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‘Stirring hatred amongst communities could lead to grave repercussions’ :TNA MP Shanakiyan Rasamanickam

25 May 2021 12:10 am - 18     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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There’s only one PCR machine for the entire Eastern Province 

Are you calling a day where civilians died a Victory Day?

I’m opposed to a Chinese Government systematically taking over this country

China has a different leverage that the LTTE didn’t have 

The fair request by Tamil speaking people in the North and East to have our own political structure needs to be respected

We should be ashamed that we are building makeshift hospitals


 

Shanakiyan Rajaputhiran Rasamanickam is the youngest member of Parliament representing the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and is also the youngest MP sitting in the Opposition. Rasamanickam has gained attention for raising some salient points in Parliament based on the COVID pandemic, the Port City Bill and minority rights. 

In a candid interview with the Daily mirror  he expressed his concerns on how the Government is controlling the pandemic, militarisation and influence from China while also sharing his vision for the country. 

Excerpts: 


Q: You recently termed the current COVID wave as the ‘Port City’ wave while claiming that the Government is bringing the COVID issue to divert attention of the public. What is your take on the Government’s role in controlling the pandemic? 

Sri Lanka being an island with a population of around 21 million could have contained the pandemic to be in a situation a lot better than what it is today. During the recent lockdown the COVID cases were under 2500. But as soon as we opened up the country last week, just so that the Port City Bill could be passed, the number of cases jumped to around 3500. It’s also very strange that a new circular was issued where doctors are not allowed to speak about COVID cases.  In fact it is the doctors who are concerned about public health as opposed to politicians in power. Clearly when we had a lockdown the number of cases were better. Testing is another concern. The number of tests that are done in the Eastern Province, which has a population of around two million, is about 1000 of which only 500 results are released. That is the capacity because there’s only one PCR machine for the entire Eastern province. So is 3500 an actual number? The first wave happened because this government wanted to have the elections. The Parliament’s term was supposed to end in August or September. This was sheer selfishness and greed for power. Then the second wave was related to the 20th Amendment. The President knew about the Minuwangoda cluster. When people were being detected from all over the country they linked it to the Minuwangoda or Peliyagoda clusters. So once the 20A was passed there was a brief lockdown again. Then we lost around 500 people. If we had passed the Port City Bill during last Parliamentary sittings, the country could have been locked down during the last couple of weeks. Is the entire country’s utmost priority the Port City? So overall, the way this government handled COVID is a failure and it’s disgusting to see a leader voted in by 6.9 million people being far more concerned about power for himself and his political party than the welfare and safety of the country. So people should actually look after themselves at this moment. 

 

We are Sri Lankan Tamils and have lived in this country for as long as everybody else has. But on the contrary, the Chinese have been given a territory and we still don’t even know who is going to live there. There’s going to be border control, most laws are ambiguous and with the passage of the Bill we have given all powers to a Commission and we don’t even know if it would have Chinese nationals on it

 

Q: How are hospitals in the North and East dealing with the COVID crisis? Are enough facilities in place?

Facilities in hospitals around the island are not up to standard. The government could say that they haven’t faced a pandemic like this before and that we are a developing country. I saw State Minister Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle requesting NGOs and INGOs to send in donations. This is the same government that called them ‘NGO-karayas’ and chased them away during the last few months including some of the Tamil diaspora organisations. There’s a huge misconception about the word diaspora. It doesn’t mean that they’re part of LTTE. They are a community living outside Sri Lanka who are Sri Lankans. These were people who migrated from the country during the 1983 riots or even before that when they were subject to injustices. They are now in important positions around the world. This is where our Sri Lankan network is. But the Government went ahead and banned some of these diaspora groups. This was to show the country that the UNHRC result was orchestrated by these groups. We could have asked those organisations for assistance, but how can we reach them now that they are banned? Even when there was no pandemic our hospitals were under-equipped. This is natural because we allocate a huge budget for defence. For a population of 21 million and for the land mass we have, we have a huge army. I don’t think our Army would be able to fight the Chinese Army. It will eventually come to a point where we’ll have to fight against the Chinese to get rid of them. However, budgetary allocations for health and education have been questionable as opposed to defence. All successive governments have had a huge allocation for defence. It’s not a contest between who’s the better Sri Lankan nationalist. It should be a contest of whose the better government for the public. 


Q: Militarisation has been a disturbing element of the present government. But people in the North and East have faced this for a greater part of their lives. What would be the impact of militarisation on the concept of democracy?

