BY Mirudhula Thambiah
Former Tamil National Alliance (TNA) Parliamentarian and Eelam People’s Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF) Leader K. Suresh Premachandran said it is Leader Sampanthan and member Sumanthiran who have broke away from the policies of the coalition TNA, and not Northern Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran.
“Sampanthan and Sumanthiran are going against the basic policies of the TNA. They have broken away from the policies. It is not correct to say that the CM is against the party,” he said.
Following are excerpts:
?: It is said in criticism that the Tamil People’s Council (TPC) is formed by individuals who have been rejected by the Tamil National Alliance (TNA). You are from one of the TNA constituent parties; tell us if it is an organization against the TNA?
A: It is not against the TNA. Its constituent representatives are also members of the TPC. My party the EPRLF, PLOTE and ITAK representatives, apart from TNA members, Tamil National People’s Front (TNPF) and civil society members are also representing the TPC. Our council is in the initial stage, the co-chairs of the council are Northern Province Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran, Jaffna Civic Society member Dr. Lakshman and Batticaloa Civic Society member Vasantharaja. They have organized the TPC.
Currently there are 30 representatives in this council and only four members are from political parties and the rest are from various civil society organizations. Civil society members are from Batticaloa, Trincomalee, Jaffna, Mannar and so on. It is clear that these members do not belong to any political party.
There are religious leaders too. Thus TPC is not a political party and it is something beyond that. There are several grievances faced by the Tamil people; those issues are not addressed by the TNA in a proper manner. There is a vacuum and that is why the necessity arises to form the TPC. Government has announced to convert the Parliament to a Constitutional Assembly by 9 January. On behalf of the Tamil people, we thought a suitable proposal should be submitted to the Constitutional Assembly to incorporate in the new Constitution. Tamil people are facing many problems and so far the government did not propose any framework to solve the Tamil national problem. At the same time the TNA is just talking about principles but they have failed to publicly announce such proposals. Therefore, under such circumstance we thought there is a vacuum and we should address issues.
Similarly the Tamil people are facing various other problems too. The drug and narcotics issue has got worse in the North and the East; this has severely affected the youth in both provinces. We should find a solution to stop the increase in the use of drugs. Several thousand people are still living in IDP camps and they should to be resettled immediately.
Due to the necessity to address the several issues of the Tamil people, the TPC has been formed as a mass organization beyond political parties.
?: Opposition and TNA Leader Sampanthan recently stated that most members of the TPC except CM Wigneswaran were rejected by the people in several instances. Do you agree?
A: ITAK Leaders Sampanthan and Sumanthiran are emphasizing that most members of the TPC are those who have been rejected by the public. They in fact stated that these members have been thrown to the waste bin and that they entered the TPC from the back door. These leaders have spoken nonsense!
Only the ITAK leaders are criticizing the TPC. Sumanthiran continuously pointed out that the members of the council have entered through the back door. But he should note that it was he who came through the back door. He entered the TNA as a national list parliamentarian and was brought by Leader Sampanthan. He entered the Parliament through elections only recently. I was a parliamentarian for 16 years, whoever he is condemning were there in Parliament, and they entered the Parliament for the first time through elections. They have contested the elections and they were elected by the people. Leader Sampanthan was defeated three times from the Trincomalee District, after which he won elections with the support of the LTTE. Thus these members do not have any justification to criticize us. Even though some of us represent political parties, our council is not politicized and is a civic organization.
Anybody can join hands with the council. Prof. Sittampalam is one of the senior vice presidents of the ITAK and he too is representing the council.
However, ITAK Leader Mavai Senathiraja yesterday said that the party members shall not participate in the council. I would clearly say it is up to them to participate or refrain. Senior Vice President of ITAK Prof. Sittampalam said: “I’m the member of the ITAK from late 1950s. I was the President of that party for a long time and I have all the qualifications to participate in the council.”
Therefore, I would like to say whatever the criticism made by others are not correct and they want to sling mud at the council members. They are just scared of us. They think we will operate against them. We are very firm that we want to submit a proposal to resolve the Tamil National problem and the proposal shall be discussed with the people. We want to point out to the government in our proposal that it is not a matter relating to a political party, but the issue of the entire Tamil population of this country.
