By MIRUDHULA THAMBIAH
Ceylon Today had an opportunity of buttonholing Parliamentarian Mavai Senathirajah who is Leader of the Ilankai Tamil Arasu Katchi (ITAK). Chatting with him we sought his opinion on various newsworthy issues. Parliamentarian Mavai Senathirajah said he understands and accepts the justification behind the armed struggles carried out by the LTTE, yet he pointed out that he couldn’t condone the atrocious mistakes of the LTTE at the same time.“Since I have read quite a bit on armed struggles carried out by other countries I believed that an armed struggle can change the suffering of our people and I believed it would liberate our people,” he said.
Listed below are some excerpts of this conversation:
: Do you feel that the representatives of the North and the East will not be much affected by the electoral system that would be introduced by the 20th Amendment to the Constitution
A: I would like to point out that the Proportional Representation System secure minorities, especially the up country Tamils and Muslims.
However, the First-Past-the Post System will rarely affect the representatives from the North and the East. But it will affect the representation of Up country Tamils. We would demand for 10% representation under the First-Past-the Post System out of the 225 members to the Parliament. Similarly the Government should consider giving 6 % representation from the total number of members to the Parliament. Also Muslims should receive 7 % representation from the total number of members to the Parliament. Apart from that they should allocate a certain percentage for small parties too. Therefore, 30% of representation of the minority communities and small parties should be ensured. Our aim in the discussions will mainly stress to safeguard the rights of the minorities and small parties.
: Did the 100-day programme fulfil the expectations of Tamil people
A: Issues of Tamil people still continue to be the same. If you take the resettlement process in the Valikamam North, there is lot of obstruction by the military even after 1,500 acres of land were released from the High Security Zone (HSZ). People are very much troubled.
Apart from the resettlement issues, we discussed with the present Government to release political detainees in prisons. Their cases are complicating and some are without cases at all but detained without reasons.
: Do you feel that the war affected people of the North and the East are actually happy with the post change of Government period
A: I will not say that they are happy, at the same time they are living a better life compared to the problems they experienced during the previous regime. But they are in an unsatisfied mentality that their lands are yet to be released and a political solution has not been reached still. They are experiencing democracy, but they are unhappy! We only demand for a self- rule in our own lands. There is no privacy for the Tamil females. The 100 day programme has failed to fulfil the demands forwarded by the Tamil people.
: Recently Northern Provincial Councillor Thurairajah Raviharan was questioned by the Kilinochchi Police for commemorating flames for those who died in the war on Maveerar Day on 27th November 2014. Does this mean people of the North and East are independently functioning
A: We are not happy with this incident. But, let me say that commemorating flames for those who have died is part of the Hindu Tradition. It is the rights of the Tamil people to mourn for their loved ones. Warning us to not to commemorate is a move to crush our rights. We don’t like it, we will condemn it!
: Is it correct to say that you entered Tamil politics after former TULF Leader Amirthalingam appeared for you on a criminal trial against you
A: Cannot say as I lived near S.J.V. Chelvanayagam alias ‘Thanthai Chelva’s resident. I was very much inspired by him. He was very close to young people like us (during my young days). Also we were very much interested in the political ideas of Amirthalingam. When I was 16 years I read out Thanthai Chelva’s election speech as he was unable to give a speech due to his illness. After that he continuously took me for many meetings and gatherings to read his speech. This gave me more space to get closer to the ideas of Thanthai Chelva. After that when the Satyagraha Protest began in 1961 we participated in it during our school days. When we were in school even our teachers’ spoke about the sacrificing and involvements of Thanthai Chelva in Tamil politics for Tamil people. We were also inspired by the 5 June 1956 protest against the Sinhala only law in which many Tamil representatives including Thanthai Chelva and Amirthalingam were attacked by goons. Also on 22 May 1972 as a student I lead the protest against the first constitution in this country.
: How did you become active in the Tamil Youths Organization (Eelathamizh Ilaignar Iyakkam)
A: In 1971 and 1972 Buddhist schools were established in the North to create popularity. At that period we formed a youth organization named ‘Eelathamizh Ilaignar Iyakkam’. Thesa Ilankai Mannan was the leader of the organization while I was the secretary. We staged many protests uniting all youths including students from all five districts. We staged many protests and organized many processions against the educational policy, sinhalization and against Premier Sirima Bandaranaike’s government.
