By Ifham Nizam
Leader of the Tamil Ealam Liberation Organisation (TELO) and Deputy Chairman of Committees in Parliament Selvam Adaikalanathan says President Maithripala Sirisena is doing his utmost to put Sri Lanka on the map once again. He stressed that unfortunately former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the joint opposition have become a stumbling block to President Sirisena. “Those who lost their powers are going all out to hamper the efforts of President Sirisena…this is not rosy for the nation,” he added.
Following are excerpts of the interview:
Q: Do you think a split within the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) would affect the country or overall politics in Sri Lanka
A: No…not at all. A split within the SLFP will not cause problems for the government. But the UNP-SLFP led government needs to do more for the betterment of the public, particularly for the people in once war-torn areas. Missing persons, and land issues in the north are some of the major issues government should focus on.
Q: Are you happy with the progress made by the President, especially, when it comes to diplomatic relations and his efforts to spell out for the world that Sri Lanka is peaceful now?
A: He is doing his utmost in putting Sri Lanka on the map once again. Unfortunately, former President Mahinda Rajapaksa with the joint opposition is a stumbling block to President Sirisena. Those who lost their powers are going all out to hamper the efforts of President Sirisena…this is not rosy for the nation.
Q: The government has not agreed to foreign judges in the investigations over alleged war crimes. Are you still insisting on bringing in foreign judges?
A: We are pressurising the government to comply with the UN recommendations and implement the recommendations they made. It is our view that the foreign judges should be involved with the investigations as we have no faith in a local mechanism.
If a local mechanism is adopted, then we must say that we will not accept that these investigations are fair by the Tamil people. That is why we have insisted that the government should adopt the conditions that were laid out by the UNHRC and get the assistance of foreign judges and involve the United States and other countries and the UN in the investigation process.
Q: Are you happy with the current situation in Northern Provincial development?
A: Not at all. Enough funds are not being allocated for the Northern Province to facilitate the development process. As a whole, it is rather slow and the needs of the people are not being met.
Lack of employment opportunities, especially for the youth is a severe problem, and the government has not done enough to provide opportunities for people to rebuild their livelihoods and generate income. There is a lot to be done. I don’t think that the government has addressed the development broadly. Just building roads and a few schools is certainly not enough.
Q: Your views on the issue of resettlement and its progress?
A: It is also at a standstill and only some of them have been resettled. The government had promised funds to construct 20,000 houses but that again has not been done properly. I would want to see much more being done to resettle people but things are moving too slowly. Many people are still in temporary shelters or living with relatives as their lands have not been returned to them or even housing not being provided for. I think that there is a lot more to be done and the government has to address this issue without further dragging their feet on the resettlement process.
Q: Land in the Northern Province has been returned to the people. Is this process taking place satisfactorily under the new government?
A: There were some initial moves but nothing comprehensive had taken place. Military occupies lot more lands and they have not been returned to the people. Some lands were returned to the people in the East in Sampur and in Palali, but this is not enough. We are still very firm on our demands that all the lands being occupied by the military must be returned to the people or the displaced should be given alternative lands on par with the lands that were taken away from them or paid adequate compensation for their lands.
Q: What do you think about the recent agreement between the SLFP and the UNP?
A: That is not our business. What we want is to settle the issues, especially in the war torn areas, northern and eastern provinces where a majority of the Tamils and Muslims, particularly those in need and widows, suffer without sufficient or stable income.
Coming back to the MoU between the UNP and the SLFP, they formed the coalition government. They joined hands for the betterment of the public. I sincerely hope that the new agreement would strengthen their cause to uplift the people, particularly people in the north and east.
Q: Your party was complaining that the previous government had not allocated enough funds for the North. Has this government done anything different?
A: The government should focus on more for the people of the north, infrastructure and livelihoods. Rather than keep on repeating the sins of the former regime. The trend of blaming the previous government had come to a level that people don’t want to listen it anymore. I don’t think that there are enough funds being allocated for the Northern Province, and even the latest budget has not brought any advantages for the Tamils and the North.
In terms of allocations, I don’t think this government has done much differently than the previous government. However, I believe that with this sky-rocketing prices and VAT, people are facing numerous problems now to make ends meet.
Q: What is the NPC’s stance on the current government and its policies?
A: A lot needs to be done. Especially more should be given for the Council for the betterment of the people. So far we find no fault with the policies of the government, but they should expand those without going at snail’s pace.
Q: Many farmers have taken to the streets against the government’s decision to cut the fertiliser subsidy. What is the situation of the Northern farmers now?
A: As far as I know, the government is not going to stop the fertiliser subsidy, and they will continue to support the farmers. If this is done, the issue will be resolved.