Photo from Wikipedia

Groundviews caught up with TNA Member of Parliament Suresh Premachandran, who spoke to us about the nature of election violations that occurred in the Northern Province prior to the 23rd of July and on Election Day, which included intimidation, assault, bribery, voter transportation, continuous campaigning and reports of the systematic and forced appropriation of ballot and identity cards by ‘armed actors’. Premachandran asserted that the result of the election delivered two messages to the Government; firstly, the Tamil people require development, but also ‘a political settlement’ and secondly, that there is a consensus on the need for an ‘investigation’ and ‘some sort of accountability’. Premachandran also spoke about the Government’s insistence on a Parliamentary Select Committee for drawing up a political solution, which he simply dismissed as a ‘delay tactic’.

On the issue of negotiations with the Government for a political solution, Premachandran stated that there was ‘no progress on devolution matters’. Furthermore, in what appeared to be a fit of idiosyncrasy Premachandran stated that the TNA did not provide ‘any comprehensive proposals as such’, but instead submitted ‘notes for discussions’. What ‘comprehensive proposals/report’ were Mathiaparanan Sumanthiran and Mavai Senadhirajah talking about a few months ago? It is hard to believe that when dealing with an intransigent and duplicitous government, Premachandran could deny the existence of ‘comprehensive proposals’ submitted by at least the TNA, particularly when the Long-term Reconciliation Committee – the unfortunate title given to the collective from the Government negotiating with the TNA – appears to have absolutely no concrete mandate or framework that delineates the basis for negotiations.

It is also interesting to note that Premachandran felt that the TNA might have to expand its mandate in order to address issues such as militarisation in the south and thereby fill the void created by the lack of effective opposition politics given the imbroglio of the UNP. While this does seem ambitious and perhaps even unrealistic, it does reinforce certain opinions expressed about the TNA being the only opposition alliance with the political backbone to challenge this government on critical post-war issues.

There is also growing concern about whether adequate funds will be provided to local government bodies in the Northern Province and with racist apparatchiks of the Government challenging the TNA to ‘develop the north’, it does seem as though the TNA will find it increasingly difficult to exercise effective administration, particularly if the Government adopts a retributive agenda in light of its significant defeat in the region. Premachandran ends ominously by stating that ‘if they [the Government] are not going to have a proper settlement through discussion[s] with TNA, then of course we have to take the struggle diplomatically…we will have to mobilise our people, we will have to start non-violent agitation…so that will continue’.

Download the interview as an MP3 here.

Also read TNA MP Suresh Premachandran on the result of the Local Government elections.

  • Thirugnanaselvam

    Well done TNA !
    Rather than tail wagging the dog in the South, The President should have the statesmanship to explain to the Southern masses the hopelessness of carrying on with the extremist agenda. It is inconceivable that a minority of hardliners consisting of the JHU and PNF can determine the enthnic policy for the entire nation.

  • Dayalan

    Whether we Sri Lankans agree with the TNA & Premachandran or not, it is imperative that we take what he is saying seriously and pay attention, and listen and moreover demonstrate that we are listening. Put it under the microscope, look at if from all angles and make assertions, and not give into rhetoric and react in a hurry. If not we will be making the same mistake Populist governments and charismatic leaders in the past made, to our great detriment.

    • wijayapala

      Dayalan,

      If not we will be making the same mistake Populist governments and charismatic leaders in the past made, to our great detriment.

      My understanding is that the great mistake that previous leaders made was overreacting to people like Premachandran, not ignoring them.

      • Dayalan

        Dear Wijayapala,

        To make a long explanation short, The Tamils in Sri Lanka have been confused about their identity in this Island, during the post independent era. ‘Do we belong here ” if not where do we go ‘Or’ do we have to live in submission”. It is possible that Mr. Premachandra is politicking like the other leaders in the past. But, the reality is MR and the government did win the war against Terrorism, but the war against secession ism needs to be won by listening to all opinions and making objective proposals and counter proposals and keeping the dialogue alive. This is why I am suggesting that the govt. should continue to engage in this dialogue with people like premachandra and not ignore them.

  • yapa

    I cannot understand why Groundviews is giving such a priority to a person who has made such racist statement at the very first instance after the Local Government Election which damages the the reconciliation process of Sri Lanka. Really any neutral and sensible person/organization must condemn that attitude of Suresh Premachandran. Strangely opposite is the Groundviews response. If a Sinhala politician did such a provocative statement, we would have seen a marvelous devil dance and fire balls leveling at him and the whole Sinhala community as the response.

