We Should Stand Together – R. Sampanthan

by Waruni Karunarathne

The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) calls for the Sri Lankan government to commit to implement the UN resolution in full. While some members of the TNA constituent parties expressed disappointment at the UNHRC resolution that calls for a domestic mechanism, senior TNA member and Opposition Leader R. Sampanthan says the UN resolution is in the best interest of the country and the victims. Speaking to The Sunday Leader, Sampanthan is on the view that the government will be more sensible under the new leadership of President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.
Following are excerpts of the interview:

Q: You have praised the UN resolution on Sri Lanka. Do you agree with it? Do you have any areas of concern?
A: We would like the Sri Lankan government to implement the resolution in full with honesty and commitment. We will play a very positive role when it comes to the implementation of the resolution. We will fully support the endeavour of the Sri Lankan government to implement the resolution.We think that it is fundamental in the interest of the country, and it is in the best interest of the country. It is also in the best interest of all people who have been victims in this country – whether it is Tamils, Sinhalese, or Muslims. They need a new dawn. The full and honest implementation of the resolution can bring about that dawn.

Q: General understanding right now is that the new mechanism will be a domestic one implemented with the assistance of judges and experts from the Commonwealth and other countries. Many members of the TNA have been pushing for an entirely international mechanism to investigate the alleged war crimes and human rights issues in the country. Has it been a disappointment to the TNA?
A: I do not want to get into any controversies. What needs to be done is to implement the resolution honestly.

Q: Several commissions were appointed to look into these issues and to carry out investigations. But those domestic mechanisms were seen as failures. So, how do you agree with the new mechanism?
A: The reason for this country in this mess is because they never did things honestly in the past. They never kept their commitments, domestically or internationally. One can only hope that they have learnt from their past mistakes and would approach this resolution differently.
Under the new leadership of President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, it is my view that the government will be more sensible.

Q: Some members of the TNA constituent parties have expressed disappointment at the UN resolution which has not supported a fully international mechanism. Does this mean that the parties within the TNA stand on different grounds on the matters related to the UN resolution?
A: People can be disappointed about different things.
That is not what matters. What matters is whether what has been achieved is in the best interest of the country and the victims. That is what we need to be concerned about.
We do not want to be concerned about disappointment of individuals who may have expected too much and who may be disappointed now. I do not think that one needs to be too concerned about these aspects.

uktamilnewsQ: Some TNA members took part in the UNHRC sessions against the UN resolution calling for an international investigation. Will there be any disciplinary actions against them?
A: No. By and large the TNA’s position in this matter is what I have stated.
There may be a few disappointed individuals. They have to live with it.

Q: Tamil Nadu former Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi has urged the Union Government of India to move a private resolution in the UNHRC seeking an international inquiry into alleged war crimes of Sri Lanka. Do we have to be concerned about this?
A: If things are done correctly in this country, we need not worry. Those of us who live in this country should stand together and get those things done.
When things are not done correctly in this country, then other people start poking their fingers in our affairs. The only way to prevent other people from poking their fingers is to ensure that things are done correctly.

Q: Are you saying that we do not have to worry about the stance that India takes on this matter?
A: India did not say it. A politician in Tamil Nadu expressed these views. We have respect for them. We are not hostile to them.
But if the resolution is honestly implemented in this country by those who have to implement the resolution, and if we can do it together, then we can keep the others out.

Q: Some Tamil Diaspora groups have also claimed that the resolution has been watered down. How does the TNA expect to work with the Diaspora in future?
A: Do not worry about them! They will come along.

images-11Q: The TNA is of the view that the federal system is the solution to the national issue. However the government has strongly expressed their view against it. How do you expect to go about it now?
A: The federal systems have worked very well in many countries. There is nothing bad about a federal system – except that the word ‘federal’ in the Sri Lankan context has some unhealthy connotations.
A federal system is not something that you get frightened about. It is perfectly a legitimate arrangement which has benefited many countries. When talks start about the resolution to the problem, these issues have to be addressed.

Q: Have you had any discussions with the government about this as yet?
A: That is a matter to come. The government has talked to me informally, but officially the talks have not been commenced yet. Our informal talks have been quite superficial.

Q: What do you think is the TNA role right now as the Opposition and the sole representative of the Tamils?
A: I do not see a conflict between the two. I am the leader of the Opposition because we happened to be the party in the Opposition that had a large number of parliamentary seats. We are entitled to be the Opposition, and I am entitled to be the leader of the Opposition. I am the leader of the TNA because people have elected me to that position. There won’t be any conflict between the two.

Q: As the leader of the Opposition and the representative of the Tamils, what issues would you like to highlight the government must address initially?
A: We expect the implementation of the UN resolution in full – which is a very complicated thing. It deals with most of the issues that needs to be addressed.