Toronto non-profit raised millions for Tamil Tigers
20.08.2008 - Wednesday
Stewart Bell/ National Post
TORONTO -- A Toronto non-profit group wired more than $3-million to overseas bank accounts, some of them linked to the Tamil Tigers, before it was shut down by the government in June for alleged terrorist financing, says an RCMP report released yesterday.
The report, marked "Secret" but unsealed by order of a Federal Court judge, provides the first detailed look at the banking activities of the World Tamil Movement (WTM), a Toronto-based group accused of bankrolling Sri Lanka's Tamil Tigers guerrillas.
Most of the money, $1.9-million, went to an account at the Bumiputra Commerce Bank in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, that the RCMP report says "is utilized as a vehicle to forward money to the LTTE [Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam] from Canada."
The 83-page financial report is the fruit of two years of analysis of banking records seized by Canadian anti-terrorism police who are investigating a financial network run by supporters of the Tamil Tigers that allegedly raised money in Canada to buy arms for the guerrillas.
"The bank records seized ... demonstrate that the World Tamil Movement has developed an elaborate machine like entity that moves throughout the Greater Toronto Area collecting funds with extreme proficiency," the police report says.
Stockwell Day, the Public Safety Minister, announced on June 16 that his government had added the WTM to Ottawa's official list of terrorist groups, alongside the likes of Al-Qaeda, Hamas and Hezbollah. The WTM is the first Canadian community group to be listed.
The WTM has denied any involvement in terrorist fundraising and vowed to challenge the government's decision, and at a large outdoor rally in Toronto on July 5, Tamils waved Tamil Tigers flags and endorsed a statement condemning Ottawa's decision to ban the WTM.
The Minister has accused the WTM of transferring money to LTTE bank accounts in Sri Lanka, but the RCMP's Feb. 1, 2008, financial report paints a more detailed picture of a complex network made up of 20 Canadian bank accounts.
Five banks held the accounts: Toronto Dominion, Bank of Nova Scotia, Royal Bank, CIBC and the National Bank of Canada. The Canadian account holders wired money regularly to accounts in Malaysia, Singapore, the United Kingdom and Tamil Tigers-controlled areas of Sri Lanka.
RCMP Corporal Deanna Hill, the author of the police report, wrote that the WTM's financial set-up was "congruent with the money laundering techniques often employed by organized crime groups.
"I also believe that the number of accounts alone demonstrate that the World Tamil Movement has utilized the Canadian banking system to raise funds in a manner that is best suited to financing the terrorist activities of the LTTE."
The Tamil Tigers have been fighting for 25 years for an independent homeland for Sri Lanka's ethnic Tamil minority, which has faced discrimination under the island's Sinhalese majority.
In addition to fighting a conventional guerrilla war, however, the Tigers also employ terrorist tactics, such as suicide bombings and political assassinations, which has landed them on international terrorist lists, Canada's included.
The RCMP began investigating the Tamil Tigers' Canadian fundraising network in 2002, focusing on the WTM's large head office in Toronto and its smaller branch offices in Montreal and Vancouver. Police raided the Toronto and Montreal offices in 2006.
Police seized letters from the Tamil Tigers leadership thanking Canada for its donations, explaining how the money had been used to purchase weapons, and asking for more. But much of the police evidence appears to have come from a study of bank accounts held by the WTM and its officers.
The Project Osaluki financial report claims the WTM's most lucrative fundraising method was a pre-authorized payment program, in which the group persuaded hundreds of its supporters to sign forms allowing money to be withdrawn from their bank accounts each month.
The WTM took in up to $763,000 a year using the payment scheme. On a single day in 2005, the WTM withdrew $63,528 from 1,582 bank accounts. "It is obvious from the amounts collected with this method that the pre-authorized payment scheme is effective, timely and spares valued resources," says the RCMP report.
Most of the forms had been signed in Canada but police also interviewed witnesses who said they had signed them at Tamil Tigers checkpoints in Sri Lanka. "Upon their return to Canada, these persons were visited by representatives of the World Tamil Movement to exact the collection of the monthly stipend," Cpl. Hill wrote.
In addition, the WTM made money through bake sales, car washes, newspaper sales, merchandise sales and festivals, the report says. "To date, the total amount of Canadian dollars that have been forwarded to accounts internationally from accounts controlled by the World Tamil Movement in Canada is $3,101,803.33."
Students should come forward to remove injustice in the society
Tamil students of the Hindu Society and Tamil Society of the Colombo University met Minister Douglas Devananda at his Ministry on Friday (22-08-08) afternoon.
Speaking to the students the Minister called for the cooperation of the student community in our country and asked them to break their silence and come forward to remove injustice, preserve human rights and respect the freedom of individuals in our society.
Minister Devananda also explained to them the participation of the students in the freedom struggle in the past and also told them how the LTTE has misled the student community in the struggle now. He also told them how the LTTE is recruiting the students by force in the uncleared areas and how they are killed in the meaningless war. He expressed with sentiment that every child that is killed is a child of one of our mothers’, therefore he called for the students to come forward and raise their voice against these injustice he said.
As a caring father Velupillai Pirabaharan is providing for his own children and giving them higher education. In the same manner he should think, if it is fair on his part to abduct and recruit the children of the others, by force and get them killed.
Minister DouglasDevananda congratulated the Colombo University Tamil Society students for conducting the Tamil Language contest at the District level and also wished the Colombo University Hindu Society Students success in the Cultural Programme, which is to be held on September 7th. He also gave financial assistant from the Maheswary Centre Fund to the Hindu Society Students as a first step for the cultural programme they are organizing.
Along with Colombo University Tamil students, the International Hindu Authority Head Desabanthu Sivashri Balaravisankar and Secretary Ramachandra Babu Sharma also participated in the meeting with Minister Douglas Devananda and blessed the occasion.
Meeting between the Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh and Minister K.N. Douglas Devananda
The Indian Prime Minister and the leader of the 14th South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Summit, is here in Sri Lanka to participate in the 15th SAARC summit being held in Colombo on August 2, 2008 under the theme “Partnership for our People”. The EPDP Secretary General, Chairman of the Northern Special Task Committee and Social Services and Social Welfare Minister met Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh yesterday August 1, 2008 in Colombo.
EPDP Secretary General and Minister Douglas Devananda, while expressing his gratitude to the Indian Leader for meeting with him as representative of the Tamil Speaking People handed over a three page memorandum containing important issues.
The Minister also said that he was specially grateful for the moral support of the Indian Government to the efforts initiated to revive the stalled process to find a solution to the ethnic problem in Sri Lanka, which has gained momentum at present.
The EPDP Secretary General speaking on the issue of the security forces moving towards Vanni to liberate the people of Vanni from the clutches of the LTTE stressed that India should fully support and corporate in the efforts to liberate the people trapped in Vanni and ensure the safety of innocent civilians.
