by Thushari Nathaniel
Former TNA MP Suresh Premachandran stated that despite the government’s promises to the Tamil people, there are many who are still in camps and are unable to go back to their own lands. Although the government promised to expedite the resettlement process, only a very few were resettled and the majority of them are still in the same predicament. Most of the people want to go back to their own lands as only then can they get on with their livelihood activities whether it is farming or fishing.In an interview with The Sunday Leader, Premachandran pointed out that the President and the Prime Minister are making contradictory statements that are confusing to the people, and this has now become a joke. According to Premachandran, the issues concerning lands, political prisoners and resettlement and livelihood have not been resolved tangibly so far neither by the previous regime, nor by the present regime.
Following are excerpts of the interview:-
Q: It is reported that Field Marshall Sarath Fonseka is to join the United National Party. What do you think of this situation where in spite of all the allegations the UNP is planning on giving him membership?
A: He is already a Cabinet Minister. Therefore whether it is the UNP or the SLFP or the Bodu Bala Sena they have accepted him and have therefore made him a Cabinet Minister. Now the UNP wants to give him membership. There is clearly a large amount of war crimes against humanity , at the time Field Marshall Fonseka was the Army Commander and therefore he is answerable to so many questions. So, in this situation if the UNP is giving membership to him that means they want to safeguard him. That clearly shows the attitude of the United National Party as well as the government. We are actually the affected people the Tamils who have been affected by the war they definitely need justice but this clearly shows that the government is not in a position to give them the justice. This is clearly evident to anyone.
Q: Under these circumstances can the Tamil people have faith in this government with regard to all the promises that they made to them?
A: From the beginning they said they were the people who were going to deliver on several matters but definitely after the elections, maybe after about one and a half years after the presidential elections, and after about six months after the parliament election, even today the Tamil problems are not resolved. Several problems after the war, the resettlement is not over yet, the lands are still occupied by the Army, the political prisoners are still in prison, and they couldn’t find even a single missing person so far either despite appointing a commission specifically to look into this matter.
The government is giving promises again and over again but I don’t think they are implementing those promises. Definitely even last week there was a demonstration in Jaffna demanding the government to give back the land. There were several demands and demonstrations in this regard. So this clearly shows that they have no faith in this government. They have no faith in the Prime Minister or the President. That is definitely the mind-set of the Tamil people at the moment because of the government’s attitudes towards the Tamil problems.
Q: Recently the defence secretary had said that the military camps will not be removed from the North and East. What do you think of this new development since this is what the Tamils in the North are asking for?
A: That is a new development because they said they were going to keep 3000 acres of land in Waligamam North alone for military purposes, but apart from that in the Jaffna District there are several areas where they have occupied people’s private lands. So apart from the Mullaitivu District, Kilinochchi, Mannar and Vavuniya, there are several thousands of private lands. I’m not talking about the state lands, these are all private owned lands being occupied by the Army. But we thought the new regime will have a different strategy and they will honour their promise. The government can keep the Army in the Northern Province and we have no issue with that, but at the same time they can withdraw the excessive army personnel to the other parts of the country, instead of having them all in the North. There is no need for 150,000 Army personnel in the North. Because actually in the name of so called security, they are definitely forcefully implementing army occupation. Although we thought the government will do something about this situation as they promised during the elections, they seem to be continuing with the same policy just like that of the previous regime.
Q: With regard to various crimes or offences that were committed during the previous regime the government is facing allegations that so far they are only arresting some small people just to cover up, while the officials who gave the orders are free. What do you think of this situation?
A: Yes this situation is quite disturbing and this clearly shows the incapability and lack of genuine commitment on the part of the good governance regime. During the elections the government promised to take action against the former president Mahinda Rajapaksa, Basil Rajapaksa, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Namal Rajapaksa and others who were facing various allegations regarding fraud and corruption. However quite pathetically until today the people are waiting and wondering what to do because now we see that the government in some way is safeguarding them. The media has been reporting on several stories saying that several million dollars have been taken over by these people and having accounts all over the world. But even today the government is not willing to arrest these people or willing to offer the people good governance so that the people can enjoy a good life. But instead of delivering on the promises made to the people and eradicating corruption and other malpractices, we see that this government too is supporting such crooks and you can clearly see that they are trying to safeguard these crooks.
Q: In terms of infrastructure and economic development, what is the situation in the North?
A: There is no development taking place. A few roads were carpeted during the previous regime and several schools were renovated. Other than that nothing much is being done.
The problem of unemployment is huge in the North and people find it really difficult as there are no employment opportunities. Either the government must set up factories or some sort of employment avenues in the North or they must return the lands of the people of the North and support them to engage and develop their farming.
However sadly, the government is doing neither and the Tamil people are fed up with this situation and all the government is doing is just talking about their issues and hoodwinking the Tamil people. They are claiming to have done a lot for reconciliation, when they address international forums, but these are all not so in reality. Nothing has been done for the Tamils and this is a sad situation.
Q: The government claims that many development projects have been initiated for the country’s development with many foreign investors coming in. Are there any development projects in the North so far?
A: Up to now we have not seen any new investment in the North. If there is any planned investment, then it must be disclosed by the Sri Lankan government, but we have not heard anything.