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The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) appointed a committee to draft a set of proposals to solve the ethnic question through the proposed Constitutional reforms.

Nation spoke to General Secretary of the TNA and Leader of the Ilankai Thamiz Arasu Katchi (ITAK), MavaiSenathirajah on the progress made by the alliance on drafting the said proposals. In addition, he also spoke on criticisms faced by the Alliance on not being transparent of its approach.

Following are excerpts:
Q. The TNA recently appointed a nine- member committee to work on proposals to solve the ethnic issue. When would this committee commence work and what is the mandate given for the committee by the TNA leadership?
The committee was appointed to discuss and formulate solutions to the ethnic issue. The appointment actually comes in line with the government’s plans for constitutional reforms. It is important that we figure out a set of proposals in order to present them to the Government when these reforms are being drafted.

The committee would work on proposals and suggestions for Constitutional reforms based on our demands.

Q. When would the committee come up with the proposals? Is there a time frame?
We have not given a time frame as yet. We have called for proposals from various segments of the society including the general public, politicians, government officials and also civil society members. We have received several suggestions and proposals, which the committee will study. The committee will then draft a set of proposals, taking into consideration those that have been submitted to us.

Q. The Tamil People’s Council (TPC) had also published a set of proposals for constitutional reforms, and to solve the ethnic issue. In addition, the TNA is also working on this. How is it going to work?
Well, the TPC has also handed over its set of proposals to the TNA for consideration. We will consider the council’s proposals while drafting the final set of proposals too. There wouldn’t be any confusion since most of these proposals and demands would be on the same lines. We will study them and incorporate their proposals as well.

In addition, the Northern Provincial Council has also commenced work on drafting proposals. These proposals will be finalized by March 24.

Q. Would you say that the final proposals drafted by the TNA would be of importance than those proposed by other organizations and institutions?
Of course. The TNA has been given a mandate by the people. The people have accepted our manifesto and have elected us. Therefore, our proposals would represent the people’s demands.

Q. How different would the new set of proposals be from the demands that you had laid out on previous occasions?
I don’t think it would be much different from our previous demands. We have not changed our stance on the solution for the ethnic issue. However, the new proposals would be based on our original demands and would incorporate issues that would have to be considered during Constitutional reforms.

Q. But the TNA has received criticism for not being transparent with its views and demands pertaining to the ethnic issue and constitutional reforms. What do you have to say about it?
These allegations are baseless. Everyone knows what the stance of the TNA is. Our manifesto clearly says what our demands are. We have nothing to hide. We have stood by our demands and we will continue to do so.

Q. The TNA has also been accused of taking things very slow when there are burning needs of the people. Your response?
These allegations too cannot be acceptable. The TNA understands the people and their needs. We are working on addressing these issues. There are issues that could be addressed soon and there are those which will take time. We have a plan and will execute them at the right time.

Q. The issues pertaining to the North and East are not limited to Tamils alone. There are other communities as well, especially in the Eastern Province. Would the TNA look at the interests of the other communities?
Yes of course. We are having discussions with several political parties representing other communities. We have commenced discussions with the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC). There will be more talks in the future. In addition, we have also commenced discussions with former President ChandrikaBanaranaike Kumaratunga and other politicians too. Our proposals will incorporate interests of other communities.

Q. Since the TNA has appointed a committee and started work on proposals for the proposed Constitutional reforms, would you also request for talks with the government anytime in the future?
We still have not decided on this at the moment. But we definitely are open for talks with the government. If you recollect, we have held discussions with governments in the past. Therefore, even though we have not requested for any discussions, we are always open for talks.