    On the other hand it shows some bias of Groundviews when giving opportunities again again to one party, insensitive and depriving the the rights of other parties having different opinions to respond. Why not contact Douglas Devananda and give an opportunity for him to responds to the allegations raised against them? I think it is the responsibility and duty of any moderate and responsible media organization.

    I think Groundviews will respect the Principles of Democracy by letting this post go on the discussion.

    Thanks!

    • myil selvan

      yapa,

      “I cannot understand why Groundviews is giving such a priority to a person who has made such racist statement at the very first instance after the Local Government Election which damages the the reconciliation process of Sri Lanka.”

      What do you mean racist statement? Please tell me what was racist about his statement?
      What reconciliation process are you talking about? The government says there is no need for reconciliation because there was no ethnic problem.

      “Really any neutral and sensible person/organization must condemn that attitude of Suresh Premachandran.”
      What attitude are you talking about? New neutral and sensible persons/organisations take all views and attitudes into consideration. Premachandran’s is one view.

      “Strangely opposite is the Groundviews response. If a Sinhala politician did such a provocative statement, we would have seen a marvelous devil dance and fire balls leveling at him and the whole Sinhala community as the response.”

      Groundviews is responding alright. No such fire balls or devil dances would take place. This government leans towards sinhala chauvinism and their view, while a minority, is being espoused by the Rajapakse siblings.

      When D.B. Wijetunga called the Thamil people Creepers, what happened? was there any devil dance? It was business as usual. What about the rhetoric of Champika Ranawaka, et al??? When these sinhala extremists not only get away with their racist tactics but are comfortably sitting as cabinet ministers what nonsense are you talking.

      “Why not contact Douglas Devananda and give an opportunity for him to responds to the allegations raised against them?”

      I’m sure they would like to have his views, as long as the opportunity arises and if he is willing.

      • yapa

        Dear myil selvan;

        “What do you mean racist statement? Please tell me what was racist about his statement?”

        You want me to teach that obvious thing? Please read Premachandran’s statement again with some sensible mind. You will see black as black.

        Thanks!

  • silva

    If TNA puts forward its ”comprehensive proposals’ it would force the government to put forward its proposals and or talks can go faster. Both sides are killing time while the Northeast is getting destroyed.

  • myil selvan

    Dear silva,

    “If TNA puts forward its ”comprehensive proposals’ it would force the government to put forward its proposals and or talks can go faster. Both sides are killing time while the Northeast is getting destroyed.”

    The president has already told the Indian delegation that he is not willing to give Land or Police powers to the provincial councils, which is already in the 13th amendment to the constitution. When that is the position of the President and the TNA’s is one for going beyond the 13 amendment, I really have doubts about an internal solution without external pressure.

  • wijayapala

    Dayalan

    the war against secession ism needs to be won by listening to all opinions and making objective proposals and counter proposals and keeping the dialogue alive.

    Thank you very much for your optimistic response. Unfortunately I am pessimistic and believe that the war against secessionist thinking is unwinnable.

  • Dayalan

    Dear Wijayapala,

    I rest my case.

    • wijayapala

      Dayalan,

      The Tamils in Sri Lanka have been confused about their identity in this Island, during the post independent era. ‘Do we belong here ” if not where do we go ‘Or’ do we have to live in submission”.

      What can we do to help Tamils feel that they belong in Sri Lanka?

      • Krish

        Wijayapala,

        I wanted to respond to some of your posts (from the other threads) earlier, but somehow could not. Few thoughts:

        About 2 years ago, I was optimistic that things would get better for SL with LTTE gone for good. I thought it would be slow, but surely steady towards a better future for SL, especially for the Tamil community in NE. I had my questions as to why Tamils failed to support or promote leaders like Anandasangaree in place of TNA guys and that would never be answered. But 2 important thoughts come to my mind:

        1. TNA guys seem to just make stupid public statements that helps nobody. I understand (from what I read in Indian media) that Rajapakse is still talking with TNA on power sharing etc, but if Suresh Premachandran and others give provocative statements, such negotiations will go nowhere even if Rajapakse is sincere. The lack of maturity from elected Tamil political leadership is very disappointing frankly at a time when many Tamils are yet to get back to their livelihoods. Since when have Tamil leadership attained this level of incapability is beyond me. Is it too difficult to negotiate with the Srilankan leadership, especially after the war? I am not a fan of Rajapakse but still it amazes me that Tamil leadership would not try to reach him. Look at Rajapakse sending his ambassador and his team to meet Jayalalitha a day after she meets Hillary. Even if you disagree strongly, would you not continue engaging? Not sure if the effect of being LTTE-proxy has had an impact on TNA but they need to show more maturity.

