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Sunday, 13 November 2011

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Indian Tamils outnumber Northern Tamils



Prabha Ganeshan

Democratic People's Congress Leader and Colombo District Parliamentarian Prabha Ganeshan says TNA's recent trip to the US and Europe was nothing more than a publicity stunt that was intended to please the diaspora and LTTE rump into milking more votes from their kith and kin in the North.

Ganeshan says if the LTTE had some interest in the grievances of Tamils, the TNA is least concerned and its power hungry leaders wish, the ongoing talks will collapse so that their re-entry to Parliament is guaranteed through the Tamilians woes.

He emphasised the need to include Tamils of Indian origin and the Muslims in the ongoing devolution-of-power Talks, adding the Northern Tamils no more enjoy the majority among the community. Citing a recent census carried out islandwide by the Census and Statistics Department he pointed out that the population of the Tamils of Indian origin outnumbered the Northern Tamils.

The excerpts of the interview:

Q: How do you view the TNA's recent visit to US, Canada and UK where they claimed their intention is to brief the Foreign Governments on Sri Lanka?

A: Actually, their intention was to satisfy the diaspora. These diaspora groups are a decisive factor in Sri Lanka's Northern vote base. The relatives of many Northerners live in the West. They have a very strong control over their kith and kin here, in that sense. TNA wanted to please them and fatten their vote base.

They could not meet with the Secretary of State or Assistant Secretary Robert Blake. This shows that the tour was not well planned.

Q: Do you think the visit was also a ploy to satisfy the LTTE remnants in the West?

A: Yes. Still there are LTTE supporters among the Tamil diaspora. They want to see the LTTE revived. Not to start an arms struggle but some sort of a different approach to win the LTTE ideology. They want to disrupt the Government. The People of North East are very much pleased with the development work carried out by the government after the end of the conflict. They are slowly drifting away from the TNA. The TNA is losing the grip now. At the last local government elections, in Jaffna district, the TNA received 124,764 votes and the Government and UNP (just 3000 votes) together obtained 50,900 votes.

The results show some 36 per cent of the Tamils opposing the TNA which means that even in the Jaffna district, their stronghold, they don't represent the entire Tamil population. A significant percentage of people are not supportive of TNA policies. Hence, they cannot claim that they are the sole representatives of Tamils.

People are more concerned about development of their areas, restoring infrastructure, re-commencing the disrupted school system and educating their children. The people are slowly embracing change and looking into the direction of reclaiming their normal life and walking away from 'hate politics'.

The TNA is threatened by this attitude. They want to revive their lost glory and seek refuge in diaspora sections to influence the people here. They want to visit US, UK, rest of the Europe and Australia to drum up support.

The Darusman report says during the final battles, 40,000 people perished, I don't know if this is correct but no one in the international community intervened then.

Prabhakaran thought the UN or the Norway will rescue him. But it was just a dream. The TNA is still going behind foreign Governments. This is useless and I think they are betraying the country.

They must strive to find a solution here.

Q: The Foreign Minister Prof. Peiris at a press conference last week expressed the same sentiments. He said they must try to resolve matters with us before going elsewhere and such action will serve little purpose.

A: Yes. But what I believe as the reason for their trips is to expand their vote base, nothing else, It is not intended to discuss a solution for the grievances of the Tamil people.

Even Minister Basil Rajapaksa in a recent statement very rightly said, the TNA shows less interest to resolve the Tamils' issues than even the LTTE. I agree with that 100 per cent.

Q: You have been voicing the concerns of the Tamils of Indian origin?

A: According to the census carried out islandwide last year, earlier the census was done excluding the North and the East due to the war situation, there are 1.6 million Tamils of Indian origin. There are just 150,000 North East Tamils in the country. We constitute the majority of the Tamil population today.

I believe this is a good reason for us to be included in the ongoing discussions to frame a political solution. At the moment only the TNA is taking part. But I think the other Tamil groups and the Muslims should also be included in these talks. Other than myself, the parties represented by Minister Arumugam Thondaman, P. Digambaram, and Radhakrishnan and several others should be included.

If all these stakeholders are included in the talks I think it will be easy to draft a solution agreeable to all. If not there is little chance to find any solution.

Q: But TNA is the majority representative of Tamils in the Parliament?

A: There were nine seats alloted to the Jaffna distict. Now this has been reduced to five. At the next general election the TNA will get only eight seats maximum. The Tamils of Indian origin will secure 11-12 seats. In the last parliament we had 11 but this time it was reduced due to various political changes but we will get the same 11 next election and the TNA will get only 7-8. We constitute the majority. Therefore, I believe our representatives must be included in talks and we should not involve outsiders in this process.

Q: The TNA has been blaming the government for 'no progress' at Talks?

A: I want to pose just one question to the TNA. What is the solution that they have proposed the Government. They have not submitted any proposals for a political solution. They are simply meeting and talking. No genuine Tamil issues have been raised there by the TNA. It is as if the TNA is having a tea party.

Q: But they say the Government should first come out with details of devolving power, with regard to how far they would like to stretch?

A: That is totally wrong. The person who is hungry should decide what to eat. He is the best judge of what he needs.

The TNA must take the lead, the Government could then evaluate their proposals and work on a compromise. This way things can be expedited. But the TNA's wish is not the Tamil people's wish. They want the whole thing to collapse so that they could thrive on Tamils' grievances and pull more votes. When people get burdened with issues it is easy to rouse their sentiments and feed Tamil nationalism.

