Q:There are calls from various quarters in the ruling coalition for the abolition of the 13th Amendment. As an alliance partner of the government, what are your views on this?
I am for the 13th Amendment. Right from the beginning, I have taken that stand. Even President Mahinda Rajapaksa said he was for the 13th Amendment plus. Also, I am fully supportive of the Divineguma Bill which seeks to deal with rural development and poverty alleviation. Our people need both.
Q:But, the parties such as the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) interpreted the Divineguma Bill as an attempt to centralise powers further. You are seeking power devolution. How do you view it?
The TNA does not want solutions to any party. They are a bunch of opportunists. There is a saying in Tamil. What the TNA does is similar to pricking the baby in a cradle. When the baby starts crying in pain, they lull it to sleep. That is what, the TNA is doing. They do not want any permanent solution. They want the national question to be protracted. In the past, there were so many opportunities available in the past to resolve the problem. At that time, when the 13th Amendment was introduced,the present TNA leaders called it ‘too little too late’. Now, they are crying for the 13th Amendment. In the past, there was the terrorist problem. We solved it. Likewise, we will address the political issues of Tamil people very soon. It can be done through the Parliamentary Select Committee.
Q:Yet, the government has been unable to activate the select committee.
The government wants all the stakeholders to participate in it. They want even the TNA to be a part of it. This is a national question. Therefore, everyone’s participation is needed. If they do not participate, we have to think of another way. That is to take forward its proceedings sans the TNA. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) was considered an invincible force. But, they were defeated.
Q:Do you think the government will go ahead sans the TNA in the select committee?
Earlier, I said the Tamil people’s problems were different from those of the LTTE. In the same way, the TNA’s problems are not the Tamil people’s problems. We will keep aside the TNA from the issue and sort the problem.
Q:In the resolution of this problem, do you consider the 13th Amendment a perfect piece of legislation?
This is a start. It is a good base for the resolution of the problem.
Q:Yet, the alliance partners of the government like the Mahajana Eksath Peramuna and Jathika Nidahas Peramuna call it a hastily prepared piece of legislation. They are against it.
This is a democratic country. Everybody has their views. But, as a nation, we should come together. In the past, when the United National Party (UNP) introduced this system, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) opposed it. Now, they have accepted it. All the provincial councils are run by SLFP-led alliances.
Q:Do you see any shortcoming in this legislation?
There may be. I am not worried about them. But, we have to start with it. Then, in the process, we will see problems. When implementing, we will identify any problem. Then, we can sort it out. This was introduced to solve the Tamil people’s problems. But, it could not be achieved because of the LTTE. Now, we have to implement it. We can do it in the North.
Q:In case it is abolished, what will be the repercussions?
Hypothetically, I cannot answer that question. There is no move by the government to resolve it.
Q:Can you elaborate your experience in introducing this piece of legislation under the Indo-Lanka Accord in 1987?
At that time, the Tamil people were struggling. The successive ruling parties never saw eye to eye to the respective oppositions. When the ruling party says ‘A’ is the solution, the opposition says ‘B’ will be the solution. The problem was dragged on in this manner for such a long time. The Tamil people’s struggle evolved into an armed conflict after that.
Q:India played a great role in introducing the 13th Amendment. Do you think that India still has a role to play?
In my opinion, we must go for a domestically found solution. In fact, they can only play the role of a midwife. Mother Lanka has to give birth to her child. External interferences will complicate the problem further. The TNA is always going to India and other countries for help. It is not the way. It will create further confusions.Also, the appointment of Vartharajah Perumal as the Chief Minister of the merged north-eastern provincial council was a mistake. If I had been given the chance, I could have resolved this problem in a practical manner.
Q:There are charge sheets issued against you by an Indian court. How do you deal with the situation?
In 1986, I was accused of unlawful assembly in a slum area in Tamil Nadu. It is not for murder charges. But the Tamil media had created a hype about it. I have been charged for unlawful assembly under India’s penal code. If justice is not meted out to me by the Chennai court, I will go to the High Court and then to the Supreme Court in New Delhi. At that moment, I went there only to calm the situation. Vartharajah Perumal and Suresh Premachandran were there.
Q:How important is it to have the Northern Provincial Council election?
It is important. The President has announced that it will be done in September, next year. We need time to prepare the ground situation. Before a curry is cooked, we have to add ingredients. Likewise, before the election, we have to finish all the mine-clearance work and all of that.
Q:Do you still aspire to be the chief minister of the north?
Yes of course. I believe we can win the election if it is conducted after some groundwork