Tamils to back Premadasa in Lanka presidential polls

Premadasa is seen as the more secular choice compared to Rajapaksa

SRI LANKA-POLITICS-PREMADASA-PEACE Sri Lanka's Cabinet Minister of Housing, Construction and Cultural Affairs, deputy leader of the ruling United National Party (UNP) and presidential candidate, Sajith Premadasa | AFP

Sri Lanka's Tamil National Alliance (TNA) on Sunday said they will support the country's ruling party candidate, Sajith Premadasa, in the November 16 presidential election.

"After our central committee meeting held in Vavuniya today, we have decided to back Sajith Premadasa," TNA spokesman and legislator M. A. Sumanthiran told reporters.

"His manifesto will be more acceptable to Tamils (compared) to other candidates," Sumanthiran said.

In his manifesto, Premadasa has pledged "maximum devolution of power within an undivided and indivisible Sri Lanka".

Sumanthiran said TNA leader R. Sampanthan would consult other parties in the Tamil alliance before officially announcing the TNA's stand to back Premadasa.

Sumanthiran said the 13-point plan of the Tamil political parties' had not been presented to any of the presidential candidates.

The 13 points included the demand to permanently merge north and eastern provinces, granting Tamils political autonomy in a federal solution.

These points are seen as Tamil hardline by the Sinhala majority.

Premadasa's main rival Gotabhaya Rajapaksa relies on the Sinhala majority to be elected president while Premadasa is seen as the more secular choice.

The Tamil and Muslim votes are crucial to form the government.

In 2015, current president Maithripala Sirisena, who was the main opposition challenger, secured most of the minority votes when he defeated Sri Lanka Freedom Party's Mahinda Rajapaksa ending his 10-year rule.

Tamils, however, remain disgruntled as the current government has failed to adopt a new constitution to address Tamil demand for political autonomy.