Jaffna District Tamil National Alliance Parliamentarian and the Leader of People’s Liberation Organization of Tamil Eelam, Dharmalingam Sithadthan has explained the priorities before the eight member committee appointed by the Tamil National Alliance to hold talks with the government.
In an interview to Mirudhula Thambiah of Ceylon Today, he said:
The TNA team will not just negotiate with the Government, the main aim of this team is to discuss the policy within the TNA in relevance to the current issue and then shall proceed further.We shall meet with the Government representatives especially with the President and the Prime Minister to discuss current issues relating to the Constitution and day to day matters in the North and East, especially on missing persons, release of political prisoners, land matters and other issues.Until now there was no such official meeting between the TNA and the leadership of the Government.
Therefore, we as the TNA must discuss and identify the problems especially on the issues regarding the Constitution and the day to day matters. We feel that lots of things are yet to be completed. The promises are being honoured very slowly. Thus we decided that we must hold a meeting with Government representatives. We feel even within the TNA there is no proper discussion as such. The executive committee of the TNA is only meeting once in a while. Matters are being planned by Leader Sampanthan and Sumanthiran, and sometimes we are not informed, that is also a reason.
All will be equal in this committee; however, as usual Sampanthan will be our leader. There is no question about it. However we want everyone in this team to contribute and decide together.
We quote below his response to questions in the interview with the Weekly Paper:
Q: As you know Public Representations Committee on Constitutional Reforms in their report stated that most of those from the North and East had demanded for a federal solution. But others from the rest of the country are not in a position to accept it. Why do you think they are against it?
A: Tamils in the North and East are urging to go for a federal set up. However people in the South, mainly the Sinhalese, they think federal is separation. They are unaware of the real meaning of federalism. I think it is the duty of the Government and even the Tamil parties to explain it to the Sinhala community and tell them the actual meaning of federalism. In 1994 when the former President Chandrika Bandaranaike tried to bring a solution, people like Minister Mangala Samaraweera , Dilan Perera and Dallas Alahapperuma formed the Sudu Neluma Movement and went around educating the people of the need for a political solution.
A meaningful solution as far as we are concerned can only be a federal solution, because a unitary system cannot give a meaningful solution. The Government can control and interfere in matters that should be dealt at provincial level. Thus we are demanding for a federal solution. I also feel some of these politicians are getting hold of federalism as their own political tool by just blaming the Sinhala people.
Q: You being one of the constituent parities of the TNA, what is your observation on the 32nd Geneva UNHCR Sessions?
A: The Government by co-sponsoring the resolution they themselves committed to certain things. They agreed to repeal the Prevention of Terrorism Act, releasing the political prisoners and many other issues, over all these they agreed for a political solution. The progress on those promises is very minimal. Therefore, the UNHCR Commissioner must certainly inform the Government that these things must improve. The Government must go forward towards the implementation of the resolution.
Q: How far do you think the Government had succeeded in addressing the humanitarian issues in the North and East?
A: Very little progress. There is peace among people after this Government came into power. There was a fear psychosis during the previous regime; however it does not exist anymore. Previously we were able to identify intelligence officers in the North and there was a fear psychosis among people. Now it does not happen and it is a relief for the people.
We must say that the Government is looking in the right direction. Even though they have achieved little, at least they are looking at the right direction. Although their progress is slow and people are unhappy, there is something being carried out by them. Therefore the Government must expedite their promises as early as possible, as the people are losing patience and they tend to believe that this Government is also not doing anything.
Q: Recently the Northern Provincial Council had passed a resolution to withdraw the preschool conducted by the Army, especially in the Mullaitivu and Kilinochchi Districts. How do you view?
A: Do you know these teachers in such preschools are paid well? Some people are employed we must agree. I personally don’t want to see people unemployed. Yet I shall point out that this practice is quite bad. The Army cannot run preschools, it is a civilian matter, in principle it is wrong. Army cannot run preschools, it has to be a civilian matter and disciplined. The preschools must be run by the provincial council. This is why the resolution was passed at the provincial council, and such preschools must be stopped. We are unsure as to what is being taught in those preschools.