Gajen branded as ‘racist’ – ‘Two state one country’ concept
BY SULOCHANA RAMIAH MOHAN
Leader of Tamil National People’s Front (TNPF) – main constituent of All Ceylon Tamil Congress Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam could not mange to win a single seat at the last week’s parliamentary elections which he claims that the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) ‘misled’ the people and robbed his chances of winning at least two seats.
The Tamils are ‘happy’ in the North, that they have finally given into the TNA ‘fully’ when from its usual song of 13A and a unitary state went further calling for a federal government.
The opinion per se is that the South welcomed the new regime’s come back after 8 January, rejecting Mahinda Rajapaksa for his strong communal stance and banking only on the ‘security threat’ ‘perpetuated’ by the LTTE .
However in the North, the Tamils’ stance is now a federal government and that is only workable.
The TNA and TNPF have campaigned for it but the TNA came out as winner while Gajen was rejected.
The core issue: He banked on a ‘Two states and one country’ concept which the South called is a total separatism.
Beside the strong stance of Premier Ranil- Maithri government that there is no room for federal government, TNPF says they will struggle to achieve it with international interventions and if TNA is genuine about federal government then they should not revert to only the 13A in a united country, a call by R. Sampathan before their Manifesto and then called for a federal system during the parliamentary election campaign.
“My party is for a federal government and the people have misunderstood that,” Gajen told Ceylon Today when we met at his residence in Jaffna last week.
He says that “TNPF stands for a solution that recognizes that Sri Lanka is a multinational country and it is not just a Nation State but a Multinational State. Several nations form the Lankan state. That has to be recognized and given genuine constitutional effect too”.
Claiming that that was the position of the TNA in 2001 and the notion of he being called a separatist asking for a separate state is absolute nonsense. He said that it is the government that has hardcore Sinhala nationalists.
“What about Champika Ranawaka who signed a MoU with Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe? What about Sarath Fonseka and Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga who took the stance ‘War for Peace’, aren’t they Sinhala nationalists?”
The regime has changed but the genuine change is not taking place Gajen claimed. “Some sort of a good governance and dealing with corruption charges and rule of law has been put in place but with regard to Tamil peoples’ expected changes, it has not yet happened. The regime and the policies are not changed this is where I stand different,” says Gajen.
“The TNA had said that I had struck a deal with former Minister of Economics Basil Rajapaksa, and that former President Mahinda Rajapaksa gave me money to break away from the TNA to make it a ‘weak’ party. They also accused me that I appeared for the Mahiyangana mass murder case which I did not. These were utter lies that were propagated by TNA’s M. A. Sumanthiran and this is what he kept saying for the last five years and that was the detraction from my voter base claimed Gajen”.
“When an established party says lies about me and calls for a federal government during an election campaign, it goes in their favour. Then when I go and say they are really not for a federal state, self determination and nationhood, but they are actually for the 13A and the provincial council, people genuinely believe them and not me”.
“Unfortunately the voters are innocent,” laments Gajen, “They go by face value and people are not schemers,” that is what happened here as for my losing, but people said thought I was a tough contender.
Explaining why a federal system is the best solution ever for the National problem, Gajen lists several appalling issues that cannot be sorted out just with a 13A or whatever the suggestions that is put forward so far.
“There was a general feeling that an extreme oppressive fear psychosis was there under former President Rajapaksa however, under President Maithripala it is minimized or not been experienced so far.
“Our political parties found it extremely difficult to function under him. People were frightened to talk to us during the last regime fearing the military will visit them at their residences.
“I personally experienced the same. We cannot talk to people particularly in Wanni, Mannar, Vavuniya and Mullaitivu, the heartland of the LTTE. A big brother watching over you was the feeling then.”
But Gajen said that practice is still continuing in the Wanni. There is some sort of monitoring and gathering of information by the intelligence that is continuing he said.
“The regime change is not a real change for the people of the North and East Tamil and that is my position,”says Gajen.
“Secondly” he says that he has been critical on the US resolution based on what primarily started with the regime change. “An internal process to probe war crimes won’t succeed. That is an imagination. Every regime of the last 65 years from the time Sri Lanka gained independence from the British; Sri Lanka never struck a genuine chord on any of those commissions that came out for solutions. Ethnic related issues that took up in commissions were never even published. That is the track record and it’s not only the Rajapaksas, but Sri Lanka under the leadership of Premadasa and CBK was the same.”