The Social Services Minister Douglas Devananda also requested the Indian Prime Minister to help and assist in getting the essential items to the people of Jaffna, who have already been liberated from the LTTE clutches in an orderly manner. He also suggested that it would be faster and cheaper to bring the essential items from India rather than from the South. The Indian Prime Minister told Mr. Devananda that his request for 10, 000 metric tons of rice would be granted soon.
During this meeting Mr. Devananda also requested additional assistance from the Indian Premier to take forward the Social Welfare Schemes and Upliftment Programmes for the People through the Maheswary Foundation.
When the North is completely liberated from the LTTE clutches, major rehabilitation and reconstruction needs to be done. Once again Devananda requested that India being our neighbour and a country with the greatest democracy in the World should help us in every possible way, especially to construct and establish rail service to the North upto Kankesanthurai.
In conclusion, the Minister Devananda thanked the Indian Premier for everything and said that he would like to meet him again with more development proposals for the war affected areas in the North and East within the next six months. The Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh lent a patient hearing and expressed his willingness to help Sri Lanka.
Minister Douglas Devanand meets the Asian Development Bank delegation
Northern Special Task Committee Chairman and Social Services and Social Services Minister Douglas Devnananda met a delegation of the Asian Development Bank lead by Axel Weber, Social Protection Specialist of ADB’s South Asia Department and discussed the issues of the people of the Vanni Region.
The meeting took place at the Social Services Ministry this (21-08-08) afternoon. The Minister explained in detail to the ADB officials, the difficulties faced by the people in the Vanni Region and their needs. He also detailed about the North and East Developments and the sustainable developments taken up by the Social Services Ministry for the upliftment of the masses.
Talking about the present situation in the country, Minister Devananda said that it is very important to find a political solution to the North East problem of the Tamil Speaking people. At the same time the LTTE should be defeated using the same method the LTTE uses. Accordingly, the East was liberated and an election was held to choose the people’s representatives. In the same manner North also should be liberated and an election held, so that the people of the North could elect their own representatives, said the Minister. In the meantime President Rajapakse has appointed a Special Task Committee for the North, with the approval of the cabinet and appointed me as the leader of the Committee. This committee was appointed to look in to the development of the war torn Northern Province, rebuild and rehabilitate the North and take care of the day to day needs of the people and bring prosperity into their lives.
Minister Devananda said that as a Senior Minister of the cabinet and the only Tamil representing the Tamils in the Government, he has a moral responsibility to redeem the people from their sufferings.
The Minister went on to explain to the ADB representatives, as to how the various Welfare Development Centres have been established in the country through the Social Welfare Ministry and how they take forward the welfare programmes for the people. In particular he mentioned about using our own local raw products and increasing the production in the country. Opportunities for self employment in the fishing and agriculture fields are more in the Mannar District. In the Vavuniya District there are opportunities in the dairy farm and poultry fields. In the Jaffna District there are self employment opportunities in fruit cultivation and the fruit preservation industry. Minister Devananda also said that these projects have to be further developed for the people to get the maximum benefit.
The Social Services Minister Douglas Devananda told the ADB representatives that through his Ministry Vocational Training Programmes are also conducted in the North. The present needs like out motor board repair etc. are taken into consideration and training is given to the interested and selected candidates.
He also explained in detail the wealth of a Palmyrah tree and how each and every part of the Palmyrah Tree is useful to us and that this tree is one of the main income generating sources of many people in the North.
The main focus of the meeting was on the Vanni Region people. The Minister explained the helplessness, difficulties and the grief of the Vanni people and requested the ADB to help them in every possible way and look into their basic needs when they are liberated from the clutches of the LTTE. The ADB officials gave a patient hearing to the Minster and said that they would consider his request.
During the meeting between Axel Weber, Social Protection Specialist of ADB’s South Asia Department and Minister Douglas Devananda, Sri Lankan Representative of the Asian Development Bank, Dr. A Gunatileka, Social Services and Social Welfare Ministry Secretary Mrs. Viji Jegarajasingham and Director of Planning Lal Ratnaweera were also present.
The Legitimate Leader of the Tamils of the North & East in the Government and the aspiration for Resolution of Conflict
"We have a leader who has honestly, sincerely and truly endeavoured to create a peaceful environment, improved the country and the standard of living over the years, naturally when the standard of living is higher the cost is higher but some people are obstructing the progress for their vile pursuits - some in the name of religion, some in the name of compassion but all these at the cost of the nation. It is time that affirmative action is taken so as not to eradicate the norms of democracy."
(August 26, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) How many Tamil Members of Parliament represent the North and the East ? Where are they ? What have they contributed to society ? What have they contributed to the Tamil people of the North and the East ? What have the people of the North and the East experienced in the recent past ? Who amongst these representatives, sends food, clothing, medicines and other essential items to the North ? Who amongst these representatives holds a file and seeks all the basic necessities for the people of the North and the East through the government ? Who amongst these representatives takes care of the people of the North and East ?
Who amongst these representatives gives a hearing and grants an audience to those who have grievances and heals their emotional wounds and takes care of their day to day necessities? Who amongst these representatives has sacrificed his personal life and other luxuries which he could enjoy ? Who amongst these representatives is always clad in white in hand spun clothing and wears sandals and eats only one meal a day? Who amongst these representatives could be contacted any time of the day and night by any person in distress ? Who amongst these representatives wakes up at 3 a.m. in the morning and retires to bed past midnight ? Who amongst these representatives sleeps on a wooden bench ? On whom can the Tamils of the North and East count on ? If all these questions could be answered in the affirmative, then there is none other than one man who fits the description as the sole representative of the Tamils of the North and the East. Who is this man ? He is none other than, Kathiravelu Nithiyananda Devananda better known as ʽDouglas Devananda !ʼ
Douglas Devananda hails from an aristocratic family of Royal descent. Tall, handsome Douglas is a strict disciplinarian having been a militant himself more than 20 years ago. He has been closely associated to successive Presidents of Sri Lanka.
Although we witnessed trials and tribulations as a nation, we must also appreciate the fact that the President Mahinda Rajapakse has so ably guided us to where we are today.
For moving forward is rarely accomplished without considerable grief and sadness and while our sorrow may be profound the clouds will clear and the sun will shine on us again and we shall as a nation rejoice only if we haves everlasting peace.
We need political stability for economic development. We have as a nation suffered too much with too little help from those who ought to co-operate with us to jointly steer towards development. We will in that bright light find ourselves facing a glorious future. A future with exciting challenges and infinite possibility in which the horizon will stretch out before us rimmed in heavenly glow the sunrise of our tomorrow.
We as a nation have had far too many tragedies. The 1983 racial riots nurtured by the then
regime and provoked by the terrorists created a bloody war. Since then, thereafter no
attempt was made to rebuild the nation that was torn apart by war.
