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DateLine Sunday, 24 February 2008

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Batticaloa braces for local polls

The elections are around the corner in the Eastern Province after a lapse of 14 years. The Wanni and Trincomalee districts are yet to hold their elections. The Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Puligal (TMVP) and the PLOTE - EPDP - EPRLF (Pathmanabha faction) Alliance seem to be the two main parties in the fray in all the nine electorates. Views of the two personalities currently in the leaderships are as follows.

Batticaloa is going for an election nearly after a decade. How do you see the trend in the region?

People's Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE) leader Dharmalingum Sidharthan: We did contest the 1994 elections. We know there are problems there. But we believe in contesting as a democratic party. We must put our efforts to see that democracy is back in the region. The difference is that, in 1994 direct threats from the LTTE was there alright but now it is a different kind of a threat. It is the government's responsibility to ensure a free and fair election. The result should purely be a people's verdict.


People’s Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE) leader Dharmalingum Sidharthan
Pic by : Kavindra Perera

Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Puligal (TMVP) acting leader Pillayan: I am glad to see the elections are taking place after several years, in our region. We heartily welcome the local elections in Batticaloa. In a democratic country elections are the deciding factor and this opportunity will enable the people to elect their representatives in a democratic manner.

Do you think Batticaloa district is now in a position to hold a free and fair election?

PLOTE leader Dharmalingum Sidharthan: Definitely the elections could be 'free and fair' as the entire area is under government control. We have contested in elections in the past where the situation was far worse than this. The government, with the help of the Armed Forces and the Police, can make it free and fair.


Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Puligal (TMVP) acting leader Pillayan

TMVP acting leader Pillayan: Despite the interference of certain vicious elements, we can surely see that there would be free and fair elections without disturbances. So, a trouble free election is looked forward to in Batticaloa.

How do you see the current security situation in Batticaloa? Are you satisfied with the development of the East after the liberation?

PLOTE leader Dharmalingum Sidharthan: It is really at a satisfactory level. Really good. Yes we have to agree with those people that they have other problems. They are trying to resettle in their original places but are unable to start their normal lives. On the other hand the government is trying to assist these people. The houses are not yet built or not completed - which includes both the war damaged and/or the tsunami damaged houses. These are the problems. But importantly there seems to be a certain peaceful environment existing in the area, despite the fact certain armed groups have indulged in minor activities.

TMVP acting leader Pillayan: Yes. We can see that the security situation is in good shape in areas liberated recently from the clutches of the LTTE. Apart from certain isolated incidents, day-to-day affairs have improved to a greater extent. Several development programmes are already initiated in the Eastern province. If we get elected we will definitely see to the progress of these development programmes. Unquestionably we need and expect success in these development activities.

Do you think the people in the East are now in the right frame of mind to go to polls?

PLOTE leader Dharmalingum Sidharthan: Well, when the elections were announced people did not show much interest. But, today we can see that there is some sort of an enthusiasm. They are discussing about it. And they feel that they must have some representation. As political parties we also have a responsibility to move with the people and try to persuade them to come forward for a democratic political system. Only then the normalcy will return to the area.

TMVP acting leader Pillayan: Of course. We see that people are eagerly waiting for the polls, with great enthusiasm, I must say. President Mahinda Rajapaksa is totally determined to establish democracy in the East and we believe the people will cooperate. That will further enhance the democratic stream.

Along with the current resettling process, a huge number of people are trying to rebuild their lives from level zero. It would be the utmost duty of politicians elected by the people to serve people. What is your comment?

PLOTE leader Dharmalingum Sidharthan: Actually they are not really resettled as such. They were affected by the tsunami and then by the war. Seeing to their well-being is the responsibility of the politicians but I do not think the local government will have that much of power to perform. It is, then, the duty of the Government to ensure that these necessities are met with properly. But this development programme is so vast.

TMVP acting leader Pillayan: Overall development is a huge process. Therefore, all the development activities could not be carried out with the powers that are vested with the local bodies. Local bodies can only concentrate on grass roots levels. It would take some time to take forward the development process since it caters to the people who were affected by the war for many many years.

To end the war the causes have to be answered properly. As your party has already accepted the democratic path, what sort of a solution you look forward for the crisis?

PLOTE leader Dharmalingum Sidharthan: A political solution - a solution that can give the right to the people of the North and East to look after their own affairs. I do not mean a separate state. The devolution has to be meaningful. Powers should be given to these provinces assisting rebuilding of their lives.

TMVP acting leader Pillayan: We reiterate that a political solution could not be achieved through armed struggle. We decided to give up military action to seek a political solution to the North and the East crisis through democratic means. Greater devolution of power to the Tamil regions could pave the way for a constructive solution.

A conscience of all the parties is essential to bring in a terror-free society where people can enjoy their social, cultural, economic and political freedom. What is your comment?

PLOTE leader Dharmalingum Sidharthan: Conscience is a must for a political solution. Unfortunately since independence this was the problem. Not only among the Sinhala parties even the Tamil political parties were faced with this problem. Today the LTTE is the problem. The LTTE will not accept a solution within a united Sri Lanka. This can be an excellent excuse for extreme political groups to do nothing to solve the national problem. They will reiterate the fact that the LTTE will oppose any political solution put forward. If elimination of the LTTE is difficult then alienation is simple. If the SLFP and the UNP come to a consensus then the majority of the Sinhala people will also eventually will fall in line.

TMVP acting leader Pillayan: Our people underwent immense hardships due to the war. Therefore all political parties should shed their political differences and come forward to address the genuine grievances of our people. The political parties should take a common stand and expedite the political process - in finding a just solution to fulfil the political aspirations of the Tamil people. Therefore, unless the North-East crisis is settled it is not only the Tamils but the entire country will be affected due to the unending ethnic crisis.

What is the message you would like to send to the LTTE leadership with the Eastern polls around the corner?

PLOTE leader Dharmalingum Sidharthan: Well, we have been sending messages to the LTTE since the beginning. I really believe if the LTTE genuinely comes to a political solution no politician in the South can or will go against it. Because the Sinhala people are only asking the government to go for a political solution. The people really want to see an end to this war. They must genuinely come out and try. But today the LTTE is weak and it is quite unlikely that they will come for talks. They cannot come. Though the LTTE claim that they are still present in the East whereas it is not so. They never had total control over the East, earlier. Our elected MPs were there even at that time.

TMVP acting leader Pillayan: War is a disgusting word for Tamil people. The Tiger leadership should realise that they cannot deceive the Tamil people by continuing with their armed struggle. The war has destroyed everything in the regions where the Tamils lived. Therefore, the LTTE should join the political mainstream and help to find a meaningful leadership. Politically if they are not prepared to enter the political mainstream, the very people in the North will reject them like the people in the Eastern province did.

 

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