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TNA for political solution within undivided Sri Lanka – Sampanthan

by Lynn Ockersz

'We will continue to work towards a political solution to the National Question within the framework of an undivided and united Sri Lanka. The TNA’s aim continues to be substantial political autonomy for the Tamil and Muslim peoples in the areas they historically inhabit in this country. It is our assessment that the Tamil-speaking people are strongly behind these aims. We want to engage in political activities which would emphasize this position’, Tamil National Alliance (TNA) leader and veteran Tamil politician R. Sampanthan said.

Questioned by this journalist in an interview on Sept. 11, whether the Tamil people are continuing to be committed to the ‘federal option’ in these post-LTTE times, the TNA chief said that ‘there is no question about it’. He explained that ‘our people want to live in this country as equals with adequate self-rule’ and ‘ do not want to be treated as second class citizens; they do not want to be treated as subjects’.

The TNA leader also said that his party’s Sept. 7 meeting with President Rajapaksa was focused on the situation of the IDPs. ‘Insofar as the activities of the government in relation to the IDPs are concerned, we are prepared to work with the government to alleviate the conditions of the IDPs and to facilitate their early resettlement’, he explained. However, the TNA would not be compromising its principles in the process of doing so, he said.

Excerpts of interview:

Q: It was reported that the TNA had recently met with the President for the purpose of working with the government. Does this have a factual basis?

A: The TNA met the President and some others in government on Sept. 7, in order to discuss the situation of the Internally Displaced Persons. In the camps in Vavuniya there are said to be some 280,000 people. There are reports that these people are undergoing a great deal of deprivation and suffering with the setting in of the monsoon. I have always stressed that these IDPs must be resettled in the lands from which they were displaced, at the very earliest. The government had made a commitment to India, the EU and the international community, that they would substantially complete resettlement of at least 80% of the IDPs within 180 days. At the meeting we pointed out to the President that already more than 90 days had elapsed since this commitment was made and that in our assessment not more than 10% of IDPs had left the camps. We said that this situation caused concern; because with the monsoon things would only become more difficult and we expressed concern whether the government’s resettlement programme could proceed in terms of the government’s commitment. A very substantial settlement is expected to be completed before the expiration of 180 days.

We also had other issues to raise in relation to the IDPs, such as landmines and screening, and so the meeting was really focused on the well being of the IDPs. Insofar as the activities of the government in relation to the IDPs are concerned, we are certainly prepared to work with the government to alleviate the conditions of the IDPs and to facilitate early resettlement. We told the President that we were unhappy with the mechanisms now in place to implement these tasks and we are not aware that there is a very clear road map or programme in regard to the settlement of the IDPs.

We said that that we substantially represent our people. Of the six Members of Parliament from Vavuniya, five are from my party. Of the nine MPs from Jaffna, eight are from my party. These MPs are prevented from visiting the camps and meeting the IDPs. These MPs have no say in the resettlement of IDPs. The Task Force set up to resettle IDPs consists of Mr. Basil Rajapaksa, Presidential Advisor, military and government officials from the national and district level and public officials from outside. We said that we are not satisfied with this mechanism and that it should be reconstituted and that we should play a greater role in it. The representatives of these people in Parliament, that is, should play a bigger role in their resettlement.

The President listened to us very carefully and said that he would get back to us in regard to these matters after he consulted with the Security Council.

We also said that friends and relations of these IDPs who are prepared to accommodate them in their homes must be allowed to do so, in order to reduce the numbers in the camps. The government also seems to be thinking on these lines, particularly in view of the difficulties caused by the monsoon, and they said they would insert advertisements with some information in the Jaffna newspapers, to enable friends and relations of these IDPs to take steps to have them released and accommodate them in their homes until they are resettled in the lands from which they were displaced.

Another issue which was raised by us was the position of those persons who were detained by government troops from about January 2009 when civilians started coming from the conflict zone to government-controlled territory. These persons were taken into detention en route in Omanthai at the camps itself but there is no definite information available with regard to these persons. Who was being detained? Where were they being detained? When were they taken in? We said these were matters of grave concern to the relatives of these detainees and we insisted that the government should release a list of the names of these persons who have been detained to enable the families of these persons to know the real situation of those who have been detained.

We also gave the government a list of those areas, which according to our information, did not require demining or could do with minimal demining. We said that with regard to these areas, government could proceed with resettlement earlier than for other areas. We said that demining should be gone ahead with in terms of a programme which would facilitate early resettlement.

We also raised the issue of screening IDPs. We told the government that these persons are not armed and that they are in your custody. As long they are in your custody there is nothing they can do, we said. With regard to releasing them, it is easier for the authorities to decide who are not LTTErs so that they can determine who the LTTErs are. There is no need to be keeping everybody there until your screening process is complete. We said screening and demining could not be an excuse for the resettlement process to be delayed.

These persons have been bearing the brunt of this war from 2006. The government has been claiming that it has been fighting the LTTE. But today there is no LTTE. Still these people are suffering. This is cruelty. They cannot be expected to suffer any longer.

We told the government that this is a matter that should be dealt with, with the utmost seriousness. The government has to keep its commitment. We are not at all satisfied with the progress made thus far.

