”13th amendment should be fully implemented to reach a suitable political solution” says Douglas Devananda

BY Mirudhula Thambiah

General Secretary of Eelam People’s Democratic Party(EPDP) K.N. Douglas Devananda commenting on the new political stand taken by one of his party hierarchy members Murugesu Chandrakumar said, political decisions in the EPDP were reached with the contribution and involvement of Chandrakumar until recently, thus there cannot be any divergence between the party and Chandrakumar in political stands.

“I would say that all decisions and political stands so far have been reached with the consent of Chandrakumar. He had jointly taken decisions with us and we have travelled in that path until today,” he said.
Following are excerpts:

? Recently one of the founder leaders of your party, Murugesu Chandrakumar stepped down from the EPDP. As you are the General Secretary of the party did he officially inform you?

A: He did not inform us officially. After the 2015 Parliamentary Elections there was a certain distancing between the party and him. We did not have any specific problem and none of the party members knew when he left.

? Chandrakumar urged that the EPDP should change its political stand. Did he ever discuss a possible change of the political stand with the party’s hierarchy?
A: Every member in a family shall have different opinions. However, understanding is quite important for a family. Similarly, there shall be differences in opinions within a democratic political party. At the same time we are bound to adopt the opinion emphasized by the majority in the political party.

We had a long-term debate within the party during the 2015 Parliamentary Elections as to whether our party should contest under the Veena or ‘Beetle Leaf’. We discussed in many rounds to select the suitable stand during the parliamentary elections. At the end, the majority decided to contest under the Veena, the symbol of EPDP. Also we were able to secure a seat under the Veena symbol. As I said earlier, there can be different opinions within a democratic party, but a healthy-democratic party shall listen to all its members and adapt to the decisions of the majority.

Also it is normal for passengers to get in and get off a train journey. Behaviour of passengers shall not affect a train reaching its destination. A train journey is similar to the journey of a political party.

?Chandrakumar has pointed out that the EPDP had failed to fulfil the aspirations of the war affected people. The party has failed to take a political stand that would be beneficial to the war affected. How do you view his statement?
A: I have no idea as to why he made such a statement. EPDP had been travelling along the political trajectory that was jointly decided upon and agreed by him. It is important to adopt political stands according to situations. We had one political stand during the war, and another stand after the war.

If you examine Chandrakumar’s political career, he was with me in the initial stages, however in between he left for London. After the war he returned to the country and joined us. We jointly took our party forward with his contribution. Our party was registered in 1989 with the contribution of current Opposition Leader of the Northern Provincial Council Thavaraja, Chandrakumar and my father Kathirvelu.

Therefore I would say that all decisions and political stands so far have been reached with the consent of Chandrakumar. He had jointly taken decisions with us and we have travelled in that path until today.
I give enough space to my party members to achieve in politics. Similarly I gave space to Chandrakumar, and today he has become the talk of the city. Also I groomed Kamalendran to achieve in politics and handed over the Northern Provincial Council Opposition Leader’s post, but later his activities were not suitable and I replaced him with Thavaraja.

? What was EPDP hierarchy’s response to Chandrakumar’s resignation?

A: He may not be the only person to leave the party. We cannot say that others shall not leave the party in the future. This is just a normal move. We cannot say that the party has toppled.
It is very well known that LTTE Leader Prabhakaran made several attempts to kill me. The party did not topple then. We kept travelling as a political party without any hindrance.
I was blamed for all political assassinations except former President Premadasa’s murder. Most of the culprits have been tracked down in Raviraj, Joseph Pararajasingham and Ekneligoda cases. Even the suspects of Maheswaran’s case have been traced similar to how the culprit of Amirthalingam’s assassination was traced. But on previous occasions allegations were just levelled against me.

Even at the Paranagama Commission sittings in certain cases we (EPDP) have been blamed.
I clearly told Vijayakala Maheswaran to appeal to the Appellate Courts to carry-out fresh proceedings in her husband’s case rather than just blaming the EPDP. All five siblings of Maheswaran should be first investigated over this matter.
Therefore I feel all these allegations against us have been motivated by political revenge.
Also I would like to invite Chandrakumar for the Party Convention on 8 May. He can convey all his ideas and opinions there. He is like my brother.

