( Sri Lankan Tamils participate in a Hindu religious festival)
Interview with Annamalai Nadesu Sivasakthi By Camelia Nathaniel.
TNA MP Annamalai Nadesu Sivasakthi, is of the view that the successive governments have cheated the Tamil people and only made use of them to gain votes. However he says that once they come to power, the government simply ignores the plight of the Tamil people and forgets the promises made to them. He warned that Rajapaksa did the same and thought after winning the war that he would be able to run the country without any opposition at his own will. However he said that it was a mistake that Rajapaksa made in not winning the hearts and minds of the Tamil people. Sivasakthi in an interview with The Sunday Leader warned that if this Maithripala, Ranil government too failed to acknowledge the Tamil people, they too will realise their mistake in time. He said that seven years after the conclusion of the war, the Tamil people are still in a sad situation where they have not been able to rebuild their lives. He said that while the rest of the country is rejoicing the victory of war, the Tamil people who suffered the most during the war are still suffering and celebrating war victory is only rubbing salt in the Tamil people’s wounds.
Following are excerpts of the interview:-
Q: Seven years after the end of the war how do you see the transformation in the country especially the North?
A: Nothing great has happened seven years down the line. However there are small democratic privileges that have been given to us where people are free to talk, write or express their feelings without any fear. Other than that nothing significant has taken place and the Tamil people are in the same predicament they were back then.
Q: How far has the releasing of lands progressed under the Maithripala-Ranil government?
A: As far as the releasing of the lands are concerned some portion of the lands have been released everything that is happening now are the same that was being done during the Rajapaksa regime and nothing new is happening. The white van disappearances and the prisoner’s issues are still the same. There is no development taking place in the North today. The Tamil people had a great deal of confidence in the Good governance regime, but considering the manner in which this government has gone back on the promises made to the Tamil people this confidence is diminishing rapidly.
Q: How far has the demining progressed?
A: Demining is continuing and might take another ten years. The government is snail pacing on this process to keep the Tamil people from occupying the lands. If they complete the demining fast then they have to release the lands to the people. Only a small portion of land has been released in Jaffna. In Sampur and waligamam people’s lands are not released yet. For the past 25 years people are still in displaced camps and they cannot return to their own lands.
Q: How many are still displaced and have not been resettled?
A: I don’t know the exact numbers but there are people in Jaffna, Vavuniya and many other areas in the North still suffering in displacement camps and unable to return to their lands. They have to give back the Tamil people’s lands.
Q: Why is the resettlement process taking so long?
A: Resettlement is very slow and nothing is happening meaningfully. Just to resolve these basic problems the government is taking so many months. It’s been 16 months since the government came to power and at least by now they should have released the land to the people but the government is saying they don’t have the money, but without money there are a lot of things that could still be done. For example to give back the public‘s land you don’t need money. Today President Sirisena is the commander in chief of the armed forces and he has control over the North or east. But to date the lands have not been released and the government does not need money to do that. During Mahinda’s government they released 12,000 ex cadres but Maithri’s government has not even released 200 cadres. You don’t need money to release these people. Today seven years are over and 20,000 persons are reported missing in the North and East. We don’t know if they are alive or not and you don’t need money to give a proper answer. This government has much they can do without money but they are just hiding behind this lie of not having money and absconding from doing what they promised the Tamil people to do.
Especially the 65,000 houses deal the government is not paying attention to what we have to say. Swaminathan wants to build container type houses. We asked the government to build 130,000 houses out of normal cement for the displaced people. But the people are today disgruntled with this government and their confidence they had in the government is diminishing by the day.
The same thing happened to Rajapaksa where after winning the war he failed to win the hearts and minds of the Tamil people.
Q: Currently what are the challenges facing the North?
A: Mainly the missing persons is the biggest problem. Today the people who surrendered to the Army in Omanthai are still missing. According to the information we have, the army took them by bus and that was the last that was seen of them. The government should say if they are alive or not. The government should give us a word immediately. Or if Rajapaksa has killed everyone, then still we need to know. The people who committed these crimes should be given proper punishment. What sort of punishment should be given to them has to be revealed. The compensation for those who were killed or dead should also be given. The government has to be very open and tell us honestly. Secondly regarding the political prisoners there is no decision so far. The president promised Sampanthan but that promise has not been fulfilled. A lot of people are remanded without even having any charges filed for the past seven years. They should be released as they have suffered enough.
Q: How do the people feel about the war victory celebrations in the South and what has been planned in the North?
A: This kind of situation is like adding insult to injury. Even Mahinda was doing the same and today he is nowhere. The Tamil people have suffered and the people in the south are digging the same old wounds by having these celebrations. Mahinda acted like he went to war and conquered another country and today it’s the same. This government too should first help the war affected before they celebrate victory. If this government too does the same as the ones before there is no difference between the two parties. There was an internal war and these are all people of the same country.
Q: It has been reported that gangs operate in the North and are creating a fear psychosis among the people. Is this true?
A: Yes there are gangs in the North. After the end of the war drugs are freely available in the North. Ganja and other narcotics are freely available. These come from India and Pakistan through sea routes. The people are saying that the government and military are supplying drugs to the North indirectly. Drugs are a huge problem in the North now. The government needs to control this and cannot be ignored. Police courts and civil authorities should stop this. They should be responsible for this.
Q: There is talk that the threat of the LTTE still remains. Do you agree?
A: This is an utter lie. This is a story they are making in order to run the government in the south. For the last 30 years the government has been saying this same thing and now they are doing the same for political purposes. They are using this slogan in order to run the country and gain political supremacy and divert the attention from their weaknesses. This is a ploy that is used to hoodwink the Sinhalese people. For the past seven years there have been no incidents and this is a lie made up by the government.
Q: The Tamil people played a big role in bringing this government to power. However despite the many promises made to the Tamil people, has this government delivered on their promises?
A. This government came to power based largely on the support of the Tamils. The government has done nothing to fulfill the promises they made to the Tamil people. They have only hoodwinked the Tamil people.