Tamil National Alliance (TNA) Leader R. Sampanthan told an interview with that the TNA was prepared to fully cooperate with the Government in resolving the Tamil question within a United, Undivided Sri Lanka. “The TNA is the authentic representative of the Tamil People,” he said. “Our decision is based upon certain fundamental issues pertaining to the country as a whole -- issues pertaining to good governance, democracy, supremacy of Parliament, independent judiciary and civil institutions, free media, free civil society and preventing a dictatorship.”
Mr. Sampanthan said the LTTE has now been destroyed and in such a scenario how can the TNA be its proxy. “The TNA has never been an LTTE proxy,” he said.
QTNA claims MR has failed to address the ethnic issue. However, he has finished the war. Why do you say he failed to address the ethnic conflict?
Finishing the war does not mean the ethnic conflict is resolved. The war was the manifestation of the ethnic conflict not having been addressed for a long period of time. If there was a solution before the war commenced there would not have been a war. The conclusion of the war in 2009 gave him the opportunity to address the national question in a meaningful way. TNA was willing to extend its fullest cooperation to find a solution within a United, Undivided Sri Lanka.
QDon’t you think the Government has tried its level best to address certain issues? For instance the Yal Devi travelled to Jaffna after 24 years.
The Yal Devi was installed by the Indian Government and not by President Rajapaksa. It was a development project undertaken by India. This was restored at the expense of the Indian Government. Operating the Yal Devi does not resolve the Tamil question.
Lots of lands have been grabbed unreasonably and contrary to the undertaking given to the Supreme Court and in the Parliament.
Q Do you believe the common candidate and his alliance would be successful in addressing the ethnic conflict and other grievances of the Tamil community?
He is an experienced politician. He has a pragmatic background. We think that he is a person who can take the steps largely in the interest of the country. Given Rajapaksa’s failure to address these issues we are prepared to repose our faith in the common opposition candidate Maithripala Sirisena.
QSome say that the TNA is an LTTE proxy. What do you have to say about this?
When the LTTE is not there how can we become a proxy? We have never been LTTE’s proxy.
QA few months back in Parliament you said the Tamil people needed an honourable solution. What do you mean by ‘honourable’ solution?
We want a just, reasonable and a workable and a durable political solution within the framework of a united, undivided Sri Lanka.
QThe history provides evidence that Tamil manifestos have always aimed at a division of Sri Lanka. For instance Chelvanayagams’ statement in 1975, “I wish to tell my people and the country that I consider the verdict at this election as a mandate that the Tamil Eelam Nation should exercise the sovereignty already vested in the Tamil people and become free”. Even the 1977 election manifesto speaks about the same thing. Do you still wish to see a separate state?
You are talking about history of around thirty years ago. You are not talking about history before that and history after that. The period you are talking about is the period after the 1972 constitution. In the 1970 election manifesto of the Federal Party, the Federal Party wanted the Tamil people to oppose any candidate who contested on a separatist ticket. They further said that separatism is bad for Sri Lanka and worse for the Tamils. The Federal Party put forward a solution for a united, undivided Sri Lanka.
The statement given by Mr. Chelvanayagam was made after all those proposals were rejected. Then after 1983 the riots happened, the involvement of India, the Indo Sri Lanka agreement which committed itself to the unity, territorial integrity, and sovereignty of Sri Lanka. That is the current position.
QThe moment TNA announced its support to the common opposition candidate many said the country will be separated. What can you say about this?
That is their imagination. Chances of the country being separated are higher under President Rajapaksa. We need a President who can bond the people of this country together as one nation. We do not want a divisive President. We do not want the country to be separated on racial grounds. That is what Rajapaksa has been doing.
We think Maithripala Sirisena will bring the country together as one nation. Going by the past record we have no reason to believe that President Rajapaksa will be reasonable by the Tamil people.
QIn taking party decisions has India been a decisive factor for the TNA?
QBut right after the Northern Provincial Council election, the TNA met the Indian Prime Minister, Foreign Minister and other high-ranking officials. You went there to discuss the ethnic issue?
If President Mahinda Rajapaksa can discuss the ethnic issue with the Indian Prime Minister why can’t I talk to him? I have a right to talk to him. I am a citizen of this country and I am a Tamil. I am a democratically elected leader and I should talk about my people. After all India was involved in finding a resolution to the ethnic conflict. India has an interest in the resolution of the Tamil question in Sri Lanka.
If you can’t resolve the problem within the country you cannot prevent external involvement. That’s why I say that President Rajapaksa has done nothing in the past ten years and will do nothing in the future.
QTNA claims that it is the sole representative of Tamils. Do you think the Tamil population in this country will back your decision?
No, TNA does not claim to be the sole representative. The TNA is the authentic representative of the Tamil people. We clearly state we are the democratically elected authentic representatives.
Also with regard to the decision taken by the Party, what makes you doubt that the Tamil people would not back the decision? We are confident that they will.
QNorthern Provincial Councillor Anandi Shashidharan has decided not to support to any candidate at the Presidential election. Does this mean there is a split in the Party?
She is just one member in the Northern Provincial Council. Why are you talking about one member? We have thirty members in the Northern Provincial Council. Why would you get excited about one member out of thirty? How do you call that a split? She is bound by the decision of the TNA. I am not aware of her having made any such statement. If she is not bound by the TNA decision, disciplinary action will be taken against her.
As a member of the Provincial Council of the Northern Province and as a member elected on the TNA ticket, she is bound to comply with the decisions taken by the TNA.
QMR has stated he can win without the TNA. What can you say about this?
I do not want to make any comment about that. The President is a very experienced person. We have not taken a decision to defeat Rajapaksa. Our decision is based upon certain fundamental issues pertaining to the country as a whole -- issues pertaining to good governance, democracy, supremacy of Parliament, independent judiciary and civil institutions, free media, free civil society and preventing a dictatorship.
We have taken a decision based on certain values and principles. We have made a judgment of Rajapaksa’s performance based on those values and principles.