Leader of Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP) and Jaffna district MP Douglas Devananda, in an interview with Daily Mirror, speaks about the Mullivaikkal commemoration, the provincial council system and the next presidential election:
- Some Tamil politicians exploiting Mullivaikkal commemoration for political ends
- Minority communities disillusioned with Govt.
- Sufficient progress not made
- People are disgusted with TNA
- Power devolution needed for Tamils
Q In the north, Mullivaikkal Remembrance Day was observed. It has given rise to speculation that the LTTE ideology is gaining ground again in the north. How do you see?
There is no inclination among ordinary people towards such an ideology. Be that as it may, certain politicians try to impose it on people. I also brought a motion to Parliament proposing to build a monument in memory of all those who died during the war. I also sought to designate a particular date to remember them. The Defence Ministry responded to me saying that such a monument could be erected in the Anuradhapura area. There is an attempt by some politicians in the north to make political gains on this matter. We are opposed to such political meddling. It is people’s right to remember their loved ones who died.
Q How would incidents like these affect communal harmony in the country from your perspective?
When the northern politicians indulge in such activities with political motif, they evoke resistance from southern politicians for the same purpose.
Q How will it affect the future?
We noticed the kind of publicity being given to Tamil National Alliance (TNA) member of the Northern Provincial Council (NPC) M. K. Sivajilingam. When he lit the oil lamp at the commemoration event, we saw him being flanked by four persons only. There are politicians acting with vested interests in both sides. It will create problems in the future as I can see.
Q In the south, it is a day of victory. In the north, it is a day of mourning. Won’t it polarize the two communities further?
The current government had realized it at the beginning. Yet, it is no longer the case with the government now. In other countries, there are victory day celebrations. Those are military victories gained from fighting with external forces. Here, it is different. It was a war between two groups of the same country. Initially, this government wanted to avoid the polarization of the two communities on these lines. It is a different situation now.
Q How do you see the performance of the government in terms of reconciliation between the communities?
I don’t think there is sufficient progress made in this direction. It is doubtful whether those politicians and officials assigned with the task of achieving reconciliation did their bit properly.
Q The elections to the Northern Provincial Council are due this year. The TNA is virtually divided with Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran threatening to break away. How does your EPDP assess the situation?
We have decided to contest the elections. If Mr. Wigneswaran contests alone, the TNA vote bank will be divided. We can gain then. The TNA made a whole lot of promises, but did not deliver on them. So, people are disgusted with them. We have to win over these people now.
When the northern politicians indulge in such activities with political motif, they evoke resistance from southern politicians for the same purpose
Q You stood for the 13th Amendment to the Constitution right from the beginning. You said the implementation of PC system would make way for the resolution of the political question. Yet, there is a perception in the country that the PC system is a white elephant. What is your view?
We insisted that the 13th Amendment should be implemented in full as the basis for the resolution of the Tamil people’s political question. When the trust is built between the communities through such implementation, we can go for the next step in addressing the Tamil national question.
Q People say the system is a gimmick. Your comments...
There are different opinions. Minister Gamini Jayawickrama Perera once disclosed how he made use of the system to do work as the then Chief Minister of the NWPC. Northern Province Governor Reginald Cooray also said he did a lot of work as the Chief Minister of the WPC. Actually, the NPC is doing nothing. Those at the provincial council serve their self-interests and enjoy benefits. We cannot go by the NPC and dub the entire provincial council system as a white elephant.
Q What do you think about the power devolved to the provincial councils at the moment?
We need a unit of power devolution for Tamil people. We insist on the provincial council system as a result. People in other parts of the country should decide whether they need such a system or not. We ask for the implementation of the 13th Amendment in full.
Q When you say the implementation in full, what does it mean?
All the powers outlined in the 13th Amendment should be given to the provincial councils. There are land and police powers. Some devolved powers have been taken back by the centre through legal actions. Those powers should also be returned to the provincial councils.
Q What are the areas of power taken back in this case?
There are powers related to agrarian services, cooperative services etc.
Q At the last presidential election in 2015, the Tamil and Muslim parties played a decisive role. The Presidential Elections is due next year. There are talks about possible candidates. How do you look to the next election?
There is a school of thought in the south that executive presidency should be abolished. We believe in the concept that the voters of the entire country should have the chance to participate in an election for the selection of the President to govern them. Then only, Tamil people’s problems can be directed to the President to be elected.
Also, we are concerned how far the successive Presidents who served in the past addressed the issues confronting Tamil people. There are several names being floated as possible candidates for the next election. We wait patiently. We will decide on our stand depending on the candidates to be nominated by the parties concerned. The minority communities thought this government would address their problems. Their hopes are now shattered.
Q Do you mean to say that the minority communities are disillusioned with the government?
Q People talk about former Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa as the next presidential candidate. What is your view?
People view it with a question mark. If he comes forward, we have to look at his manifesto.
Q What are your conditions for any candidate seeking presidency?
Our condition is to achieve national reconciliation practically on the ground. We will support a candidate capable of delivering it in the real sense. There should be equality among the ethnic groups. They should be able to live with dignity. Our people continue to suffer. They need a political solution that guarantees equal rights for them. Tamil politicians always claim that Sinhala leaders did nothing for Tamil people. We believe Tamil political leaders also did not act in a manner that would encourage the Sinhala leaders to work for Tamil people. That is our feeling. If the Tamil leaders acted in that manner, most problems could have been resolved. Tamil leaders should instill trust in the minds of Sinhala people to create conducive atmosphere for the resolution of Tamil people’s problems.
As for the Mullivaikkal incident, it does not matter if people voluntarily commemorate their loved ones. What matters is the fact that some politicians try to make use of the event for their ends. Political meddling only creates problems.