Northern Provincial Councillor and Tamil National Alliance (TNA) member Ananthi Sasitharan told Ceylon Today that, women in the North were faced with immense problems. “The war is over but the violence and issues against women seem to continue, as teenage rape cases are increasing in the Jaffna Peninsula. All women should be united to solve these burning issues, disregarding racial or religious differences,” she observed.
“I have no differences and I will not only serve the Tamil women in the North, but also I have raised my voice for the women in the plantation sector too. I will raise my voice for all women with no difference as Sinhalese or Muslims. Women in general are prone to violence we should be united to fight against it,” she said.
Tell us what exactly happened at the District Development Committee (DDC) meeting in Jaffna recently?
A: It is a meeting held under co-chairs. Only the Parliamentarians, Provincial Councillors and Pradeshiya Sabha Chairmen should be invited but during the last DDC meeting things happened in a different manner. Each time we have this meeting in the Northern Province the TNA members are subjected to accusations by the EPDP members. When our members express their views regarding development, the EPDP members disturb and rarely allow us to express our views.
When the last DDC meeting was held at the Jaffna District Secretariat, we saw outsiders. They were rowdy type people. The meeting began with Chief Minister Wigneswaran’s speech. He did not express political views at the meeting but explained the issues between the Central and Provincial government.
Following CM’s speech, Minister Douglas Devananda began to speak. He blamed the TNA led Provincial Council. It was an unpleasant experience for us as we came to discuss the issues in the Jaffna District and regarding development. The minister specifically mentioned that all the financial allocations will go back to the Treasury and pointed out that the NPC was malfunctioning.
As the NPC was accused, Provincial Councillor Sivajilingam and Chairman Sivagnanam wanted to reply. However, the Co-Chair, Minister Douglas Devananda refused to permit Sivagnanam to express his views. However, Sivajilingam began to reply. During his speech, minister Devananda attempted to assault Sivajilingam but CM Wigneswaran held him. Yet the minister screamed at his members to grab Sivajilingam’s microphone.
When an EPDP member tried grabbing Sivajilingam’s microphone, the battle began as other members of the EPDP quarrelled with the TNA members. They threw water bottles, biscuit packets, chairs and used obscene language at us. Some of our members were injured including, NPC Minister Ainkaranesan, Minister Sathyalingam, members Sarveswaran and Sivajilingam.
How did CM Wigneswaran respond to the situation?
A: He told us that he has never experienced a similar situation before. He was very angry and disappointed with the unpleasant situation. I don’t think he will tolerate similar situations anymore.
In such situation do you believe you can work unitedly with the Opposition in the NPC to serve the people?
A: We cannot work together. Our policies are different. As politicians we can talk to the Opposition, but it is difficult to balance our policies. We don’t have that difference.
There are plenty of complaints against your Provincial Council administration and it is increasing day by day. How challenging is it to function in such a situation? How will it affect the TNA politically?
A: These are all false allegations and are campaigns to find fault with us. We have taken steps to utilize all the financial allocations to the NPC. We have not functioned in a manner to return them to the Treasury. But we have various problems with the officials working under the Governor. These officials have kicked up many issues. We are always affected by their negative attitudes.
How do you see the mentality of people with regard to the Presidential Election?
A: The truth is, people in the North do not have any hopes in both presidential candidates. People think that both parties will not be in a position to solve their burning issues. They are using racist propaganda in the Presidential Election campaigns, which have disappointed the people. I don’t understand as to why these campaigners treat us as terrorists? What is wrong in standing up for our rights?
Don’t you think your supporters are anxiously awaiting the party decision?
A: It is true that the decision is getting postponed. But we have guided all people in the North to definitely vote. They have to exercise their voting rights in such national elections. But individually people are unhappy to cast their votes.
How do you see the campaigning in the North?
