"I want to serve my people because I feel their pain" ~ Gnanasakthy Sritharan
Gnanasakthy Sritharan's poster in Kokkuvil, Jaffna District
Gnanasakthy Sritharan in Koovil (former High Security Zone), Jaffna District
Gnansakthy Sritharan is a former politician and an ex cadre of Eelam People's Revolutionary Liberation Front (Pathmanabha Wing), and is currently contesting in Jaffna District under the United People's Freedom Alliance banner in the forthcoming Provincial Council Elections in the North of Sri Lanka. I met passionate politician to be Gnanasakthy Sritharan amidst her hectic schedule durng the last week of the election campaign, at one of the worst affected villages in Jaffna District, known as "Koovil". A tiny village which had lost numerous lives and properties during the war, a handful of women and men joined the Eelam People's Revolutionary Liberation Front almost 30 years ago as combatants. Many of them have left the country due to safety reasons, while a few of them have decided to return after the war ended in May 2009.
Gnanasakthy Sritharan joined the Eelam People's Revolutionary Liberation Front in 1981, and was trained how to shoot, and handle weapons. She was in exile like her fellow cadres, and returned to Sri Lanka recently.
"I will work hard to protect every woman's basic rights, including all women ex combatants, irrespective of their political views, and which armed organisation they were involved with. Tamil women have been used by all the parities, which were involved in armed struggle. The women became the permanent victims of war - killed, disabled, raped, made as single mothers, and so on. Tamil women who have either contributed to the war or been victimised due to war are left to lurch, nobody comes forward to empower them in post war Sri Lanka. They continue to suffer in silence. There are no sustainable livelihood programs for these women in need" says tireless Gnanasakthy Sritharan.
She contested almost three decades ago, won and elected as a member of the former North and East provincial Council. There are a handful of women candidates who are contesting in the forthcoming Northern Provincial Council Elections.
"Patriarchy plays a major role in politics. Fellow male candidates feel threatened when there are women candidates. They don't encourage women to embrace politics. More women should enter politics, and become decision makers. But, the adequate space is not given to the women who have the courage to become politicians.
Male candidates have a lot of financial and personnel support, where I struggle to continue my election campaign. On the other hand, I don't want to waste money in printing different posters, cut outs and paraphernalia. I would like to dedicate my services to the people (especially women) who need a lot of support to rebuild their shattered lives. Women have been pushed to bear multiple burdens, most of them are living under poverty line, and are malnourished. I neither want to beautify myself nor want to give false promises to people. But, I want to serve my people, because I feel their pain" Gnanasakthy Sritharan further stated.
She says she had faced numerous challenges when she was contesting for the first time, and the challenges remain unchanged. She also says that contesting in the elections for the second time is a different experience, including she has to compete with many candidates, and is trying hard to reach out to the people in the grassroots.