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M.A.Sumanthiran was interviewed by Nadarajah Kuruparan in a GTBC radio program named “Vizhuthukal”


Following are the excerpts of the interview;

Q: How do you or the TNA, in which you belong to, view the regime change that means the change from the Mahinda’s regime to Maithri’s regime?


A: It is a progressive change since our people had to live without any expectations in the torturous Mahinda’s regime. Therefore, it was badly in need of changing the regime for just to have a free breath at least. Our people know this fact. We are now free from Asphyxia.


Q: Is the Maithri-Ranil era different from the successive regimes after the Independence of Sri Lanka?

A: Comparing with each and every regime, it cannot be said that the new regime is different from all the preceding regimes. But, it can certainly be said that this new regime is totally different from the Mahinda’s regime.


Q: After the alliance regime of the then President Chandrika and the then Prime Minister Ranil in 2000, the majoritarian national parties have now come to the alliance regime. How do you compare and contrast the Chandrika-Ranil alliance regime and Maithri-Ranil alliance regime?

A: Though Ranil and Chandrika were in an alliance regime in those days, there were no collaborations between them. Keeping their parties’ interests in their minds, they were in search of chances to topple one another. Not only Maithri& Ranil, but also Chandrika also joined together to defeat the Mahinda’s regime. Now the national government is running collaboratively.


Q: Submissive to the pressure exerted the political parties in south particularly JVP; several pitfalls were made to the Peace Talks initiated during the alliance regime of Chandrika& Ranil in 2002. Thus, Ranil couldn’t go beyond a limit as he lost the three ministries of his regime cause of it. It was also said to be that the LTTE troubled the Peace Talks.

It is widely stated that Chandrika played a vital role in this regime change. It is also said that she is going to deliver a speech on behalf of Sri Lanka at the upcoming UN session. Now she plays a vital role to make reconciliation. But, in 2002, she took decisions for the sake of her party. How do you view with regard to this as it may happen once again in future?

A: Chandrika brought a new constituent draft in 2000 August. Considering the political solution, all levels in Tamil political sections are ready to accept the constituent draft brought by the then President Chandrika. Therefore we have to come to the year 2002 after carefully considering how Ranil had disturbed the constituent draft brought by Chandrika in 2000. The new constituent draft was set fire and the Chandrika’s regime was toppled. Many were defected from Chandrika’s party to Ranil, thus Ranil became as the Prime Minister. Therefore, Chandrika who was in search of toppling the Ranil’s regime defeated the UNP joining the some other political forces in south by reasoning out the ideas put forward by the LTTE.

That was the rivalry between the two major national parties. Now, the rivalry between the two major national parties got softened. Anyhow, seeing the issues raised by the ministers in the parliament, it can be said that the rivalry between these two major national parties were not completely annulled.

Maithri is the reason for the Ranil’s Prime Ministerial post. Ranil is the reason for the Maithri’s presidential post as Ranil had accepted Maithri as the common candidate in the presidential election. Therefore, both of them totally rely on one another. Following the powers of the president were reduced on 19th of August, the regime can only be possibly run if both the President and the Prime Minister are hand in hand.


Q: Parties’ interests were prioritized rather than the sake of the country in the past history whenever the political solution to the minorities is taken. The mind-sets of the people were converted as the capital for the existence of the political parties. Meanwhile, how will the Tamils or its political leadership believe that Maithri& Ranil era would not be treacherous to the ethnic minorities?

It was said that Sinhala Only Act was brought by Bandaranayake in 1956 with the intention of establishing a separate political party to challenge the UNP headed by D.S.Senenayake.

J.R.Jeyawardene marched to Kandy to vehemently oppose the Banda-Chelva Pact.

The SLFP endeavored to counter the Dadly-Chelva Pact.

Chandrika’s pact was opposed by the UNP.

Both of these major political parties opposed the political solution to the ethnic minorities again and again in the past history.  

Do you think that these political parties can be controlled if Maithri, Ranil and Chandrika together pay attention towards it?

A: In 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, the political parties which came to power troubled the political solution which were about to be brought in the previous regimes without bringing any political solution to the ethnic minorities. But in 1980s, when those who were in office brought the political solution, the then opposition parties were troubling it. Due to the pressure exerted by the armed struggle of the Tamil youths under the leadership of the LTTE, the then ruling governments had attempted to bring political solution to the ethnic issue somehow. But these attempts of bringing political solution were opposed by the then opposition parties.

