By Manjula Fernando/Sunday Observer
Colombo, September 6: Maintaining his penchant for making controversial statements, the former Northern Province Chief Minister C.V.Wigneswaran told the Sunday Observer in an interview that if the Tamils of Sri Lanka do not get the right to self-determination they will become Sinhalese within 15 to 20 years.
Here are excerpts:
Q: You maiden speech in Parliament last week is still making news. At the end of your five year term as an MP how do you want your people to remember you, is it as a newsmaker or someone who delivered on his promises?
A: As someone who delivered on his promises.
Q: What are your plans to serve your people?Will you be confined to addressing issues of people in the North and the East only?
A: The North-Eastern people are the ones who were badly affected by the conflict and who due to the indifference shown towards their problems by the Central Government have still not been able to rise from their penury-stricken environment. Therefore, I would work with them. But all people who are suffering, whether they are Sinhalese, Tamils or Muslims, if they need my help I would strive to help them within the constraints which have been placed before me.
Q: Can you list the issues that you would like to focus on as an MP?
A: Political issues first, economic issues next and social issues third, in that order.
Q: It seems that you have chosen a path of communal politics which is very popular in this part of the world, yet you have done very little to address the genuine grievances of the people. Your comments?
A: It is because the successive Central Governments have not focused their interest and attention on the amelioration of the conditions of the people of the North and the East that we have been forced to take up their cause.
The genuine grievance of our people is the non-settlement of their political issues. Not the denial of economic sops! Economic sops would not solve the long term problems of our people. When we speak of the needs and aspirations of our people why do you Southerners view it as communal politics? When the Government wants to give priority to Sinhala and Buddhism why did you not identify that as communal or parochial politics?
Q: Why do you believe self-determination as the only solution for the Tamils’ issues? Are you certain that this is what the people in the North aspire to?
A: Why did we want Independence from the British? Because we wanted to resurrect our heritage, give prominence to our language and culture and live a life in consonance with our individualised, indigenous background and lead a way of life which was peculiar to us. The same considerations move us to ask for self-determination now. We find that the Central Government wants to control us by keeping the armed forces here, keeping us under their thumb without giving the elbow space for us to act freely, expropriate our resources, change the demography of the North and the East and Sinhalise and Buddhisticise the North and the East.
If we do not have the right of self-determination which we are entitled to under the UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Tamil speaking people of the North and the East will become Sinhalese within 15 or 20 years. Already the people from Negombo to Puttalam who were Tamil speaking when I was a child, have now become Sinhalese. The Tamils of Anuradhapura in the Old Town where I lived as a boy have become Sinhalese. Many people of recent Indian origin have become Sinhalese. The only way to preserve our individuality is to become entitled to the right of self-determination so that the people of the North and the East would look after themselves while being part of the Sri Lankan polity.
As for your other question, certainly the people of the North and the East want self-determination. Since TNA did not work towards self-determination our people temporarily embraced a National Party and a proxy for another National Party. But that is temporary.
Q: ITAK suffered a setback at the last two elections. What is your take on that? Shouldn’t you be more effective against the Government as a unified front than a scattered bunch?
A: They alienated themselves from the people. There was contradiction between what they promised to the people and what they did after being elected.Unity will come automatically when the Government resorts to anti Tamil activities.
Q: You have been accused of doing very little to serve the people while holding the office of Northern Chief Minister. Do you refute this claim? Why?
A: I have been brought up not to let the left hand know what the right hand did. I had worked at my office throughout the five years about 15 – 18 hours a day during all seven days of the week except when I was busy elsewhere. At the end of my period of office we prepared a booklet containing all that we did. That booklet is available to see what we did during our time.
The persons who set up this canard against me were those who were not given permission to setup certain projects in the North. One such person wanted to setup a Leather Factory in Mannar. Our officials pointed out that leather needed lot of water to clean and water was scarce in Mannar and that a poisonous substance comes out of the leather in the process of cleaning and it could harm the environment in Mannar. I refused to give permission. Later we learnt that he had been refused permission earlier in the Hambantota district as well. So, you must be careful in coming to conclusions about me.