?During the last Parliamentary Elections in 2015, EPDP managed to secure only one seat but previously it secured two to three seats. Does that mean people’s support for EPDP has lessened?
A: We have not failed to take suitable decisions in politics since inception. We always believed only a non-confrontational political attitude can yield suitable solutions. Even TNA has currently taken the same stand. In our method of political compliance we gave priority to people’s welfare. Whereas, TNA has adopted political compliance for individual welfare, by obtaining the posts of Opposition Leader, Chairman of Committees and Co-Chairmanship of District Development Committees.
As I said, we adopted political compliance mainly for people’s welfare. People’s welfare in our stand was mainly the political rights of our people, livelihoods, housing and other daily needs. We have concentrated only on people’s welfare, but the TNA has failed to look after such needs and wants of our people. TNA spoke about many issues such as political solution, missing persons, political prisoners and etc. But they did not manage to solve any of those issues.

What did Sampanthan promise? He promised to obtain a suitable political solution by the mid of 2015. After the parliamentary elections he said the political solution can be reached by the end of 2015. But now they say it was just an assumption.
But we did not just make assumptions, we fulfilled our promises. We always emphasized and considered the 13th Amendment as the beginning for a political solution.

We demanded that the 13th amendment should be fully implemented to reach a suitable political solution. The South will not oppose it because we have struggled to obtain such a solution. We obtained this solution with the sponsorship of India. People are already being governed under the 13th Amendment, therefore when it is fully implemented nobody can oppose it.

However, currently the Northern Provincial Council claims that they are lacking powers. Truth is they are not in a position to exercise even the available powers. Twice the allocations given to the council were at risk of being reversed back to the treasury.

?Is it true that you will be given a ministerial portfolio?
A: I’m unaware of it and I’m not bothered too. But there are various stories about offering me a ministerial portfolio. For the past 20 years I was involved in authoritative politics. I approached issues based on such politics. I had the power to solve issues. I had the platform to solve issues. However currently I don’t have such a platform to solve issues on my own. Therefore, I have to speak about it. As a result I continuously raise questions in Parliament.

I will also move a private member motion in Parliament on 6 May, requesting permission to peacefully commemorate death anniversaries of those who died in the war. I have also requested to build a memorial monument for all those who died in war. But if I had the power to build a monument and commemorate death anniversaries, I shall definitely implement it. I will not just make assumptions. At the same time I’m not ready to blame the government. Any new government that takes up power should be able to solve the majority of the problems. If not, it will be too late to achieve their target.
The TNA should have taken up certain issues during the 100 day programme itself, as it was the beginning. The representatives of the two main parties in the National Government were bound to solve certain issues and as a result they may have considered tackling issues relating to a political solution at the initial stages itself. We should have managed to obtain a political solution at this stage.

?How do you view the resolution passed by the Northern Provincial Council urging for a federal solution?
A: Federal solution seems to be a devil for those in the South, while a unitary solution would be a devil for those in the North and East. These ideas have been propagated among the people through politicians.

However currently what must be considered is that apart from whether those in the South agree or not, Tamil speaking people in the North and East have expressed preference for a federal solution. Most Tamil civic organizations and political parties also emphasize on a federal solution.

Right to opinion and speech is a must in a democratic country. Accordingly one should have the right to demand for the arrest of Sampanthan while at the same time Sampanthan should have the right to convey his opinion.

It is important to understand that national reconciliation is a must. Without reconciliation it is impossible to obtain a political solution to settle the ethnic issue. Both hands must clap. Thus the urge for reconciliation must be felt by both Tamils and Sinhalese, if not, it will be a failure.

?How do you view the current security situation in the Northern Province?
A: Some years back the term ‘security’ in the North was defined in a totally different way. But currently the context has changed. I’m not ready to blame the government. Tamil people do not have a suitable political leadership, and this has led to an increase in criminal activities. I do not say that President Maithirpala Sirisena or Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe must solve this issue. But a suitable Tamil Leadership can solve these problems. Yet it has not happened.
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