Leader of the Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP), former Minister Douglas Devananda says that his party has decided to go solo at the forthcoming general election, without contesting the election under UPFA as done earlier.
Claiming that there are a number of outstanding issues affecting the people in the North and East, Devananda said that the party would remain committed to working for the people’s welfare.
The Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP) is a North-based political party with strong leanings towards India. Founded by its current head and former minister Douglas Devananda, himself a former paramilitary who was propelled into revolutionary Tamil politics through the Eelam Revolutionary Organization of Students (EROS), the EPDP has been consorting with the UPFA Government, until its January 8 defeat. Ready to go solo for the first time in 20 years, its leader Douglas Devananda claims that this election will offer a new opportunity for the EPDP to build its relationship with the people of the North who want to find a political entity that can be the alternate voice to the Tamil National Alliance (TNA).
Q: The EPDP has decided to contest the forthcoming general election as a single party? Why?
A: It is a response to a request by the electorate. Previously, we contested the election under the betel leaf symbol of the UPFA. People now want us to contest as an independent political party without forming any alliance with southern political parties.
Q: Why have people made such a request?
A: People make different demands at different times. When we contest in alliance with other political parties, voters are unable to make an independent decision on our stance/s because they are mixed with other political views.
In the North and East, the TNA has the largest representation in the parliament. But we have policies diametrically opposite to the TNA.
Therefore, people want us to contest as a single political party, enabling the Tamil people to vote for us and balance the TNA’s electoral influence in the North and East.
Q: What are the main differences between the EPDP and the TNA policies?
A: The TNA’s approach to the ethnic issue is different to that of the EPDP.
We stand for a negotiated settlement based on the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.
We always like to join hands with the Government to settle these issues. But the TNA doesn’t have a firm policy on this issue.
They change their stance from time to time. So many people like to work with the EPDP and have this question addressed. Through us, they will get an opportunity. This is why we contest as a single party.
A: We have to wait and see as to which party we should support in the future. At present, we have not taken any decision regarding that. But, in about two weeks, we may be able to say clearly whose polices we like the most and find common ground with.
Q: Are you having any electoral agreement with a political party?
A: We have not reached any electoral agreement with any political party. We are contesting the general election as a single party.
Q: What sort of political campaign will you be carrying out in the North and the East?
A: We will take the message to the people as to how we propose a final solution to the many issues affecting them. In the past few years, we did our best to solve those issues and we did not have enough support. If people support us at this election, we will make our best effort to solve the issues they are confronted with.
Q: What are the key issues?
A: In the North, the major issue is lands. Then there are missing people, political prisoners and the absence of a lasting political solution to the North East question. We are trying our best to address these issues through a new mandate we hope to gain on August 17.
Q: You were a Minister in the UPFA Government. Why couldn’t you solve these problems during all those years?
A: We did our best to solve them. As the EPDP, we are trying our best to address those issues. The TNA had different approach to the same issues and we have a different approach. I think our approach is more practical than the TNA’s approach. We believe in a give and take policy and preventing further loss of lives and colossal damage to property. But we need the support of the people.
Q: Does the EPDP work harmoniously with the Northern Provincial Council?
A: There is no co-operation. There is also not a truly functional northern provincial administration. They earlier said, they could not perform due to the former Governor and the Chief Secretary. With the change of the Government, a new Governor and a Secretary were appointed but the situation remains the same. The NPC is quite dysfunctional.
Q: People in the North voted for Maithripala Sirisena at the January 8 presidential election. Do you think they have benefitted from that exercise?
A: For the people to benefit, the TNA should take their problems to the Government and demand solutions. But that has not happened. So people could not derive any benefit and the support of the new president. People are unhappy with the TNA this time. People want real answers and real action, not words.
Q: Whatever you may say, people continue to place their trust in the TNA. Do you think there will be a change in that pattern this time?
A: Now there is a change. People are unhappy as the TNA has ne genuine interest in solving the problem s of the average citizens.
Q: In which districts will the EPDP field candidates this time?
A: We are contesting all five districts in the North and East.
Q: Are you confident that your candidates are the most suitable for northern politics?
A: They are living with the people. They are people who understand the citizens’ pulse.
Q: How many female candidates are contesting from the EPDP?
A: One from the North and four from the Eastern Province.
Q: How many seats are you hoping to secure this time?
A: We hope to get at least five seats this time.