Our nation has been torn apart by the evils of terrorism and natural disaster. It is
difficult to feel like the most powerful person in the country at times like that because, there is no answer - there is no justification for the pain. Freedom of choice alone does not guarantee justice. Equal rights are not defined only by political values. Social justice is a triad of freedom, an equation of liberty. Justice is political liberty. Justice is economic independence. Justice is social equality.
Due to our internal conflicts which we could have long resolved, external forces with vested interests have all sought to intervene some in the pretext of resolving the conflict but our experience has proved that the gap of resolution of conflict does not seem to be narrower now.
Those who finance terror, those who launder their money, those that cover their tracks are every bit as guilty as the fanatic who commits the final act.
We look for diplomacy. But there is no diplomacy with some of those opposed to us. We do not consider them opponents but they oppose every conceivable move we make to develop the country. Sometimes, there is no compromise with such people, no meeting of minds - no point of understanding - so we would have a just choice - defeat it or be defeated by it.
We learnt that however much we strive for peace, we need a strong defence capability where a peaceful approach fails. Whatever the dangers of the action we take, the dangers of inaction are far greater. Laws will have to be changed not to deny the basic liberties but to prevent their abuse and protect the most basic liberty of all; freedom from terror. The people are terrorized by certain vested interests in their vile pursuits for power committing crimes and targeting a reflex scenario as if the Government was responsible.
We must always be on guard for those who will exploit and manipulate religion for their own narrow political ends who will distort the essence of pluralism and tolerance for their own extremist agendas.
People are being tainted by the reckless media. It is a national catastrophe for the nation.
We must work as a community to ensure that everyone not just a privileged few get the collective ability to further the individual's interests.The governing idea of modern social democracy is community founded on the principles of social justice. That people should rise according to merit not birth; that the test of any decent society is not the contentment of the wealthy and strong, but the commitment to the poor and weak.
But values aren't enough. The mantle of leadership comes at a price; the courage to learn and change; to show how values that stand for all ages can be applied in a way relevant to each age. We learnt that equality is about equal worth and not equal outcomes. Today our society is shaped around mutual responsibility; a deal, an agreement between citizens
not a one way gift, from the well off to the dependent.
The standard of living is higher. The expectations of the people are higher. This is a consumer age. People don't take what they are given. They demand more.
We are not alone in this. All round the world governments are struggling with the same problems. The program of reform is huge. We must have co-operation, determination and consensus. We are a community of people, whose self interest and mutual interest at crucial points merge and that it is through a sense of justice that community is born and nurtured. This is the moment to bring the faiths closer together in understanding of our common values and heritage a source of unity and strength.
By the strength of our common endeavour we achieve more together than we can alone. We must reach beyond our fears and our divisions to a new time of great and common purpose. Let us trace the roots of affirmative action. Let us determine what it is and what it isn't. Let us see where it has worked and where it hasn't and ask ourselves what we need to do now.
Private media freedom is running amok. The news that millions of people in this country including foreign correspondents who convey news overseas receive each night is determined by a handful of men responsible only their corporate employers. The State should have control not to permit abuse of the freedom of the Press.
Deference may be inherited, but affection is earned and the affection this country feels for him is real. We must not permit a contaminated moral environment. Let us not negotiate out of fear, But let us never fear to negotiate.
We have a leader who has honestly, sincerely and truly endeavoured to create a peaceful
environment, improved the country and the standard of living over the years, naturally when the standard of living is higher the cost is higher but some people are obstructing the progress for their vile pursuits - some in the name of religion, some in the name of compassion but all these at the cost of the nation. It is time that affirmative action is taken so as not to eradicate the norms of democracy.
The nature and role of government should be affirmative. If one wants to maintain public
response there must be an effort to change but not to eviscerate the government. A democracy requires a certain amount of common ground.
Resolution of conflict has its requirements. Parties to a dispute cannot threaten and violate the rights of innocent people or those who are performing their duties. If the conflict between the organized form of government and a force not popular on the norms of legality, it is then the duty of the Head of State to take such measures to safeguard the nation by whatever means to protect the nation.
There are individuals and groups who may be critical of the President for political gain, but the President has always taken affirmative action within the norms required of the President. This may not be acceptable to those who are opposed to him.
No progress can be made unless a common ground is established. To endeavour to establish common ground certain specific responsibilities on the people and political leaders should be imposed. More of our people must set an example. People should be made conscious of their conduct. We must learn to discuss matters with those who are different from us. Not just people who agree with us but with somebody who is different.
We need more conversation and less combat. When we differ we ought to offer an alternative. We should say what we are for and just not what we are against. We ought to look relentlessly at the long term and remind the people that the problems we have developed over a long period of time.
Politicians must set an example to those among whom they work. After all, politics is a matter of serving the community which means that is morality in practice. We cannot restore peace unless we can find some way to bring the nation close together. There should be collective responsibility within groups or else the people will be confused.
We have to move beyond division and resentment to common ground. We have to go beyond cynicism to a sense of possibility. There should be only on race - the human race. All religions speak of compassion, love, forgiveness and good conscience.
*[The writer was the Co-ordinating Secretary to the Chief Government Whip of Parliament, Late Jeyaraj Fernandopulle; The Member in charge of the English Media of the Media Observation Unit appointed by Late Jeyaraj Fernandopulle for the Presidential Election Campaign of President Mahinda Rajapakse in 2005; Candidate for the Colombo District for SLFP-PA in the 1994 Parliamentary General Elections; Author; Orator; Member of the World Lawyers & Poets Association; International Legal Consultant , he can be reached at email@example.com )
Minister of Social Services and Jaffna District MP Douglas Devananda believes fire should be met with fire and calls for the elimination of the LTTE leadership in a bid to introduce democracy to the north. Following are excerpts of an interview with The Sunday Leader:
By Dilrukshi Handunnetti - THE SUNDAY LEADER
Q: About how many civilians are likely to be trapped in the Wanni now?
A: The exact information is not available with me. The LTTE as usual is using the people as a human shield. They did it in the east and it happened in the north. Now it is happening in the Wanni. Different quarters quote various figures. I am unable to offer definite numbers.
Q: You hold the important portfolio of Social Services. What kind of scheme do you have in place to assist the displaced?
A: Not just because of that portfolio, but as a Minister who represents the people of the affected area, I may lead the government team there. People are beginning to move to government held areas and I want to see this happen.
There is a Special Task Force through which people come to meet us. We meet their needs through that.
Q: Do you believe that the LTTE is losing ground to the government forces?
A: Of course they are and it is natural for that to happen.
The LTTE has denied the north connectivity with the south. Even though we have a political problem, complete separation does not get us anywhere.
I am a politician who hails from a leftist background. I always held progressive views but unfortunately, we could not find a progressive southern government to work with.
As a member of this government, having shed my militancy to answer the political question that affects the community, I have begun a new journey. I want that connectivity, lost thanks to the LTTE, to be reintroduced. Through that, to make civilians and specially the young people to understand that they are misled and made to believe in war.
