Saturday, November 10, 2007

An Attorney-at-Law by profession, N. Srikantha was an active member of Tamil Eelam Liberation Organisation (TELO). The central committee member of TELO - N. Srikantha, took oaths as a Parliamentarian for Jaffna district after Nadarajah Raviraj's demise last year. Tamil National Alliance Parliamentarian for Jaffna district Nadarajah Raviraj was assassinated an year ago, on November 10th 2006 in Colombo.

An exclusive interview on the prevailing political situation in Sri Lanka; following are excerpts from the interview:

[N. Sri Kantha, MP - Parliamnetarian for Jaffna district]

Q: What does the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) currently do in order to protect the rights of the Tamils?

A: The President and his government are held bend on a military solution for the national question of Sri Lanka, which is very obvious. Inspite of that, it's very unfortunate and disappointing that the international community is yet to make up its mind with regard to a question of playing a positive and pro active role in the complicated political conflict of the tiny Island of Sri Lanka. We have as the authentic representatives of our people, representing them in the Parliament of Sri Lanka, by virtue of a massive mandate we have obtained at the last general elections held in April 2004. We have appealed at that time and again to the international community that exert adequate and effective pressure on the intransigent and racist regime in Sri Lanka in order to make it realise that, its militaristic approach to the purely political question of finding a just and peaceful resolution of the national question of Sri Lanka is not only counter-productive, but also fraught with all possibilities of making this Island, a country of perpetual suffering.

The international community is not yet ready to do what is expected of them by the repressed of the minorities of this country. We call upon the international community to exert political, diplomatic and economic sanctions on the Government of Sri Lanka. So that, there would be a proper atmosphere to hold a meaningful political dialogue between the parties in the conflict namely the Government of Sri Lanka(GOSL) and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in order to evolve a just and viable political solution within the framework of a united country. If inspite of international pressure the Government of Sri Lanka refuses to act reasonably and rationally then there will be no option for the international community than to recognize the rights to self-determination of our people as distinct nation in this Island with its own homeland. There cannot be two different yard sticks in situation such as these- one for Kosovo Albanians, and another for Sri Lankan Tamils.

Q: What was the outcome of the recent meetings that the Tamil National Alliance Members of Parliament had with the members of the European Union?

A: What I gather from my colleagues who have participated in the recent talks with the European Union member countries is that, there is a clear perception that was evident on the part of the countries concerned with regard to the glaring realities of the continuing configuration in Sri Lanka. Basically when it comes to a question of human rights these countries we believe have a clear understanding of what has been going on in the name of fighting with the LTTE. This is only a beginning as far as the TNA (Tamil National Alliance) is concerned. And our alliance is very much encouraged by the fact that the Sri Lanka conflict is though slowly has now attracted the attention of the international community. We have to build on and ensure that, the international community would act firmly with regard to one of the long lasting human conflicts in the post- second world war under the international order.

Q: How do you expect the international community should get involved in our internal conflict?

A: When we deal with the question of Sri Lanka's conflict, we should be conscious of the fact that, Sri Lanka is a member of SAARC (South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation), and Commonwealth Union. But I do not think that the international involvement is possible at this juncture either through SAARC (South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation), and Commonwealth Union. The reasons are obvious.

Any international involvement with a view to resolve the perennial political conflict of Sri Lanka could come only through the United Nations. When the international community is convinced that its active involvement in the Sri Lanka conflict cannot be postponed further, then the pursues of a peace keeping forces in Sri Lanka under the UN fact in Sri Lanka will become inevitable.

Given the complications and complexity of this conflict, any international involvement in a practical form and with a firm resort to restore peace and normalcy in Sri Lanka needs to come only through the UN.

Q: Do you think that, you can sideline India and get the direct involvement of the international community?

A:India being the closest neighbour of Sri Lanka has its own concerns based on geo-political interests in this regard to any international involvement in the Sri Lankan conflict. Also by virtue of the Indo-Lanka Peace Accord, which was signed between the Government of India and Government of Sri Lanka on July 29 th 1987, India has its own obligations under the international law.

Given this reality the question is what would be the reaction of India to any possible international involvement in Sri Lanka. The fact is while India continues to expresses its concerns in uncertain terms of the sufferings of the Tamils, military assistance is being provided by India to the Government of Sri Lanka as supply of military weapons and hardware. This reflects the unenviable position of India, regarding the political aspirations of Sri Lankan Tamils.

Tamil Nadu has more than 60 million Tamils, and further 10 million Tamils living in certain pockets here and there in India. That country naturally cannot be insensitive to the sentiments of its Tamil population with regard to the sufferings of their brethren here across the Palk Straits.

It appears that, the traditional political forces that have continued to provide political leadership centered at the national level in India since independence are very much concerned about the possible political impact on the Tamil national sentiments in Tamil Nadu in the event of liberation struggle of Sri Lankan Tamils with a massive military strength achieving its political goal.

With a record of Tamil Nadu in sphere heading the anti –Hindi agitation against the imposition of Hindi as the official language of India in 1965. It led to withdrawal of that move. Still fresh on the minds of the traditional political leadership at the national level in India, this is understandable.

But I would prefer to make it clear; this is not an excuse in evolving a clear and realistic foreign policy in respect of Sri Lanka. Even at this critical juncture, when Sri Lankan Tamils continue to look upon India as the power that can easily rescue them from the clutches of the racist regime in Sri Lanka.

