Reminding President Maithripala Sirisena of the “unstinted support” that Tamils extended to him in 2015, senior Tamil politician and Leader of Opposition R. Sampanthan on Monday urged him to “rise as a statesman” and resolve Sri Lanka’s ethnic problem.
“We want a statesman to rise in this country who can say, ‘I resolved the country’s national question and we think you can do it, we think you should do it and it is our expectation that it will be done,” he said, speaking at an event in Jaffna, where he shared the stage with Mr. Sirisena.
The veteran Tamil leader’s remarks come at a time when Mr. Sirisena’s national unity government is dealing with a major blow in the island-wide local government elections held in early February.
The Colombo government also faces severe criticism from the Tamils for its delayed efforts in fulfilling promises President Sirisena made in 2015, in regard to war-time accountability and reconciliation. Political observers have said the government, fragile and significantly weakened after the polls, is unlikely to address concerns of the Tamils.
Referring to the crucial minority vote in 2015, which propelled Mr. Sirisena’s alliance to victory, Mr. Sampanthan said the Tamil people supported him to achieve the objective of a political solution. “We know that you want to do it. I know that you want to do it. But your efforts are being stymied,” he said, adding that Mr. Sirisena must overcome the impediments and be recognised world over as a statesman who resolved the Tamil question.
President Sirisena in his address that followed said it was because he remembers and values the support extended by the Tamils that he felt indebted to the community. Pointing to political challenges that have emerged recently, he urged the people to be mindful of politicians serving their own interests and others committed to the people. “I have not betrayed the trust people have in me, I have not changed any of my principles, and I will not change them,” he said.