Govt. must not evade responsibility for NE incidents, says Sampanthan
By Chandani Kirinde
Tamil National Alliance (TNA) MPs disrupted parliamentary sittings for three consecutive days last week to protest the killing of Batticoloa district MP Joseph Pararajasingham and calling for an end to acts of harassment and violence against Tamils in the north and east as well as in Colombo.

TNA parliamentary group leader and Trincomalee district MP Rajavarothiam Sampanthan in an interview with The Sunday Times defended his party’s actions in the House and said it was time the Government took some concrete steps instead of cosmetic action in solving the problems faced by the Tamil community.

Mr. Sampanthan said the TNA regretted very much the killing of security forces personnel in the north and east but said the Government, the JVP and the JHU must take responsibility for the current situation in the country.
Below are excerpts of the interview:

For three consecutive days, your party disrupted parliamentary sittings. What do you hope to achieve with that kind of protests?

We want to tell the Government, the country and the world at large that statements and assurances in parliament without any follow up action or without implementing those assurances are no longer acceptable. Whatever action that has been taken has only been cosmetic in nature and not aimed at identifying the offenders and bringing them to justice. Several murders have taken place in Tamil areas.

A large number of Tamils have gone missing. People have been arrested without reason in the northeast and in other parts of the country particularly in Colombo. We have to demonstrate our total disgust over the inaction of the government. We have conducted ourselves with utmost decorum and dignity within Parliament. We have raised questions, discussed matters and sought justice in parliament. In the context of justice not having been meted out in parliament we have been compelled to perform a “satyagraha” for three days running within the Chambers. We look forward to some concrete action by the Government to ensure Tamil civilians do not continue to be harassed as at present.

What kind of immediate action do you expect from the Government?
We expect the government to behave with a sense of responsibility and not to be evasive as they have been in the past. We expect the Government by its actions to bring to an end or at least substantially minimise the suffering to which the Tamil civilian population is presently being subjected to.

Are you only blaming the government for the escalation of violence in the north and east?
In so far as the violence unleashed against the civilians are concerned, the Government will have to accept responsibility.

What about the killings of the members of the security forces?
We are extremely sad about that. We very much regret these killings and these acts of violence resulting in the loss of young lives. But when looked at closely and deeply examined the responsibility lies with the Sri Lankan state.

You said recently that the President had told you that he knew who was behind the killing of five students in Trincomalee. Did he also say that those involved were linked to the UNP?
I don’t wish to play politics with the murder of five educated youth in Trincomalee. The President in the course of his conversation with us gave an indication as to which section of the armed forces committed this crime. No section of the armed forces came under attack whatsoever from these youth or from any others at this venue, at this time. This was an instance of deliberate killing. We expect the Government to pursue the investigations in such a manner as to bring the offenders to justice. If the guns used in the killing of these youth are recovered, the forensic evidence will help identify the guns the fatal bullets were fired from. There is ample scope for the Government to conduct a proper investigation if it so desires.

One of the allegations being levelled at the TNA, mainly by the JVP and the JHU, is that its MPs are acting as proxies of the LTTE in parliament. How do you answer this?
The JVP and JHU are in my view thoroughly disqualified and unfit to make any comment about our behaviour.

Most of you will recall the manner in which the JHU/JVP behaved when the P-TOMS agreement was to be debated in parliament. This agreement was meant to help the tsunami victims. We are not proxies of the LTTE but certainly working in the interests of the Tamil people and their future, we work together and we have endeavoured to have the peace process taken forward in a meaningful way. The JVP has been primarily responsible for the peace process not being taken forward. They have been responsible for obstructing and impeding the peace process, both during the time of President Kumaratunga and during time of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and now in the time of President Mahinda Rajapakse. It is they who are responsible for the tragic situation to which this country is being pushed.

As a political party what has the TNA done to move the peace process forward?
We have been in touch with successive governments, Prime Ministers and Presidents. In parliament we have urged that the peace process be taken forward.

We have discussed this matter with the international community. We have done our best even with the LTTE to ensure that the peace process is taken forward in a constructive manner. We have not the slightest doubt that the prime culprit for the peace process not being taken forward is the Sri Lankan state.

As a political party particularly as one representing the Tamil people, what have you done to solve their problems?
We are a democratic political party. We were elected to parliament by people of the districts in the north and east. We are doing our best. But more than us it is the Sri Lankan state that has to deliver and the Sri Lankan state has not delivered since this country attained independence in 1947.

There is no purpose blaming the LTTE because this matter could have been resolved easily during the time of a moderate Tamil political leadership when there was no militancy on the part of the Tamils.

When there was no LTTE Agreements made were abrogated unilaterally. Promises made were not implemented and the same situation continues even after the armed struggle. That is the reality. The failure of P-TOMS and other such agreements is clearly attributable to the unwillingness, the inability of the Sri Lankan state to deliver.

Does that mean we are at a point of no return?
We are certainly at cross roads. And it is up to the Sri Lanka state, without any further delay, to get its act together. Start the talks and go forward. We can give help.

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