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DateLine Sunday, 23 March 2008

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Liberation for people in North soon - TMVP

The Thamil Makkal Viduthalai Pukkikal (TMVP) said that the people of the East were thankful to the Mahinda Rajapaksa Government and the military for ending the fearful era under the clutches of the LTTE terrorists.

The first woman Mayor of the Batticaloa district, Sivageetha Prabakharan of the TMVP told the 'Sunday Observer' that the TMVP hopes the Government would liberate the people in the North from the LTTE terrorists soon.

"We wish that our people in the North too will breathe the air of freedom soon," she said.


Pix by Vipula Amarasinghe

Agreeing that the TMVP still shelters children, she said that after the split, the LTTE tortured the younger brothers of the TMVP carders.

Mayor Prabhakaran, who seeks Government assistance to develop the district, assured that public money allocated for development would not be allowed to be misused under her administration.

Here are the excerpts of the interview:

Q: How do you feel now with your new position as the first woman Mayor of the Batticaloa Municipal Council?

A: I am very happy about this victory, personally and more than that, this is a victory for democracy. This victory reveals the trust that the people have on our party and us. As a whole it is a victory of the whole Tamil community in the East. For years the Tamil people in this region were left as political orphans. But now people have given us the power. What I can say is that now they are not political orphans. They have a new identity.

People of Batticaloa and the whole Eastern region had suffered immensely for over two decades from the war and also from several natural disasters. There are many needs to be fulfilled and we have high hopes that the Government will do more for our people.

The TMVP also hopes that we will be able to fulfil the aspirations of the people. I think this is a remarkable victory for our party.

Q: Now at this important moment you will be definitely remembering your late father, the TNA candidate Rajan Sathiyamoorthy. How do you see his political career?

A: Since the 1990s my father was involved in social service. Being a good social worker he entered politics. He served the people and from my childhood I was with my father. I learnt the needs of the people while working with my father.

In 1994 he contested from the UNP. He lost the election and then again in 2000 he contested from the UNP but he could not get a Seat. Finally he was ready to contest under the TNA in 2004 but just two days before the election he was brutally murdered by the LTTE terrorists.

After the peace agreement was signed many development projects took place in the East as well as in the North. My father played a key role with Karuna Amman, who was the Leader of the East. He was engaged in several development activities in the East.

After the split with the outfit Karuna Amman decided to enter into the democratic mainstream. So after the split Prabhakaran's hatred with my father grew gradually and he did not want my father playing a key role.

Prabhakaran was a man with regionalist ideas, so he did not want to see development projects taking place in the East too. My father, whose ideas were not same as that of Prabhakaran, worked for the betterment of the people of both regions.

Q: Is it true that your father was one of the pioneers who planned the split?

A: No. Not at all. His service was not restricted only to the East but to the North as well. He visited the North and work hard for the benefit of Tamils in both regions. Karuna Amman broke away from the outfit mainly because Prabhakaran did not want peace.

According to Karuna Amman he attended a meeting with Prabhakaran in Vanni before they were going for peace talks. There he had told that "we must use the peace talk period to strengthen our weaponry and the cadres". Karuna Ammam found Prabhakaran did not want peace any more and decided to leave the terrorist organisation.

Q: You said that Prabhakaran has regionalism ideas. Is this resulted in treating the LTTE carders in East and North differently?

A: Yes. As I mentioned earlier he is a man with regionalist ideas. This made him to treat carders in different ways. Though he started his struggle with an objective later it turned into a struggle of selfishness. Most of the members were not satisfied with that situation. The LTTE terrorists are fascists.

Q: You named the LTTE as a fascist outfit. How does the TMVP differ from fascism?

A: No. There is no room for diverse opinions within the LTTE. Only one voice and those who express their views differently will be killed the next day. The TMVP is totally different from this. People have different ideologies.

Q: Prabhakaran's militancy began with gunning down the former Jaffna Mayor Alfred Dorraiappa. Later several members of local bodies in the North and East like former Mayor of Batticaloa Chelian Perimahanayam, Sivapalan, Jaffna first woman Mayor Sarojini were assassinated by the LTTE. In this background how safe are you in this hot seat?

A: Well, the LTTE is a terrorist outfit. They do not believe in democracy. Prabhakaran does not believe and accept in diverse opinions. The history tells that all. I am ready to face anything for the betterment of my people.

