North and East caught up in election fever | Sunday Observer

North and East caught up in election fever

While a majority of political parties of the minorities are contesting the February 10 local government polls in alliance with major national parties, the TNA, the newly formed Tamil National Liberation Front (TNLF) led by former TNA parliamentarian Suresh Premachandaran, the United Peace Alliance (UPA) led by former SLMC parliamentarian and State Minister M.T.Hasan Ali, and the All Ceylon Tamil Congress (ACTC) led by former parliamentarian Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam are contesting independently on their own party symbols.With only 20 days for the polls, their polls campaigns are gaining momentum, with pocket meetings and house to house visits, explaining to the electors their political agenda and objectives on a local community level as well as on the national level. The Sunday Observer spoke to party leaders and spokesmen on their ongoing campaigns, anticipations and salient features of their objectives, both on the local community and on the wider national level.

Excerpts:

TNA spokesman M.A. Sumanthiran MP :

Our polls campaigns are on full swing with candidates holding meetings and house to house campaigns with party leaders, and visiting the different electorates. The TNA is confident of winning and forming the administration of at least 40 local government bodies, of the total 50 that we are contesting. Politically, we very much want the national unity government led by President Maithripala Sirisena and PM Ranil Wickremesinghe to continue in power and we will support them. But, we also insist that the culprits in the Treasury Bond scam should be prosecuted and punished.

SLMC spokesman former parliamentarian M.H.M. Salman :

Our parliamentarians and local-level party leaders are conducting campaigns in all areas and visiting the respective areas to address meetings. The SLMC is contesting most of the local government bodies in alliance with the UNP on its ‘elephant’ symbol while some LG bodies in the Puttalam and Kandy districts are contesting on the party’s ‘tree’ symbol. We anticipate to win a majority of the LG bodies in the Eastern Province, especially, in Ampara, and will decide whom to appoint as Chairman or Mayor as the case may be.

Legal Affairs Director Rushdhie Habeeb of the All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC) led by Minister Rishad Bathuideen:

At local government level we want to promote health, the drainage and sewerage system, water supply and livelihood. The party has carried out many development works in the Eastern and some parts of the Northern Province. We want to improve them, and are in the process of opening up electorate-level party offices. We are conducting our polls campaigns effectively and successfully. We are contesting in 15 districts throughout the country, and in nine of them we are contesting in alliance with the UNP on the ‘elephant’ symbol. In Trincomalee and Ampara, we are contesting on our party symbol ‘ bicycle’. Three former chairmen of LG bodies in the East are with our party and we held power in four Pradeshiya Sabhas. On a national level our main objective is, resettlement of displaced Muslims, reconciliation and sustainable development.

Deputy leader of the Tamil Progressive Alliance (TPA) and State Minister V. Radhakrishnan:

Under the national unity government much has been done for the plantation community, including, housing schemes and development programs with more such programs in the pipeline. As such, the TPA of which the Upcountry People’s Front (UPF) is a constituent, is contesting the LG bodies in Nuwara Eliya and Badulla on the UNP’s ‘elephant’ symbol, and predominant Tamil areas in Kandy, Matale and some areas in Ratnapura on the TPA’s ‘ladder’ symbol. We have a strong vote-base and our polls campaigns are being conducted successfully.

President of the CWC Muthu Sivalingam MP:

Fielding women and youth has been made mandatory which is a progressive step, and we welcome it while complying with it.

With this move, the plantation community, who are not much literate, will have experienced and seasoned politicians in the future. It is also a welcome move that the plantations have been included in the development programs.

The CWC is contesting the Pradeshiya Sabhas of Nuwara Eliya , Talawakelle, Kotagala, Maskeliya , Norwood and Ambagamuwa on its ‘cockerel’ symbol; and Walapane, Kotmale and Hanguranketa on the SLFP’s ‘betel’ symbol. We have a strong support base in the plantation areas, and our campaigns are very successful.

United Peace Alliance (UPA) leader M. T. Hasan Ali:

We consider the upcoming LG polls as a referendum that would reflect the minds of the people on the popularity of the national unity government after its 2-1/2 year rule. It will also help the Muslim community to decide whether or not to remain with and support the present government.

They look up to a new political culture and want a change. We are launching our political campaigns in keeping with that requirement and we hope to capture four to five local government bodies in the East. We are conducting our polls campaigns very successfully.

Tamil National Liberation Front (TNLF) leader Suresh Premachandran :

We are contesting the LG bodies in all eight districts of the North and East and have fielded a total of 1,100 candidates. The development of the war-ravaged villages and rural areas of the North and East, including infrastructure development, electrification and provision of clean running water and sanitary facilities is our main objective. As far as national politics are concerned, we stand for a Federal set up, based on self-determination, for the long unsettled problem of the people of the two provinces. We are conducting our campaigns vigorously.

Leader of Social Democratic Party of Tamils (SDPT) and former Chief Minister of the North-East Provincial Council A. Varadaraja Perumal:

We want a corruption-free administration in all LG bodies in the North and East. We are contesting six councils in the North and East – two each in Jaffna, Trincomalee and Batticaloa – to feel the pulse of the people. We want to focus on sustainable development, safeguarding biodiversity and environmental balance. On a national level we want the 13th Amendment to the Constitution amended or re-drafted suitably to vest powers on the Chief Ministers instead of the Governors. We are conducting our polls campaigns successfully.

Leader of the All Ceylon Tamil Congress (ACTC) and former parliamentarian Gajendrakuma Ponnambalam:

We are contesting all LG bodies in the North and East. Some of our nominations have been rejected. Our policy is, clean city and clean politics because there is a lot of corruption and fraud at present even at the grassroots level. We have fielded mostly young people as our candidates, and have the support of civil society organizations as well. On a national level we want a federal framework as a solution to the Tamil people, the recognition of Tamil nationhood and their right to self-determination. We are conducting our polls campaigns successfully.” 

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