: How many times did you undergo imprisonment
A: I was first imprisoned on 9 March 1973 for protesting against the 1972 Constitution. I was arrested 11 times by the Government in my political career and I spent 7 years in prison. I was severely tortured several times. I was severely tortured in the Elephant Pass Security Forces camp in 1978 and then thrown away thinking I was dead. My colleagues and I were severely tortured at the 4th floor. I am surprised that I am still alive.
: However there were allegations that you got involved in Armed Struggles. But you justified that it was a democratic struggle. What was real
A: I was inspired by armed struggles. But I never took up arms. I never worked with an armed group. I’m an aggressive protestor, but that does not mean I was operating arms. We were labelled as separatists for standing up for the rights of the Tamils.
: What happened to Santhathiyaar who functioned as the leader of the youth organization along with you
A: Not only Santhathiyaar, there were many other youth who joined hands in our political struggle. Santhathiyaar was not imprisoned with us. When we were in jail Santhathiyaar, Pushparajah and Varatharaja Perumal carried-out protest struggles.
But Santhathiyaar joined the armed struggle with PLOTE. We hear that he was involved in the killings of certain members of the LTTE. Therefore those who followed negative paths have also been with us during our struggles. It is obvious that Santhathiyaar was directed in the wrong line.
: What was the role of Kasi Ananthan in the political struggle? He was represented from Batticaloa.
A: He was my senior in the political struggle. He was imprisoned before us. However, he was a hard-core supporter of the LTTE, he wore the LTTE uniform and participated in our meetings.
: There are allegations that you were stooge of the Indian Government in the past. How do you justify
A: I don’t remember any such allegations, but I must say that I had to live in India since I was arrested by the Sri Lankan Government several times in past. I was facing life threats. Therefore I had to leave this country on the guidance of my leader Amirthalingam. Yet I soon returned to Sri Lanka.
: You believed in extremist politics in the beginning, yet how did you later adopt moderate politics
A: Thanthai Chelva and Amirthalingam had trust on me and I never functioned against them. I also believed in Prabhakaran and he believed me too. We have spoke on behalf of the LTTE during the Oslo Talks.
We always advised them that they should reach a decision through discussions.
Being the leader of ITAK I have always guided everyone to follow democracy. I’m a strong believer of Gandhi.
Also since the armed struggle has been defeated now, we should follow the paths of democracy to receive an identity from the international community.
: You have supported the armed struggle of the LTTE. Currently there are political parties in the TNA coalition those have involved armed struggles in the past. If so, why do certain members in the coalition antagonize with them
A: It is true that they were involved in armed struggles, but now they have admitted their faults.
They believe in democracy and there is no need for any of our members to antagonize them.
: You were to contest as the Chief Ministerial candidate in the Northern Provincal elections. However, former Chief Justice C. V. Wigneswaran contested as the candidate from your party. Are you satisfied with his service
A: We were denied bail in Batticaloa in 1978. Northern Chief Minister C. V. Wigneswaran appeared as judge, he raised many questions through the Attorney General’s Department as to why we were detained continuously in prisons. Following his pressure we were released on bail. Therefore I respect him.
When the Northern Provincial Council Elections were announced, our coalition parties proposed me as the Chief Ministerial Candidate. But, since I respected Former Chief Justice Wigneswaran, I believed a person like him should be given a chance to serve our people. Therefore I proposed his name to the Chief Ministerial Candidacy. I’m very happy that I received a chance to campaign on behalf of him in the Northern Province and we were able to secure victory. I’m satisfied with his current service to the people.
: What do All Ceylon Tamil Congress lead by Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam and ITAK are on loggerheads
A: There is no big policy differences, leader Ponnambalam demanded for three seats in the 2010 parliamentary elections, whereas we explained that only two seats were possible. Therefore he walked out from the coalition.
: Seeing you believe in the Indian super power, what type of a solution do you expect from them for the ethnic crisis
A: We believe in a Federal set-up. They know it very well. Prime Minister Modi has emphasized this more than the 13th Amendment. Therefore we have discussed with the current Government regarding the stand of India in the ethnic issue.
Therefore we believe they will act accordingly if they continue as the Government.
Leader of Tamil Eelam Liberation Organization (TELO) Parliamentarian Selvam Adaikalanathan denied that the armed struggle destroyed Tamils. If people were actually affected by the armed struggle, they would have definitely betrayed the organizations. People in the North and East supported the armed struggle until it was fully destroyed in 2009.
Following are excerpts: