Former Tamil Tiger renegade, ex-minister and onetime vice president of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), Vinayagamurthi Muralitharan alias Karuna Amman made a fresh comeback into politics on February 11 when he launched the Tamil United Freedom Front (TUFF).
Speaking to the Nation, he explained the need for a fresh political force to represent the Tamils and accused the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) of being pre-occupied with internal strife while ignoring the welfare of the people.
Q. You have launched a new political party. What is the reason behind this move of yours?
If you look at the situation at the moment. There is a political void created in terms of Tamil politics. The Tamil people in the North and East pinned their hopes on the TNA that they would work towards a durable solution for their problems. They thought that the TNA would work, discuss with the government and reach the solution. However, this has not happened.
First they said that a solution would be reached in 100 days. Then they said a solution would be reached within 2016. But nothing happened. The people were left to fend for themselves.
People do not know where the TNA stands. They do not say anything when the government presents any proposals. At the same time they do not oppose them also. They are not active among the people.
Therefore, I feel that the Tamils have been betrayed. They need a proper leadership. That is why I decided to step up and form the party. This move was made after discussing with the people of the North and East, Tamils abroad and several Tamil and Sinhala leaders. My aim is to represent the people, especially the Tamil speaking people of the North and the East.
Q. Do you say that the TNA is losing its stand among the Tamils of this country?
Of course yes. The ‘Eluga Tamil’ (Tamils Arise) event is a good example of this. I am supportive of the event because the demands are justifiable. However, the event was used as a platform to slander other TNA politicians. The Northern Province Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran levelled allegations against Opposition Leader R. Sampanthan and MP M.A. Sumanthiran. You have Wigneswaran going in one direction while Sampanthan is going in another.
Even during the recent event in Batticaloa, the Chief Minister levelled allegations against Sampanthan. You do not have to bring the families of the disappeared and make them stand there while you level accusations against fellow party members. The TNA only publicized its internal rifts while ignoring the focus of that event. The truth is that the TNA is losing its way.
Q. You pointed out the various conflicting stances within the TNA. In addition, there are those who still maintain very extremist positions with regard to the national question. How are you going to bring them towards an agreeable stance?
The whole idea of extremism, armed struggle and similar approaches will not work now. The concept of globalization has changed everything. Countries like India and China have changed several of their policies over the years. Unfortunately there are groups who try to trigger the people by holding onto sentiments of armed struggle and war. This is unfortunate. They should understand the reality and move forward. The people should also understand this.
Look at the Muslim leaders. They are leading their people in a democratic manner. But the Tamil leaders have failed in this.
Q. You say that you want to fill the void created by the TNA. Don’t you think that your party would create more divisions among the Tamils and Tamil politics?
I disagree with that view completely. First of all, there are rumours being spread that we are a shadow party of the former president. That is completely false.
We formed the party based on our previous experiences while being part of a national political party. When you are a member of a national political party, you have to conform to its ideologies. You cannot go against its policy framework. It is difficult to speak out for Tamils while being in a national party. That is why we have moved out from the party and established a separate political outfit to represent the Tamils.
Secondly, I do not believe that our entry into the political arena would create further divisions among the Tamil political leadership. In fact, there are several politicians and academics who are fed up of the current situation and are willing to join hands with us. The Tamil United Freedom Front will be a party that would unite people.
Q. You have supported the merger of the North and the East. Do you think that the merger would solve the problem?
The North and the East is considered the homeland of the Tamils. Even the 13th Amendment to the Constitution recognizes this. Therefore, a solution should be based on this. That should be the focus. It could be based on a federal model, or something more advanced. However, we will officially publicise our stance once we conduct our inaugural central committee meeting. We have made only one appointment to the party. We have appointed Kamalaraj as the Secretary. The rest of the party will be decided later.
We have discussed about registering our party with the Elections Commission. They have requested us to submit the relevant documents. Once that is done, we will have our central committee meeting after which our party policy. The Policy is now being drafted. However, the policy will be in line with what I speak now.
The people who were affected by the war in both provinces deserve a permanent solution.
Q. But the Muslims in the East have opposed the merger of the provinces due to the fear that their numbers would reduce further. Don’t you think the merger would strain the relationship between the two communities?
You are right. There is a fear among the Muslim community that they would become a minority of the minorities if the provinces are merged. The fear is also there among the Sinhalese who live in the East. However, I don’t think they should be worried about this. This will not be a big issue if you look at the bigger picture.
The Muslim leaders should also understand that both provinces could be developed if they are merged. The provinces can only gain strength if the Tamils and Muslims unite. The two communities should unite if we are to move forward. There is no question about that. The merger will be for the betterment of all Tamil-speaking people, whether they are Tamils or Muslims.
However, we should convey this message to the Sinhalese leaders in the proper manner. We should discuss this matter in the appropriate manner and try to convince them.
Q. Are you confident that you can convince them?
Of course I can. I had been involved in the armed struggle for 30 years. I have also travelled around the world for negotiations on behalf of the Tamil people. In addition, I was the Vice President of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP). I was also in Parliament for a number of years. I have developed and maintained cordial relationships with ministers and politicians representing all the communities, as well as international political leaders. So we have to use this opportunity. I am sure that I can convince them.
Q. Are you willing to work with the TNA?
We are open for discussions with all political parties including the TNA. As I said before, we are trying to accommodate the views that are beneficial for the people. Therefore we need to discuss with all the parties.