QHow do you look at the current political situation in the country?
It is not satisfactory. There are unfortunate differences of opinion between the President’s group and the Prime Minister’s group. The third group of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa is calling the shots from outside.
Both in power are not prepared to move forward for fear of the opposition. Those who brought this Government to power have been completely forgotten. If not for the fact that there would be a sitting in Geneva in March 2019 this Government does not feel obliged to solve the ethnic problem. There is no will to solve the problem. Now they are talking of economic benefits for the north and the east. Those benefits will not solve the ethnic problem. The Tamils know that all the death, damage and destruction during the war were prompted by the successive Sri Lankan Governments not wanting to accept the rights of the Tamil speaking people. No armed group would have been born except due to the insensitivity of successive majority community governments.
Since no concrete steps are being taken by this government to solve the Tamil problem and since they are infighting in Parliament, it is my view that this Country will get into more and more difficulties in the future.
QThere are reports about a move to postpone the Provincial Council elections. How will you react to it?
Postponing in other areas is different from postponing in the north and the east when the north and the east are clamouring for full devolution. Postponing would mean a Sinhala Governor will run our Province.
Already the Army consisting mainly of the majority community is in occupation of our areas. Colonization is taking place in a big way in the Northern Province with the help of the Army. If a Governor with a Sinhala oriented perception takes over reins of the office until the next Provincial Council Election, our northern and eastern provinces would lose even the meagre benefits hitherto earned. I am against any postponement. There could be a Provisional Government consisting of locals until elections if the law is changed accordingly.
Since no concrete steps are being taken by this government to solve the Tamil problem and since they are infighting in Parliament, it is my view that this Country will get into more and more difficulties in the future
QTNA MP M.A. Sumanthiran said that the nomination of you as the Chief Minister candidate was a failed project. What is your view?
He is stating his view. What is there for me to say? Do you want me to assess him as an MP and be critical of his conduct? He was my student. I am happy to allow him to talk and keep quiet for the moment.
QHow hopeful are you of the Constitution-making process?
Unless pressure from interest groups makes it incumbent on the part of the Government to proceed with the constitution-making process, no Sinhala majority government would be interested in providing a reasonable and workable constitution, granting equality to the minorities let alone the Tamil speaking who are a majority in their own areas, the north and east.
QYou seek extensive power-sharing under a Federal structure and the merger of the north and east. How realistic is it without the support of the south?
We are saying unless a Federal set up is established, we would be gobbled up by the majority community. Already the process of cannibalization of the north is on. Are you advising us to seek the support of the south which is interested in cannibalizing us, to obtain a Federal Constitution which would put a stop to the activities presently taking place?
When the time comes the South must grant our request because our requests are reasonable and justified. Meanwhile, the South will never grant any reasonable solution to the Tamil question. Do you want us, therefore, to cringe and ask for a few crumbs from the South’s plate? I doubt my people opting for such an eventuality.
QIf it is impossible, how will you pursue your political goals?
Leave it to us to pursue our political goals. But please be reminded the longer you take to solve the Tamil problem the greater your problems will be in this Country.
We are saying unless a Federal set up is established, we would be gobbled up by the majority community. Already the process of cannibalization of the north is on
QTamil people voted overwhelmingly for President Maithripala Sirisena. How do you think of that decision now?
We still have a great regard for President Sirisena as a humane person. But he is caught up in his party and his community and his religion.
He should never have looked upon himself as a party leader and acted as a party leader in recent times. He is President. We all voted for him. He should have evolved into a Statesman rather than a Politician. Our decision in 2015 was correct. But the benefits have been negligible. Of course, a democratic ambience is in place throughout the country. We have to accept that.
QWhat is your view on the next presidential election?
That is a long way off. Let us wait and see.
QHow do you calculate the international situation with the United States pulling out from the UNHRC process?
They are still ordinary members of the World Body. There are others like the UK who are conscious of their duties towards those affected in Sri Lanka. I believe the pressure on our Government to fulfil its obligations under the Consensus Resolution, will not be any lighter just because the US has pulled out.