 Everybody from Ministry secretaries to people in key government positions are ex-military officials. Leave the North aside. During the initial COVID lockdown period you could see six or seven motorbikes parading around Colombo where their riders and pillion riders were armed with guns. What were they trying to do? Shoot COVID? You should have PHIs, health authorities or maybe the Police to ensure that people are indoors. My fear is that at the rate this Government is becoming unpopular, it will be difficult for them to let go of power. But if they are unable to democratically elect themselves the next time, would they look at a military rule? The Government of Sri Lanka in the past has even recognised Myanmar’s illegal junta. Does it mean that this Government is going down that path if the need arises? The military is building hospitals. When makeshift hospitals are built, politicians are going to open them. We should be ashamed that we are building makeshift hospitals. We should have come up with a better system for quarantining overseas returnees. It has become a huge mafia. Militarisation is happening on one side and the other is using military to instill fear. Youngsters from North and East have a little fear when they see the military. There are incidents of various witnesses coming forward saying they have handed over their loved ones to the military and today they are no more. But the government says these are fabricated stories. If they are fabricated go ahead and do an investigation and then we can know the truth. So I have a fear that one day we will wake up to see some military person in charge of the country. It may not happen in the near future, but if the government doesn’t stand a chance to have a simple minority in the Parliament I don’t know to what extent they would go to. These are all warning signs.


Q: People in the North and East were restricted from having Remembrance days. War memorials were also taken down. What is your take on these incidents?

That is also selective. The JVP has a huge event to commemorate their leader and fallen heroes. When we say this they say the JVP didn’t fight for a separate state. The JVP fought for the country. The LTTE fought for a separate state in the North and East. But now even memorials are destroyed. The Jaffna University memorial was destroyed and the vice chancellor had to rebuild it. Amidst the pandemic they went to Mullivaikkal and destroyed the memorial. These are all distractions. This government needs to satisfy their ardent supporters. We should also look at who is remembering whom. If you take North and East at least one person they’re related to, have been killed. In terms of people in the North and East who wish to remember their loved ones, some don’t even know when they died because communication was cut off during the last stages of the war. These people who died during the last stages of the war would have died on any day. So you need one day to commemorate people who died during the war. They called the last stages of the war a humanitarian operation. War means people on both sides die. That is Army, LTTE and the civilians who died in the crossfires. There are thousands of civilians who are unaccounted for. The Government should stop saying that no civilians were killed. That is just being childish. Even the LTTE cadres who were killed on that day, for somebody they are a son, daughter, brother or sister. We all need to come to an understanding. The South can remember people who were lost during the war. But you can’t call it a ‘Victory Day’. Are you calling a day where civilians died a victory day? Sinhala mothers need to mourn their dead. Their sons were killed. Both sides need to remember their loved ones. Why they are destroying war memorials is probably because they have hidden skeletons in their closets. I don’t see any other reason. If they don’t have skeletons they need not worry. 


Q: There has hardly been any budgetary allocations to execute the transitional justice process in the country. How do you see this? 

Transitional justice is important for reconciliation. I haven’t gone into details about what budgetary allocations have gone in for the Office of Missing Persons or reparations. Overall, this government’s actions are far from a regime that’s interested in reconciliation. This is a regime more keen on stirring hatred amongst communities, bringing in more polarisation. I’m not surprised if they haven’t allocated money for reconciliation. 

 

If we had passed the Port City Bill during last Parliamentary sittings, the country could have been locked down during the last couple of weeks. Is the entire country’s utmost priority the Port City? So overall, the way this government handled COVID is a failure and it’s disgusting to see a leader voted in by 6.9 million people being far more concerned about power for himself and his political party than the welfare and safety of the country

 

 

Q: Let’s talk about the Port City Economic Commission Bill. All of a sudden there was a Bill presented to Parliament, the Supreme Court had little time to make its determinations and subsequently the Bill was passed. 

With the 19th amendment there was more time for people to challenge bills at the Supreme Court. But with the 20A this time was reduced and some lawyers went to SC to increase that time to at least one week. The Government very cunningly tabled this Bill in Parliament. Most Sri Lankans thought April 12 was a public holiday where they could get some rest, but what it actually did was reduce another day where people could go to courts. Somehow many people went to courts and 23 petitions were filed. According to the SC verdict, out of the 75 clauses in the Bill, 25 of them were unconstitutional, 16 of them needed two-thirds majority in Parliament and nine clauses needed a referendum. So they made amendments to pass it with a simple majority of 113 people. What the Government is trying to say is that they could have passed it with two-thirds majority, but they decided to listen to public and SC. But any person with logic or general knowledge would know that even though they passed something with simple majority this Government would have liked to show off that they had two-thirds. They only had 149 votes for the Port City Bill. Let’s buy what they say about simple majority; if they had two-thirds majority they would have passed whatever regulation that required 113 votes and the 16 laws that needed two-thirds would have been left out. Still hope is not lost. Just because 149 people have voted for this Bill they also represent a portion of 21 million people in the country. The public have voted for them and they are supposed to represent public opinion in Parliament which they haven’t done.  We need to raise awareness on the adverse impacts of this Bill. What we’re opposed to is a systematic takeover of this country. I’m opposed to a Chinese government systematically taking over this country. 


