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We are for integrity - Wigneswaran

Northern Province Chief Minister says TNA never supported the LTTE ideology of separatism but it is the duty of the government to recognise the individuality of the Tamil people in bringing a lasting solution. Critisising the US Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power who undertook a visit to the North recently, he said the Norwegians understood the woes of the Tamil people. Power was more intent on geo-political interests of her government, the Chief Minister claimed.

In an email interview with the Sunday Observer, Wigneswaran denied he was beseeching the South Indian leader to find a permanent solution,

although she had been consistent in her support to the Lankan Tamilsí issues. Touching on many issues, the Chief Minister explained the reasons to form the Tamil Peopleís Council (TPC) as: future power sharing aspirations, relations with the central government and the TNA, adding that that he had excellent rapport with the present TNA leader R.Sampanthan, despite a minority within the party which tried to paint a different picture.

The excerpts of the interview:

Question: You have serious differences with the government in Colombo over non-consultation on projects to be executed in the North. Why donít you talk to the President, the Prime Minister or the cabinet minister concerned, on these issues before going public and creating an atmosphere of confrontation?

Response: Of course I have. On February 15 this year I told the Prime Minister exactly that. I have said so to the President too, and communicated with various Ministers too. There is a culture of domination that has crept into the halls of behaviour of the Centre, so that they find it difficult to change their cultural trait! That is despite Yahapalanaya!

Q: The NPCís primary job is to administer and develop the North. There is a complaint that it is not happening under your stewardship. What is your response to this claim ?

Response:

There are people interested in saying so for their own political benefits. We have not failed in our endeavours. We are conscious of our duties and responsibilities. But let me flag another facet of this problem. I had written to the powers that be on November 4 last year, asking for their concurrence to my signing a Twinning Program with the Local Authority of a friendly country, which would have brought mutual benefits to the said Local Authority as well as our Northern Province. Until today, despite reminders, there has been no response from the powers that be. It was the Prime Minister who came to our aid and showed the green light, many months later. Now, we are proceeding with the program. As schoolboys we used to clasp the trousers of a colleague summoned by the teacher, from behind, and when he cannot go to the teacher, someone would say he is refusing to obey! Whereas, he had been prevented. I hope you understand what I mean.

Q: Your relations with the TNA leaders seem to be poor. Do you think this situation will lead to a split in the TNA eventually?

Response :

On the contrary, my relationship with Mr. Sampanthan, Mr.Mavai Senadhirajah, Mr.Suresh Premachandran, Mr. Adaikalanathan and Mr.Sidhaarthan is excellent. I know there is an insignificant group which wants to paint a different picture to the media for personal reasons. I cannot help such aberrations.

Q: You are in charge of the TNA in the NPC as Chief Minister. What was the need to give leadership to form a separate body - the Tamil Peopleís Council (TPC)?

Response:

The TPC is a peopleís organisation consisting of professionals and others. They reflect the minds and aspirations of the people of the North and the East, especially their intelligentsia. I did not form the TPC. I lent it support. So what about it? Political parties have made us parochial and partisan. Itís time we freed ourselves from such shackles and looked at national and community problems more holistically. In that sense, the President and Prime Minister, not forgetting a past President too, have shown much foresight in bringing together two political parties which were at each otherís throats for a long period.

Q: The TPC has in recent statement accused Western powers and Ďlocal Tamil leadersí of conspiring to deny Tamils their justice. Is it not an anti-TNA act, are you a party to this accusation?

Response:

I am unaware of any such statement. Such accusations may reflect the views of our people, because the TPC is a peopleís organisation. When accusations are made it is prudent to first analyze the validity of such accusations rather than rush to protect oneís interests, political or otherwise. I have not made any such statement.

Q: By involving Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa to find a solution to the Tamil problem in Sri Lanka, are you not repeating the mistakes of the past - militarizing the conflict and ultimately ending up with the defeat of the LTTE?

Response:

When did I call upon her to find a solution to our problems? I congratulated her and called for closer collaboration. She responded positively. So what about it? If anyone is giving hidden meanings to mere courtesies, what am I supposed to do?

Q: A recent proposal by you to move a motion to congratulate Jayalalithaa on her recent election victory was thwarted by other members in the Council including the TNA. Do you think she is a trustworthy South Indian politician as regards Sri Lankan Tamilsí issues?

