TNA move, a good turning point in Tamil politics - Suren Raghavan | Sunday Observer

TNA move, a good turning point in Tamil politics - Suren Raghavan

21 June, 2020

The former Northern Province Governor Suren Raghavan, a national list candidate of the SLFP, in an interview with the Sunday Observer said, ‘The Tamil speaking people want ‘Equality in citizenship’ and cautioned that terms such as Federal would only cause unrest.

Excerpts of the interview:

Q: You have been nominated as a national list candidate of the SLFP for the Northern Province at the upcoming parliamentary election. Is there a reason why you were chosen?

A. Since I resigned from my post as Governor of the Northern Province, I asked myself how I could utilise my knowledge and ability to serve my community. When the 2020 Parliamentary Election started, the SLFP invited me and said they were willing to include me in their national list. I immediately said ‘yes’ and agreed to work for the party.

We do have extremists on both sides. Most of the time extremism manifests via the media, but the views of moderate thinkers who constitute the majority of our communities seldom reach the public.

To address the issue of extremism we need to build a bridge between the politicians of the North and the South.

This is the stance of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and the former President Maithripala Sirisena. So, I believe the inclusion of my name in the national list is to further this policy.

Q: You worked independently as the former Northern Province Governor. So why did you choose the SLFP to enter Parliament?

A. I got an opportunity to work for former President Maithripala Sirisena as his advisor. He is a person who strongly detests ethnic based politics.

While working for him for three months, one day he said that he wished to appoint me as the Governor of the Northern Province. As the Governor, I worked very independently and did not represent the interests of the SLFPers alone.

At this election the SLFP and the SLPP are working together. So as an SLFP member I will work to ensure the victory of ‘pohottuwa.’

Q: Would you share some of your experience, how you served the Northern Province and its people as Governor?

A. I served as the Northern Province Governor for ten months. Although it’s a short period I am satisfied that I was able to complete many tasks. Parliamentarians of the North and the East lauded my activities, saying that I have accomplished many feats which they couldn’t do within the past ten years in Parliament.

During my period, we carried out many projects in the irrigation and education sectors and I solved many issues connected to lands and unemployment. We were able to give state lands for nearly 8,000 families, government jobs for 4,200 youth and opened the Jaffna airportwhich had been closed for the past 43 years and transformed it to an international airport.

When I was Governor, the Provincial Council was not functioning, in a sense it made my job easy. The allocations for the Northern Province came to us directly and I was able to carry out projects with the concurrence of the Central Government. As I said earlier, I was unbiased and worked independently.

Q: As a national list candidate how would you work for the governing party?

A. Since I am not contesting directly, I will assist the Northern Province SLFP candidates working in the ‘Pohottuwa’ list. Apart from that, as a politburo member of the SLFP I will help the Tamil speaking community and their candidates in the Nuwara Eliya, Kandy, Badulla and Moneragala districts.

My perception is not just the North and the East, we must secure the rights of the people who live in the upcountry also. If not for the war against terrorism, the upcountry people would have been more distressed than the Tamils in the North and East. I don’t wish to define them as Indian Tamils, they may be of Indian origin but they are now Sri Lankans

Tamil-speaking citizens in this country need to be recognised as equals and not second citizens. No matter what you call it, we want ‘Equality in citizenships’ that is my stand. If we analyse our history, we had many bitter experiences due to terms such as ‘Federal’. The words have no meaning or importance.

Q: President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was elected solely by the votes of the majority community. How would you help his party gain the votes of the Tamils in the North?

A. President Rajapaksa was elected from the SLPP (Pohottuwa). At the upcoming election, our alliance is contesting as the SLFP in the Northern Province.

There has been a huge voter base for the SLFP in the Northern Province since the beginning. Several electorates in the North cast more than 97 percent of votes for the victory of former President Maithripala Sirisena. Already there is a strong base in the North for the SLFP, and what we have to do now is strengthen that base. At the forthcoming polls the SLFP will work with the SLPP. Even if not directly, we hope to get the majority of the Northern votes for the SLPP.

The candidates who represent the North and the East under the SLPP ticket will work in coordination and will not engage in divisive politics, both before and after the polls.

Q: Do you think President Rajapaksa and his Government will give a permanent solution to the long standing problem of the Tamil speaking community?

A. I strongly believe that by implementing the letter and the spirit of the 13th Amendment, which is part of the present Constitution directly, would resolve most of the problems of the Tamil speaking community. It would be a good start.

Q: TNA leader R. Sambanthan has said they are willing to support the Government to get a two-thirds majority in Parliament. What is your comment on this?

A. The TNA’s move would be a major success to the present Government, it is a good turning point in Tamil politics.

The TNA has always taken a different path in the past.

But this recent statement of the TNA shows their maturity in politics.