A: Honestly people are not interested in voting. Campaigning activities of President Mahinda Rajapaksa could be seen all over as we see many election related posters of him. But Common Candidate Maithri has not begun his campaign. Minister Douglas Devananda and Provincial Councillor Angajan are fully involved in campaign activities for President Rajapaksa, but we don’t see any activity of Maithri.
There are allegations that the TNA is not serving the people of the North properly, even after securing the Provincial Council. Why do they say that?
A: We did talk about the war affected people, war widows, children, disabled people, missing persons, political prisoners and many other issues during our campaign. We did work to our level best to fulfil these promises. I don’t have much power in the NPC, I’m just a member, yet I did not fail to take all issues to the international Community in Geneva. We strongly believe that land and police powers should be given to the NPC, because we have to make our people secure.
There is much interference in our functioning and I also feel we did not properly follow the agenda. All issues can only be solved through a political solution. Everyone should understand the necessity.
What is the current situation of the women and children in the North?
A: We have completed one year after securing the NPC, yet we have failed to uplift the living standards of war affected women and children in the North. I’m not satisfied because I couldn’t achieve more to help the women in the province as a Provincial Councillor, I have less powers.
There is no proper plan to uplift the living standards of women. Women are yet in the same situation; they are traumatized and have no proper development.
There is a new rule that women’s organizations should be registered under the purview of the Ministry of Defence. This will halt all the development activities.
Everyone says that war affected women are subjected to threats by the security forces, yet all should understand that the same women are terribly affected by our men in the society.
I have no differences and I will not only serve the Tamil women. I have raised my voice for the women in the plantation sector too. I will raise my voice for all women with no difference even as Sinhalese or Muslims. Women are prone to violence in general, we should be united to fight against it.
There is an alarming increase in statutory rape cases in the North and Jaffna is vulnerably affected. They say that teenage girls are affected by AIDS. How do you see this situation?
A: There is no support from the police to solve these issues. We don’t have rowdies like others to solve these issues. We also have to consider that there is a rapid increase in the access to technology in the North. Teenage people have access to all technological devices, like mobile phones and internet.
At the same time these youngsters in the province are influenced by the foreign culture. Also, parents have less control over their children unlike before. The situation was totally different five years back; parents were very careful about their children. Now, the mentality has changed.
Currently there is an increase in the number of people entering the Jaffna Peninsula. There is a planned agenda taking place in the North to destroy the cultural habits of the Tamil community. Women are exploited in work places mostly, the NPC made several attempts to control these issues but responsibilities were not given.
There is exploitation at school level too. Female students are subjected to sexual assaults by principals and teachers, but none of the authorities are ready to take action at administrative level.
You say that the Missing Persons Commission is an eye wash. But why did you make oral submissions before the Commission?
A: There is no proper implementation of the recommendations made by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC). I thought I should give evidence at the Missing Persons Commission because there is no point at just saying it is not trustworthy. Therefore, I made submissions, yet after I gave evidence I understood that this Commission is actually an eye wash for the people.
If I did not make submissions, there are chances for the Commission to blame me for not making submissions regarding the disappearance of my husband Elilan. I’m ready to give evidence at all the Commissions; they can even ask me to give evidence at the Army Court.
Recently, Maithri has said that if he is elected as President, he will also appoint a Commission. Therefore, it should be noted that there are many commissions to come in the future too and problems will continue.
There are increasing comments regarding the interference of the International Community in local issues. In such a situation you have gone to Geneva to speak on issues. Why?
A: We also like to secure the sovereignty of our state. After the war we have not been treated equally. We have lost many of our relatives and our people. They could have stopped the war and reached a political solution. We are yet struggling to win over our rights. But the situation is, nobody is willing to understand the political issues. In such a situation we have no other choice than speaking to the International Community. We have lost the trust.
Every Sinhalese and Muslims are our brothers and sisters. We will not treat them as enemies but all should understand that we are suppressed.
Five years since the end of war, nothing has been established or developed. We did not reach any solution and now it is time to speak out to the international community.