Indian Tamils outnumber Northern Tamils
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
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
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
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'
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.