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
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
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
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.