BY Mirudhula Thambiah
Former Northern Provincial Council member and Tamil National Alliance ( TNA) Vanni District parliamentarian elect Dr. Sivapragasam Sivamohan said the Opposition Leader’s post must be offered to his party as it has secured the third place in the recent general election with highest number of votes polled from both the North and East.
“This is definitely a negative move. Both majority parties have joined hands to form a National Government. However, our party is in the third place, therefore, we feel our party is legally bound to receive the Opposition leadership,” he said.
?This is your first time in Parliament. You were already elected to the Northern Provincial Council. Why did you choose parliamentary politics?
A: Apart from the rights of Tamil people, there are other issues that should be addressed. Livelihood is one of the main problems in the Vanni District. Livelihood of our people should have been solved after the resettlement, yet it was ignored. There was much political interference during former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s period, where people’s problems were not addressed properly.
Many organizations related to the United Nations such as UNICEF and WFP were sponsoring the livelihoods of the war affected people in Vanni. However, former President Rajapaksa’s government directly involved to the livelihood projects claiming that they shall assist people. As a result, all UN related organizations stepped out of livelihood projects. Since the withdrawal of such organizations our people did not experience any livelihood facilities and they had little space to develop their living standards. Now there is a change, the new Parliament will represent a National Government for good governance, thus I will raise my voice in the legislature to allocate funds for the development of the Vanni District. In the case of shortages in funds, they can request international organizations for assistance.
I would also pressurize the government to hand over the lands used by the security forces to their owners. Everyone is aware that Kepapilavu in Mullaitivu is completely under the control of security forces since the end of the war. About 20 acres of private land in Puthukuddiyiruppu, paddy lands in Kokkuthuduvai are also occupied by the security forces. At the same time, some lands owned by religious trustees have been grabbed by the security forces and the former government to build up various other religious monuments.
Thus illegal land acquisition should be stopped and many people who returned back to their places have failed to obtain their lands back due to illegal land acquisition.
Many Tamil political prisoners are spending their life unnecessarily in prisons without any legal proceedings. Most of them don’t have any cases filed against them. Therefore, I will take necessary steps to pressurize the government to release them on general pardon similar to the JVP members.
I will also raise my voice to ensure a truthful investigation on missing persons. Last would be to obtain a suitable political solution for the national question through methodical dialogues and reconciliation with the National Government.
Above important issues that should be immediately addressed thus I believed parliamentary politics will be more powerful to obtain solutions for these issues.
?Even though the ITAK has managed to secure the victory in the North and East, people have changed their voting patterns by electing new members to Parliament from the Vanni District and Batticaloa District. How do you view this? Do you think people expected a change within your party itself?
A: The recent parliamentary election were very peaceful, free and fair. However, we experienced elections those were dominated by the activities of the security forces. Therefore, in the current context people were very clear and they have elected us as their representatives. Most of us from Vanni are new to Parliament.
I have managed to secure a seat in Parliament. This is exactly after two years of being elected to the Provincial Council. This is quite evident that people trust us and we should fulfil their expectations.
?What is your political background?
A: I have been involving in humanitarian assistance since 1996, until 2002 I functioned as a District Health Officer in the LTTE controlled areas. Most of the medical practitioners were not willing to serve in such areas, thus I took up the task. I actually entered politics only after the Northern Provincial Council elections in 2013. I have been in the political field for almost two years.
?Are you on the positive stand that the National Government will ensure a trustworthy political solution to the national question? How far is it practical?
A: We have been continuously cheated by former governments. Therefore, it is quite impractical to completely depend on the National Government. I’m unsure and cannot predict the future consequences at this stage.
At the same time it should be considered that there hadn’t been any such National Government in the past where the proposition and the opposition form a united government. Therefore, we should make use of this opportunity to win over our rights. We should fight to obtain the same equality that is provided to the majority community in this country.
?Do you think we have got the suitable opportunity to solve the ethnic issue or people will have to wait further?
A: We don’t need to wait further, I’m sure people have lost patience. As I said, we have two leaders in the National Government, representing two different majority parties, therefore, it is the right time begin political dialogues to settle the issue.
?How do you think the fraternal relationship between Tamils and Muslims will help to win over a political solution in a merged North and East? Some of the Muslim leaders are not ready to merge both provinces while some leaders are not against it. Is it practical to convince them according to your agenda?
A: Majority of the Tamil speaking people are living in both North and East. Tamils and Muslims are Tamil speaking communities, so they are identified as Tamil speaking people. But we further have created divisions as Tamils and Muslims for political purposes.
For example, both communities will use the same language for administrative purposes in both provinces. Therefore, I believe there are no such major contradictions between both communities.
However, I would like to point out that only Tamil politicians like us are continuously emphasizing on a political solution for Tamil speaking people in a merged North and East. This does not mean the Muslim politicians are against it. Even if they are Muslims they are our fraternal community who speaks the same language, there can be situations for them to completely accept our claim.
If you see in the former regime, Muslims were also equally affected in several incidents. They were ill-treated too. They faced many religious problems in the previous regime, I believe that Muslim people now at a position to understand the situation and create a trust on Tamil-Muslim unity.
If both communities can play a major role in bringing a change in recent elections, I don’t see any policy differences between both communities to work united.
?The new government had continuously stressed on introducing a newly amended Constitution. What would be your suggestions to ensure the rights of minority communities?
A: It is very important to introduce a Constitution that ensures equal rights to all minorities in this country.
?TNA has continuously pressurized for an international inquiry. However, currently the US is taking steps to introduce another resolution urging for local inquiries on war crimes. What would be your party’s stand? How do you view this?
A: This question is completely based on international diplomacy. We have not yet received our party’s decision. Therefore, I shall answer this question based on the decisions taken by our party. However, it would be suitable if the international community takes the responsibility for any form of inquiry.
?There was an expectation at the initial stages to provide the Opposition Leader post to TNA. However, now the situation has changed and it is understood an alliance is being formed in the Opposition to appoint a unanimous Opposition Leader. How do you view this?
A: This is definitely a negative move. Both majority parties have joined hands to form a National Government. However, our party is in the third place, therefore, we feel our party is legally bound to receive the Opposition leadership.
?You have been establishing many health related development projects at grassroots level in the Vanni District during the past two years as a Provincial Councillor. What are the new plans you have tabled as an elect parliamentarian?
A: It is not about being a provincial councillor or parliamentarian but serving the affected people and uplifting their living standards. I have so far carried out many health related development actvities in Vanni. I will continue my humanitarian assistance. As usual I will take necessary steps to carry out health projects at grassroots levels.
I will also get involved in dialogues with ministers to implement other development plans in the Vanni District and I will try to obtain more funds for our district since it is most war affected area.
?You have been a Provincial Councillor for the past two years. There are many allegations that the Northern Provincial Council failed to function successfully. Do you agree?
A: The former regime never allowed us to function independently. We didn’t have enough funds to carry out our development activities. Therefore, I agree that there had been a lapse. However, now the government has changed, we have to take steps to obtain funds. Also we have to ensure that we function independently. We should agree that we couldn’t assist our people due to the lack of cooperation by the former regime.