I have been critical about that. Even the first resolution, 2014 called for investigation by the office of the UN Human Rights High Commissioner. It did not go far enough. They also stressed for an internal inquiry.
When you call for an international inquiry but bring the internal inquiry also is a very clear indication that the resolution as a whole is primarily targeting the regime change.
Regime change was the whole issue. The international community thought with MR it was impossible to proceed for a solution.”
“The UN’s Technical assistance that is given green light by the government is also far too short. No domestic mechanism can succeed. Because we don’t know who is going to investigate, prosecute the State that is accused of. There are no hopes in that because so far Ranil and Maithri whenever they go before their electorate ultimately they stand for Sinhala man’s vote. When you go before them you try to establish your credibility by saying certain phrases. The clear message given to the voters was that they will not allow any international investigations with regard to the Rajapaksas or with regards to the military and they would protect these people. In that backdrop, how can there be an accountability taking place? Will they prosecute Mahinda Rajapaksa? … Never.”
“My point is that who is going to be the chief investigator? It’s going to be the Police. Police stand equally accused as the military for all crimes against humanity. So there is no room to have an unbiased internal inquiry. The victim must feel safe taking part in any such process. The victims who come forward now are the ones whose members disappeared. Victims of other crimes are not prepared to come forward and open their mouths. So this is a clear indication of how scary the situation is,” Gajen pointed out.
He said if that is held, the victims will be comfortable to come forward to give evidence “My critical points are misused and misinterpreted by my detractors that I am against the accountability process to be taken against Rajapaksa, but I am not.
“My party merely accuses the government for committing genocide and not just war crimes and crimes against humanity. When that is the graveness of the crimes, my view is that the mechanism that is put into place to deal with, should match it.
“Even in 2001, a federal government call was never there. Even when the LTTE was there that was never the case. But we have been very clear that our party that we are for a federal state and federalism is not separation. People are saying separatists but actually to distract from the credible argument we have put forward and it’s sad that the argument and the misinformation of ours has been propagated by some by even the English media as well.
“Where do your party and the TNA differ in ideologies? The TNA actually as of 2001 to May 2009 committed itself for a unitary State and committed to Provincial Council as the solution. That is the basis on which we fell out. Their position is also that gradually the Tamil Nationalism must be done away.
“My view is that when the war was fought and eventually won justifies that we Tamils need protection in a way the unilateralism can be prevented. There may be criticism on the LTTE’s atrocities but I believe they did prevent the unilateralism attitude. Since the LTTE is not there, it is out-bidding in other ways on the Sinhala nationalist platform. My view is that in order to prevent that we need to have a federal state put in place.
The issue is not the Tamils cannot live with the Sinhalese. The issue is since we are numerically small, for the last 65 years we are totally aware that there has been unilateralism in manner that is totally detrimental to our existence and identity. So we need to protect that and that is not extremism. That is not illiberal quite the contrary. To recognize and celebrate the plurality and actually to give effect to the plurality is the possible progressive political solution that can take place.
The ultimate truth is that TNA misled the community. You will understand this factor in the next five years. TNA Manifesto came after we filed our nomination and secondly I know what is happening. I am a witness to what is said and done by the TNA. I saw and heard the decisions taken by them and what they would do also. I would have not left the party if so. I can say the federal system concept they were banking on was a political bomb. It’s impossible to do that with them. I was a TNA MP and they did not do anything.
A full accountably must be held on the war crimes. Let us go through that process. I was directly involved in the last days of the war to stop it and bring civilians out safely. We know what happened was genocide. We truly believe that. Tamil victims believe that too.
When a crime of that magnitude had taken place I don’t think the right thinking conscience of the world can permit for political expediency that the crime should be overlooked. That is the fundamental driver. So we need protection from a numerically larger Sinhala nation. As far as political solution, India must be considered too, that this is not a threat to their national security.
South African TRC model
He said even the South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) like model for Sri Lanka is of no help.
“TRC is a complete counter thesis of accountability. It cannot bring about a political solution. The SA dismantled the apartheid regime first. They reached a political solution first and then transition took place. But we are no close to any political solution so where the room for is transitional and reconciliation we are talking about?” Gajen quipped.