of the aisle like and respect John Kerry. Obama will have to spend almost no political capital on this pick and Kerry will be confirmed easily. But what about John Kerry’s foreign policy in South Asia? What does it mean for US-Lanka relations? Reporters and journalists of all stripes have recently been asking those two questions and, unfortunately, I think many people have been missing a central point.

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Reconciliation’s Long Road in Sri Lanka

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Sri Lanka's delegation to the Human Rights Council

During the past year, one of the Obama administration’s biggest moves at the UN Human Rights Council received little attention inside Washington.

Sri Lanka’s delegation to the Human Rights Council

In March 2012, the United States led a resolution calling on the government of Sri Lanka to implement the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), which examined the breakdown of the truce between the country’s warring factions, and “to take all necessary additional steps” to “ensure justice, equity, accountability and reconciliation for all Sri Lankans.” It remains unclear what exactly drove the U.S. resolution, but the Sri Lankan government does not appear to have complied with it. The country continues to receive criticism for its human rights record, as disappearances and extrajudicial killings, among other issues, remain problems. Recent developments like a prison riot in Colombo that left 27 inmates dead and the arrest of several University of Jaffna students are also worrisome.

Politically, developments on the island nation seem to be going in the wrong direction as well. The government’s recent move to impeach its chief Supreme Court justice is a particularly discouraging sign, since the judiciary is widely regarding as Sri Lanka’s only branch of government with some semblance of independence. Critics have called the move an “unconstitutional witchhunt,” a retaliation for the court’s ruling that the central government could not unilaterally seize powers from the country’s provisional councils. Moreover, talks between the government and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) have gone nowhere, and there is little hope for meaningful progress in the short term.

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Human rights in Sri Lanka: Between the UN and the US

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Supporters of Mahinda Rajapaksa rallying in Colombo

As the 21st session of the United Nations Human Rights Council’s (HRC) ends on 28 September 2012, ongoing human rights developments in Sri Lanka will undoubtedly linger in the minds of many.

Supporters of Mahinda Rajapaksa rallying in Colombo

Observers will look forward to the country’s upcoming Universal Periodic Review, which will take place this November, and to the National Report the Sri Lankan government has submitted for consideration. Yet it is next year’s HRC session that is particularly intriguing. At the 22nd session of the HRC, scheduled for March 2013, three things are likely to happen. First, by that time the government of Sri Lanka will not have comprehensively implemented many of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission’s (LLRC) positive recommendations. Second, the report about Sri Lanka delivered by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, will be at best lukewarm. And, lastly, the HRC is not likely to pass another resolution against Sri Lanka.

Passing such a resolution would fly in the face of the history of the HRC. The fact that there is a historical precedent for inaction calls for posing new questions about Sri Lanka: what will the international community lobby for in the meantime? Is there a common set of principles or an agenda that could be agreed upon? Do people think economic sanctions are a good idea? Which LLRC recommendations must be implemented in full before March? Targeted economic sanctions might be an option, though probably not an effective one. Importantly, as long as Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa is in power, an independent international mechanism to investigate wartime atrocities is not a viable option.

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The Continued Militarization of Sri Lanka

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Mahinda Rajapaksa, the president of Sri Lanka.  Source: Sri Lankan Government

Led by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, post-war Sri Lanka is a sad place. In May of 2009, the Sri Lankan government achieved a resounding military victory over the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

Mahinda Rajapaksa, the president of Sri Lanka. Source: Sri Lankan Government

Most of the LTTE’s leadership was killed. For the foreseeable future, it is hard to envision another Tamil nationalist movement taking up arms against the state. Yet, if living in Sri Lanka, one might think that the conflict is still going on. In post-war Sri Lanka, the militarization of the entire country has continued unabated. This development is less significant in the predominantly Sinhalese south, where military personnel are often viewed as heroes for defeating the LTTE.

But in the mostly Tamil north and east, they are viewed as oppressors. Indeed the military’s presence in the north and east (both former LTTE strongholds where much of the fighting took place) is disturbing. State security personnel wield enormous influence over all aspects of people’s lives. Precise statistics about military employment in Sri Lanka are not publicly available, but some of the most disturbing effects of this ubiquitous military presence are often left out of statistical analyses anyway. Members of the armed forces are literally everywhere. People are living in fear, especially single Tamil women who lost their husbands during the war.

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