Q: How did the President respond to your views?

A: He said ‘we will settle it, we will settle it’. He said he would not have settled everyone by 150 days, but by the 169th day a lot would have been done.

Q: What’s the TNA’s future programme?

A: We told the President that three of our members have been killed. The government must ensure our security in the North-East. We said we want to engage in political activities in these areas. We should be enabled to freely engage in political activity, particularly with regard to the upcoming elections. That is our right.

Government should disarm all paramilitary forces who are still around and ensure complete law and order. We pointed out that there is no need for the government to depend on them any longer.

Q: What will be the principal issues on which you would be grounding your politics?

A: We would be primarily working towards a political solution within the framework of an undivided, united country. The Tamil speaking people should be granted political autonomy to carry on their affairs in their areas of historical habitation. In our assessment, our people are very strongly behind these objectives. We want to engage in political activity which would make this position clear to everyone.

Q: Do you believe the Tamil people are still behind the federal option?

A: There is no question about it. Our people want to live in this country as equals with adequate self rule in areas they have historically inhabited. They don’t want to be treated as second class citizens. They want to live with dignity and self-respect. [courtesy: The Island.lk]

5 Comments

the views of the TNA or the tamil diaspora are immaterial to
sri lanka and sri lanka's decisions will not be affected by their views

Posted by: Susantha | September 13, 2009 08:39 PM

Isn't it rather telling, when Sampanthan asks for government security for himself in the North and the East, whilen he is quite happy to travel around the rest of the Island without any. He no doubt needs protection from the virulent racists, who support the LTTE ideology without reservation.
I happened to bump into one such individaul last weekend, and was appalled by his rampant hatred of anything Sinhala. He also happens to be with the British Tamil Forum, and goes round giving lectures to youngsters poisoning their young minds. This retired doctor is a Tamil racist of the worst kind I have ever encountered, but isn't even married to a Tamil. Oswald Mosely would be a pussy cat beside him. This would make BTF more dangerous than the Brown Shirts. Sri Lanka government should take note, since it has had some dealings with the BTF.

Posted by: Ram2009 | September 14, 2009 05:56 AM

Ah, so the TNA TRAITORS who were the LTTE SOCK PUPPETS for 25 years have now done an about face to try and save their COMMUNALISTIC Franchise. They should be further Isolated and Ignored... then dissolved as a Party. THey are of No Use to Anyone... they have been rooting for the Destruction of Sri Lanka and now they want to talk unity... They simply cannot be trusted, they are only trying to grab a lifeline to stay afloat while they can contemplate their next move.

TAMIL COMMUNALISM is DEAD... let us not revive it.. Time to Throw out the Trash in Parliament.. Its time to let some NEW TAMIL LEADERS step up to the crease and got to bat for Tamils. We need ones who have not been Appointed by Prabhakaran in BOGUS RIGGED and FARCICAL ELECTIONS. Let Tamils taste TRUE DEMOCRACY. The TNA are worthless and Defunct.

Posted by: Devinda Fernando | September 14, 2009 03:31 PM

There are 10,000 LTTE carders hiding in camps. they need to be identified and resettled.
There are tens of thousands of weapons buried in North and East by LTTE. They need to be found and destroyed.
There are tens of thousands of mines buried by LTTE in north and east, which need to be cleared. If not lot of little kids will loose their limbs in next fifty years.
Sri Lankan governments prime agenda should be safety and wellbeing of its citizens. The Government is doing just that. LTTE and its foreign allies did 30 years of distruction, it can't be fixed overnight, or even in ten years. The safty and future of 21 million people need to be looked at.
Mr.Sampanthan, if you have nothing to say, just keep quite.

Posted by: lionboy | September 14, 2009 11:45 PM

The Sinhala dilemma has throughout been the inability to separate the rational from the illusionary. If some form of allowing Tamils to run their affairs within a centralised structure from Colombo was allowed in the early 80s, we could have saved a great deal of resources – both human and material. The unfortunate divide could have been much narrower and thus easier to do away with.

But imaginary bogeys were created to poison the susceptible Sinhala mind – beginning with the cry “Federalism will divide the country” anti-DC and so on. Thus was born the LTTE and the armed Tamil militant -now done away at great cost.

The solution remains the same and there is no point in threatening and coercing Mr. Sampanthan, one of the most senior, respected and astute politicians in the house. He is as much LTTE as you, me and the ordinary man in the street.

As he bitterly complained, a climate of hatred is created in the Sinhala mind denigrating him – by irresponsible and ignorant men from the Sinhala extreme - using a partial Press with intent, perhaps, to harm him physically.

Low grade cartoons in newspapers suggest just this - giving the impression he went begging to the President to talk to the TNA. The fact is, it is the other way about.

So what! It was a sign of political maturity on the part of the President to invite the TNA for talks. The way out for tomorrow is what the Tamil parliamentary leadership proposed for a long time – internal self-rule in the NEP within Sri Lanka.

If this One-State solution continues to be rejected out of visceral thinking, you force room for the alternative of a Two-State solution, whatever nomenclature one wishes to anoint this with.

ISS

Posted by: Ilaya Seran Senguttuvan | September 16, 2009 02:38 PM

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