Q: Certain provisions of the Port City bill show that the government is giving the go-ahead to China to have a virtual separate state on Lankan waters. Some politicians and activists have termed this as something similar or worse than the Eelam concept demanded by the LTTE. What are your observations?

The only difference I would say is that Sri Lankan Tamils today, including politicians, parliamentarians and political parties are asking for devolution of power. There’s so much power vested in the Central Government. Provincial council is the starting step for devolution which should be strengthened more. Provincial councils are present in all nine provinces. We are Sri Lankan Tamils and have lived in this country for as long as everybody else has. But on the contrary, the Chinese have been given a territory and we still don’t even know who is going to live there. There’s going to be border control, most laws are ambiguous and with the passage of the Bill we have given all powers to a Commission and we don’t even know if it would have Chinese nationals on it. If you look at the Tamils who fought for Tamil Eelam, just look at the numbers. Are we going to compare the LTTE with China? They have different leverage that the LTTE didn’t have. 


Q: The TNA is very much in favour of the 13th Amendment. India has been pressuring Sri Lanka to hold provincial council elections. But many believe that the provincial council system should be abolished on the basis of wasteful expenditure and high level corruption. Do you think this system needs a revamp? 

The 13A hasn’t still been implemented fully, which is why it looks like an administrative structure that is inefficient. You retain all powers in the Centre and have a bogus institution in the provinces. We have a double entry system; there’s an education ministry in the Centre and in the province. But the center is holding on to the resources without strengthening the provincial councils. Since the inception of the provincial council system of the 13A, the central government has been trying to undermine the provincial government so that it looks like a failed project. When the 13A was brought in the Tamils said it wasn’t enough. Up until 1987 till the 13A was enacted, all Tamil political parties were of the the view that they needed a separate state. Once the 13A was passed they said that it was a stepping stone and would work towards devolution of power. For us to ensure that there is never a situation like what happened during those 30 years of war we need to respect everybody’s political values and allow them to have a sense of ownership in the political structure. Till we achieve that we will be a failed state.


Q: What about corruption and wasteful expenditure in provincial councils? 

Then the Presidential secretariat should be dissolved first and we’ll talk about the rest. Corruption at Sri Lankan political authorities go hand in glove. There are allegations vested against everyone from a local government chairman up to the Presidential secretariat. This is just a lame excuse to say something bad about provincial councils. 


Q: Some of the best brains from the Tamil community in the North and East migrated during the war. Others who left the country in their younger days are holding key positions in Canada, Australia, Silicon Valley etc. If Sri Lanka is to attract these brains back, either to invest or serve their homeland, what would be the best way to do it?

Not only Sri Lankan Tamils, but the Burghers left when the Sinhala Only Act was passed. They are in even better positions and some still identify that their roots are from Sri Lanka. This government only has to show a fraction of the interest they show to bring Chinese investments into the country. But their whole concept is to villainize Tamils and other minorities and to achieve their agenda. Firstly the ideology needs to change, so that all Sri Lankans are welcome regardless of their race and ensure that all Sri Lankans are valued. Even with the dual citizenship they could reduce the fee. 


Q: As the youngest politician representing TNA in Parliament what is your vision for the North and East and for Sri Lanka in the long run?

My vision is to have a united, undivided and indivisible Sri Lanka where political views of Tamils and minorities are respected. All communities need to be respected equally, so that we forge a Sri Lankan identity. I’m proud to identify myself as a Sri Lankan first and then as a Tamil. We need to unite first. To unite it doesn’t mean leaving aside political aspirations. The fair request by Tamil speaking people in the North and East to have our own political structure needs to be respected. As soon as it’s done there won’t be any ethnic tensions in this country. 

 

See video at www.dailymirror.lk

 

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  Comments - 18

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  • Mahathaya Tuesday, 25 May 2021 03:44 AM

    Excellent answers. However modayas will not be able to understand. Their one track mind is ruining the entire SL. Chi Lanka in generations to come will be a colony of China.

    Ralaharamy Tuesday, 25 May 2021 06:27 AM

    According to the Title of this article, everyone in politics today is guilty of the crime. This is their only qualification to enter politics.

    M.M.S.B. Manamperi Tuesday, 25 May 2021 06:28 AM

    Tamil Nadu location is a big threat to proposed 13th Amendment. And also, foreign Tamil Diaspora needs to maintain this issue for their establishment in their country. That is the main cause of this problem.

    me Tuesday, 25 May 2021 10:25 AM

    Can you give tuition to the younger, older and novice politicians as to how to prepare a speech or debate at the parliament 'cos you and few opposition members are eloquent and to the point.