        2. Quite sadly, I also note that most of the Tamil folks here (almost except Burning_Issue, Travelling Academic and a few others) still seem to believe in a separate Eelam. Why don’t they take the end of war as a new beginning and move forward? And what they fail to think is, whether or not they get a separate homeland, they need to co-exist in the island with the predominantly Sinhala folks. So, how about positively engaging and see if things can move forward? In this forum, every single topic starts positively and ends up discussing the same points and going nowhere. Frankly, with the level of educated folks from Srilanka the engagement ought to be at a more productive level. Even the threads on reconciliation, future development of Srilanka went nowhere.

        Having said all that, I am wondering if there are any NGO groups in SL that promote harmony among communities. Say for example, groups that make people more aware of the problems, issues (and also good things) from the other side. Any links would be highly appreciated. 🙂

      • Dayalan

        Dear Wijayapala,

        I salute you. First, for asking this question ” What can we do to help Tamils feel that they belong in Sri Lanka?” If we have more Sri Lankans asking this question, like you do, then, we will be moving in the correct direction. At the same time the Tamils and other minorities need to think and ask them selves, ” What do we need to do, to contribute towards a multi cultural, multi religeous country, where the majority is Sinhala & Budhist.

        The answer to your question is rather complex and needs to be “worked out”, but will no doubt demand that the majority of Sinhalese and their polictical leaders think on policies that are more inclusive and not exclusive.

  • wijayapala

    Dayalan

    the majority of Sinhalese and their polictical leaders think on policies that are more inclusive and not exclusive.

    Yes but we need your help! If I cannot think of something, how can anyone expect Wimal Weerawansa or Mervyn Silva to? 😉

  • wijayapala

    Hi Krish, good to hear from you again.

    About TNA, I think we should tread carefully these days and be careful not to overreact. Suresh may not be doing anything useful, but he is not the only representative in the TNA. For example, Travelling_Academic pointed out that Sumanthiran had visited the Tamil diaspora and was encouraging them to work with Sinhalese.

    When the Tamils are saying that it is up to the Sinhalese to find “the solution,” that is a clear sign that they don’t have a clear idea what the problem is and more importantly their leaders don’t either. I think those who talk about separate Eelam simply cannot imagine an alternative.

    In another thread on ‘Sri Lankan identity’ there was someone named haren who was trying to come up with a way to move forward. Unfortunately nobody wanted to respond to any points that he made. That led me to believe that the very people who demand a “solution” actually don’t really want it. If somebody comes up with a “solution,” then there will be nothing to complain about, nobody to blame all the problems on. Hence, the search for a “solution” is doomed to fail from the start.

    On the topic of identity, it occurred to me that the biggest losers from a universal Sri Lankan identity would be the TNA. They will be out of a job if Sinhala leaders successfully reach out to the Tamils to win votes. Therefore it is in the TNA’s political interest to keep the identity politics alive no matter how things improve or how enlightened Sinhala leaders become.

    I am wondering if there are any NGO groups in SL that promote harmony among communities.

    Not really, they’re too busy hobnobbing with western diplomats or writing reports that nobody reads to show the donors that they’re doing something. If I knew of any such groups doing anything productive, I would be working with them not sitting here writing cute messages on the internet!

    Anyway I shouldn’t be complaining about TNA or NGOs, when the government is full of such unimaginative cretins who spend millions on a failed Commonwealth Games bid and other white elephants but somehow can’t find the money to rebuild the north. But really, what would you expect when the opposition is so completely hopeless that they rely on a racist and foul-mouthed ex-general to challenge the govt?

    Sorry for the pessimism, I guess I owed Dayalan a reason why I didn’t respond very well to his first message to me.

    • Krish

      Dear Wijayapala,

      For example, Travelling_Academic pointed out that Sumanthiran had visited the Tamil diaspora and was encouraging them to work with Sinhalese.
      If that is true, that is a good start and that too someone from TNA is able to see a different course towards a solution. It only sends a positive signal to the other side, although probably a completely unpopular one among the Tamils of SL origin.

