Devananda doesn’t think so ‘ because the LTTE leadership has been wiped out’
Eelam People’s Democratic Party Leader Douglas Devananda served in the Cabinet of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. However, after the change of government, his party was relegated to the Opposition. Yet, he voted for the 2016 Budget saying he would not oppose the government simply because he was in the Opposition. It is now understood that Douglas Devananda intends to contest the local authorities ‘election under the Veena symbol.Some excerpts of an interview we had with him are given below.
How do you see the situation in the North after the change of government?
The situation has changed a lot. Earlier, there was the war; and we want to forget it. When compared with the all round environment in the past, the situation in the North is different in many ways. We believe the present government will improve it further.
What features contribute to this improvement?
There is a calm and quiet atmosphere; normalcy has reached the North. But, recently there was an incident of a student committing suicide in Jaffna by jumping in front of a moving train. It is known that the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) leadership is whipping up anti- government sentiments. The student’s act appeared to have a been an anti TNA expression. The TNA promised to deliver what was impractical and impossible but is in a dire predicament now because there has been growing mistrust with the TNA, not the government.
Considering this background, what are your political plans?
We remain, calm,quiet and patient. During the previous rule, I, as a Minister, delivered much in terms of development. Now, nothing is happening because we are not in the government. For example, the North was hit by the recent floods and people endured a lot of hardships. The TNA controlled Northern Provincial Council (NPC) did not give adequate relief to them; instead, it passed a resolution calling for cash and material aid to be delivered to flood victims in Tamil Nadu. No prompt action was taken to address the concerns of [our] people in the North. Going by a traditional Tamil saying, it was similar to someone going on pilgrimage and offering alms to deities regardless of his starving mother. People are disappointed with TNA activities.
" The TNA controlled Northern Provincial Council (NPC) did not give adequate relief to them; instead, it passed a resolution calling for cash and material aid to be delivered to flood victims in Tamil Nadu."
Are you planning to contest the next local election in the North?
I had a discussion with my party men in Jaffna. I am having meetings with party men from other districts as well. There is enough time because the prime minister has said that the local elections would be conducted before the Sinhala and Hindu New Year. But, we are not sure when the elections would be finally held. We are thinking of contesting under the ‘Veena symbol’ as we did at the last general elections.
Some parties say the release of detainees held under the Prevention of Terrorism Act poses a threat to national security. As a politician who stood against the LTTE what are your views in this regard?
I do not think it will be a problem because there is no leadership for them [LTTE] now. So, in my view, they cannot be a problem; the LTTE leadership was been wiped out. At the same time, action has to be taken to address the issues of the Tamil people. Otherwise, they will snowball into major problems. Today, the release of PTA detainees has become an overall concern of the Tamil people. Similarly, they have land issues that need to be addressed on a case by case basis without delay. I do not think the release of PTA detainees will pose an immediate threat to national security. However, it doesn’t mean that we can completely rule out such a threat in the long run. People’s issues have to be addressed at the right time, then we can avert threats as before.
"You know we voted for the Budget.We are in the Opposition, yet, we do not oppose the government simply because we are in the Opposition camp"
How is your relationship with the present government?
You know we voted for the Budget.We are in the Opposition, yet, we do not oppose the government simply because we are in the Opposition camp. However we do not hesitate to criticise the government whenever it is warranted.
Are you ready to take up positions in the government?
No, we are very careful in calculating decisions.
What have you highlighted in your proposals to solve the political question?
We have submitted our proposals in a lengthy document. The All Party Conference has sent us a questionnaire to be answered and we have elaborated on our stand [on the issues]. However, there were discrepancies in some portions of the translated texts and questions have been raised from a particular angle.
Recently in Parliament, Jaffna District MP Deputy Minister Wijeyakala Maheswaran said that the assassin of her husband T. Maheswaran, an MP, is in Parliament. This appeared to be an allegation against you. What are your comments on that?
Ms. Maheswaran is well aware who killed her husband. When an LTTE gunman shot dead the then MP A. Amirthalingam, his security officers caught the assassin red-handed. The same thing happened in the murder of Maheswaran. The DNA tests were also made. I have been accused for political reasons, but we focus on democratic politics not on violence to reach our targets.
The judiciary gave a ruling during the previous rule. If Ms Maheswaran is not happy that [justice has been done] she can take the matter up in a higher court. Without doing that, she is blaming us. We stand for reconciliation among the different ethnic groups [in Sri Lanka] because a solution, acceptable to all the communities, would be a long lasting one.