Female vote-winner likely to be sidelined by Tamil alliance

 
sinhala– සිංහල
english

tna 2     

Her advocacy for Sri Lanka’s disappeared, and a violent midnight attack on her home ahead of last weekend’s historic elections, made Ananthi Sasitharan a prominent face of the victorious Tamil National Alliance campaign says Amanda Hodge writing in  in The Australian.

Ms Sasitharan was the party’s second highest vote-winner in the northern council elections, behind former supreme court judge and chief minister-designate CV Wigneswaran, and the only woman elected to the 38-seat council. But her role in the TNA’s sweeping electoral win looks unlikely to be reflected in any post-election position.

“When we suggested a ministerial post for Ananthi (the TNA committee) laughed at us because she doesn’t speak English and has no political experience,” said Saroja Sivachandran, the Jaffna-based director of the Centre for Women and Development.

“The north is still very much in the hands of men.”

Ms Sivachandran said her centre had also lobbied for one of two bonus council seats allotted to the TNA – which won 30 out of 38 – to be given to Mary Kamala Gunaseelan, candidate for the war-devastated Mullaitivu district, who lost by just 52 votes.

That too seemed a dim prospect, she conceded.

Sri Lankan women comprise about 53 per cent of the population, and in the north head more than 40,000 households following a brutal 26-year civil war.

Yet a recent collaborative report by political and women’s groups, Sri Lankan Women’s Agenda, notes the region – still being rebuilt four years after the war’s end – had yet to come to terms with the demographic changes that had forced thousands of women to become sole breadwinners.

Violence against women was increasing, and women were being excluded from post-conflict reconstruction efforts and peace-building processes even though their increased participation was critical to the peace process, it says.

“Those who do run for local office face a very aggressive election system that uses violence to intimidate candidates and shape voting patterns,” the report says.

An interim report by the Commonwealth Observer Mission has found the government and military compromised last weekend’s election environment, and that opposition candidates, supporters and voters “faced instances of intimidation and harassment”.

Speculation that Ms Sasitharan could be made the equivalent of parliamentary secretary to the chief minister prompted angry criticism on Twitter yesterday.

Jaffna lawyer and commentator Kumaravadivel Guruparan said the issue with Ms Sasitharan was less about sexism than “internal bickering”, wariness over her Tamil Tiger connections and a desire to break with the past.

Since the conclusion of the Northern Provincial Council elections, the TNA leadership’s selection of ministerial positions for the NPC has proved a contentious topic. Much of the controversy has centred around Ananthy Sasitharan – a widely popular, outspoken, openly Tamil nationalist candidate, who also happens to be the only female candidate to win a seat on the council – with many reports suggesting the leadership are trying to sideline her.

In an official response in Tamil, released on Tuesday, Ananthy Sasitharan stood firm on her election campaign, whilst dismissing any notion that she was interested in fighting for positions, and rejected allegations that she herself had caused the controversy.

See here for Ananthy Sasitharan’s full statement in Tamil. Translation in English below:

“I cannot express enough gratitude to all that cast their vote for me in the recent Northern Provincial Council elections and secured for me the second highest number of preferential votes after the Chief Minister C. V. Wigneswaran.

I assure you all that I will not budge an inch from the expectations with which you voted for me.

Some media outlets with certain intentions have been circulating distorted stories alleging, that I, Ananthy Sasitharan, have been clamouring for a ministerial position in the Northern Provincial Council.

I reject these distortions and allegations as I have never considered a ministerial position on the Northern Provincial Council to be the only possible way to serve our people.

If being a member of the Northern Provincial Council proves to be an obstacle in being of service to and being a voice to our war-scarred people, then I am willing to pass up that position also.

Mindful of the numerous threats and attempts on my life during the election period, I have requested some sort of security from the leader of my party.

We were bestowed victory by the people for an important cause, and if we quarrel over such things as ministerial positions, we will fatigue and alienate those very same people.

Therefore I wish to repeat that the ability to serve the people is not tied to a ministerial position.

As a woman and as a mother that bears the scars of war, I wish to again thank all the women’s organisations that gave me their support during the elections.