I just brought thousands of children from Vavuniya to Colombo recently. Right now I have a group of over 300 northern students who have excelled in sports and some young innovators visiting Colombo. We encourage them to participate in national athletic meets and to play a decisive role in shaping their own future.
We have committed too many youths to the war, from both sides. And this nation weeps.
I tell the Tamil people that for the past two decades, people in the Wanni suffered due to lack of democracy. We need to reintroduce democracy there.
President is trying to do that. We should assist him. It happened in the east also. There are some issues in the east still, no doubt. But it is better than what it used to be. Things will improve.
Northern Province is different. It has special concerns. But the fact remains that I have steadfastly fought for the rights of the Tamils, in government also. I have always strived to serve their needs and to increase their bargaining power and believe that their suffering should end.
I know by experience that militancy can get you only to the half way mark. Beyond that lies the political path. Naturally the LTTE is losing ground not just due to military setbacks but also due to lack of popular support.
There may be some political criticism on me. There may be one or two incidents where my people are involved. But I keep them under strict check.
The issue is that the LTTE is against democracy. It is against democracy because in such a set up, the Tigers won't have a role to play. They will lose their significance. So they feel shielded by the gun culture for beyond that lies a barren future in which they are reduced to nothing.
When I call for the LTTE's elimination, I call for the elimination of its leadership. It should happen for the people to progress and look at new political alternatives.
Q: Do you foresee a separate Northern Provincial Council in the near future?
A: I have no doubt that it is the President's wish. Once the area is liberated, it will be a reality. Before that there is every chance to hold local government elections. There are many cleared areas that could be readied for local polls easily before we go for the larger political exercise of establishing a provincial administration.
Q: Do you still stand for an amalgamated northeast?
A: I still do. That's what I always stood for as a political leader from the north. But due to recent political changes, we are willing to adapt to new situations. Our original demands of a merged northeast and recognition of a homeland concept have not changed. But we all have evolved- political parties and the people.
The EPDP is willing to accept that the 13th Amendment was a turning point in Sri Lankan politics. We want it fully implemented. Let's take it from there and move forward.
Q: The government has set a new deadline for capturing Kilinochchi, which is the year-end. As someone aware of the ground situation, does this appear feasible?
A: If it becomes reality before that deadline, I would be happy. Not because I enjoy annihilation of people or due to some petty score I have to settle with the LTTE and its leadership. The reason is that for people and the area to progress, there has to be space for democracy. It will never be a reality as long as Pirapaharan is alive. He will never allow other political opinion.
Q: Do you believe that civilians should be moved out of LTTE held territory?
A: Yes they should be. When security forces liberated Jaffna, the LTTE forced Jaffna people towards Wanni. Some two third did not turn up. They went up to Chavakachcheri area. They remained there and later returned home. Only about one third followed the LTTE instructions.
It is the LTTE atrocities people have to be careful about.
Q: How do you propose the government should act, to create a humanitarian corridor to help civilians evacuate?
A: It is a mechanism that the government should put in place. It is important to bear in mind that the LTTE would seriously block this from happening. That will dilute its presence and significance. Even if the government manages to grant safe passage, the LTTE will create problems.
Q: What mechanism can help civilians safely enter government-controlled areas?
A: Somehow we have to ensure this.
Let me add this. There are two aspects to the ethnic question. One is the terrorist issue and the other, political. Terrorists have to be dealt with in a language they understand. The more the government attacks the more ferocious the LTTE response will be. We have to drain the LTTE on the one side and drain its leadership on the other side. Until then, there will be no amicable settlement. Pirapaharan will stand in the way to peaceful resolution of the conflict.
We must earn the trust of the Tamil people by granting safe passage. The armed forces can do that.
Q: When should the political process begin, according to you?
A: Before the Indo-Lanka Agreement, we called it a Sinhala government. Now we accept this as the Sri Lankan government. After the agreement, the Tamil democratic leadership had ample openings to enter the mainstream and make a difference. The Tamil political organisations did not make use of the new opportunity. There had been talks during President Premadasa's time, then during President Kumaratunga's, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe's and even with President Rajapakse.
This President is an amicable one. In Tamil there is a saying that the most enduring of gods refuse to bear pain at some point. The LTTE drove the President to this end. Now he has decided on a course of military action.
Q: Are you satisfied with the Tamil political leadership in the north?
A: Do you feel only the LTTE represents the Tamil people? Are they a strong political presence? The organisation has been the bane of the people.
After the Indo Lanka Peace Accord, things have changed. The problem is that there is no internal democracy in any of these Tamil political organisations. How can they preach democracy outside?
Also, militancy is a passing phase. It is a tool to be heard, to clamour for a cause. But it does not last. There has to be a political ideology that is pushed through a limited militant movement. That's why the Tamil problem remains unresolved.
Q: Is it your position that Tamil militancy has failed?
A: Sad as it may seem, it has failed. The problem is that these organisations forgot that militancy should be used in order to be politically heard. Now the political voice is not heard. The LTTE especially will be nothing without its military power.
I am qualified to speak as a former militant. I was in the EROS and the EPRLF before the EPDP. We should evolve and learn from past mistakes. Militancy is only a means to an end, but not the end.
Q: How can the government guarantee safe passage when it has required the INGOs and NGOs to leave the Wanni immediately?
A: That is altogether different. That is an extra burden that the government does not wish to accept at a time when civilian security is the foremost issue. Instead of having multiple concerns, the government has decided to deal with the humanitarian problem this way.
Q: Does the humanitarian problems in the north require UN or international intervention?
A: There is a Tamil saying once again that one's own hand should wipe the tears. It means, the problem is local and it should be solved within the country. There is no role for outside intervention. It is the complex truth. This is not Dafur.
Tamil aspirations and Tiger terrorism -two different entities
Tamil aspirations and Tiger terrorism -two different entities Marx said end justifies the means
- Douglas Devananda
By Thava Sajitharan Eelam People's Democratic Party (EPDP) leader Minister Douglas Devananda tells LAKBIMAnEWS that ‘the military approach of the Sri Lankan government is justifiable since it is necessary to achieve the desired good results’. Excerpts:
Ln: as a Tamil minister in the government representing the north, how do you assess the present situation of the north in terms of the ongoing war?
DD: The main cause for the problems facing the Tamil speaking people here during the last two decades has been the prevalence of an undemocratic milieu. It is because of this undemocratic situation that we are unable to solve our problems whether they are political or other issues related to day- to -day life. As a result of it, freedom of expression, freedom of movement etc. remains restricted for the Tamil speaking people. People need to be able to emerge from this situation. The group led by Prabhakaran is the obstacle in this path and that obstacle needs to be cleared. The president and the government are engaged in the process of removing that obstacle. We are giving our support to that. It is not because Prabhakaran belongs to one organisation and Douglas to another. Our support for the government’s effort should not be seen as a reflection of internecine conflict.
