“I am the man for the North” – Devananda

(August 07, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) “The TMVP should understand the importance of other Tamil politicians,” said Douglas Devananda, Secretary General of the EPDP and Minister of the Government in an interview with Sri Lanka Guardian. He shared his opinions freely at his residence in Colombo last week. Here is the full text of the interview. [See Video]

by Nilantha Ilangamuwa in Colombo

What do you think of the present political and military situation in the country?

Well, I think every thing is going well so far because the leadership is taking correct decisions against enemies of the state and those vitiating good governance. Politically the Government of Sri Lanka plans to devolve maximum powers to the minority without affecting the powers of the majority. Even the military and the security forces have engaged themselves in the great project of eliminating terrorism. There is no hurry. Every thing is going sharply and strategically against our enemies.

According to Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva who is a key member of this Government, the APRC was a fiction. How do you think this government has planned to find a sustainable solution to the problem?

When did he say such a thing?

It’s already published in Sri Lanka Guardian. He gave us an interview a few weeks ago when he received his new post as Chairman of WHO.

Actually I think that comment was misspoken by accident or may be it was his personal view on the country’s problems. But I never thought the APRC a fiction. Only a solution through it can resolve the problem. A problem is that Prof. Tissa Vithrana’s politics is not at ground level. Nor does it address the people’s needs. It’s based on books.

Whatever that may be, we do welcome his proposal, but we shouldn’t forget that we can use old proposals to resolve the problem. For example the Indo-Lanka Accord was a golden opportunity and it can still be used though full implementation to find a sustainable solution to the country’s problems.

In the same interview Minister de Silva says, the Government of Sri Lanka has planned to create another Pillayan for the North. What do you think?

The developments in the East so far have led to political sustainability. This is the best thing because people are coming together and they have selected their own leader for the first time after two decades. Another Pillayan to be created in the North is a mythical dream, because there the situation is so different from the East. However the President has planned to adopt a genuine politician to lead the North when we have finished off the LTTE. I believe in his plan and strategy.

You were selected as the leader for STF (Special Task Force) to the North while being strongly criticized by other anti-LTTE Tamil politicians like Mr. Anandasangaree. Now we are seeing a cold war between you and others. First I would like to ask you: why cannot moderate Tamil political parties come together? Secondly what is basically the reason for the President’s selecting you as the head of STF for the North?

I think all of us should understand the energy for positive change that comes from unity and solidarity. Unfortunately we have lost our unity many times because terrorism comes to us as a result. We have come to eliminating people whenever there are serious internal conflicts. This attitude has created much trouble in our society. I have suggested to colleagues of mine who are still with selfish motivations that they should come together with me to foster political good will.

Secondly the President knows who Devananda is and his energy. I’m a man of the North. I am the man for the North.

Do you hope the Security Forces will mark the end of the War by the end of this year?

We cannot give deadlines because the Security Forces are prosecuting the war strategically. They cannot attack like terrorists. They should shoulder responsibilities for civilians in the areas of conflict. You know how many civilians are trapped in the area under the LTTE.

However I think the Forces will mark a turning point in this war by the end of this year. This is the time for the LTTE to surrender. It is the time for LTTE cadres who are in the field to escape with their life and build up a good future for themselves as Sri Lankans.

Are you happy about the present situation in the East?

Of course there are great many positive things happening. As a Minister and leader of a Tamil political party I’m glad to see the present situation in the area.

But there were some recorded bad development over your party members. Three members of your party were arrested over human rights violations by the police. How can you be happy while your own members are playing with the lives of their people?

It was a plot against our party done by political my opponents. The police also never did any proper investigations over that case.

Political opponents! Who are they?

It was done by a TMVP member according to my personal information because they want to tarnish our image in the area.

May be it will mark another conflict?

Actually we won’t ever attack other political parties. We want to come together. But there is the difficult situation over other political parties being misled without proper leadership. I think the TMVP should understand how they can buildup political cohabitation with others, especially with other Tamil political parties.

Well… Dr.Vigneswaram who was a one of senior members of the EPDP has kept away from the party from a few months ago, and now he has joined hands with the TMVP as an adviser to Pillayan. Why was he kept away from the EPDP and why did he join Pillayan?

The reason is simple. Vigneswaran doesn’t understand the unique culture of political parties. One cannot join with a party if he has a hidden agenda or his position is different from the party’s position. No doubt he is a prominent person with accomplishments but his life is motivated by selfishness. That was the reason I sacked him from the party. I cannot point out specifically why he has joined Pillayan. It’s his own decision but it will create misleading thinking.

What about your comment on Joseph Thavarajah who is in London? Our information is that he is keeping away from the EPDP?

Wrong! Just before you came here he spoke to me and we were discussing the present situation in the Tamil Diaspora. I don’t know who has created this false story. He is still very much with me.

Tomorrow (Aug. 01) you are scheduled to meet the Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh. Do you have specific things to discuss with him?

Yes, I would like to hand over to him our party’s solution to the ongoing problem and explain to him the present developments in the country. There are so many misunderstandings created by some pro-LTTE elements. I intend to clear these up.

“Your party’s solution” – what do you mean?

Yes, we have a three stage solution to the problem and have requested the president to reconsider our proposal.

The First Stage is to fully implement the 13th Amendment to the Constitution which was the outcome of the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord. The Amendment aimed to hand over the North-East provincial council to the democratically elected representatives of the North – East. The Second Stage is to reinforce the 13th Amendment by conferring additional powers on the N-E Provincial Council to make them centres of greater authority.

The Third Stage would be, with the consent of all the political parties including the LTTE, a lasting final solution to resolve the aspirations of the Tamil speaking people. It will lead to the granting of maximum devolution to the region.

What do you think about the new political developments in Tamil Nadu?

I can see two main political fronts active in Tamil Nadu. One is pro-LTTE and the other is anti-LTTE. Nadumaran, Ramadoss and Vaiko are representatives of the former, but don't have political clout because they are dependent on the latter side. It means their leadership is not valid in society.

I don't think the current Chief Minster has a pro-LTTE policy, but he is concerned for the well-being of the Sri Lankan Tamils and the humanitarian crisis we face. He is responding to the needs of the Tamil people.

But a new opinion poll among the Tamil people in Tamil Nadu accepted the idea of Tamil Eelam. They are asking about a referendum.

But it is the Indian Central Government’s decision that is of the utmost importance, not a State Government’s.

How is the Tamil Nadu factor different from what goes on at the Central Government of India?

India has once again extended its friendship to Sri Lanka, as long expected by the Tamils, Muslims and the Sinhalese. India has forgotten the pain and the bitter experience of the 1980s by trying to help solve the ethnic problem, and has come forward to help us again. Their regional government can't get involved in the internal issues of neighbouring countries without the Central Government's permission.

Recently many Pongu Tamil ceremonies were organized by the Sri Lankan Tamil People who are abroad (Tamil Diaspora). They are still funding the LTTE for creating a separate state. Why cannot moderate Tamil politicians win over the Diaspora?

People in the Tamil Diaspora do not know what is happening on the ground. They are divorced from reality. They cannot see the real face of the LTTE because they never come here. If they can come and see the situation of their people, they can understand that they are foolishly funding a terror organization.

I would like kindly to request from the Tamil Diaspora this: Deeply think about the real need of our people; they want fulfillment of their basic needs not a separate state. Put this forward to Prabhakaran and the colleagues of his. Ask them to come and join the democratic political way and not to resort to killings.
- Sri Lanka Guardian