Published in the Nation on October 2, 2016
General Secretary of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and Leader of the Ilankai Thamiz Arasu Katchi (ITAK), Mawai Senathirajah said that the grievances expressed by the people at the ‘Ezhuga Thamizh’ (Tamils Arise) event, organized by the Tamil People’s Council (TPC), were legitimate.
However, he admitted that the party did have reservations due to the manner in which it was conducted.
Speaking to Nation, Senathirajah expressed the following views:
QHow do you perceive the Ezhuga Thamizh event organized by the TPC recently?
There have been a lot of things said about the event. Some of the members of the TPC met and discussed with me about the particular event. They informed us that they would organize an event. We did not oppose it because they told me that the event was to bring out the issues of the people. However, we have certain reservations on how the event was conducted.
We feel that the event ended up being a platform for some politicians to make political statements rather than bringing out the actual problems of the people.
Q :What about the people who participated who wanted their grievances to be heard and addressed?
What we say is that we have reservations over the manner in which it was conducted. But, we do agree that the issues and grievances raised by the people are genuine.
We agree with the issues raised and urge the government to address these issues. In fact, the TNA has been voicing issues such as land grab, occupying property by the armed forces, the issue of prisoners detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and enforced disappearances. These are the very same issues that were raised at the event.
We had raised these issues with the government and also with other foreign dignitaries including the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon when he visited Sri Lanka recently.
Q: There is also a view that the timing of such an event was not right. What do you have to say about it?
As we said, the manner in which it was conducted is not satisfactory. As you said, the timing too is not that favourable. We are at a situation where we have to strengthen the reconciliation process. We have held several rounds of discussions with the government on the above issues and there have been certain progresses made in certain aspects.
What has happened is that even the politicians and parties who were to come to an understanding on some issues have back-tracked citing some concerns.
We respect the voice of the people. However, this is not the time for such an event.
However, we as the TNA wish to state that we still have faith in the government and in the international community. The process to form a new Constitution is underway. We had also requested the members of the TPC to be patient for two months since the interim report on the new Constitution. We need to see how it addresses the issues faced by the minorities and how it deals with the political issues of the Tamil people.
We wish to state that the TNA would continue to back the government on its reconciliation efforts and would not disrupt the efforts.
Q: Some of the representatives of the member parties of the TNA had also attended the event. What are your thoughts?
We never opposed the TPC’s move to hold such an event as long as the people’s issues were brought to the fore. We never stopped anyone from taking part at the event. As I said earlier, the people who took part had expressed their grievances. However, some used it as a platform to gain political mileage.
Q: Since you have raised some issues, would you call for explanation from the members who had attended the meeting?
We have not decided on anything like that yet.