Expectations of the Tamils in Sri Lanka

By N.S.Venkataraman

(January 15, Chennai Sri Lanka Guardian) The presidential election in Sri Lanka has certainly given hopes that the Tamils in Sri Lanka can expect to have better times ahead. Both the prime candidates in the presidential elections have certainly walked extra mile to assure the Sri Lankan Tamils that their interests would be taken care of. While the election campaign in Sri Lanka has generated bitter war of words between the contesting candidates (which is only similar to such election campaigns in countries like India and United states), it is gratifying that both the candidates have recognized the importance of ensuring welfare of Tamil population in the emerging Sri Lankan scenario and have expressed largely similar sentiments as far as Sri Lankan Tamils are concerned.

No doubt, the average Tamil citizen in Sri Lanka has suffered enormously in the ethnic conflict that have extended over several years. Many of them have lost their homes, their family members and have suffered from deprivation of educational and skill acquisition opportunities. They are facing a very uncertain future and are keeping their fingers crossed about their future place in the united Sri Lanka. Obviously, while some extreme groups in the Tamil population became rebels and waged war, large segment of the Tamil population in Sri Lanka are only peace loving and would desire to lead a peaceful life under an united and integral Sri Lanka. This is obvious from the fact that the Tamils are responding to the positive signals from the Sri Lankan government in the post ethnic conflict period.

Amongst the two primary presidential candidates now in the fray, the Tamils may have nothing to choose, as both of them are strangers as far as the large segment of Tamil population are concerned. They did not have the opportunity to hear them or listen to them in the past. Therefore, the Tamils should be hoping that whoever would win, they would support the cause of the Tamils in whatever way and form possible.

For a common man in any country, the upper most importance is peaceful living conditions and the facility to interact freely with the friends and relatives, educate the children and find employment and good working conditions to make a decent living. So far as these basic requirements are met, they would largely be satisfied with any form of Government, even if it would be a sort of dictatorial. Therefore, the Sri Lankan Government should realize that mere extension of voting rights to Tamil population and bringing them into electoral and democratic process would by itself not be adequate for the common man , particularly those who have suffered enormously in the last several years in the ethnic conflict, in which most of them have no role or part.

It would do enormous good to the long term peace and unity of Sri Lanka if both the prime candidates would come forward to issue a joint statement as to what they would do to improve the living conditions and future prospects for Sri Lankan Tamils and integrate them in the national sphere. They would do well to make it clear to the Tamil population that the issue of rehabilitation of Tamils in Sri Lanka is a subject of utmost priority and is not an issue at all in this presidential election.

In this unique situation of a country going for a national presidential election immediately at the end of a prolonged ethnic conflict, it would be a great act of statesmanship on the part of both the prime presidential candidates if they would reveal a unified approach and policy to the task of rehabilitating the Sri Lankan Tamils in the years ahead. By doing this, both the presidential candidates would contribute to the long term unity and stability of Sri Lanka.