PA in fix over ally's demands

[TamilNet, Friday, 03 August 2001, 17:30 GMT]
The Ceylon Workers Congress (CWC), a major constituent party of the Peoples' Alliance, told Tamilnet Friday it is awaiting the President's response to its two demands that "that Sri Lankan citizenship be granted to four hundred thousand Tamils in the island's plantation sector and that sixteen electorates should be carved out for them". The party's leader Mr. Arumugam Thondaman said that the CWC would not support the referendum if the PA does not meet its demands.

The conditions imposed by his party for supporting the referendum have thrown President Kumaratunga's government on the horns of a dilemma because the substance of the CWC's demands have been traditionally opposed tooth and nail by Sinhala nationalists in her own party and coalition partners like the Mahajana Eksath Peramuna (MEP).

The powerful Buddhist clergy and a host of Sinhala nationalists are vehemently opposed to granting further citizenship rights to Tamils in the plantation sector and increasing their political representation. "The PA will be committing political Hara Kiri if it were to foolishly give in to the demands of the CWC", a columnist for a Sinhala political weekly told Tamilnet.

However, Mr.Thondaman said, "the CWC has put forward these two demands to be included in the new constitution. The committee appointed by the President with Minister Mr. Sarath Amunugama as chairman is now studying our demands. We will know the response of the President before August 10. The CWC policy making body will meet on the day her response is communicated to us and take a decision on whether we support the referendum or not".

"We do not know what the new constitution will give to plantation Tamils. We have told the President that under the new constitution parliamentary representation to plantation Tamils should be increased. At least sixteen electorates should be carved out in hill country enabling plantation Tamils to elect their representatives. We are seven percent of the country's population. Therefore proportionately, we are entitled for sixteen parliamentary electorates under the new constitution". Thondaman emphasised.

CWC's parliamentarians Mr. R. Yogarajan and Mr. S. Marimuthu are also in the committee headed by Mr.Sarath Amunugama

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