Accusations have been levelled against the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) by Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan alias Karuna Amman for deceiving the Tamils by taking a different stand before the election to get Tamil votes and another stand after the election in favour of the government especially in terms of the investigation into the alleged war crimes and human rights violation. He accused the TNA of being ‘Yes Men’ of the government. Responding to the claim, TNA MP Dharmalingam Siddharthan denied the accusations. He told The Sunday Leader that the TNA does not intend to block the path for reconciliation by obstructing the government’s process at this point of time where they believe the attempts of the government to be genuine.
Following are excerpts of the interview:
by Waruni Karunarathne
Q: How do you respond to the accusations made by Karuna Amman?
A: As far as the TNA is concerned, we have clearly said in the past even during the election that the Tamil people want an international inquiry. Even during the UN sessions, three parties of the TNA (except the ITAK) wrote a letter to them requesting for an international investigation. Even Sampanthan told us that he had sent a letter through Sumanthiran to them asking for an international investigation. What happened in the UN session is beyond the control of any of us. It was even beyond the Sri Lankan government’s control. So we are not throwing out the resolution. Now the ball is in the hands of the government. It is the duty of the government to ensure that a fair inquiry is held. Even in the report, High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein has asked for a hybrid court. Even after the resolution was tabled he was clearly maintaining his position in support of a hybrid court. But unfortunately not only America but also all the 57 countries including Sri Lanka supported the new resolution. Therefore I do not think it is wise for any Tamil to throw it in the bin. Because it is supported by all 57 countries and we cannot afford to do anything against that.
But now we should put pressure on the government and the international community to ensure fair inquiries are being held. As far as we are concerned, we are not here to take revenge from anybody. Our idea is that the truth must be brought out and the cause for this conflict and what happened should be found out. Everybody knows the cause as to what exactly happened. First a political solution must be found for that. Kith and kins of the victims whether they are killed or missing some justice must be done. There are about 90,000 female headed families and livelihood support must be given to them to start afresh.
Those who are in prison are mostly charged under the PTA and the Emergency Act. The resolution is asking for repealing these two pieces of the legislation. Everybody knows that most of these people are convicted by self confession but there are no witnesses. These prisoners must be released and land must be released to their original owners. If they want a genuine reconciliation they have to do all these things. Then only the Tamils will be convinced that the government is genuinely trying to reconcile. Then we will have prosperous future for the whole country. We are not contradicting ourselves. We have not become ‘Yes Men’ of the government. What we try to do is not to put any obstacle for the government to go forward in terms of reconciliation. I think it will have to be a time bomb. It is the government duty to prove their genuineness and we believe them to be genuine and we want them to be genuine. If they prove anything in the contrary then we take a stand.
Q: Has the TNA had an in depth discussion internally about the Tamil political prisoners?
We had a discussion recently. We have told our leader Sampanthan that we should push for the release of these people at any cost. That means they should be given a general amnesty. That is our stand.
Q: What were the highlights of the recent discussion between the TNA’s constituent parties?
A: We discussed about the Tamil political prisoners’ issue. We talked about the land issues and about the UN resolution. As everybody knows there is a certain amount of differences of opinion about the resolution within the TNA. I do not quite know what those differences are. It is rather important to look at a methodology as how to view and approach this resolution and how we can ensure the implementation of the resolution fairly and equitably. The resolution talks about participation of Commonwealth and experts from the other countries. We need to see how best we can use this resolution to bring out the truth. There is a general agreement on that within the TNA. But there are small differences of opinion.
Q: There is a general feeling that there is a power concentration in the ITAK. The constituent parties in the TNA have been complaining about the ITAK making all the decisions. Do you share those views?
A: During the last meeting, this issue was also taken up and we discussed about this. It is natural that R. Sampanthan as the leader of the party has to do many things. As the leader of the party he has certain rights to make certain decisions which are acceptable. But in certain areas there are problems making decisions without the consultation of the other constituent parties. For example certain things like nominating the national list MPs and ministers of the provincial councils, were done by the ITAK without consulting the other parties or without taking the views of the other parties. This is an irritating thing for the other constituent parties of the TNA. Sampanthan said that in future there will be a proper consultation process. We will wait and see how it goes.
Q: The Indian Highways and Shipping Minister has expressed a keen interest in building the road between Rameswaram and Thalaimannar. Do you think this should be considered by the government at this point of time?
A: Even our Prime Minister has talked about this long time ago. I think it might be good for Sri Lanka economically because we will have a big market. People also can argue it the other way around saying that India might dominate us. That is also true in a way. But I personally think it is a good move. In Europe, they have countries without borders as such.
Europeans can travel within the Europe countries without borders. If we are talking about a global village concept then all the countries must come as one. This might lift obstacles for people to travel between the two countries and allow them to travel freely. It might help developing our close relationship with India.
Q: Sri Lanka and India have not been able to find a permanent solution to the fishermen’s issue. How do you expect the governments to tackle the issue in the long run?
A: Mostly the fishermen from Mannar to Mullaitivu coastline suffer due to this issue of Indian fishermen poaching in Sri Lankan waters. Those are Tamil fishermen. They were deprived of their livelihood for a long period of time because of the war. Even after the war they are unable to do their fishing freely because of the intrusion of the Indian fishermen. It is a very difficult issue to solve. We understand that. Yet I believe that it is up to the Indian government to do something to stop Indian fishermen entering Sri Lankan waters illegally. They must understand that these people here have been suffering for a long time. They have to build their lives back. It is also up to the Sri Lankan government to push the Indian government to take stern actions. May be they are thinking this is an issue between Indian Tamils and the Sri Lankan Tamils – which is not the case. The both governments have to take up their responsibilities.