It also appears that India simply be thinking that ultimately a political solution based on quasi-federalism or limited autonomy would resolve the Sri Lankan conflict. This approach is not only unfortunate and disappointing, but also divorced from glairing harsh realities of the inter-racial equation of Sri Lanka. Therefore India is bound to make up its mind and act quickly and decisively. China and Pakistan have already entered the Sri Lankan scenario in a big way. If India fails to act now, it would have to be ultimately reconcile itself with the reality of Indian involvement through the UN, in spite of its own reservations.

Q: Has the Indo-Lanka Peace Accord failed?

A: When the Indo- Lanka Peace Accord was signed on July 29th 1987, Tamil organizations supported it trusting India. Even the LTTE that had very strong reservations in this regard, and also subjected to considerable pressure in New Delhi before the signing of the accord, ultimately decided to go along with the accord, while trusting India.

India could not stop the suicide of 12 LTTE front liners including some commanders who committed suicide. 13 front liners of the LTTE were arrested by the Sri Lankan Navy in the Sri Lankan territorial waters, and the Sri Lankan navy tried to bring them down to Colombo for investigations.

India could have easily averted these deaths. Those 12 deaths caused an emotional backlash among our people, and the rest is history. Now the Government of Sri Lanka is merrily making arrangements to hold elections for a separate provincial council in the East Province, which was merged with the Northern Province in later part of 1987 under the Indo-Lanka Peace Accord, and de-merged later. This is a very critical situation both politically and militarily. India cannot be a silent spectator in this election and its assistance to the Government of Sri Lanka though in very limited manner, which has hurt the sentiments of our people.

When innocent Tamil civilians are getting murdered day in and day out, we witness India is aiding the Government of Sri Lanka militarily. I am very sad to state that it would amount to a brutal stab on the back of the Tamil nation.

This is a question I would prefer to leave for the collective conscientious of the people of India. We have consistently maintained that the geo-political interests of India in the Indian Ocean region, and the political aspirations of the Tamil nation are inseparably and inextricably inter twined. Yet we see India is not coming to our rescue, but aiding the Government of Sri Lanka.

Q: What has TNA done with regard to the closure of A9 highway, declaring certain areas in Muthur East and Sampoor as High security Zones, and Tamils are being abducted and murdered?

A: We just have completed one year of closing of the A9 highway last year in August. Closing of the highway, declaring residential areas as High Security Zones and abducting and murdering the innocent Tamil civilians are human rights violations. We have highlighted both these issues during the TNA's (Tamil National Alliance) recent meetings with the heads of the European Union states.

Yet the president and his government are very adamant in having their way in what may come. Therefore the problem continues to remain intractable and the on going war is interminable.

Q: If the elections are called for the Eastern Province, will TNA contest?

A: I would like to quote the Veteran Communist Leader and the Former Chief Minister of Kerala E. M. S. NampoothiriPatt in this connection. When confronted with a question whether it is illogical for the Communist Party of India that behind in revolutionary overthrow of the Indian capitalist system based on its constitution to contest in Parliamentary elections under the very same constitution.

The Think-Tank E. M. S. NampoothiriPatt replied:

"We would strive to destroy the constitution of India, while functioning within its own frame work".

I hope that, this answer of the late revolutionary is more than sufficient to explain our position. Are we not in the Parliament of Sri Lanka having taken our oaths under the 6th amendment of the constitution, that we would not be engaged in any secessionist activity, continuing to insist on the rights for self-determination of the people that includes their birth rights, separate and sovereign state on the sacred soil of their own homeland.

Therefore on this, we will decide on the right course of action in the event of a provincial council election for a separate election, if at all there is going to be one. We would do our best to pre-empt such elections. We are ready to take up any challenges to halt the election from happening, even paying the price. But in spite of that, if there is one, then we will decide what to do.

Q: Looking at the current political situation will there be a chance for a change of government?

A: At looking at the new alliance of Mangala Samaraweera and Ranil Wickremasinghe I believe that, the alliance of these two politicians would ultimately succeed in throwing out President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his regime. That would be all.

Tamil people have expected a lot from Late Prime Minister of Sri Lanka Mrs. Srimavo Bandaranaike in July 1960. But she spoke with the guns with the Tamils. And Tamils expected their aspirations o be fulfilled by Late Prime Minister Dudley Senanayake, nothing happened. What can the Tamil people expect from Ranil Wickrenmasinghe?

With this new alliance stating categorically that, they would fight to defeat both separatism and terrorism. What can one expect from it? And they are still looking at our problems through their tinted glasses.

Q: What's Tamil National Alliance's position on APRC (All Party Representative Committee)

A: I do not think the word all party is appropriate, because the Tamil National alliance which is represented in the parliament with 22 members are not included. We can call it as "conference" but not "all party conference".

Most Sinhala political parties have not yet understood the cause of the 25 year long conflict. The reason was the powers were centered with the Sinhala regime and not shared. The so called father of the Sinhala Racism (Nationalism) Late J. R. Jeyawardene accepted the fact that the North and East of the country belong to the Tamils. But the Sinhala Political parties are not willing to accept North and East belong to the Tamils under a united Sri Lanka. Therefore this conference will not be able to bring any solution to the ethnic conflict. []