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Tamil prisoners may be released to tilt scales in favour of Mahinda Rajapaksa

PTI Colombo | Updated on November 04, 2018 Published on November 04, 2018

Namal Rajapaksa, son of Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa   -  Tharaka Basnayaka

War was against the LTTE, not Tamil community, says Namal Rajapaksa

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’s legislator son, Namal on Sunday indicated that the long-held demand of the Tamil minority community to release all Tamil prisoners may be fulfilled soon, a move aimed at persuading Tamil legislators to support Rajapaksa.

“President (Maithripala) Sirisena and Prime Minister Rajapaksa would make a decision (on the issue) very soon,” Namal tweeted in the Tamil language.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) had run a military campaign for a separate Tamil homeland in the northern and eastern provinces of the island nation for nearly 30 years before its collapse in 2009 after the Sri Lankan Army killed its supreme leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran.

Rajapaksa, who was the President during the time, has repeatedly said that the war was against the LTTE and not against the Tamil community.

Since the war with the LTTE ended in 2009, the Sri Lankan government has denied that the imprisoned LTTE members are political prisoners. Sources claim that some of the prisoners have been held over a long time under the anti-terrorism law without even being formally charged.

Namal’s comments are aimed at persuading the legislators in the Sri Lanka’s main Tamil party— the Tamil National Alliance (TNA)— to switch their allegiance to Rajapaksa in his bid to prove a majority in the parliament.

So far, Rajapaksa has 100 MPs on his side while the sacked Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has 103 MPs in the 225-member assembly. Most of the 22 remaining MPs, including the TNA, are likely to oppose Rajapaksa.

The Rajapaksa camp had already enticed a TNA legislator to join its ranks by giving him a deputy ministerial position. The TNA’s parliamentary strength has been reduced to 15 as a result, and there was speculation that at least four more of them were willing to support Rajapaksa.

TNA to oppose Rajapaksa

The TNA said that it will support a no-trust motion against Rajapaksa, amid mounting pressure on President Sirisena to let the suspended parliament hold a vote to end the ongoing political crisis. In a statement, the TNA on Saturday said that Rajapaksa’s appointment was a violation of the Constitution’s 19th amendment.

The alliance had “decided to vote in favour of the no-confidence motion against Rajapaksa,” the statement said.

Rajapaksa claimed that he has enough numbers to prove his majority and at least six of Wickremasinghe’s men have defected to his side.

The current suspension of parliament by the President is seen as a key to Rajapaksa negotiating for enough defections.

Wickremesinghe was sacked by President Sirisena on October 26. His United National Party claimed that Wickremesinghe’s sacking was “unconstitutional and illegal”.

The President’s move has plunged the country into constitutional crisis with Wickremesinghe claiming he is still the Prime Minister.

Published on November 04, 2018
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