QRecently, Law and Order Minister Ranjith Madduma Bandara came here along with senior Police Officers to discuss the law and order situation here. Actually, how do you look at this criminal group called ‘Ava group?’
Nobody really knows who these Ava Group people are. Now, they have come to know that many of these people are young men aged between 17 and 22. They move around on motorbikes carrying swords to do various criminal activities. Our question is that why this is not controlled. It can be controlled. That way, there are 150,000 Army personnel and so many Police Personnel. When we ask, why are you unable to control them? They have no answer to that question.
We do not know whether there is a connection between the forces and these people. The general perception of people is that there is a connection. I do not know to what extent. There are also people involved in drug peddling here. They are supposed to be having the backing of the Forces and Police. This is a general perception. I have no proof of that. The fact remains that there are so many forces, but the criminal gangs continue to operate. They operate at a particular time. At certain times, it becomes very prominent. Then, the Police take action. It goes down afterwards. It erupts again after some time.
QSome people say these young persons have been inspired by violent scenes in Tamil films to carry out violence in this manner. What is your view?
I do not think people are looking at films and doing these things. I will put it the other way. These things are happening. Films portray what is taking place in life.
QHow serious is the problem?
I asked this from Jaffna Senior DIG, Roshan Fernando. His answer is very important to be taken into consideration. He said, “We have various statistics regarding the number of offences. The offences that have been taking place are not any different from what they were earlier.” But, there are a few things your paper is taking into full focus. Then, the whole Northern Province looks like a place without law and order.
These are a few matters that have cropped up. These are given a fair amount of press coverage. He does not agree that there is any latent increase in criminal activities.
QWhat are the impediments you face in arresting the situation?
Kelum, if you ask me that question, my position is that we have not been given Police Powers. There is a certain amount of rights given to us under the 13th Amendment. There is no way of using those rights even. Up to the level of Police ASP, we have certain rights.
The Police Commission must allow that. That is not happening. As a result, we depend on the Police forces sent by the Central Government. They do not know our language. They have a different perception of what the people say. There are 150,000 Army soldiers here. There is no central authority to look into all these. If you give me these powers, I will make sure what should be done and looked into. If we have full power, we can easily bring this to an end.
QThere are reports about you trying to form a new party in view of the Provincial Council elections. How are you proceeding with it?
Reports are misleading. I was asked the question. If you are not given nomination, what will you do? I have three options as I said. I can go home. Secondly, I can join another existing party. The third one is to start up a new party. The press reports that I am going to form a new party. We have not decided on any such thing. This is an option.
Now, they have come to know that many of these people are young men aged between 17 and 22. They move around in motorbikes carrying swords to do various criminal activities. Our question is that why this is not controlled. It can be controlled
QYet, the TNA says your nomination for the last time is a failed project….
The TNA had been saying all such things earlier. They come to wrong conclusions. My student comes to a wrong conclusion. Then, everybody comes to a wrong conclusion. When I did not help them at the elections, they accused me of helping the party led by Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam. I had nothing to do with it.
My position was that certain things have not been taken into consideration by the TNA leadership. They should look into it. We have already promised to the electorate. We must conform to that. If you conform to that, I have no problem. They are changing it according to whims and fancies of various politicians in the south and among themselves.
QThe TNA is quite active in the South as the Main Opposition in Parliament. What is your view?
If the Constitution-making process starts up, we will welcome it. It is not happening.
QHow hopeful are you of the process?
Even if it starts, the Central Government will not grant a suitable, adequate political solution to the north and east.
QIf there is no support from the south for Constitutional changes, how are you going to pursue your goals through other means?
There are lots of other options. You have to give your report to the UNHRC in Geneva in March 2019. They have to come to grip with the question whether the Tamil national question is solved or not. I do not think our future is bleak as such.
QHow do you look at the role of India?
The role of India is very difficult for us to gauge. They are, more or less, taking a very non-interfering type of attitude.
QHow important is Tamil Nadu factor?
It is irrelevant now. They have their own problems now. There is nothing for us to talk about Tamil Nadu as far as our problems are concerned.