People want us to contest independently – Thavarasa
? Why did the EPDP decide to contest the election independently this year when you have contested with the UPFA all along?
A. People have been telling us, continuously, to go for the election independently. The first time we stood for elections, we did contest on our own, both local and parliamentary elections. This time, we thought we would do the same and listen to the people. We are still part of the UPFA even though we are contesting independently in our electorates.
? When you contest independently would you not lose the support an alliance can give you at an election?
A. It is actually the other way round; it is our votes that go into increasing the vote base of the alliance. When you are in an alliance, they also put their own candidates into our electorates and that eats into our own party vote base. We have a strong party in these areas; we do not need the support of an alliance to win.
? Several of your party cadres as well as the EPDP have been charged with allegations of corruption. How will you counter such allegations at the election?
A. Anybody can make an allegation. The biggest issue was that of the Maheshwari Foundation which Sumanthiran complained against. He protested against it when a bill regarding it was brought in Parliament too. He then went to Courts. It is a legal sand mining business and they have the right to do as they wish.
? How is the Maheshwari Foundation connected to the EPDP; and if it is just a sand mining business, why would Sumanthiran go to Courts?
A. It is all politically motivated. The chairman of the Foundation is Douglas Devananda. But the Foundation has no connection to the EPDP. The Foundation also does some social service activities for the people.
? The TNA has often said that it is the strongest party in the North and in the past it has managed to get the majority of votes. How will the EPDP fare in such stiff competition?
A. The TNA is a party of lies. At the 2010 election they said it was the last chance the people had to expose the crimes committed against the people, so the people voted for them. In 2013 at the Northern Provincial Council (NPC) elections too they said that it was the last opportunity the people had to expose the truth and they won a majority at the election. Since then nothing has happened. The lands are still with the Army, only 400 acres of the 1,000 acres promised by this government has been released so far. The Army is still in the North, the TNA said they would ask them to leave and that did not happen. As the UNP said, the 59 Army camps that were removed from the North did happen during the time of Mahinda Rajapaksa, this government has done nothing.
? If these promises have worked for the TNA to get into power, why does the EPDP not use the same tactic?
A. We never guarantee anything to the people and lie to them. We never said we could send the army out. What we can do is work with the government in power.
? What is going to be your slogan for this election?
A. Our slogan would call for development. All development activities have been stopped now; even the resettlement process has been halted.
? At the last Presidential Election the North overwhelmingly voted against former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. With Rajapaksa leading the Alliance again, would this not adversely affect your chances at the election?
A. The people were not against Mahinda Rajapaksa. The Jaffna electorate recorded 75,000 votes for him, a much higher count than last time.
? That is not saying much. At the Presidential election 74.42 per cent of the votes went to President Sirisena while only 21.85 per cent went to the former President. The people clearly did not want Mahinda Rajapaksa to continue?
A. I am not saying that the Mahinda Rajapaksa Government did everything right. He did not give the Tamil people the political solution they desired. This government however, too has not done that. They had the 19th Amendment, they could have easily put in a clause about devolution of power but they did not do that.
What has the TNA done in the Northern Province Council or in government? They were asking for the governor to be removed but they have not delivered much even after the governor was removed.
? The 19th Amendment was not about power devolution- that would be the 13th. Would the EPDP then fulfil the political aspirations of the Tamil people if elected into power?
A. Yes. But they could at least have included a clause about it in the 19th. We would help deliver on a political solution if we get the full mandate, just one or two MPs in Parliament is not going to make any difference.