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Indian Tamils reluctant to join Chandrika Govt

The CWC has serious reservations about joining the UPFA Govt, reports PK Balachanddran.
PTI | By PK Balachanddran, Colombo
UPDATED ON APR 15, 2004 02:23 PM IST

The Ceylon Workers' Congress (CWC), the largest party of Indian Origin Tamils (IOT) in Sri Lanka, has serious reservations about joining the United Peoples' Freedom Alliance (UPFA) government, Hindustan Times learns.

The government, still seven short of a simple majority, will then have to be at the tender mercies of the nine-member Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU), a party of Buddhist monks, which has said that it will examine the issue of support on an issue-by-issue basis. A clear indication of the CWC's lack of interest in joining the UPFA government came late last week when its leader, Arumugan Thondaman, asked Chairmen of government corporations, who he had appointed when he was part of the previous government, to tender their resignations.

Earlier, the CWC was expected to join the UPFA government, after some haggling over portfolios and others benefits. Its 8 seats would have helped the government cross the 113 mark and get a majority in the parliament of 225 members. UPFA was sure of getting the CWC on board because the CWC had always joined the government no matter what its pre-elections alliances were like. But this time, Thondaman has been playing hard to get and a tough nut to crack.

According to CWC sources there are four reasons for Thondaman's not being eager to join the UPFA government: First, there is no guarantee that the UPF agent last for more than a few months. Its constituents units, namely, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and the radical Marxist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) are already at loggerheads. They have been unable to finalise the distribution of cabinet portfolios. It is 12 days since the election results were announced, but the full cabinet has not been sworn-in. The JVP boycotted the swearing of the first lot of cabinet ministers. The party had also boycotted the swearing-in of the Prime Minister, Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Secondly, the CWC leaders and the rank and file do not like the JVP, which they see as a "Sinhala-Buddhist chauvinist" party and not as a Marxist, anti-communal party. The CWC is a Hindu/Christian Tamils party with a sprinkling of Muslims. The CWC feels that the UPFA had come to power on a wave of anti-minority Sinhala-Buddhist nationalism. It is felt that the UPFA government will also yield to the demands of the 9 member party of Buddhist monks called the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) and that these demands will be mostly anti-minority and communal in nature. Thirdly, the CWC would need the help of the opposition United National Front (UNF) to win the elections to the Financial Councils to be held in May or June this year.

In the Central Province where the CWC could hope to do well, alliance with the UNF would be a must. The UNF is strong in this province and the Indian Tamil voters here are used to voting for the UNF symbol, the Green Elephant. The CWC cannot ditch the UNF now and come back a month later for an electoral alliance for the Provincial Council elections. Fourthly and lastly, the CWC has not yet got a good deal in the horse-trading that has been going on. It is reliably learnt that the UPFA's offer to the CWC is not even half of what the UNF gave to it prior to the 2001 elections.

However, despite the lack of support from the CWC and the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC), he UPFA hopes to run the government for a full term. In the short term, it is counting on the nine members of the Buddhist monks' party, JHU, to support it, if only to prevent the fall of the government. The JHU has little choice in this matter, because the UNF, with only 82 members, will have to seek the support of the 22 members of the LTTE-backed Ilankai Tamil Arasu Katchi (ITAK), which is anathema for the monks.

As regards the long term, the UPFA hopes that, eventually, the CWC as well as the SLMC will join its government. This hope rests on the theory that the CWC and the SLMC have a tradition of being in the government always, no matter which party is ruling.

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