      When the Tamils are saying that it is up to the Sinhalese to find “the solution,” that is a clear sign that they don’t have a clear idea what the problem is and more importantly their leaders don’t either. I think those who talk about separate Eelam simply cannot imagine an alternative.
      I agree with you that the pro-Eelam folks aren’t interested any reasonable alternative. From your post, when you say “Tamils” are you referring the TNA politicians or Tamil people in general? Why I ask is, I am not very conviced about the TNA leadership. As for the Tamil folks (common people), they are already probably tired what they went thru mentally and physically all these years. There is probably a sense of mental resignation after losing so many people I guess.

      The problem with the pro-Eelam folks is, a lack of near-term and long-term thoughts. That is, assuming that they got a separate Tamil homeland, how are they going to manage a hostile India in the north and SL in the south? And how would they settle differnces with Sinhala folks in a peaceful manner? How do you prevent a India vs. Pakistan like situation? You can go on and on. Fundamentally, these Eelam folks can give up their demand and work towards helping North/East given that both LTTE has been finished before wrecking a havoc on Tamils.

      Wijayapala, on a related note, didn’t you mention earlier (in response to Suren Ragavan’s article I guess) that there isn’t much Tamils can do right now and would need help to settle and get on with their lives?

      On the topic of identity, it occurred to me that the biggest losers from a universal Sri Lankan identity would be the TNA. They will be out of a job if Sinhala leaders successfully reach out to the Tamils to win votes. Therefore it is in the TNA’s political interest to keep the identity politics alive no matter how things improve or how enlightened Sinhala leaders become.
      That is right. Sort of how this Dravidian/separate Tamil identity lost it’s relevance in India once the Central Government publically announced that Hindi isn’t compulsory. Today Hindi as a linguistic identity has been taking a better form than it would otherwise have (if it was forced). I guess this Srilankan-ness is what Indrajit Samarajeeva, Dr. Dayan, David Blacker (and probably you) are perhaps emphasizing. That is a great starting point for reconciliation I think.

      Anyway I shouldn’t be complaining about TNA or NGOs, when the government is full of such unimaginative cretins who spend millions on a failed Commonwealth Games bid and other white elephants but somehow can’t find the money to rebuild the north. But really, what would you expect when the opposition is so completely hopeless that they rely on a racist and foul-mouthed ex-general to challenge the govt?
      Good points, but that is unfortunately true of all South Asian countries with the worst being India. Indi.ca recently published about India’s poverty as a graph highlighting problem areas in the midst of all the developments. You must have heard everything about Delhi Commonwealth fiasco last year to 2G scam. So…Sri Lanka isn’t that bad after all. 🙂

      Sorry for the pessimism, I guess I owed Dayalan a reason why I didn’t respond very well to his first message to me.
      Not a problem at all. Occasionally, I get irritated with peoples at extreme ends (TT and Heshan) who find problems in any solution and literally have nothing good to say about the other side. 🙂

      • wijayapala

        Krish,

        From your post, when you say “Tamils” are you referring the TNA politicians or Tamil people in general?

        Both, although I agree with what you mentioned about the Tamils’ mental resignation.

        Wijayapala, on a related note, didn’t you mention earlier (in response to Suren Ragavan’s article I guess) that there isn’t much Tamils can do right now and would need help to settle and get on with their lives?

        I don’t remember exactly what I said, but if the Tamils in Sri Lanka get resettled with rebuilt communities, they will be in a stronger position to articulate what they want/need.

        Occasionally, I get irritated with peoples at extreme ends (TT and Heshan) who find problems in any solution and literally have nothing good to say about the other side.

        And I get depressed when apparently decent, well-meaning people like Dayalan stop writing.

  • wijayapala

    Krish, here’s an interesting article on why the TNA won the recent elections. The blame is placed at the feet of the EPDP and its UPFA patron for mismanagement since the parliamentary election last year where they did well.

    http://transcurrents.com/news-views/archives/2614

    • Krish

      Dear Wijayapala,

      Thanks for the link that explains what the reason why TNA won. Looks like the problem in the North is comparable to DMK vs ADMK situation in Tamil Nadu. I hope they don’t end up destroying whatever little is left there. 🙂

      BTW, this article only increases my irritation with Douglas Devananda. I understand that he is liked by quite some folks including Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka for standing up against the tigers, but I am not convinced that he is a great leader for the Tamils.

      best wishes
      Krish