Ln: Talking about freedom and rights, one cannot forget the government’s role in this regard. The government refers to the military effort as a ‘humanitarian mission’. Yet the very humanitarian mission is said to have created a grave humanitarian crisis in the Wanni... Several civilian casualties including infants have been reported from the war areas... And the issue of internally displaced People (IDPs) is also serious...
DD: I am not justifying war. I do not believe that problems can be solved through violence. Nonetheless, this is a war foisted on the government by the Tigers. You see, medical surgeries are performed to save one’s life. And we are bound to face some difficulties in the process of healing the ailment......
Ln: But how do you think the government should as a representative body obligated to protect its citizens address those ‘difficulties’ arising in the process? Even though the government has instructed the IDP to move towards areas controlled by it, these people are said to be heading towards LTTE-held territory...
DD: Moving towards LTTE-held areas and being forced to move towards the LTTE-held areas are entirely two different things. This has happened in the past. The LTTE has used the people as human shields on several previous occasions. That is what’s happening now.
Ln: It could be true. Yet the reality is that those IDPs remain stranded in areas where battles are being fought. And the government has asked NGOs and other humanitarian agencies to vacate these areas saying they cannot assure the security of the employees of such agencies. The UN has already decided to leave. Wouldn’t that aggravate the plight of the IDPs? With the absence of those NGOs, how are we going to tackle the IDP problem?
DD: I’d like to put it this way. Thiruvalluvar, the Tamil saint poet says: “even falsehood is of the nature of truth, if it gives good results free from fault” ..... Karl Marx says “ends justify the means”. We need to get rid of the LTTE. To achieve that end, we will inevitably have to face some problems.
Ln: There is much talk about the military now being placed in a situation where the LTTE can be thoroughly defeated. Do you think it’s going to happen this time around? If that happens, how significant would that be in relation to the political aspirations of the Tamils?
DD: There are two separate issues that are in no way connected to each other: one is Tiger terrorism and the other is the aspirations of the Tamils with regard to their political rights. We need to adopt different strategies to deal with these different issues.
The Tiger leadership ought to be defeated. It has harmed not only the Tamil people but the human race in a broad sense. Measures are afoot to address the political problems of the Tamils. Democracy has been restored to a considerable extent through conducting elections in the east. It’s only the first step. The stalemate has been brought to an end. Whether Pillayan was correct or not is immaterial. What is important is the progress.
Similarly, the president has appointed a special executive committee for the north with the approval of the cabinet. It will function until a provincial poll is held for the Northern Province.
So democratization of the north is important. I am not sure if we can talk of achieving it within a given time framework. But the sooner it happens the better. That is all that I can say.
Ln: You are from the north. Yet, the EPDP as a Tamil political party would no doubt have aspirations of expanding its political sway in other regions such as the east where Tamils are densely populated. Aren’t you disappointed or dissatisfied that the ruling UPFA opted to align with the TMVP in the last two elections held in the east? Don’t you feel being let down by the government?
DD: I have a clear idea as to what politics is and what governments are. When there is a coalition government, there are various elements comprising it. It is composite and has to be flexible. Our party was established with a view to serving Tamil people from both regions - north and east.
Yet, the EPDP has relatively less influence in the east than the north. Isn’t that so?
Ln: How do you measure that?
DD: There was a time when UNP had 2/3 of the parliamentary seats. But now? Does it mean that the UNP is insignificant? You cannot judge a political party based solely on the number of seats it procured. These things happen in politics.
Ln :Do you still stand for a merged North-East now that the government has legally de-merged it?
DD: Yes, we have not changed our position on that matter. But we are willing to adopt new strategies.
Ln: What are your present thoughts on the ‘Eelam’ notion? None of the Tamil militant groups-turned-political parties have done away with the term 'Eelam' except the Thamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal..
DD: The term Eelam is different from ‘Tamil Eelam’. You would have studied in your history lessons that Sri Lanka has several other names. Eelam is just one of them. But the term Tamil Eelam has a separatist implication. The term we use is ‘Eelam’.
Ln:Doesn’t ‘Eelam’ have any implication connected to the political aspirations of Tamils?
DD: It does, but within the ambit of an integrated, united Sri Lanka. We have Ruhunu, Wayamba etc... Eelam can be one of those...
FROM THE LANKA BATTLE ZONE It's only when you fly over the Wanni jungle
do you begin to understand why it's taken the Sri Lankan armed forces months to
wrest territory from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). And
why, despite launching a decisive assault to recapture the crucial city of Kilinochchi, the LTTE's headquarters in the Northern Province, the
security forces have made slow progress. They are still some 10 km from
the main town which they had planned to take before they got bogged down by the
north-east monsoon that has just set in. The trees of the surrounding
tropical jungle soar to over 60 ft in many places and the canopy is so thick
and dense that even sunlight finds it difficult to penetrate. These are
the jungles that the LTTE has made its second home, melting into greenery
whenever there is a major assault and setting up deadly booby traps and
ambushes for government troops in pursuit.
reason why the Sri Lankan Air Force Bell 212 helicopter flies at tree-top
height right through the 40-minute-ride from Anuradhapura to the frontlines of the battle.
As Squadron Leader Dakshin Pereiraexplained later, "If we fly higher we become sitting ducks to sniper
fire—it gives the terrorists time to aim and shoot. When we fly just over the
trees they have no time to cock their guns and fire." Suddenly the
jungle thins out and a small clearing appears. Four armed soldiers guard its
periphery as the helicopter swoops down and deposits us on wet
landing spots are decided in an impromptu manner and changed everyday to avoid
detection and fire by the LTTE. I am driven to meet Major General Jagath
Dias, commander of the 57 Division, the main strike force of the army that has
over 10,000 men with their armaments moving determinedly towards Kilinochchi.
The divisional headquarters is a makeshift row of zinc sheet-covered
huts. Dias uses one of these as his office. It bristles with communication
equipment and has a large map that is updated by the hour to show the progress
of his four brigades.
a bushy moustache, Dias is hands on as is his boss Lt-General Sarath Fonseka
who, despite being away in the USon a well-earned holiday, calls everyday to check the progress. Dias has
fought the LTTE in previous years in many terrains. He refuses to be rushed
into an all-out assault to capture the town or occupy highways as in the past.
Instead, he uses guerrilla tactics that the LTTE had specialised in. So,
his men move out in platoons into the jungles, clearing the area of mines.
