In an interview with Nation, Northern Province Chief Minister CV Wigneswaran shared his thoughts and views on the Ezhuga Thamizh (Tamils arise) event which evoked mixed to negative responses from the South.
Following is the full interview:
Q : What is the reason behind organizing such an event at this juncture?
The majority of the Tamils believe that our rights are going to be sacrificed at the altar of convenience soon. Till today nothing concrete regarding what rights the Tamils are to receive under the new constitution have been conveyed to us. If there is going to be secrecy in formulating the proposals either the Sinhala community or Tamil community or both are going to feel cheated at the end of it. We, Tamils, may feel not enough. The Sinhalese may feel it is a sellout. Therefore hatching a constitution in secrecy with selected members from the Tamil community would not help us Tamils. We need to bring the debate on the constitution into the open. The Sinhalese and Tamils must know what the constitution is going to give our people. You cannot try to hurry through a constitution if it is to last long. Passing a constitution to please Geneva next March would not help even the international community.
A mirage has been created among the international community that the Tamil community has compromised on their basics as set out in successive manifestos of the TNA.The true state of affairs on the ground is quite different to what is made out to the international community.
It is to explain such state of affairs in the North, Eastern Provinces to our Sinhalese brethren and the international community that a demonstration of this nature was found necessary.
Q: Don’t you think that an event like this would be perceived negatively in the South?
Why should they think negatively? The Sinhalese are more knowledgeable now with regard to our past. Even if that be so, that they perceive negatively, we intend making the Sinhalese community realize the fraud that has been perpetrated by the southern politicians on their people so far by equating federalism with separation. Federalism promotes unity. Separation divides the people. We are standing by our request for a federal constitution since that would be a way of reducing the hegemonic authoritarianism presently practiced by the Centre.
Q:The event has resulted in some negative reaction from the South where certain segments of the community have expressed concerns that this would once again lead to division among the people. What would you like to say?
If there is open debate and discussion among the Sinhalese people about the feasibility of federalism for Sri Lanka I am sure the truth of federalism would be understood by the Southern polity. The negative reaction you refer to has come about by wrong understanding. The Buddha in the Kalama Sutra said do not accept because someone says so.Traditions are not to be followed simply because they are traditions. Reports (such as historical accounts or news) are not to be followed simply because the source seems reliable. One’s own preferences are not to be followed simply because they seem logical or resonate with one’s feelings. Find out for yourself the truth. If the Sinhalese take the trouble to find out the truth about federalism I am sure they would come by the truth which is that federalism is the only plausible solution to the problems of the Sinhalese and Tamils politically.
Your reference to once again lead to division among the people is amusing. Don’t forget it was the war that came to an end in 2009. The conflict continues even now. Our problems still need attention and resolution. Our divisions have continued. Former president Mahinda Rajapaksa kept it repressed. We thank His Excellency the present President for giving us the freedom to utter what we always wanted to utter. The truth lies in our utterances.
Q:The TNA has also distanced itself from the event. Does it mean there is a rift between you and the party leadership?
That is not correct. Mavai, the leader of the Federal Party, has said they approve of the demands of the demonstrators. But they were not sure this is the ideal time to demonstrate when a solution is in the offing. Our response to that has been that if a proper solution is forthcoming we would welcome it wholeheartedly. But if not, what next? The Constitution might be passed soon and we would have no basis of criticizing at that stage. I remember the late C. Suntharalingam arguing in the Supreme Court that the 1972 Constitution was detrimental to the Tamils. My friend Mark’s father HNG Fernando was the presiding judge. HNG said the Constitution has not come to pass. It is too early to determine. Mr. Suntharalingam said if it is passed it would be too late. The SC dismissed his Application. When it was passed C. Suntharalingam came back again into the Supreme Court. HNG said they who had been appointed under the Constitution could not now go against the Constitution.
Additionally, Hon Sambandanhas said he approves anything done in the long-term interests of the Tamils. So, you have got it all wrong. We are all together in the fight for emancipation of the Tamil speaking people.
Q :On other issues, there is a concern over the issue of drug and alcohol addiction among the youth. What can the NPC do to tackle this issue?
Even though Police powers to some extent have been given to the Provinces under the Thirteenth Amendment, it is the Centre which runs the Police Force entirely in the Province. Even the 200-odd junior grade Tamil officers that were promised to us have still not been recruited into the Northern Provincial Police Force.
There is not a single Tamil speaking Police Officer above the rank of ASP in the entire Police Force in the Island today except one in Jaffna who will soon retire.
The Army is all powerful keeping over one lakh (100,000) of soldiers in the North. There was no drug menace before May 2009 in the North. That is accepted even by the Government Department dealing with drug abuse. Therefore, we depend on the goodwill of the Police Force to deal with the situation. But we are bringing awareness among our people regarding the deleterious effect of drugs.
Q:There are also reports of small armed groups such as Awa group, involved in several criminal activities and violence. Has the NPC taken steps to make sure that this is addressed? Any strategies that would ensure the youth do not involve in such activities in the long run?
The answer is the same as given to your previous question. AWA Group and others are the relics of the past administrations. We are thankful to the new IGP for taking prompt action against the said group.What we can do is only at the societal level not at the police level. Nevertheless, I have started closer Police Civil Society cooperation at three levels – Provincial, District and grassroots, to bring about coordination and cooperation between Police and the civil society to prevent crime and deal with them effectively.