by Camelia Nathaniel
In an interview with The Sunday Leaderhe said that there are some political forces who are trying to rouse communal hatred. He further said the Tamil people do not want war, but they want a political solution to their issues and the right to live as equal citizens of this country.
Following are excerpts of the interview:
Q. With the recent discovery of the suicide vest in Chavakachcheri, there are concerns that terrorist activities are remerging. Do you agree with this sentiment?
A. There are several views being expressed on this issue. Finally we have come to understand, according to the information we have, that this is an old one. No Tamil has any desire to restart the war and violent activities. This is something that has been done to destabilise the peaceful process of reconciliation. The UNP, the SLFP and the Tamil parties are doing their best to resolve the Tamil problem and finding a political solution that will ensure a lasting peace.The Tamil people wish to work with the current government to resolve the resettlement, land issues, and the international community too is very supportive of the way the country is moving towards finding a lasting solution to the national problem. We are willing to support the government to bring about reconciliation and find a political solution to our problems. The UNHR Council passed a resolution in 2015, and the government is committed to fulfill their obligations. However, other forces are trying hard to create some issues to destabilise these efforts. These parties cannot tolerate the reconciliation process and that is why these issues are being created. However, the Tamil parties are well experienced and educated. They cannot be sidetracked from what they have set out to do.
Q. Are you saying that the other opposition party created this whole incident into an issue?
A. Yes, they created an issue of this incident for political gain. We condemn the opposition for taking advantage of this incident and exaggerating it to suit their agenda. They were trying to create a communal clash and this was to suit their political agenda. But even the Sinhala people will not accept their agenda.
They forget the fact that it was not the security forces that detected this jacket, but it was the Tamils themselves who informed the police about the suicide vest and the haul of weapons. So, this is a clear indication that the Tamils certainly do not want violence or bloodshed again in this country.
Q. The Constitutional Reforms Committee has decided to focus on two critical areas, namely to democratize the state and bring in national reconciliation. Do you agree that these are the mostimportant aspects?
A. These are also important, especially reconciliation. In order to bring about reconciliation, a political solution is very important. The Tamils and the international community work towards having a UN resolution to solve the human rights problem in the country. All the issues of the Tamil people were brought under the reconciliation umbrella. So I suppose through the government’s commitment to address the issue of reconciliation, all the issues that the Tamil people face will be resolved with a political solution.
The issues of devolving power to the Northern and Eastern Provincial Councils for economic development and to restructure the devastated areas should also be taken up. There is no harm in giving power even constitutionally to the North and Eastern PCs.Even South Africa did the same. So I believe, the same thing must be adopted to rebuild the country. Yes, these are the two salient factors, but all the other factors too should be incorporated.
Q. The TNA has called for a federal solution via the new Constitution. But others feel that a federal solution will divide the country further. What do you think of this claim?
A. Under the present unitary resolution, we cannot find an answer to our issues. We need to bring all communities under one country, but these bankrupt politicians say if a federal solution is sought, it will divide the country. I think the country will be more united under a federal system.
Q. Some feel that while Sinhala majority is willing to go that extra mile to accommodate the Tamils, the Tamils are demanding too much. Do you agree with this remark?
A. No, this is not so. The constitutional changes are very important since locally and internationally the Tamil national question should be solved. Also the war affected areas need to be rebuilt, particularly in the North.
That is why even the international community and the UN accepted that the Tamils have been wronged, and they need to be given the opportunity to live as equal citizens in this country.
That is why even the UNHRC intervened, and now Sri Lanka agreed to address and resolve the Tamil issues.
We are not asking for ridiculous things, we only want to live freely in this country because we too have the right to. Surely that is not too much to ask for.
Q. There are allegations that the present government too is not including the Northern Provincial Council in the decisions-making process concerning the Tamil people and activities in the North. Is this so?
A. Yes, we have raised this issue with the government too. Recently this issue came up as the houses being built in the North.
In fact we met the Prime Minister too regarding this issue and raised our concerns. The government should have consulted the NPC on the type of houses that would best suit the people of the North before the government made these decisions.
Our parliamentary group also wrote to the Minister of Resettlement regarding this matter.
The government has taken a decision to build houses spending Rs 2.1 million and these houses are also not suitable for the people of the North. We have asked for explanations, as we want to know the real situation behind this deal. We want to know how they took these decisions without consulting the NPC, parliamentarians and regional members. This is highly suspicious, and we feel someone is benefiting from this deal, not our people.
Q. Do you have any plan to engage the Diaspora in the development and reconciliation activities of the North?
A. In terms of reconciliation there are two sides. The Diaspora is very interested in finding a political solution. They want to get involved in the development too. The Diaspora is prepared to invest in the North in industries etc. They have already indicated to the government and the TNA their desire to engage in rebuilding and reconciliation.
Q. With the new electoral system to be included in the new Constitution, some minority parties claim that it will not be favourable for them. Does the TNA share this view?
A. Nothing is still finalised, but lots of proposals are coming in. The final report has yet not been submitted to parliament. Once they submit the report, we will take a decision.
The smaller parties will have to get together and take a stand on this issue. However, we will not accept this system.