BY Mirudhula Thambiah
Tamil National Alliance (TNA) Vanni District Parliamentarian and central committee member of the Eelam People’s Revolutionary Left Front (EPRLF) N. Sivasakthy Ananthan said, southern politicians are of the view that if the recommendations in the interim report are implemented, the country will be divided. This is completely a political drama to safeguard their vote bank.
“Southern politicians know very well that the interim report has nothing beneficial for us. These fake campaigns will never affect the people in the South but will definitely affect those in the North and East,” he said.
Following are excerpts of the interview:
How do you view the President‘s stand on the issue of three prisoners detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), who have been on hunger strike for the past 27 days?
A: These prisoners are requesting to have their cases transferred back to the Vavuniya Courts from Anuradhapura. They have been subjected to communication issues at the Anuradhapura Courts as they are not fluent in Sinhala and have no translator.These prisoners have even complained that they have signed on documents written in Sinhala, and that they were unaware of the content and it was not explained to them. However, the case was dragging at the Vavuniya Courts and currently it had been transferred to Anuradhapura where they are faced with a language barrier.
It is the fundamental right of the prisoners to know what is said by the lawyers and judges. However, in the current situation they are not in a position to understand the proceedings.
It is a simple issue. The Government can adopt an easy solution by changing the case back to Vavuniya Courts. However, the Attorney General’s Department is of the view that there is not enough protection for the witnesses if the case is heard in Vavuniya. This is unacceptable.
It is eight years since the end of war and there are more than 150,000 security forces deployed in the North. The President, Prime Minister and the other important figures have visited the region. Do you think the witnesses have more security problems than these figures?
The same pattern was followed in the Kumarapuram case, where the case was transferred to Anuradhapura. Finally the suspects (Navy personnel) were acquitted. When this case was transferred to Anuradhapura the witnesses had to travel from Trincomalee to Anuradhapura. We could see similar developments in the case of school girl Krishanthy.
Therefore, refusing to transfer the case back to Vavuniya is seen as a selfish political motive. If the government cannot consider reconciliation at this juncture, how will they implement it on a larger scale?
Most of the Tamil politicians and activists are of the view that the PTA suspects should be pardoned under general amnesty. How far is it practical?
A: We cannot accept general amnesty. There are many who have not committed any crime and have been arrested under suspicion. They have been detained in prisons for a very long period without any action. The government should take steps to release them similar to how the JVP members were set free. These suspects may be connected to the LTTE or arrested on suspicion.
Those connected to LTTE had to take up arms because their political rights were denied. They felt that the people were oppressed.
Even the security forces have been involved in the violation of human rights during the war and post war.
Practically, if they want to try these suspects in courts, their cases must be heard in a rapid manner. The government should either prove them guilty or release them without dragging the process.
Therefore these prisoners should be released unconditionally.
Deaths of mothers of missing persons were reported recently. It was said that seven such deaths occurred recently. These mothers have died due to physical as well as mental stress. How do you view this situation?
A: One of the mothers from Musali, Mannar died recently. I attended her funeral. Her husband and son both went missing eight years back. She went in search of them to all authorities including army camps, police stations, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and political leaders, requesting to find the whereabouts of her loved ones.
Most women are affected like this mother. The struggle of the families of missing persons has been taking place for the past eight months in the North. This protest is held on the side of the A9 road. Most of these women are elderly and aged 60-80.
Their demand is to see their loved ones before they die. It has been two years since this government took over. If these missing persons are relatives of the President, Prime Minister or the Opposition Leader, will they set aside the issue? They will take rapid actions.
If the same protest had held in the South, all figures from religious leaders to political leaders would have insisted to solve the matter. But unfortunately it is the North and they have failed to address their grievances.
Families of missing persons are neglected without any livelihood allowances or any other assistance. The prisoners and their families have voted for this government with the expectation that it would solve their grievances. They should reveal if those missing persons are alive or dead.
Around 24,000 people have given oral evidence to the Paranagama Commission. Those who surrendered to the security forces at the end of the war were registered by the army. If they were LTTE members, their names and designations would have been registered.
Writ of Habeas Corpus was taken up for hearing at the Mullaitivu Courts regarding those who surrendered to the security forces during the end of war. The army commander who gave evidence in courts initially said that civilians and LTTE cadres surrendered to the security forces. When he was questioned if he has details regarding those who surrendered, and he agreed to submit it in courts. When he submitted the names, he had provided information of those who have undergone rehabilitation.
The courts also questioned him regarding the registered names of those who surrendered soon after the war and taken in buses to the IDP camps. Names of those who surrendered in Omanthai or Vattuvakal would have been mentioned in a book. The courts finally asked for that book. But so far the officers are not in a position to submit the evidence. Therefore, at this juncture, families of missing persons have been cheated.
This government will also face the same consequences as former president Rajapaksa if they fail to address the issues. He cheated the people and as a result, he was sent home. The same will be repeated for the current government if they ignore missing persons and PTA prisoners.
Your Party Leader Suresh Premachandran said recently that ITAK had cheated Tamil people after obtaining their mandate. They have failed to fulfil their promises. However your party is a coalition of the TNA. If they have cheated why do you continue to stay in the coalition?
A: ITAK failed to fulfil the promises made in the election manifesto in 2015. We as a coalition said that we will bring a solution in a merged north-east, within a federal system by solving the prevailing issues like missing persons, political prisoners and land issues etc.
But currently, they said a north-east merger is impossible now. We can go for a similar alternative by fulfilling the demands made by the Muslim community. When we submitted recommendations to the constitutional reforms steering committee, we insisted that at least the north-east should be a secular state. But none of our recommendations have been properly included to the interim report. Thus ITAK had stepped away from the manifesto they promised to implement.
Why do think some of those in the South are against the Interim Report? What outcome do you expect in future?
A: Politicians in the South campaigned in the political arena against the LTTE for the past 30 years. However, currently since these politicians don’t have the LTTE, they have begun to fight amongst themselves. The Jaffna University community, Tamil People’s Council, the Northern Chief Minister, EPRLF and intellectuals have said that Tamil people are not in a position to accept the interim report.
In such a situation, if the Southern politicians say that if the recommendations in the interim report are implemented, the country will be divided, is completely a political drama to safeguard their vote bank. They know very well that the interim report has nothing beneficial. These fake campaigns will never affect the people in the south but will definitely affect those in the North and East.
How do you view the effects of the 20th Amendment? Is it an advantage to the North-East representation?
A: We wanted to discuss the pros and cons of the amendment and then decide if we are pledging our support. However, before we took decisions within our party, the ITAK announced that TNA is in support of the 20th Amendment.