Response:

As to what happened that day in the Council, please call for a certified copy of the proceedings and study it. Your information is incorrect.

Q: Ms.Jayalalithaa has been constant in her support towards the Sri Lankan Tamilsí issues. What is preventing you from directly negotiating with the Sri Lankan leaders and coming to an understanding like S. Thondaman did successfully in the case of Tamils of Indian Origin?

Response:

Mr.Chelvanayagam did; Mr Amirthalingam did; Now Mr.Sampanthan is doing exactly that. The first two failed. We hope the third will succeed. As far as I am concerned I have handed over to the Speaker what the NPC unanimously had to say about the type of settlement to be reached. I am available for discussions. What more?

Do not forget my friend old Thondaman did not get anything on a platter. It was his strength as leader of a powerful trade union that made him progress in this regard. You cannot negotiate from a position of weakness. He had the strength of his trade union.

Q: What did the US envoy Samantha Power and Norwegian State Secretary Tore Hattrem who visited the North in recent times convey to you? The media reports said they advised the NPC to work with the central government.

Response:

We brought this Government into power Ė the Tamils and Muslims. So we are working with this Government. But we are irked that the political traits of a by gone era have not left our so called National leaders. The Norwegian State Secretary understood what we had to say. Ms. Powers seemed more intent on the geo-political interests of her Government. There was no necessity to advise us. We already work with the Government.

Q: Did the Indian High Commissioner express displeasure over your approach? Do you still rely on foreign powers and the UN to resolve the Sri Lankan Tamilsí issues?

Response:

Approach over what? Mr. Sinha and I have a good rapport.

This Government relied on foreign powers to get rid of the Rajapaksas. They are now trying to get round the UN too. We rely on ourselves, not on others to solve our problems. But the globe is now shrunk. Everything and everybody are interrelated. Therefore, every relationship is seen according to each oneís conditioning of the past.

Q: You seem to have put a lot of faith in the Tamil Diaspora. But the Diaspora was not able to save the LTTE. Do you think the Diaspora can be effective now?

Response:

The diaspora is not separate from us. They are us. If the Government is circumspect and innovative they should make use of the diaspora to effectively help us. I can see the haunt of the LTTE has not left you. Donít blame me or the diaspora for that!

Q: President Maithripala Sirisena recently said he wanted to put an end to the LTTE ideology of separatism here, as well as internationally, stressing that it was standing in the way of achieving lasting peace in Sri Lanka. Your comments?

Response:

It is exactly what we have done. Our Manifesto was specific in stating that a solution is to be arrived within the integrity of the island. We have not supported separation. But the Government must recognise our individuality. They should not be going around wearing the hegemonic headgear. They should recognize our people as equals and talk to us in that manner, and not condescend itself to throw crumbs at us.

Q: Despite the NPC trudging on a collision course with the central government, and itís clamour for Ďdemilitarizationí of the North, we havenít witnessed NPC councilors flagrantly engaging in confrontations with military leaders. Have you imposed a strict code of conduct over such matters ?

Response:

We have no problems with the Army. I have had the best of relationship with the former Commander in the North, Major General Udaya Perera and the present Commander Major General Mahesh Senanayake. I have much regard for both.

Our clamour for demilitarization has nothing to do with individuals. It is natural, reasonable and necessary. Seven years have passed after the war. What is the Army who fought the war doing in our areas still ? Why are they cultivating our lands and taking the produce, residing in our houses making our people IDPs, doing our businesses depriving our livelihood, allowing fishermen from the South to indulge in illegal fishing and allowing such fishermen to set up permanent residences in the North, often disallowing our fishermen from indulging in their livelihood, acquiring huge chunks of land legally and illegally, helping to colonize areas in the North with people from the South, depriving our people the use of their traditional and sometimes hereditary lands, using up some of our meagre resources and transporting some others southwards, making it difficult for our war affected families especially the women, from carrying on with their normal lives? Surely, our request is reasonable? We demand that the huge armouries in Myliddy be immediately shifted to safer areas without allowing another Kosgama tragedy to take place amidst us.

An enhanced revamped Police Force could look after our security concerns with ease. Of course, we must have the power of overseeing the activities of the Police Force. Our Police Force in the post war context should undergo appropriate and effective reforms in the war to peace transition, working in cooperation with the NPC.

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