On the table is a large cross-sectional map with tiny blue flags to indicate
where his platoons are engaging the LTTE.
given time, they are fighting at 30 different points, forcing the LTTE to
spread out its defences. Dias says, "We are deliberately drawing
LTTE troops into the jungles as we find that they don't seem to fight there as
well as before. Now we are fighting a guerrilla war while the LTTE tends to
rely on conventional tactics." I travel to the frontline by a Tata
truck that has an armour-plate chassis to protect against mines. We whiz past
Colonel Priyantha Gunaratne, points to LTTE bunkers and fortified bunds that
the army had to destroy to overcome resistance. He claims that the
civilians were forced to leave their houses by the LTTE who used them as a
human shield when they retreated and also to recruit their young. They
left their dogs behind and these have become a menace for the troops, poaching
on their food and attacking some of them.
Mallawi town, once a district centre, which now has most of its rooftops blown
away. In 2002, I had attended a press conference here held by LTTE chief
Velupillai Prabhakaran after the then government had declared a ceasefire.
He was in full command, having won in the previous years decisive
military battles against a demoralised Sri Lankan Army that saw him gain
control of districts in the North, East and parts of the West. After 9/11,
terror was a bad word and Prabhakaran cleverly sheathed his claws. For him, the
ceasefire was an opportunity not only to set up LTTE's civil control over the
region but also consolidate its armed wing. He formed a Tamil Eelam civil
service cadre and police that even collected taxes and controlled law and
order. His dream of establishing an independent Tamil nation seemed real
till Mahinda Rajapakse emerged as the President in late 2005 and, months later,
scrapped the ceasefire agreement and launched an all-out war. Mallawi was
also a centre for NGOs who provided humanitarian aid to the Tamils living in
the area. They were asked to leave in September when the offensive
Brigade Major Kaushal Gunashekara, who rides a Bajaj Pulsar with a gun-toting
assistant seated behind, charges that many of them supplied arms and money to
the Tigers. He takes me to a graveyard for the so called LTTE martyrs where
the stones are well-cemented, in contrast to the mud huts the residents lived
in. We reach the last check post where a platoon is getting ready to head
to battle, donning their backpacks and helmets. In their early 20s, they
look sleep deprived but determined. The deep boom of artillery fire rends the
air and it's the first time I get a sense that I am in the thick of the
Lance Corporal Manjula Kariyawasam what he thinks of the LTTE. He says:
"They fight well in the beginning, but if you show stiff resistance, they
usually run away." The helicopter to ferry me back lands at a nearby
field and when we board we find that our companions are three young soldiers,
all nursing gory wounds and one lying on the floor of the chopper. Just as
we settle down, the pilot asks us to get off. Two soldiers had been grievously
injured and they have been ordered to pick them up as well.
minutes, the chopper is back with the injured personnel and it is a disturbing
sight. Two of them, whom I just talked to, lie on the floor badly
injured. One of them had his left leg blown away after stepping on a mine and
also lost his right eye. He lay on the floor with a drip bottle, blood
still oozing from his wound.
had pellet marks all over his body and his leg muscles seemed to have been
destroyed. We completed the journey back to base in pensive silence. This
is a war where no mercy is asked or given. Already, over 10,000 Tigers
have been killed in the fighting in the past two years—reducing their strength
of trained personnel to around 5,000. The Sri Lankan Army too has lost
over 2,000 of its men, a third of them to mine blasts. It is a fight to
finish—a determined battle by the Sri Lankan Government to defeat the LTTE,
regain territory and capture Prabhakaran—dead or alive. A day earlier at his
residence in Colombo,
President Rajapakse told me: "For us this war will be over only when we
get Prabhakaran and his key deputies." Under Rajapakse's leadership,
the Sri Lankan Government has made substantial progress in the conduct of the
war. Much of it has to do with the decisive political will and the unwavering
support to the armed forces.
helped is that, by appointing his brother Gotabhaya as the defence secretary,
there has been a rare unanimity of tactics and clarity of purpose. This
has seen the Sri Lankan armed forces take the Eastern province last year after
successfully winning over Karuna, Prabhakaran's former military commander, who
joined forces with them to put the LTTE on the run. The Government then
held provincial elections in the East in May and Sivanesathurai Santhirakanthan
alias Pillayan, a former LTTE child soldier and political leader who defected
along with Karuna, emerged as the chief minister.
Karuna was rewarded with a seat in Parliament under the nominated category.
Having secured the East and loosened the stranglehold the Tigers had in
Mannar in the West, the Sri Lankan armed forces have restricted the LTTE's writ
to two major provinces in the North, Kilinochchi and Mullaittivu, the vital
port town that the Sea Tigers use as a base.
that they are still a formidable force to reckon with, the Tigers have put up
stiff resistance in these two districts and then counter-attacked with terror
strikes and air raids over Colombo.
The LTTE is said to have two light aircraft which they use with
tremendous psychological advantage. On October 28, the aircraft evaded
radar detection and dropped a couple of bombs over Colombo resulting in a blackout for an hour.
Despite these strikes, experts agree that the LTTE is in a bad shape.
Intercepts of their wireless communications show them urging their cadres to
stay on and battle it out.
Government's intelligence proving to be good, they have been able to strike
decisively at key LTTE leaders even killing their political chief Thamilselvan
recently. Prabhakaran, who is on the run, has withdrawn reportedly to the
jungles around Puthukkudiyiruppu using the two lakh Tamil refugees as a human
shield against Sri Lankan air raids.
experts though believe that the LTTE still has the capability of bouncing back
and the Sri Lankan Army is being overstretched and would be bogged down in
Wanni. Signs that the LTTE was losing ground became evident when major
political parties in Tamil Nadu, lead by the ruling DMK, protested against
"human rights violations" of Tamils in Sri Lanka demanding a ceasefire.
With the DMK, a key ally of the Congress-led UPA Government at the
Centre, threatening to have its MPs resign from Parliament and ministers quit
the Union Cabinet, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh acted swiftly to quell the
up Rajapakse and gave him an earful about human rights violations of Sri Lankan
Tamils and also about Indian fishermen near the Gulf at Mannar being shot at by
the Sri Lankan Navy. While not calling for a ceasefire, he reiterated India's stand
that there is no military solution to the ethnic crisis and that Rajapakse's
Government must come up with a credible political process. Rajapakse
though is sticking to his stand that he needs to continue the military
operations against the LTTE and will not agree to a ceasefire. He
maintains that a political solution would emerge once Prabhakaran is defeated.
example of his sincerity, he points to the East where he claims to have
restored the democratic process. He also states that he has convened an
all-party committee consisting of the major Sinhala parties to go into the
question of devolution of powers to the Tamils. The committee though has
run into trouble with the United National Party, the main Opposition party,
pulling out of the talks. Meanwhile, the pro-LTTE Sri Lankan Tamil MPs
have been as critical of the way Rajapakse's Government has been conducting the
war. R. Sampanthan, an MP and parliamentary leader of the Tamil National
Alliance party, says that the all-party committee is "a charade and a
"The Government is intent on seeking a purely military solution. This war
is against the legitimate rights of the Tamil people. The Government has never
come up with a set of proposals that can constitute a political challenge to
the LTTE." He is critical of Rajapakse's showcasing the East saying,
"The province doesn't enjoy the powers as that of an Indian state like
Tamil Nadu or for that matter a Union Territory of India.
