Q As an opposition politician from the north, how do you assess the situation there now under the new setup?
As usual, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) promised to do a lot to the people. People expected the TNA to deliver. Yet, it did not happen. The TNA-controlled Northern Provincial Council was constituted with the impression that a virtual Tamil kingdom was created. People’s expectations were not realised again. People still suffer. People will take to the streets very soon. Or else, they will take alternative approaches to vent their unrest.
Q However, we hear that a lot of lands were released by the military to the rightful owners. Housing projects are in the pipeline. Various road projects have been announced. What are your views?
Many election promises were unrealistic. We also did a lot of development work during our time. We also got the military to release a lot of lands. We implemented the mega India-funded housing scheme for the benefit of conflict affected people. I also went to India as a delegate along with the then leaders to negotiate the housing project. We cannot do all the work at once. A gradual approach is needed. At that time, those calling the shots now demonstrated against us. They now ask people to wait patiently till the release of remaining lands. Development took place during that time. It is happening now as well.
I am referring to unrealistic promises the TNA made in the run up the election. That is the reason for public unrest.
Q What are those unrealistic promises?
All they promised were unrealistic. The NPC, as a whole, can solve a lot of problems concerning people. In other provinces, it happens as we see in the media. But, the NPC is not in a position to utilise all its allocations from the Treasury. Allocations are channeled back to the Treasury at the end year. People wanted jobs, development work and housing projects.
There was the proposal to build 65,000 prefabricated houses. People rejected it. Not even toilets are built today. They do not leave room for the execution of projects by the Central Government either. Even during the height of war, we did our work.
We took measures to supply education materials through sea routes during the war time. We arranged to ferry children to Colombo for educational purposes. Education level dropped in the north drastically due to the LTTE atrocities. The North was the worst in the performance of students at the GCE Ordinary Level Examinations. The next worst situation was in the East. In both the Provinces, the Education Ministers are TNA members. They have worked as education officials. But, they are unable to deliver.
Q How do you see the progress of reconciliation under the new Government?
You need two hands to clap. You cannot clap with one hand. Reconciliation is like that. The cooperation both sides are needed. Both should be keen to achieve it.
Q Actually, I am asking about steps taken by this Government. What is response to them?
The previous rule engaged in battle against LTTE terrorism. That Government won the war. The current Government has a new leadership. The main ruling party came to power after 20 years. There is satisfactory progress. But, further action is needed in this direction.
Q What are your views on the Office of Missing Persons Act?
In the past, Commissions were set up from time to time. None of those Commissions served the desired intentions. We hope the proposed Office of Missing Persons will live up to expectations.
Q What is your stand on the enactment of it?
We have to wait and see how this Office will serve. In the past, all the Commissions did not get public trust. We have to wait for the performance of this office.
Q As a politician from the north, how serious is the problem of missing persons in your view?
My brother also disappeared. I also have the need of finding when and how he went missing, and what happened to him. People’s problem too is similar. It has to be traced for any conclusion. We have to find who are responsible and what happened to the disappeared.
The OMP should take steps for the safety of those who lodge complaints with it. Complainants’ security is important. We want to bring that Amendment to the draft Bill. By the time, I rushed into the Chamber of Parliament; the bill had been passed amidst chaos. I could not move it. I came out to get ready with the Amendment. When I went in, it had been passed all of a sudden.
Some persons may lodge complains with vested interests to tarnish the image of another party or an individual. One may make an allegation. At the same time, the charge concerned should not be kept in the public domain until proven through OMP investigations.
Q What is EPDP’s contribution to the reconciliation process?
I am a member of the Steering Committee. I am also a member of one sub committee appointed by it. We are submitting our views.
Q What are the EPDP proposals on Constitution making?
We have given our proposals.
Q What are your proposals on power devolution?
We seek more powers to the provinces. Different catchy terms can be used to express it. But, we need power at provincial level. It is extensive power devolution. There are three main features discussed here- the abolition of Executive Presidency, Electoral Reforms and Devolution of Power. As for Executive Presidency, the minority communities need it. They believe a President elected on their vote-share will address their needs.
All are against Preferential Voting (PR). Representation based on electorates is very much favoured.
The ratio of MPs to be elected from the First Past the Post (FPP) system and the Proportional Representation system is being discussed at the moment. Whatever system is implemented, our party can get a seat for sure. We work for getting more and more seats. Our political programme is directed towards it.
Q Since 1987, you advocated a solution based on the 13th Amendment. What is the current status of your position?
We have not deviated from our stand.
Q How certain are you about the present Constitution making process?
It is so far so good. Now, there are differences of opinion on the abolition of Executive Presidency. There is no conclusion. Different views are expressed on electoral reforms as well. The implementation of the 13th Amendment is a practical approach. It is already there in the Constitution. We can move on step by step.
Q How possible is it for you to see eye-to-eye with the Tamil National Alliance (TNA)?
The TNA is a loose amalgam of parties made for election purposes only. It is not a political entity based on policies or ideologies. This is not an election time. So, the TNA allies speak with difference voices. Whenever there is an election declared, all will get together and go before people.
When we, the EPDP, allied with the ruling party and worked for people, we were branded traitors. Today, the TNA has also been compelled to work in understanding with the ruling side. However, the TNA is unable to do. It does not seem to be interested in addressing public grievances. Also, it does not command necessary competence to do it.
In the past, the TNA idled, when we worked. Today, the TNA neither idles nor works.
Q How does the EPDP plan its political activities in the future?
Ours is a party promoting unity among different peoples. We are for a united Sri Lanka, where peoples co-exist in harmony with prosperity. National reconciliation is another goal of ours. We believe that problems could be solved through Parliamentary democracy. We put forward these policy lines to people.
When people started rallying behind us, the TNA was formed to counter us. We are in the Opposition. Yet, we cooperate with the Government with constructive criticism.
Only by getting in touch with the party in power, we can get our problems solved. We bring out public issues. We are getting ready for the next Local Government election.
We contemplate various options. First, we think of contesting alone. Next, we consider forming an alliance with likeminded parties in the north. As the last option, we will give mind to such an alliance with a national political party.
We are in discussion with the parties such as Sri-TELO and the one formed by rehabilitated LTTE combatants.
Q Your EPDP and the LTTE were arch rivals. The LTTE unsuccessfully tried to take your life. How comfortable are you to do politics with a group involved in the LTTE activities at that time?
They were carrying out the orders of LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran to kill me. Now, Prabhakaran is no more. They seem to have been attracted towards me now.
Earlier, they got carried away by false propaganda against me. Now, when they interact with me, they realise who I am. They have regards for me. Only the LTTE leadership tried to destroy me. Countrymen follow the footsteps of the King, as goes a saying in Tamil. They openly told me that they were misled at that time.
Q How trustworthy are they for you?
I can sense impending dangers. Serpents slither. One serpent knows how another serpent glides.