Let me point out another thing. My Chief Minister’s Ministry was placed first among all the Ministries (including that of the then Prime Minister) and Departments throughout the Island numbering over 850 for proper management of our finances in 2016. The next year too we were within the first three. This was an award given by the Central Government for excellent financial management. Would they give such an award to one who did not serve the people?
Of course, I refute your silly claim. Because that is not the truth. But I thought boasting about ourselves to the outside world was childish and therefore did our work with efficiency but with no fanfare. That is the truth.
Q: Is it possible to give a short note on your views on the 20th Amendment?
A: I received a copy of the Draft 20th Amendment only this evening. The 20th Amendment lays the foundation for dictatorship.
The checks and balances against the President’s powers are now to be removed. He could hereafter hold Ministerial posts.
He could appoint Ministers like the Prime Minister. The restrictions on persons having Dual Citizenship entering Parliament is to be removed. Hereafter they could contest Elections.
Minimum Age to become President has been reduced to 30 years.
A number of Independent Commissions is to be withdrawn.
After one year, the Parliament could be dissolved. On the whole the President’s powers have been enhanced. We are to go back to J.R.Jayewardene’s type of Presidency which could do anything except to make a man a woman and vice versa!
Q: Is it true that you took a vow at the LTTE memorial in Mullivaikkal after your election to Parliament? Why did you think it was necessary ?
A: After the Election and before coming to Colombo I did go to Mullivaikal to pay my respects to the vast innocent humanity who were killed by Governmental Forces around May, 18, 2009.
I prayed for peace for their troubled Souls. As a single individual I may not be able to do much. But my prayers may bring good results. I hoped that the very thought of those killed would prevent me from getting tricked by the powers that be who had previously tricked our representatives.
Q:You don’t call the LTTE a terrrorist group. But they were classified as a dangerous terrorist entity by the FBI in the US and the UN too has a similar classification for the LTTE. They pioneered the suicide belt, they used if not pioneered female human bombs, recruited Tamil children as soldiers according to UNICEF and assassinated two state leaders among many other Tamil intellectuals. Could you comment ?
A: Keppetipola Dissawe was classified by the British as a dangerous criminal. We pay homage to him as a National Hero. Why? The British were intruders who came from outside and expropriated our resources, destroyed our places of worship, took our lands and so on.
Therefore Keppetipola though belonging to the higher strata in society, he joined the rebels in Uva and fought the British. We call him a hero.The British if they were familiar with the term terrorist would have called him a terrorist.
The LTTE consisted of many brilliant minds who if allowed to study further would have been an asset to this country and the world at large. What made Prabakaran? He was a child when he heard about the atrocities which were committed on the Tamil People in 1958.
Thereafter, he heard of many atrocities by the Sinhalese majority which made him fully believe that a proper violent response was necessary. The Military was sent to the North around 1961, I believe under Col. Udugama, only because the Tamils protested peacefully against the wrongs done by the Governments of that time.
Policeman Bastiampillai’s sadistic brutalities on the youth were well known at that time. He was a paw in the hands of the Government.
Leave America alone.. They formulated a word ‘terrorist; and called any one whom they did not like a ‘terrorist’. Who christens a murderer a terrorist?
Is it not the Government? Is it not the Attorney General? When anyone rose against ’State Terrorism’ they were conveniently christened as terrorists.
Classifications by Foreign Governments and Institutions are done on the basis of what a Government makes out to them. You speak of wrongs by the LTTE forgetting the wrongs done by the State and the State Forces. Suicide bombers and human bombs were the ultimate response to the brutality of the State Forces. If so-called State Leaders were targets find out what they had done prior to their becoming targets. Please do not call one set as terrorists when the miscreants were others. They were greater terrorists.