?: As you said TNA constituent parties are participating at the TPC. Did you hear any response from TELO headed by Parliamentarian Selvam Adaikalanathan?
A: The organizers of the TPC wanted to discuss such matters with the TELO leadership. They tried twice when Selvam Adaikalanathan was in Jaffna. Appointments were fixed to discuss with him but unfortunately discussions did not take place. Still they are waiting to discuss with Adaikalanathan.
Therefore, even if TELO has not currently shown any interest, they will definitely join us in future.
?: Why do you think there is continuous criticism against CM Wigneswaran within the TNA? Is it because he has accepted the Co-chair of the TPC?
A: Yes! That is the first reason. However, there are other reasons too. Sumanthiran stated that the CM should be removed from the party. Such problems arise within the ITAK. But it is quite clear that CM doesn’t belong to any of the constituent parties. He was brought to politics by the TNA members, and not by a single person. May be Leader Sampanthan initiated CM’s entrance, however, with the approval of the other parties.
PLOTE Leader Sidarthan, TELO Leader Adaikalanathan, ITAK Leader Senathiraja, TNA Leader Sampanthan and me visited CM Wigneswaran to discuss with him regarding his political entry. He eventually agreed because we all invited him together. He clearly said he does not belong to ITAK and he is a TNA member. CM may have policy differences.
At the beginning Leader Sampanthan himself said that genocide has occurred in Sri Lanka. He spoke in Parliament and even I did emphasize on that. However, later when the CM passed a resolution mentioning that there is systematic genocide taking place in Sri Lanka, Leader Sampanthan and Sumanthiran were not willing to accept it. They said it was untimely, I don’t understand the meaning of untimely in that scenario. Genocide has taken place.
The CM passed the second resolution in the Northern Provincial Council (NPC) calling for an international inquiry; even that was not acceptable to Sampanthan and Sumanthiran. Thus there are policy differences. The CM is not functioning according to their wish. They want to antagonize him. However, the people are with CM Wigneswaran and they have totally accepted the resolutions. Even the NPC members, the TNA parliamentarians and the Diaspora have accepted his resolutions.
From the days of Late S.J.V. Chelvanayakam they did not accept the Sri Lankan flag and pointed out it is against the Tamil people. However, Sampanthan has hoisted the flag and given stupid reasons.
Sampanthan and Sumanthiran participated in the Independence Day celebrations after a very long period, after 1972. Late Amirthalingam said after the 1972 Constitution the Independence Day shall be a black day for Tamil people. They do not accept the 1972 Constitution as well as the 1978 Constitution. But now they have participated. These are not accepted by the other TNA parliamentarians.
Therefore, Sampanthan and Sumanthiran are going against the basic policies of the TNA. They have broken away from the policies. It is not correct to say that the CM is against the party.
?: When will the TPC submit its first proposal to the Parliament on the National Question?
A: The TPC formed the sub-committee on Sunday (27). A 15 member sub-committee was formed. The committee shall meet on 2 January. Within three weeks duration from 2 January we are bound to table a preliminary proposal following which it will be released to the public. There will be public meetings all over in the Northern and the Eastern Provinces. We will collect all suggestions given by the public and the document will be finalized by the end of March 2016. After finalizing the document it will be submitted to the government.
?: What is the reaction from the Tamil Diaspora regarding the TPC?
A: I think the majority are supporting it. Not only the Diaspora, but also the Tamil people in our country have welcomed the council. There are several people willing to pledge their support. I feel there is general support for the council.
?: Recently Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said in Parliament that a model like the Austrian Constitution is suitable for our country. Such a Constitution highlights on federal powers. Do you see any positivity to your claim?
A: The Prime Minister can talk about various Constitutions. Definitely we need a Federal Constitution. It is not a model but an exact Federal Constitution. We will submit a proposal on behalf of the Tamil people. We are the victims and we are the affected people. We shall tell them the needs of our people. Even the UNHCR report says about the non recurrence of issues. If things are not to be repeated there must be a proper proposal to address the Tamil cause. The government should not give a proposal, the affected should give and they must consider accepting it.
We have already made known to the government that we are ready to solve the problem within a united and undivided Sri Lanka. If the government feels insecure they can bring in clauses to the Constitution to avoid any break away.