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Lanka: Indian origin Tamils with Fonseka

[Express Buzz, Tuesday, 12 January 2010 19:18 No Comment]

Barring the plantation workers suporting the Ceylon Workers’ Congress (CWC) led by Arumugan Thondaman, Sri Lanka’s Tamils of Indian origin seem to be strongly with Gen.Sarath Fonseka  in the run up to the January 26 Presidential election.

Following the recent decision of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), a North Eastern Tamil political combine, to support Fonseka, there is a new enthusiasm among the Indian Origin Tamils to support the retired General against Mahinda Rajapaksa in the Presidential race.

Political observes in the tea plantation area of Nuwara Eliya in the Central Province told Express on Tuesday, that they wculd not be surprised if even Thondaman defected to the Fonseka camp before the election. At any rate, as per past practice, he would shift to the victorious side after the election, to continue to be in power,.they say.

SUSPECTED LTTE LINKS  

The reasons for the current political behaviour of the Indian Origin Tamils are as follows:  

Hundreds of Indian Origin Tamils were arrested and jailed without charge when the Rajapaksa government’s hunt for the LTTE reached a high point in 2006 and 2007.

The Sri Lankan police force, which is overwhelmingly Sinhalese, could not make a distinction between Indian Origin Tamils and the indigenous Tamils who considered the LTTE as their sole representative. For the police, all Tamils were one and the same and suspect.

Hundreds of Indian Origin Tamils were kept in the high security prison for terrorist suspects at Boosa in south Sri Lanka without charge.It was due to a court case filed by some political leaders that about 300 of them were released.

In 2006-2007 many Indian Origin Tamil traders were abducted, either on suspicion of having links with the LTTE or for ransom. Some military officers were also involved in  abduction for ransom..

ECONOMIC WOES

Indian Origin Tamil traders in Nuwara Eliya complained that income tax officials were tough and  demanding with them, while being lenient with the Sinhalese traders. Small scale vegetable farmers complained that they were not given fertilizer at the subsidized rate as per the Rajapaksa government’s policy document Mahinda Chintanaya..

“Since the difference between the subsidized rate and the market rate is really wide, we go to a certain place in the Mahiyangana area to buy the fertilizer at a cheaper rate in the blackmarket there. Some influential ruling party politicians run the blackmarket,” a  trader said.

A potato grower complained that the Rajapaksa government’s policy of importing potatoes from India to bring down the price in the market had hit the Nuwara Eliya small scale protato growers, many of whom were Indian Origin Tamils.

Tea plantation workers have small plots of private land in which they grow vegetables to supplement their meager income from tea plucking and coolie work in the plantations.

“The high price at which we are forced to buy fertilizer, jacks up the selling price of our produce and drives them out of the market,” said a.potato grower.

It is declared government policy to give estate workers small plots of land to enable them to cultivate a commercial crop and earn extra income.But very little has actually been given to these people of Indian Origin, the Up Country Development Association has pointed out in a recent letter to President Rajapaksa.

TRADITIONAL LINKS WITH UNP

The Indian Origin Tamils and the estate workers have traditionally supported the United National Party (UNP). And the UNP is backing Gen.Fonseka in the coming Presidential election. It is therefore not surprising that the Indian Origin Tamis are also backing Fonseka.

The UNP is traditionally strong in the Central and Western Province and Colombo district. These areas also have a large concentration of Indian Origin Tamils.It therefore makes sense for Indian Origin Tamil parties to align with the UNP to win elections and secure seats in parliament.

This time round too, political observers expect the CWC to switch from Rajapaksa’s side to Fonseka’s so that it can get UNP’s support in the April 2010 parliamentary elections.

DEFECTION TO FONSEKA SIDE ALREADY ON

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