An Interview with R.Sampanthan by Arthur Wamanan
The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) is willing to hold talks with other Tamil parties in its bid to work together for the betterment of the people, says its parliamentary group leader Rajavarothayam Sampanthan. In an interview with The Nation, Sampanthan said he was not aware of any moves to change the party leadership, asserting that any change would be brought about in a democratic manner.
Q. Several changes have taken place in the country’s political scene after the war. A few Tamil political parties have come together to voice their concerns on behalf of the people. How do you look at this development?
The war came to an end in 2009. Many things have happened since then. We had the presidential and parliamentary elections. The people of the north and east have substantially reposed their confidence in us at the parliamentary elections. We have to recognise these responsibilities and do our best for the people in every possible way.
We are prepared to work with all Tamil political formations and personalities. We do think that our unity at this point of time is important, without compromising on basic principles.
I am aware that several parties have been meeting under the banner Tamil Political Parties Forum (TPPF). The TNA has also been invited for these meetings. The TNA did not participate since I was not in the country at that time due to personal reasons. Some leaders of the forum have met me and we are looking forward to meet them again and have discussions.
Q. There was speculation recently that there was a move to change the TNA leadership, as you were not well and was away from the country. Are you aware of such a move? What is your take on this?
We are a democratic political party. Any position I hold is consequent to the democratic thinking of the party and our people. To the best of my knowledge, I am unaware of any proposed change. But, a change will be a normal event in the future of the party if the party and the people feel it is required, according to the circumstances.
Q. India has been playing a big role in the political scene of Sri Lanka. How do you look at the role of India at this juncture? And what role does Tamil Nadu play?
India is our closest neighbour.
It cannot be denied that the Sinhalese, the Tamils and the Muslims very substantially came to Sri Lanka from different parts of India.
Culturally, we are closer to India than to any other country in the world.
In fact, I recently read in the Indian media, about a proposal to revive the Nalandha University in Bihar on which I think primarily, the Nobel laureate Dr Amithiya Sen is currently working.
And all Buddhist countries in the Asian region are going to be invited to play a role in forming the university in Bihar. That shows the closeness of our culture and of our historical past.
India has been concerned with finding a just and peaceful solution to Sri Lanka’s national question within the framework of a united country.
ndia has never thought of dividing Sri Lanka.
During the time of the LTTE on account of some bitter experiences, India merely played the role of a spectator.
Now that the war has come to an end and the LTTE is no longer a hindrance to the evolution of a political solution, India being close to the Sri Lankan government, opposition and to the Tamil political formations, is willing to be of help at the invitation of all of us.
There is nobody who says we do not want India.
The government is not saying it.
The opposition parties are not saying it.
The Tamil parties are not saying it.
Everybody realises that India can play a useful role.
I think that India will play a responsible role.
There are certain realities that one cannot get over. Tamil Nadu is one such reality. Tamil Nadu, which has 60 billion people who happen to be Tamils, is geographically very close to Sri Lanka.
That is the reality.
The central government of India, will in my view, take its decisions with regard to Sri Lanka according to its own assessments and also taking into consideration, the responsible views of political personalities and parties in Tamil Nadu.
Q. Is the TNA looking for the full implementation of the 13th amendment or an improved one?
Any solution has got to be within a united country. The unity and territorial integrity must be preserved.
The identity of distinct people of Sri Lanka, the Sinhalese, Tamils and the Muslims, must be fostered and nurtured.
People must have the right to determine their destiny in the territory in which they live, within the framework of a united, undivided country.
After the Indo-Sri Lanka agreement in 1987, the 13th amendment was the first constitutional step.
Thereafter, efforts have been made over a period of 23 years to evolve a political solution that will be acceptable to the people through the Mangala Munasinghe Select Committee proposals during President Premadasa’s time, through the constitutional reforms that emerged between 1995 and 2000 during President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunge’s time, through the Oslo declaration and the Tokyo communiqué during prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s time, and through the APRC after President Rajapaksa assumed office in 2005.
The President addressed the inaugural meeting of the APRC, the experts’ committee report and the deliberations of the APRC.
Much work has been done.
A fair amount of consensus has emerged from these processes.
Therefore, if there is political will and commitment, the evolution of a political solution should not be difficult.
And we expect that this will become a reality at the earliest.
Q. The TNA met President Mahinda Rajapaksa in June this year. Have there been any progresses after these discussions? Is there a possibility of the TNA working with the government in the future?
The discussions took place after an extensive visit of the TNA to the Wanni.
We visited 28 villages in the Wanni, and just before the President left for India we discussed in length and we submitted a report to the government in regard to what we observed in the Wanni.
I made a statement in parliament in regard to what we observed.
We discussed at length on the resettlement, rehabilitation, livelihood opportunities and various aspects.
We also discussed the need for a political solution and the modalities that could be agreed upon to take these processes forward.
Certain initial understandings and agreements were arrived at.
It was agreed that certain mechanisms would be set up to deal with these processes.
One is the resettlement, rehabilitation, livelihood, development and reconstruction and the second is to find a solution to the political question.
Those mechanisms have not been formally set up yet.
Nevertheless, there have been contacts between the Members of Parliament of the TNA and personalities in the government in regard to these matters.
We want these processes to become functional.
We have communicated our nominees to the government in regard to the process pertaining to resettlement, rehabilitation etc.
We are ready to commence a structured dialogue, based upon a framework for the evolution of an acceptable political solution.
These matters are very essential and important not merely in the interest of the Tamil people but in the interest of the country as a whole.
We are prepared to play a very responsible role in regard to the discharge of our responsibilities in these matters.
And we are looking forward to the government to invite us to commence and continue these processes that will bring us great deal of relief to all our people. - courtesy: The Nation -