Resolution on Sri Lankan presidential election -Agreed at the Tamil Solidarity AGM 2024

Resolution on Sri Lankan presidential election -AGM 2024

No support for any racist or right-wing parties.

Neither the democratic demands of the Tamils nor the broader interests of the working class of all ethnicities are represented by any of the southern right-wing political parties (United National Party (UNP), the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB), the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP)). They are all united in their attack on living conditions, implementing dictatorial measures such as the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), and pursuing economic programs that only serve the small wealthy elite. None of them support the national demands of the Tamils. Even the so-called ‘devolution’ measures or the implementation of various versions of the 13th Amendment will not be delivered by them. Making false promises during elections and then taking opposite actions soon after is the history of these organisations. We must reject these parties and work to mobilise all sections of society against them.

The so-called left alternative is not a viable alternative at all.

What is presented as ‘progressive’ or a left alternative in the form of the National People’s Power (NPP) is essentially indistinguishable from the economic program of right-wing parties. They are also conspicuously silent on how they would reverse undemocratic measures and laws enacted by the right to suppress all opposition. Furthermore, they hold a disgraceful position regarding the national demands of Tamils. They oppose the merger of the north and east, the 13th amendment, or any special powers granted to Tamils. They promote Sri Lankan nationalism while giving prominence to the Buddhist clergy and the domination of the Sinhala language. Tamils who have fought for national rights cannot support such a stance.

No automatic support for Tamil leaders or candidates.

Fragmented Tamil leaders will not come forward to agree on a common progressive program that stands firm on democratic rights for all and demands national rights for Tamils. A common Tamil candidate without a clear program and strategy will not in any way advance the struggle of Tamils. Given the divisions and infighting that exist, it is extremely unlikely that even a discussion on a common candidate with a far-reaching program is possible. None even advocate a program closer to that of Vaddukoddai resolution (VKR), which historically secured electoral victory and made a Tamil leader an opposition leader in parliament for the first time in history.

On economic programs, the majority of Tamil MPs have so far voted with their right-wing counterparts in the south. None have put forward any alternative program. It would be a mistake to automatically support any Tamil leaders just because they are Tamils or because they rhetorically defend Tamil national demands. We must examine their concrete programs and actions. None have a comprehensive alternative program. Their voting history in the Sri Lankan parliament and collaborative actions with the Sri Lankan government in the past stand as historical evidence of their betrayal of what the Tamil masses want.

However, Tamil Solidarity is open to discussion to develop a far-reaching program and will continue to look for anyone coming forward to articulate such a program. We will not hesitate to support, collaborate with, and promote those who are willing to do so. But TS will refuse to give automatic support based solely on ethnicity.

Do we advocate boycotting?

The fact that Tamils cannot vote for any candidates does not mean that we should advocate boycott. This passive position will only increase despair, promote inaction, and demobilize Tamils from the struggle. The absence of the Tamil vote will only strengthen racist forces in the south. Instead, we must aim to strengthen the political representation of the struggling masses. This means we should fight to mobilise the masses towards the right program and popularise the need for a mass party based on that foundation.

Are there any exceptions in the East, the hill country, or among the left?

All the parties operating in the east and hill country currently function as sub-parties of the southern parties, making “deals” with them in all elections solely for their own benefit rather than the wider interests of the Muslims or Tamils. There are no exceptions to this rule. If any exception can be mentioned, it is the Tamil National People’s Front (TNPF), which is at least willing to stand up for democratic rights. Some in the south attack TNPF as LTTE’s proxy due to its firm stand on demanding “internal self-determination” as part of their program of one country, two nations. This muddled terminology is somewhat forced on them due to potential repression from the state if they push it further. TNPF also opposes a number of economic policies and undemocratic acts of the government. However, they have also not put forward a comprehensive plan and strategy. Like other Tamil parties, they also go along with creating illusions about the Indian state and Western institutions as though reliance on them somehow benefits Tamils. They also fail to identify who their real allies are in the south of Sri Lanka, South Asia, and beyond. Crucially, they are not able to establish their influence in the East or hill country, limiting themselves to the narrow middle layer of the north.

A strategy needs to be developed to build alliances in all parts of Sri Lanka and South Asia and develop a far-sighted program that can build a united struggle. We understand that this task is not an easy one. Various so called left parties that mainly operate in the south do not offer what Tamils want, particularly on the national question. However, our aim should be to link up and mobilise together with those who are prepared to stand for the correct economic and democratic program, which includes accepting the demand for the right to self-determination. Tamil Solidarity continues to work with those who stand on these principle lines. Hence, Tamil Solidarity collaborated with the United Socialist Party (USP) in the past and even supported their election campaign based on the program they have advanced. The USP works in all parts of the country despite the limited resources they have. USP also boasts a proven history of standing firm on defending the rights of Tamils in every key juncture. In the last presidential election, sections of Tamil leaders came close to endorsing the candidate of the USP, Siritunga Jayasuriya, as he was the only candidate who accepted the demands of the Tamils. Defending the right to self-determination, including separation, has been part of their program. Of course, there are a few others who also would support such a program. But none are prepared to stand firm on it and popularise it among the masses; instead, they have taken a compromised position of endorsing other parties who, in turn, stand in opposition to what they advocate. This strategic error has contributed to the delay in building an independent mass organisation of the struggling masses.

Should not take a lesser evil position.

Even Rajapaksa asks Tamils to vote for them by choosing the lesser of two evils. In past elections, he asked Tamils to choose the known devil rather than the unknown devil. The choice given to Tamils and all struggling masses is not a real choice at all. Choosing between the devil and Beelzebub is not a choice. We don’t have to decide if we have to sacrifice an arm or a leg. We must reject all non-choices presented to us as choices. Hence, we argue for building an independent position – our own choice – to advance our demands and aspirations. This is not an easy task, but the work must continue even if we find ourselves in the minority and weak at this stage. Numerical weakness and limited resources at our disposal should not dictate the decisions we make in terms of the political direction we have to take. We must use all opportunities, including elections, to build such a force. Tamil Solidarity wants to collaborate with everyone willing to do such work.

What is TS’s position?

We have initiated discussions with USP and have asked them to field a candidate in the upcoming presidential election based on the agreed program (please refer to the program). However, we seek discussions and maximum collaboration with those who could align with this program.