no autonomy or devolution of powers. The provincial government is a puppet in
the hands of the Sri Lankan Government." India,
which so far had nuanced its policy in Sri Lanka, is forced to make a
strategic return into its affairs after the Tamil Nadu fallout.
failure of the 1987 Indo-Sri Lankan Accord and with the Indian Peace Keeping
Force being asked to leave in 1990, India has been averse to intervene
militarily again in Sri Lanka's civil war. It has refrained from selling
arms to the Government, though of late it has assisted with intelligence and
the supply of radars. Initially, the Indian Government allowed Rajapakse
to conduct war in the North with a relatively free hand as it looked upon the
LTTE as a terrorist organisation which, among other things, had assassinated
Rajiv Gandhi. But now Indiais pressuring Rajapakse to come up with a parallel political process that would
work for genuine autonomy for the Tamils. While Rajapakse continues to
have the support of the Sinhala majority, despite inflation being over 25 per
cent, he is unlikely to let up on the military operations.
But if the war drags on till
mid next year and casualties mount, then his Government would begin to feel the
heat. Prabhakaran knows that and has deliberately slowed down the pace of
the battle. He is now biding his time. In the past he has bounced back
after being in a seemingly helpless position. But this time he is being
confronted by a resolute Sri Lankan Government and an army whose morale is high
and tactics that match his if not better than them. Prabhakaran has never
been in a situation as tight as this and is going to find it difficult to come
out of the corner that he finds himself in.
Subramanian Swamy addresses the Sri Lankan Diaspora in Toronto
Subramanian Swamy, Leader of Janata Party and former Law Minister of India, addressed the Sri Lankan Tamil
Diaspora in Torontoon Tuesday evening, the 11th of November at the Centennial College Main Event
Hall. The meeting was organized by the Canadian Democratic Tamil Cultural
spoke on the topic - “South Asian Diaspora”. He spoke with clarity, mainly
about the present situation in Sri
Lanka. He started off by saying that there
in no ethnic conflict in Sri
Lanka but there is a linguistic difference.
He went on to say that all Sri Lankans were of same ethnicity but there
languages were different. There are similarities between the Tamil language and
the Sinhala language. The main religions, Buddhism and Hinduism also have many
similarities. There are no irreconcilable differences between the two
communities, he said.
said that Indiawill not bail out the LTTE or stop the Sri Lankan Government from defeating the
LTTE militarily. The LTTE is not part of the solution but it is part of the
problem he said. LTTE killed the Tamil leaders like Amirthalinagam, Neelan
Thiruchelvam, Yogeswaran, Mrs. Yogeswaran and many more Tamils who did not
follow suit with the LTTE. There is no pluralism in the LTTE; hence LTTE cannot
be the solution to the Tamil problem. But, the Sinhalese must realize that the
Tamils have grievances and these grievances should be addressed by the Sri
Lankan Government under a federal set up. Although the past Presidents of Sri
Lankan had done nothing much he said that he could see some positive moves
taken by the current President Mahinda Rajapakse and India wants him to move
forward and deliver the solution. While the LTTE is decimated, the power also
must be devolved to the Tamils. If not the Tamils will not trust the Government
he said.Now the Tamils are passive and
apprehensive, but if the powers are devolved the Tamils will support the
Government to defeat the LTTE. The Sinhalese need not fear that this would lead
to secession because the clause 356 states that the Central Government has the
right to dismiss a State which acts against the National Interest. This is how
in 1991 the Tamil Nadu State Government was dismissed by the Central because it
had links with the LTTE which is against the interest of India.
thundered that Prabakaran should be brought to justice and that the whole of India stands by
this. He killed their young leader Rajiv Gandhi on Indian soil. All Indians are
unanimously united. He even said 90% of the people of Tamil Nadu laugh at the
protests held in Tamil Nadu. Nobody will support the LTTE. Even the politicians
in Tamil Nadu will not openly say that they support the LTTE. They will only
say that they will support the Tamils. So the Diaspora should not think that
there is support for the LTTE in Tamil Nadu. He emphasized that only the fringe
pro-LTTE elements in Tamil Nadu make noise
said that Indiais impressed by the Sri Lankan Quality of Life Index, which is comparable to
that of the Western countries, even though there is war. If there was no war he
said Sri Lankawould be one of the best countries in the World. He also said that many Indians
want to visit Sri Lanka,
which has a rich history and heritage.
the discussion that ensued after the speech Dr. Swamy was told that there was
genocide in Sri Lankaand asked as to what he had to say about it. Dr. Swamy emphatically denied that
there was genocide in Sri
Lanka. He said the term was bandied about by
interested partisans and that there was no truth to it. He also said that
according to the meaning in the human rights dictionary, there was no genocide
in Sri Lanka.
Finally Dr. Swamy said that the Diaspora Tamils
are faced with a challenge of forming democratic organizations and speaking
against the LTTE. He encouraged such organizations to speak out and that would
be the only way to defeat the LTTE and terrorism.
Cabinet Memorandum to rebuild flood devastated Jaffna
action committee headed by Minister Douglas Devananda has commenced swift steps
to rebuild Jaffnapeninsula and to rehabilitate the people affected by the torrential rain, which
devastated the peninsula.
Cabinet memorandum is to be tabled in the Cabinet by Minister Douglas Devananda
for this purpose as 9 persons were killed, more than two hundred thousand
persons were displaced and Rs. Billion worth of property were destroyed due to
this disaster in the peninsula.
to the estimate prepared by the Jaffna Secretariat on the instruction made by
the Minister Devananda, the damages caused to Cultivation, Fishing, Livestock,
Housing, Water supply, Health, Education, Transport, Local Government and Man
Power is Rs. 9285 million. In addition to the Government's rehabilitation and
relief activities the UN agencies and NGOs have came forward to grant their
EPDP Secretary General Douglas Devananda calls out to the Tamil Diaspora via DAN television
Former EPDP MP and the lead
candidate of the ruling United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA), from Jaffna,
at the forthcoming Northern Provincial Council (NPC) polls, S. Thavarasa, said
if the people pick the Eelam People's Democratic Party (EPDP), the President
would honour his words and delegate powers to the Northern Provincial Council.
If the public picks a wrong
Party, there would be inevitable problems, he warned, in an interview with
Q: Last week, after submitting
your nomination, both you and the TNA chief ministerial candidate, Justice
Wigneswaran, addressed the media. Echoing Justice Vigneswaran, you also told
the press that one of your demands is that the Army should be confined to the
A: No, that was a completely
misleading report by most of the Tamil media. I did not say what was reported
in the media. The same question was posed to Justice Wigneswaran and me, and
Justice Wigneswaran almost said what you said, that is, the Army should be
confined to the barracks until the elections are over.