I want to keep the trust that they keep in my party and me to serve them. So I am prepared to face any challenge and the LTTE cannot stop me. But I am happy to say that the Sri Lanka Police has provided me enough security.

Q: With the recent Local Government election democracy is rekindled in the Eastern province. How do you describe the days when the region was under the grip of the LTTE?

A: When the East was under the clutches of the LTTE, they wanted every thing to happen at gunpoint. People suffered immensely. There was a rigid rule at that time.

People did not have the opportunity of expressing their views freely. The situation during that time was really dangerous. I believe now people of the Eastern region breath fresh air, which was a golden result of this election.

Q: Your father was a TNA candidate. Why did you decide to join the new political party TMVP?

A: After my father's death I too had death threats. This situation compelled me to flee the Batticaloa district. Meanwhile I heard that Karuna Amman was going to form a political party. Then I returned to Batticaloa and joined them.

I wanted to serve my father's people. Even after my father was assassinated, over 24,000 people voted for him. So I thought it was my duty to serve them. That is why I joined the TMVP and worked as its General Secretary for some years.

Q: The TMVP is accused by international human rights organisations for child conscription. You were a teacher. Did you support children to join the TMVP or were you helpless?

A: No. We actually did not want children to join our group because using children as soldiers is a great human rights violation. We had discussed this issue with the UNICEF and other relevant organisations several times. The truth is that we had many children who had joined our organisation at the beginning because of the split in the outfit.

What had happened was when the elder brother joined the TMVP, the young ones of that family were tortured by the LTTE. So they came running to us seeking protection.

We were helpless and we could not do any thing other than sheltering them. When the situation had improved, we, with the help of the UNICEF and other organisations, handed over most of the children to their parents.

Q: So are you saying that there are no child soldiers with the TMVP now?

A: There are some children with us even now. Most of them do not have parents and they are orphans. We do not like to have children as soldiers. If any social welfare group or an NGO come forward to put them in a home, we are prepared to handover them. Then these children will start their education or vocational training.

Until then we have to protect these children. We strongly believe that today's children are tomorrow's leaders. I will shortly discuss with the relevant NGOs and we will make some arrangements to address this issue.

Q: Do you know how many child soldiers are there with the TMVP now?

A: No. I cannot exactly give the figures but there are some children with us as I mentioned earlier. .

Q: You said that as the Mayor you want to give priority to develop the Batticaloa district. Are you satisfied with the development work done under the Negenahira Navodaya?

A: This is a welcome move and especially Vakarai is a big achievement under the Negenhira Navodaya. People of the East are happy and they appreciate the project. But the need for more projects to develop the region is there. I think in the near future we can fulfil other requirements of the people.

As soon as the TMVP entered into the democratic political mainstream, we identified the people's needs and submitted their requests for the Government. I have met MP Basil Rajapaksa several times.

And then I have met Minister Karu Jayasuriya and even Governor Mohan Wijewickrama. Through them we have submitted the needs of the people to President Mahinda Rajapaksa. We have much hope under Negenahira Navodaya project.

We have collected data from various departments like fisheries and agriculture. Then we have already submitted our proposals to the relevant miniseries to develop the Batticaloa district under the Negenahira Navodaya.

Q: What are your priorities and how do you think that you could develop the Batticaloa district?

A: The first priority should go for developing roads and then the drainage systems. There are many problems to be addressed in this district, which suffered heavily.

The problems of the Internally Displaced People (IDPs) will also be looked into. The IDPs are willing to go back to their own villages and we have requested the relevant ministeries to speed the programs for the resettlement programs.

Q: However, the TMVP was accused for committing murder, carrying arms and abductions and also demanding ransoms. What is your comment?

A: From the day that Karuna Ammam entered into the political mainstream we asked protection from the then President Chandrika Bandaranike Kumaratunga. But the then government did not provide us protection.

With the spilt, the LTTE started killing our members. We were helpless and we were compelled to retain arms for self-defence. We carried arms not to kill anyone but to fight against the LTTE to protect our carders. We are prepared to lay down arms as soon as our security is fully ensured.

Q: The main accusation for the TMVP is that you won the election at gunpoint. Can you deny this allegation?

A: Yes. I deny this allegation. We request those who make this claim to visit us or contact us and make clarifications.