People want their areas to be developed. In the past, the Heads of many State bodies, such as the Customs, Postal Department, were

Tamils. We had a wealth of educated people from the North. After the cursed conflict the whole situation changed. I feel we must help government to develop schools first. The TNA must help government with this task.

During the last local government election I went with the President to open a new multi storeyed school building at Manipai.

It was sponsored by the Uva Provincial Council and the Chief Minister. This is what we should do for Tamil people. We have to win our rights rightfully. The TNA is not willing to take part in the development drive.

Q: What is your opinion on TNA's relations with India?

A: The Indian defence establishments helped Sri Lanka immensely to fight LTTE and end the war. During LTTE days, the TNA was a Tiger proxy. If Prabhakaran says the crow is white, they will parrot the same.

But now the TNA leaders will talk nothing against India, the country that helped defeat their leader because the family members of these leaders, all live in India. TNA is trying to please India to protect their families. They show least interest in developing the North and the East since it is of least relevance to them.

Q: But despite all these accusations, the TNA emerged victorious in the past elections?

A: Politicians have a right to talk about Tamils rights, but no one should dwell on Tamil nationalism. We are just 16 per cent of the population. What if the Sinhalese who represent 76 percent of the population start talking about nationalism? We should not be disillusioned or allowed to be led on the wrong path. At the last Municipal Council election the TNA backed Mano Ganeshan. Their election gimmick was Tamil nationalism.

They brainwashed Tamils to vote for Mano in Colombo just like in Jaffna where people were compelled to vote only for the TNA. It was told the international community will once again begin to hear our voice if we stand together. This was a blatant lie to siphon votes. What is the relevance of MC elections to the international community?

Q: What is the composition of Tamils in the Colombo district?

A: There are 140,000 Tamil voters in the Colombo district, with the majority 120,000 living in the city limits.

Out of the city dwellers 75% voters are Tamils of Indian origin and only 25% voters represent North and East Tamils. I am the only Tamil MP who represents the Western Province. The conflict ended two years ago. Nearly 300,000 people who were displaced have almost been resettled now. But the estate workers who work tirelessly to bring in foreign exchange to this country still languish in 10ft x 10ft line rooms. Their living conditions have not changed much for the past 150 years. This is a big discrepancy in our country. The people who helped wage the LTTE war including those of the

Mahaveer families have now returned to lead normal lives in their own homes and property but these people who laboured for centuries to serve the country and its economy have been neglected. This is such a pathetic crime.

Q: Why is this sudden cry to involve Tamils of Indian origin in the Talks to devolve power?

A: At the outset people were expectant that the LTTE will somehow get relief for the Tamils. Even the Tamils of Indian origin were hopeful that they will discuss with the Government to find solutions. But due to their stubbornness they destroyed everything including whatever the things we won via democratic ways. We cannot no longer wait for the Jaffna Tamils to work out solutions on behalf of us. I will be insisting that we must participate in the talks with the TNA to take up the issues of the estate Tamils, etc.

Q: When I posed the same question to the Government, they said they will talk to the TNA because they hold the majority Tamil representation in Parliament. But the outcome of these talks will be put before the other parties including the Muslims before a final draft is formulated.

A: I do not agree with that. There are 18 Muslim Parliamentarians and seven Tamil MPs of Indian origin. Altogether we constitute 25 seats, more than what the TNA holds.

Further, I got about 47,000 votes to become an MP at the General election. But in Jaffna district Mrs.Maheswaran came to Parliament with only 3600 preferential votes. All other TNA MPs got much less than the number of votes I got. Jaffna district has nine seats but the number of voters there is less than 300,000. To have nine seats there has to be over 12,000 voters. This is proof that TNA is far from the real representatives of the Tamil people. Ananda Sangaree, according to the TNA those days was a traitor who went against LTTE ideologies. But he has been welcomed to the TNA fold now. Does this mean that TNA upholds what Mr.Sangaree said those days against the LTTE?

Not just Ananda Sangaree even late MP Ravi Raj criticised the LTTE. He was to walk out on TNA with Sangaree but at the eleventh hour he refrained. Even Mano Ganeshan criticised the LTTE with me but we were scared to openly air our sentiments because the LTTE was a powerful military outfit then.

Q: Will you ever walk back to your brother's camp?

A: No there is no chance of my joining Mano Ganeshan. There is no reason for me to walk out of the Government. An MP is allocated only 5 million from the DCB Fund to look after his electorate. But I was able to get additional funds to serve my people. I must thank the Western Province Chief Minister Prasanna Ranatunga. He assisted me with funds to develop a lot of Tamil schools. I have been allocated more than Rs.15 million.

We have earmarked Colombo Central Hindu Colloge at Mawatha Road, St.Anthony's Maha Vidyalaya at Vivekananda Hill Kotahena, Kalaimagal Vidyalaya at Bloemendhal Rd, Vipulananda Vidyalaya and several others to upgrade utilising these funds. My decision to join forces with Government has given me strength to serve Tamil people. I don't think Mano Ganeshan will join the Government.He is no more with the UNP but he has expressed support to the UNP Colombo Mayor. I do not know where he is going to stand. The UNP cannot form a government even in another 15 years. This could be the end of Mano Ganeshan's politics.

 

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