A: We have not boycotted the President’s visit. We do not want to be pawns in political events that were probably illegal, very obscure and served no rational or legitimate purpose, we remain committed to work with the Government on genuine projects. We refused to participate because doing so would violate the mandate issued to us by our people at the election. We are here as elected representatives to carry out the promises made to our constituents – constituents who had to brave the military and paramilitary outfits intimidating them and a Governor actively campaigning against us. As intimated by me to the President in my recent missive to him, the actions carried out by the Government with regard to land use is completely contrary to the principles set out by us in our Manifesto and the law.
Participating in this function would make us complicit in such action. At the very least we should have been consulted. The NPC, which obtained 30 out of 38 seats at the election, has been left out of this process involving one of the most sensitive matters in the region.
Secondly assuming that some or all of the permits that are to be issued are legal, it is morally reprehensible to make those people wait for a politically opportune moment (in this case nearly 2 years) to be given their dues.
We hope that our refusal to participate has made the Sinhala people find out what is happening in the North. We sincerely hope that my communication with the President together with the annexure are published in full enabling the Sinhala readers to understand for themselves our principled stand.
Q: Allegations are directed at you saying that if you really care for your people you would have attended the district committee meeting and discussed issues faced by the people in the North. How would you respond to that?
A: It is because we care for our people that we kept away. Again I must refer you to the initial paragraphs of my letter to the President. The so called District Committee Meeting (DCC) refers to something that happened before we came in as NPC. We have had DCC Meetings, with Ministers presiding with me as Co Chairmen during the past one year. Of what purpose is the call for a District Committee Meeting to discuss what was done in 2012? Why are decisions purportedly made in 2012 prior to the constitution of the NPC being given effect to in 2014? Were the meetings held in 2013 and 2014, with the participation of the NPC then merely a charade? Is the Government trying to show the world that they will carry on with their agenda regardless of whether the NPC had been elected or not, whether the people had rejected the Government policies or not? Given the opaqueness of the process can we say that it is legal with any certainty? If we attend the meeting are we not acting in violation of the mandate given to us by our people?
Q: There is a feeling that the TNA and you as the Chief Minister are only concerned about your political interests, but not the well being of Tamils in the North. How do you respond to that?
A: The well-being of our people is intertwined with our political interests. We are true to our mandate, how often can political parties claim that? We are not doing anything for ourselves. Have we built up white elephants in the form of airports, airlines, ports and cricket stadiums in our names? We have no need for such luxuries. I do not need this position foisted upon me. I work because of the trust reposed in me by my people. The foundation of rights is human dignity – as Immanuel Kant said “humanity itself is dignity”.
Is the refusal to participate in activities that are spurious, ostensibly aimed at short-term political advantage, illegal and opaque, inimical to the interests of the people of the North or is it standing up for their rights? I have trust in the judgment of our people they did not waver due to the treating and gifts that were given during the previous election nor did they cower when faced with military intimidation.
India is reported to have said in numerous occasions that TNA and the SL government should have direct talks. But the SL government keeps saying that it’s the TNA who does not attend the talks. Is it true? And what would it take for the talks to resume?
A: After eighteen rounds of talks it is the Government which kept away from the talks. So far the Government has not come up with any solution to the problem of the Tamil speaking people. All this talk about Parliamentary Select Committee doesn’t even convince MPs on the Government benches. If they want to discuss with the TNA we are ready at all times. India could facilitate such a meeting. The SL Government and TNA can have talks even tomorrow. Why bring in the Parliamentary Select Committee into the process? Is it to scuttle it through selected handmaids? The TNA is taking a principled stand and India is only too aware that the Government is like the will-o’-the-wisp.
Q: President Mahinda Rajapaksa during his visit to Kilinochchi recently had said that he cares for the Tamils in the North despite Tamils voting for the TNA. Do you see a shift in future, possibly even at the next presidential election where people will take the side of the government but not the TNA?
A: Let us look at the facts –This Government has refused to take any meaningful legal steps to prosecute the wrongdoers, kept incarcerated in inhuman conditions three hundred thousand Tamil people without any legal basis, released about 250,000 just prior to an election, was complicit or failed to protect the abduction and ransoming of Tamil businessmen, intimidated the Tamils and attempted to prevent them from voting at the Northern Provincial Elections, keeps the entire Northern and Eastern Provinces under Military Governors supported by a massive military, has put in place a militarised regime that has taken over civilian life completely, has illegally occupied the lands of thousands, dispossessed thousands more of their lands through unjust legal mechanisms, and has stymied the functioning of the elected Northern Provincial Council through its Military background Governor and handmaid Chief Secretary and their parallel administration, and use the Military to cultivate the lands of our people, to bring in fishermen from the South when the local fishermen languish, to construct hotels, swimming pools and golf courses when people lack houses and lands, face water shortages and freedom of movement, and perhaps to add insult to grievous injury.