Home / Opinion and Issues/ Unfair to attribute racist dimension to Tamil vote, says Sampanthan

Unfair to attribute racist dimension to Tamil vote, says Sampanthan

Comments / {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}} Views / Wednesday, 20 November 2019 01:07

R. Sampanthan

By Meera Srinivasan

The Hindu: People’s democratic choices must be accepted, says the senior Tamil leader.

It is unfair to attribute a “racist” dimension to the Tamil vote in Sri Lanka’s Presidential Election, according to senior Tamil leader R. Sampanthan.

His remark comes a day after the results of the country’s biggest election were declared. The winner — newly-elected President Gotabaya Rajapaksa — garnered his 52.25% vote share almost entirely from areas where the majority Sinhalese community is concentrated.

On the other hand, Sajith Premadasa — who was defeated — drew huge support in the north, east and central parts of the country that his home to Tamils and Muslims.

All the same, the question of a vote on “racial lines” does not arise, said Sampanthan, who leads the Tamil National Alliance that endorsed Premadasa this election. “Both Gotabaya and Sajith are Sinhala-Buddhists. On economic matters, they are probably on the same page, but in regard to minority issues, Sajith was more forthcoming in this campaign,” he said.

Since the time Sri Lanka’s poll outcome emerged on Sunday, many social media users shared a map of the island, colour-coded to distinguish the regions that voted for Rajapaksa and Premadasa. Some commentators pointed to an “ethnic divide” in the mandate, or called it a “polarised verdict”.

Others went a step further and accused the Tamils of having voted on “racial lines” by rejecting popular candidate Rajapaksa. Their narrative sparked a heated debate online, even as some users voiced concern about a spike in racist posts on their timelines and feeds.

“If the Tamil people had wanted to vote on racial lines, wouldn’t they have voted for Tamil candidate M.K. Shivajilingam who, it may be argued, had racist overtones in his manifesto? Instead, they voted in large numbers for Sajith Premadasa.”

Days ahead of the election, some backers of Gotabaya accused Premadasa of having entered a “deal” with the TNA, when the Tamil party announced its position. But many of the policies pertaining to the national question in Premadasa’s manifesto — which TNA was willing to engage with — were not very different from the commitments made by President Mahinda Rajapaksa when he was in power, Sampanthan noted. “What Sajith was promising was not altogether unheard of.”

Southern vote

It is also important not to reduce Gotabaya’s mandate to a vote on racist lines, Sampanthan argued. “Many people who voted for him have done so because of their disappointment with the performance of this Government. The non-delivery on various fundamental issues like costs of living, corruption, fertiliser [subsidy], and employment,” he said, emphasising there were “various factors”.

For many voters, national security too was a key factor — since the Easter attacks — for seeking a “strong leader” in this election, political analysts here have observed.

“People are entitled to make their democratic choice and as long as their vote has been validly cast, it must be accepted,” said Sampanthan.

Share This Article

Facebook Twitter


1. All comments will be moderated by the Daily FT Web Editor.

2. Comments that are abusive, obscene, incendiary, defamatory or irrelevant will not be published.

3. We may remove hyperlinks within comments.

4. Kindly use a genuine email ID and provide your name.

5. Spamming the comments section under different user names may result in being blacklisted.


Today's Columnists

Stock market, Mark Mobius and State entities

Wednesday, 29 January 2020

The expert of emerging capital markets, Mark Mobius was in Sri Lanka recently. A key recommendation he made for the development of the local capital market was to list certain State entities in the Colombo stock market. The local stock brokerages se

Autocatalytic descent from plural democracy to supremacist authoritarianism

Wednesday, 29 January 2020

In a few days, Sri Lanka will celebrate its 72nd year of independence from colonialism. But behind the pomp and pageant of that celebration is a sad reality of an autocatalytic process – a small initial event triggering a chain reaction that evolve

Trump destroying brand USA: Implications for Sri Lanka

Wednesday, 29 January 2020

There is an old adage that ‘politics and tourism’ has a positive correlation. Many have tried to disprove this aspect but the relationship is coming out very strongly, the latest case study to the world being in the United States.

Freedom! Freedom! Where art thou?

Wednesday, 29 January 2020

Freedom: who could object? Yet this word is now used to justify a thousand forms of exploitation. In the name of freedom – the freedom of the powerful to exploit the weak, the rich to exploit the poor. The definition of freedom is, the condition of

Columnists More