I wholeheartedly appreciate the sentiment of those that wished to see a female minister and I am sure that many may have put forward the suggestion to the leadership of the [TNA].

However I wish to reiterate that I look beyond dreams of seats and positions, and that my only ambition is to be of service to my people.”

ආනන්දි ශෂිදරන් වන මා……

පැවති උතුරු පලාත් සභා මැතිවරණයේදී උතුරු පලාත් මහ ඇමති අපේක්ෂක සීවී විග්නේෂ්වරන්ගෙන් පසු වැඩි මනාප ප්‍රමාණයක් ලබාදී මාව ජයග්‍රහණය කරවූ මාගේ ජනතාවට ස්තූතිය පලකර සිටින්නෙමි. කුමන අරමුණක් හේතුවෙන් ඔබලා මට ඡන්දය ලබාදුන්නේද, එම අරමුණෙහි සිට කුමන බාධක පැමිණියද ඉවත් නොවන බවට ස්ථිරවම ප්‍රකාශ කරන්නෙමි. මෙවැනි අවස්ථාවකදී, ආනන්දි ශෂිදරන් වන මා උතුරු පලතේ සභාවේ අමාත්‍ය පදවියක් සඳහා ගැටුම් ඇතිකරගෙන ඇති බවට සඳහන් කර ඇතැම් වෙබ් අඩවි සහ මාධ්‍යන් වල අඛණ්ඩවම පුවත් පල කරමින් සිටියි. ඒ ආකාරයෙන් පලකල සියළු පුවත් සම්පූර්ණයෙන්ම ප්‍රථික්ෂේප කරන අතර, මාගේ ජනතාවට සේවය කිරීමට පලාත් සභාවේ අමාත්‍ය පදවියක් අවශ්‍ය බව මා කිසිම විටක ප්‍රකාශ කර නොමැති බව සඳහන් කරන්නෙමි. යුද්ධයෙන් පීඩාවට පත්වී සිටින මාගේ ජනතාවට සේවය කිරීමටත්, හඬ නැගීමටත්, උතුරු පලාත් සභාවේ මන්ත්‍රී පදවිය බාධාවක් වුවහොත් එය අතහැර දැමීමටද මා සූදානමින් සිටින්නෙමි.

මැතිවරණ කාලයේදී මා වෙත සිදුකල බලපෑම් සහ පහරදීම් යනාදිය තේරුම් ගෙන මට ආරක්ෂක ක්‍රමවේදයක් සකස් කර දෙන ලෙසට පක්ෂ නායකත්වයෙන් ඉල්ලා සිටින්නෙමි. ජනතාවට සේවය කිරීම සඳහා අමාත්‍ය පදවියක් අවශ්‍ය නොවන බව සියළුම දෙනාට නැවත වරක් පෙන්නුම්කර දීමට මා කැමැත්තෙමි. කාන්තාවක් ලෙසත්, මවක් ලෙසත්, යුද්ධයේ සාක්ෂියක් ලෙසත් මා සිටින්නෙමි. එමෙන්ම පැවති මැතිවරණයේදී මාගේ ජයග්‍රහණයට සහයෝගය ලබාදුන් සියළු කාන්තා සංවිධානයන්ට ස්තූතිය පලකර සිටින්නෙමි‍. කාන්තාවක් අමාත්‍යවරයෙකු ලෙස පත්කිරීම තුලින් ජනතාව වෙනුවෙන් හඬ නැගීමේ බලවේගයක් බවට සිතා ඔවුන් දක්වා ඇති උනන්දුව මා ඉතා අගය ‍කරන්නෙමි. ඒ වෙනුවෙන් ඔවුන් මා හට අමාත්‍ය පදවියක් ලබාදෙන ලෙස දෙමළ ජාතික සන්ධානයේ නායකත්වයෙන් ඉල්ලා සිටිනු ඇතැයි මා විශ්වාස කරන්නෙමි. තනතුරු සහ ආසන මට අවශ්‍ය නොවේ. මාගේ ජනතාව වෙනුවෙන් සේවය කිරීම මගේ පරමාර්ථය බව නැවත වරක් මා ස්ථිරවම ප්‍රකාශ කරන්නෙමි.

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