What I said was that at a
meeting held at the Election Commissioner's office about a month ago, the same
matter over the military was raised. At that meeting, he categorically said it
was a national security issue and that he had no authority to request that the
Army be confined to the barracks. But he also stressed that the Army cannot get
involved in the election process. What I said was that I endorse the Election
Commissioner's view. I must also say that national security cannot be
compromised. And we cannot expect the Army to be confined to barracks.
Q: The TNA has alleged that the
Army is helping the EPDP and the government in its election campaign.
A: The EPDP is not getting
any assistance from the Army to conduct its election campaign. The EPDP wants a
free and fair election. Those allegations are totally unfounded. Actually, if
you go back to the 2004 election, the TNA, with the help of the LTTE, rigged
the election. PAFFREL and the Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV)
reports at that time had categorically stated that the Northern elections
cannot be accepted. I feel sorry for Justice Vigneswaran because he was not
there at that time. He was sitting in the bench at that time. He was totally
Q: What is your take on Justice
Wigneswaran, your opponent, who many expect would breathe fresh air into
A: The Provincial Council
system is the outcome of the aspirations of many Tamils, particularly the youth,
since the 1970s. Whoever who is trying to become the chief minister or the
chief administrator should be somebody who has come through that process
because many people have paid with their lives to gain this. Therefore, I think
it is unacceptable for somebody who has not taken part in any of this to
parachute into the system.
Q: There are allegations that
the Army has visited the residences of TNA candidates and threatened?
A: The army has not visited
any of our candidates' houses. Those allegations are fabricated by the TNA.
Q: But are you aware of any
instances of the Army visiting the residences of TNA candidates?
A: No, I am not aware of
Q: One of the main areas of
focus would be the 13th Amendment under which the Provincial Councils have been
set up. Some of the hard-line Sinhala nationalist groups such as the Jathika
Hela Urumaya and Wimal Weerawansa's National Freedom Front are campaigning that
the 13th Amendment be weakened. The government seems to have decided to amend
the 13th Amendment. You are in a tight spot?
A: They (JHU and NFF) are
not the government. They are only constituent parties of the government. The
government is mainly of the SLFP and its coalition partners. There are so many
components in the UPFA. Just because one or two parties want it differently, it
cannot be done. The government has appointed a Parliamentary Select Committee,
which will decide on the 13th Amendment.
Q: What if the government goes
for an amendment that would dilute the 13th Amendment?
A: Amending the 13th
Amendment is not a problem, but if the 13th Amendment is diluted, we would
certainly express our opposition. We always wanted the 13th Amendment Plus. Of
course, there is some room to give and take, because certain measures may now
be outdated. The circumstances at the time the 13th Amendment was enacted were
different from the present circumstances. I am referring not to the security
situation but to the will of the people and the needs of the people. Therefore,
there can be adjustments, but in the spirit of the 13th Amendment, there cannot
be any dilution.
Q:What is likely to happen is
that if a Party which is not viewed in a favourable light by the government
wins the election, the government would amend the 13th Amendment. Of course, if
it is your Party, the reaction may be different?
A: I don't want to answer
your hypothetical question. But we know that the government and the
have faith in Douglas Devananda. The President has said several times
that if Douglas wins, 'I don't mind giving powers.' Therefore, it
depends on the relationship with the government. We have been telling
people that the implementation of the 13th Amendment is dependent on the
you would appoint. If our Party wins, I am sure the President will keep
he has already stated.
I do not know whether it would
happen the other way around as well, as you suggested. I have no idea.
Q: Land acquisition by the
government and mainly the military, are pressing issues. How does your Party
address this situation?
A: Just after the war, the
Army occupied 42 Grama Sevaka Divisions in Jaffna. Now the Army has reduced their
presence to 16 Grama Sevaka Divisions. Even this week, they handed over some
land in Ariyalai. Actually, some private houses are occupied by the Army. At
the request of our minister, they are working on a plan to hand over some of
those houses by the end of this month. Therefore, we have been negotiating with
the relevant authorities and have taken a political approach to address the
problem. Of course, you cannot expect the Army to handover everything. There
are security concerns. But there is a progress and we have seen the progress.
Q: There are several cases
filed in the Supreme Court against the acquisition of a large swathe of
residential land in Jaffna,
purportedly for development projects by the Army?
A: The Army has not acquired
(land); they have only issued notice under a certain provision of the Land Act.
It is only a notice. We are talking to the government and trying to solve the
problem. We are not exploiting the concerns of the public. Those issues cannot
be resolved by going to America
and the EU, and shouting from there.
Q: Your list is predominantly
EPDP. But there were some former LTTE members such as Daya Master, who wanted
to contest from the UPFA. Daya Master, for instance, has been dropped from the
list, as reports suggest, at the insistence of the EPDP. What is your response?
A: It is clearly the
decision of the UPFA. Ten out of 19 members in the UPFA list are from the EPDP
and we authorized their nomination. We have nothing to do with the appointment
of the rest of the nine candidates. That is the business of the UPFA. In fact,
we are not even happy with the nomination of one particular member in the list.
He is from Puttalam and has nothing to do with Jaffna.
Q: What are your plans, if you
win the election?
A: We have told our people
that we know how to use the 13th Amendment for the benefit of our people. And
we can do that given our relationship with the government.
Q: Any specific plans?
A: One plan is definitely to
bring back the education in Jaffna
to the glory of the former days. There are many issues such as the shortage of
teachers. And we want to bring back the old culture, which viewed education as
the most vital aspect of Jaffna
Q: Even after the election,
ex-military officials are likely to reign over the elected leaders in the
Northern Provincial Council. For instance, the Governor is a former Army
A: The moment a person comes
out of the Army, he is a civilian. The Governor is a representative of the
President, and he has to act according to the instructions issued by the
President. It does not matter whether he is an ex-military person or ex-civil
Q: However, the danger is that
when a military person is at the helm, he is more likely to bulldoze his
decisions on the other, disregarding the opinions of the elected leaders.
A: It depends on the
relationship between the Central Government and the Provincial Council. It is
not unique to Sri Lanka.
It has been the case in India
as well. When the State Government is not on good terms with the Central
Government, there is always a rift. If the people appoint a Party such as ours,
which has a good rapport with the Central Government, we know how to handle the
It is not a problem with a
person; it is about the relationship with the government. If the public picks a
wrong Party, definitely all those problems you mentioned will arise.
At a recent meeting in
Kilinochchi, somebody told the President Rajapaksa that though he has built the
main roads, the interior roads are in a pathetic status. The President then
noted that the centre has done what it had to do. "If you select the right
people, the rest can be done," the President said. That is what we tell
Q: Isn't it a subtle threat -
that is, if you don't pick the people we approve, you won't be getting
A: That is natural. You must
select the right people. This is politics.