Interview with Suresh Premachandran - Tamil National Alliance
By Shakuntala Perera
Q: The attack on Jaffna district TNA MP Sridharan in Nochchiyagama has raised serious concerns on the security of politicians. How concerned are you as a fellow Tamil MP from the North?
We can’t understand why it took place in an area like Anuradhapura. The government must take responsibility and explain why and who was behind it. We are still in the dark about the attack. This is certainly not a simple matter- this is attempted murder. It was lucky he escaped the attack. We are under the same threat today.
When several killings and abductions happened in Jaffna recently and we raised it in Parliament, the government promised investigations, but there has been no arrests still. Even if you were to surmise that these killings were by Tamil para-military groups in the North and the East, how do you explain an attack in Anuradhapura? The government is telling the world that there is no violence in the country and there is peace but how do you explain the threat to a Parliamentarian today?
Q: But hasn’t the threat of impunity in the North and the East decreased considerably following the end of the war?
The North and the East is hundred per cent under the army control; something we raised our concerns on in Parliament. The army is involved in every civilian activity whether it is a school function or a meeting at the Kachcheri. Military intelligence officers are all over. If anything happens then they have to answer.
But the government maintains that it needs to have a military presence till the threat of LTTE activists is completely removed from the provinces.
If there is such activism how come no incident was reported after two years of the war ending. I don’t think there is any threat to the government from the LTTE. To us there is no LTTE presence or threat.
Q: The Prime Minister informed Parliament on Wednesday that LTTE training continues in Tamil Nadu, which can explain the threat that the government warns of?
It is an absolutely absurd statement, unless it was made to justify the extension of emergency regulations. The government should take it up with the Indian government.
You maintain that several former Presidents’ acceptance of the LTTE as the sole representatives of the Tamil people was a legitimization of the demand for a separate state. But President Rajapaksa recently stressed that he will not grant any of the demands that the LTTE espoused. As a Party that supported Tamil separatism how do you view the present stand of the government?
But even Prof. G L Peiris who is a Minister in this government expressed readiness to discuss federalism as an option. Even this government went to talks with LTTE. But now the government’s assertion is that there is no political issue for discussion. But if people with no weapons expressing their desire for discussions on a political solution are not accommodated, that would explain the dual face of the government. Why can’t the government genuinely talk over the solution with the TNA as the representatives of the Tamil people? The government is only conducting the present talks under pressure from the European Union or the United Nations. There is no real policy change where the government is concerned. If there was, they would have come up with a proposal.
When the President says he will not grant any demands of the LTTE he must understand that these proposals were first brought forwards by late Chelvanayagam. These are not Prabakaran’s demands. We only want an acceptable solution to the Tamil problem within a united Sri Lanka. Otherwise agitations will continue not only in Sri Lanka but outside as well.
Q: But analysts believe that there is a change in the perception of the local Tamil population who suffered under the war as opposed to the commitment witnessed by the Tamil Diasporas to establish a separate Tamil state.
That is why we are talking of a political solution within a united Sri Lanka. A federal system. It is because the Diaspora has no faith in the government that they speak of a separate state. If the government can’t hold a serious discussion on a solution the people will feel helpless. In this scenario the separate state cry will continue especially internationally, because the inherent feeling of the people will be there if there is no genuine response from the government.
The government concedes that if the Tamil people enjoy economic prosperity denied by the provinces due to LTTE’s agitations then there is no cause for these demands.
The Tamil struggle started with Chelvanayagam, and even by 1977 this was a given mandate. It was the situation after which led to the military struggle. This is not a problem of the LTTE. It was only because of the refusal by the successive governments to give these demands that led it there. The fact remains that if these are not met today, this situation will arise again in ten years. You can suppress it for some time but not continue without a solution. This will invariable become a problem for the international community as well, if there is no solution soon.
There are increasing criticisms against the Tamil Diaspora itself for continuing to use the Tamil cause for its own welfare with little real concern for the average Tamil person in the North and the East especially.
That could be seen as a situation that happened with the LTTE where monies were collected by the LTTE. But why that feeling remains is because there is no solution to the bigger problem. What is the option open to the people? If the government is not ready to accommodate us what is the option available to us? We don’t want to go anywhere else- we want to live within a united Sri Lanka.
Q:What in your opinion is the contribution or relevance of the Trans National Govt of Tamil Eelam to this Tamil cause?
Their formulation in other countries is because they see the TNA’s problems in getting anything from the government for the Tamil people. Till the government comes to such a solution this cry will continue. Their relevance will remain as long as the government fails to solve the problem here. The need will also remain whether there is a relevance or not.
Q: How is this situation helped in your opinion by the Diaspora push for investigations in to alleged human rights violations that the international community is holding the government accountable for?
The government said there were zero casualties, but foreign organizations claim it is 35,000. Still there is no real account of the exact number of killings. If the government says there were no killings why can’t they allow the UN panel to come and verify. The government must prove themselves.
Q:India is only expressing its concern for a political solution that prioritizes devolution of power and not really intervening in talks. Are you discouraged by this attitude of the Indian centre?
Prof Peiris earlier said that within a unitary constitution there can’t be any devolution. But we feel that the 13th Amendment itself is not enough to look after devolution activities, because so many of the important matters are still under the centre. If law and order are held within the centre how can provincial administrations look after the problems in the provinces? The police powers are very necessary for the provinces. Without this what is the use of devolution? Devolution without these is not enough. We need to go beyond this- otherwise nothing can be implemented.
Q: Reports indicate that under ongoing discussions the PCs are to be given exclusive powers over land, and Fiscal Powers, including that of obtaining direct foreign investments, while the Centre could request for land for issues of national use. How receptive do you believe the Sinhala community will be to this stand?
The Sinhalese can live in the North and the East and for a long time the Tamils and Muslims have been living in the South. How do you connect between the Sinhalese people living in the North and the East and police or land powers being granted to the provinces? The only difficulty will be for the Councils to operate without these powers. Why should this situation prove unviable if we are going to be within a united country? If the Tamils can live there why can’t Sinhalese live here? - courtesy: Daily Mirror -