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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.