    Tony Tuesday, 25 May 2021 12:04 PM

    Mr,Rasamanickam is a well Educated politician.

    Pantha Kumaran Tuesday, 25 May 2021 12:30 PM

    This young man, unlike some MPs in the government, is talking sense. Who is going to listen him? If this government satisfy the demands of China they should at the same time satisfy the Tamils demand. This is the way forward. I strongly agree we all have to live in a united country,

    Sanjeewa Tuesday, 25 May 2021 06:53 PM

    For the first time a sense talking TNA politician. He'll travel a long way.

    jayt Wednesday, 26 May 2021 07:40 AM

    first tamil nadu should give half of their land to sri lanka to make up for sri lanka losing their land for Tamil Nadu labors who settled in the north and hill country. Then, you can talk about Tamil demands

    jayt Wednesday, 26 May 2021 07:40 AM

    first tamil nadu should give half of their land to sri lanka to make up for sri lanka losing their land for Tamil Nadu labors who settled in the north and hill country. Then, you can talk about Tamil demands

    jayt Wednesday, 26 May 2021 08:19 AM

    This article, US urging tourist not to Sri lanka. US passing resolution in the congress against Sri lanka. and a Singapore ship getting caught on fire near Colombo are belong one plan of covert operation specific group. Sinhalese had witnessed this kind of events taking place at least 5-6 a day in the last 30 years. Today, Sinhalese should have excellent skill figuring out who are globally operating and why? If you have been reading Infolanka web since it was created, You should have no problem how spies group work Sri lanka Did you all ready forget same spy group passed genocide charges in Ontario. In the same week a lady was killed in Kuwait by a Ethiopian woman. Somebody from outside have ordered Japanese immigration to ignore that Sri lanka lady. These are al set up the global group who has turned against Sri lanka more recently and permanently.. South Koria is another place this global group is active. There some mysterious deaths. And more recently.

    BuffaloaCitizen Wednesday, 26 May 2021 10:51 AM

    Sinhalese are those who may learn the hard way and sometimes even then may go and do the same idiocy. The 83 riots is just an example where the Sinhalese thought the problem can be solved with violence but in the end not only bought shame to their race but also gradually made the country bankrupt. The Sinhalese fought a 30Y war failing to compromise and come to an agreement with fellow Tamils but today the result of that is selling the sovereignty of the nation H'tota Port and Port City to China. Today, Sri Lanka and its leaders have become permanent prostitutes to China and will do anything as commanded by China. Today it is not minorities who are trying to leave the country, but shameless Sinhalese themselves who have sold their patriotism to China. In ten years, we do not know whether their will be a Sinhalese Culture anymore found here. Justice is slow but sure.

    BE FAIR Wednesday, 26 May 2021 11:19 AM

    Well, the fact the LTTE was a terrorist outfit who kept Civilians as a Shield to protect themselves can't be taken out of Victory Day. The Civilians died because of that. China's influence is rather too much. Sure everyone is taking note of that. But again, that's not a ticket for you to say "own political structure needs to be respected for North

    ranjit Wednesday, 26 May 2021 03:51 PM

    #Jayt- Know your history properly before commenting. Tamil Nadu did not send those people,they wer e brought in by the British for the tea plantation as the sri lankan then are not interested in working for such low pay. Even now the Tea industry is prospering because of their hard work and poor pay. Why did not sri lanka sent them back after independence, because they know if they send them back, the only industry that is prosperous will be doomed within a few months and our economy will hit rock bottom, because of the normal sri lankans - so called patriots like you- are not interested in working for such a poor pay. Even now they have been paid very poorly. I hope DM will publish this to eduate people like the above of the true reasons why they are here even now as they are the ones propping our economy

    Migara Wednesday, 26 May 2021 05:29 PM

    Well said. Afraid most of what you say will not be heard by the majority of people. The majority is still quite obsessed with the military and drool whenever they see an army commando or army driver walking the streets. Has anyone noticed the amount of SFHQ vehicles on the road?

    nathan Thursday, 27 May 2021 07:21 AM

    Vijayan came from India, that's how sinhalese settled in Sri Lanka. Buddha is a Hindu prince.

    Nallammah Kulanthaivelu Friday, 28 May 2021 09:27 AM

    A Very Talented Politician with great capabilities. He will make a Mark in politics In the future undoubtedly.

    Bandara Wednesday, 02 June 2021 03:33 PM

    Very progressive and much needed politician for the country. Well wishes for a bright future!

    Shan Tuesday, 22 June 2021 07:15 AM

    So sad that finally, it was CHINA who has a portion of it.


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