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“This is the plight of the Tamils…”

[Lakbima News, Sunday, 6 June 2010 08:00 No Comment]

Tamil National Alliance stalwart, Suresh Premachandran spoke to Ranga Jayasuriya on a number of issues, ranging from the TNA’s rendezvous with New Delhi, the forthcoming meeting with the president and the plight of the newly resettled Tamil civilians.

Excerpts

Suresh Premachandran The TNA was supposed to meet the President (Rajapaksa) before he leaves for India. Have you got an appointment?

Yes, we have. We are meeting the president on Monday evening (tomorrow).

There were also reports that the Indians told the TNA to submit its devolution proposals to the president?

No, the Indians didn’t tell us to submit any proposals to anyone. They didn’t ask us to submit anything to the president or to the Indians. We have discussions with them on several matters, relating to political affairs and power sharing.

Are you giving any proposals to the president before he leaves for India?

No, We will be discussing mainly the rehabilitation matters. That is the number one issue and the number two is the resolving the ethnic problem. Those are the two important matters we will discuss with him. But I am not sure whether, we will be giving any sort of proposal to the president on those matters. Our parliamentary group will meet, may be on today, and decide about that.

Do you have any proposal prepared by the TNA on devolution or any other matter of immediate concern to Tamil people?

No. After the Indo-Lanka accord in 1987, there had been several reports. I say there is no need for a new set of proposals, because there are already several sets of proposals. The Mangala Munasinghe committee report is there. Also, the Chandrika’s proposals are there. Then the present president appointed a committee of eminent persons and their proposals is also there. These proposals are enough to come out with a solution, because during the past, at certain times, certain presidents came out with certain proposals to solve the (ethnic) problem.

Have you (TNA) been consulted by the government about your wishes on the nature of the solution?

So far nothing has happened as far as power sharing or devolution is concerned.

You said the TNA met the Indians. Was it the Indian High Commissioner Shri Ashok Kantha or Nirupama Rao, the foreign secretary?

The Indian High Commissioner. We meet him time to time and normally discuss political matters, power sharing matters etc.

So, what is the Indian position?

I don’t think there is a position as such. Basically, everyone wants to solve this problem, which has to be solved dignified manner. There should be a power sharing arrangement between the minorities and majorities. Devolution proposals should be workable and practicable. If there are proper powers, only you can function. Without powers, there is no point of devolution. If the government wants to solve the Tamil national problem, which has been dragging since the independence, the government should be able to accommodate Tamil aspirations which they know, particularly.

Q: TNA also met Prof G.L. Peiris, the External Affairs Minister…

Mr Sampanthan met him. May be he wanted to know what the TNA is up to. That was an unofficial friendly meeting.

Now the government has formed a reconciliation committee to learn lessons from the past. Have you been consulted, say for instance, to include any of representatives from Tamil community in that committee?

As I said earlier, so far, the government didn’t have discussions with the TNA on any matter, be it devolution, reconciliation or anything else. We strongly feel that there should be a proper power sharing arrangement to lead to reconciliation. There is no point of talking about reconciliation, when the problem is still alive. Of course, the war may be over, but the problem is alive. Now, the government should come out with a proper set of proposals to address the problem. When you continue to have one community under so much pressure, how do you expect reconciliation to happen? So the number one priority, I think, is a solution to the problem which is still there. Only after then that, I think that the so called reconciliation is possible.

We heard that the TNA has invited all other Tamil parties to come under one umbrella. What is the purpose?

You know, this is natural. We want to speak in one voice about Tamil problems.

What is your take on the south Indian boycott of IIFA, the Indian film awards being held in Colombo?

That is a clear signal that if the government is not going to solve this problem, there will be resistance, not only in South India, but also in other parts of the world.

What is your opinion or that of the TNA about the LTTE’s transnational government?

Why there is a transnational government is that, there is an ethnic problem in Sri Lanka that hasn’t been addressed yet. If the government solves that problem, there is no need for a transnational government or any other organization in other countries (to campaign for the Sri Lankan Tamil issue)

There is little heard from the TNA these days. Why is that?

I don’t think it is correct. Last week also, our members of parliament visited resettled villages in there home constituencies. Even, yesterday, Mr Senathiraja, Mr Sajitharan and myself went to Kilinochchi, Pooneryn and other areas to see the ground reality of the resettlement work. We have also told the government that we are prepared to talk to them. We are very much on the ball, but there is no need to issue press releases all the time. Our position is very clear on the matters of immediate importance to Tamils.

You said you visited the resettled areas. What did you see? What is your take on the situation?

What we have seen in those areas is very pathetic. I will tell you one small example. We met a resettled family in Pooneryn. An old lady in her 80s. She lives with her daughter who is sixty years old, whose husband had died in shelling in Puthukudiruppu area. She has having four daughters and one son. Two daughters are married. They both lost their husbands in the same incident of shelling in Puthukudiruppu. The third daughter is with some relatives in Jaffna and the youngest is with the family. The only son is being kept in the army custody. The entire family is of widows. There is no single male to assist them. Their only breadwinner is under the custody of army. This is the plight of our people.

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