Q: But the TMVP armed carders had threatened the Jaffna people in Batticaloa and demanded their support to the TMVP at the election and threatened them to leave their villages if they cannot do so. Is this a proof that the TMVP is still similar to the LTTE, which is fascist as you claimed? How do you ensure their safety now?

A: We did not threaten Jaffna people at the election and it is wrong. And we will not do that in the future either. While canversing I had visited their houses. Because, though these families are from Jaffna they have been living in the Batticaloa district for many years.

They are with us and the TMVP does not treat them indifferently. I want to reiterate that the TMVP is not fascist like the LTTE. Therefore I refute these allegations.

Q: It is reported that the TMVP bought polling cards and in some instances your carders had taken the polling cards forcibly from the residents. What is your comment?

A: I refuse these allegations because this election was a free and fair election. We believe in democracy and we did not do any illegal activity as such. What I see in these allegations is that these are by those who do not wish to see the TMVP as a political party and our victory too. These are malicious allegations.

Q: The President has pledged Rs. 6,000 million to develop the Eastern region. To what extent can the TMVP assure that the allocation for the Batticaloa district will not be misused under your tenure?

A: All the elected members will get together and discuss how to use this money for the betterment of the people. I can assure that this money will not be misused.

Q: What is your comment about liberating the Eastern region from the LTTE?

A: We should really be thankful to the Mahinda Rajapaksa Government, the three forces and the Police for liberating the East from the clutches of the LTTE. During that period people in the East lived in constant fear.

No one could go against the LTTE and if somebody raised his or her voice against the LTTE's views or criticised their activities, they would have been killed by the LTTE the next day. Now we are free from all terror. We breathe fresh air of freedom.

We lost lots of valuable lives during the last two decades. They died for an unworthy cause. The Eelam of the LTTE is a mirage.

Q: How supportive was the Government for your party to enter into politics?

A: Yes, we appreciate the support that the government extended to us. As soon as we entered democracy we joined hands with the Government to work for the people. As a result people of the East are free of terrorism.

We think that our sisters and brothers and their parents in the North under the clutches of the LTTE terrorists should be liberated soon. They should also breathe the same air of freedom as in the Eastern region.

The need of the hour is to join with the Government and work for the people. It is not the time to be in the Opposition and accusing each other.

****

Who is Sivageetha Prabhakaran...

The day she saw her father's bloodstained body, she silently swore to follow his footsteps. She was determined to take care of his people, who voted for him even after his death. Being the only daughter of the slain politician, Rajan Sathiyamoorthy, who was killed brutally by the LTTE just two days before the 2005 election, the young girl fled the place that she was born and bred due to constant death threats from the LTTE terrorists.

Having had the courage to swim against the tide of the world's ruthless terrorist outfit, she joined the Karuna faction, which abandoned the unrealisable dream - a separate land for Tamils and entered into politics.

The girl had the dearly blessings of her mother Premadevi who wanted her daughter to enter into politics to fill the void of her husband.

The elocution teacher - Sivageetha Prabhakaran - ended her struggle to serve her father's voters by becoming the first woman Mayor of the Batticaloa district last week.

Young Sivageetha, being an animal lover from her small days, always wanted to become a veterinary surgeon. "Now I can take care of cattle and cats and dogs in the Batticaloa district," the Mayor Sivageetha said.

Studied at St. Cecilia's Convent, she was her father's private secretary and was 'trained' by her father to become a social worker. "I can still remember the day our area was under floods. People were displaced and helpless.

My father was very upset and he came home and asked me to join him immediately. We both rushed to the area and did our best to the people," she recalled.

Still a 26-year-old youth, the Mayor Sivageetha beares high hopes. She wanted to develop the Batticaloa district, which she said has suffered a lot under the control of terrorists and also from natural disasters. One of her main dreams is to transform Batticaloa into a model city for the world to witness.

"I do not want to model it on any world city. I want it to be an indigenous one." This is her dream!

Sivageetha who became the Mayor of the Batticaloa district after a lapse of 14 years said she had to learn a lot in politics and even the administrative work.

Married to a Prabakharan, a TMVP member, she said 'her Prabakharan' is very much the opposite of the Prabhakaran, who is her father's murderer and whom she hated the most.

"Two hearts differ," the young Mayor blushed out.

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