Now, international pressure exerted on those who are in power. During the war, international pressure was exerted on the LTTE alone. Due to the incidents taken place at the final stage of the war, dragging on the political solution to the Tamils and some other reasons, international pressure is now exerted on those who are in power in the post war era. Thus, these two major national parties which are in power have to give priority for the sake of the country rather than their parties’ interests as their parties’ interests would be possible through working for the sake of the country.

It doesn’t mean that believing entirely on this and abandoning all other efforts of us. It doesn’t mean that we are going to fall down at their feet. This is an opportunity. If we make the better use of this opportunity, those who opportunistically behaved in the past may probably behave with calm as the consequence of the pressure exerted on them by the international community.           


Q: It is widely spoken in South that LTTE always harms the attempts of finding a solution to the ethnic conflict. Thimphu peace talk, Donamour constitution was repealed by the ethnic majorities. They repealed the protection afforded to minorities by the Soulbury constitution while establishing the first republican constitution in 1972. This was called as the constitutional revolution in which leftists had also taken part. There is no protection to the minorities in the second republican constitution. All of these peace pacts were harmed by the chauvinism. ITAK could only protest non-violently against these. Now also, the attempt of forming a new constitution is on progress. What will be the assurance that the things happened in the past would not be repeated again in this time?

A: While addressing in the UN session on Sep 14, the Minister of External Affairs himself gave many assurances particularly the ethnic issue of Tamils would be resolved in the new constitution. This vividly shows how the government is being pressurized by the International Community.

Resolution with regard to Sri Lanka was jointly passed on Oct 1. Complete report will be submitted in March at the UN session by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights after orally submitting the report at the UN session.

We are working with the goal of attaining a complete solution to the ethnic issues of Tamils through the new constitution.


Q: In the midst of some good news, it is said that there are setbacks in this process.  

It is said that the paragraph mentioning the solution to the national ethnic issue was removed in the preamble of the new constitution draft. Sampanthan has also spoken in this regard. Without being able to bear the pressure exerted by the joint opposition parties, even a paragraph in the preamble of the new constitution was removed. While addressing at the constituent assembly, the speaker of the parliament did not state that the intention of drafting this new constitution is to bring the solution to the ethnic issue, instead of that he stated that the intention of the new constitution is to abolish the executive presidency and to change the electoral system. Therefore, Tamil people and Tamil political sections are confused and frustrated about this new constitution.

When I recently had an opportunity to meet diplomats in Europe, I have spoken to them in this regard. But, they listened to what I say as a new message to them. Does this government of good governance show different faces to International Community, Tamil National Alliance and South?

A: When the preamble was submitted on Jan 9 in the parliament, abolishment of executive presidency, changing the electoral system and finding the solution to the ethnic issue were included in the preamble. When the joint opposition parties started exerting pressure on it, the Prime Minister discussed with us about removing the things mentioned in the preamble regarding the solution to the ethnic issue just from the preamble.

We strongly said that it doesn’t matter to us if the thing regarding the solution to the ethnic issue was not mentioned earlier in the preamble. But, removing it after being included in the preamble will be recession to us.  On Jan 8, I had a meeting with the president as Sampanthan was unable to attend cause of his busiest schedule. I was instructed by our team not to allow the things removed from the preamble.

“When a new constitution comes, some persons will accept it whereas some others definitely will oppose it. But I do not like the mechanism of drafting the new constitution to be opposed by many”, the president told us.

Before March 9, the persons like G.L.Peris kept on stating that the new constitution formed such a way is not legally valid. But, when it was passed on March 9, no one shouted that it is not legally valid.

In the constitution, there are two paragraphs such as preamble paragraph and operative paragraph.

Whatever it was, we did not accept the preamble submitted in the parliament as the thing with regard to the ethnic solution was just removed from the preamble.

While addressing in the parliament, the president stated that those who are in South are afraid of federal system whereas those who are in North are afraid of unitary ruling. He added that no any ethnicities or religions should be prioritized in our country.

When we come to the formation of the new constitution, there would be ups and downs, victory and disappointments. It is not wise to step back by taking a single matter alone into consideration.

We may go for some concessions. But, we will not go for concessions in our fundamental political aspirations.


Q: The persons like G.L.Peris stated that the new constitution formed such a way is not legally valid. During the Mahinda’s regime, the validity of the 13th Amendment was questioned before the Supreme Court and thus north and east were separated stating that the Indo-Lanka accord is contradiction to the second republican constitution. Thus, the agreement between two countries became null and void.  

If the Mahinda faction with the overwhelming 2/3 majority raises questions before the judiciary system of Sri Lanka, will the International Community step back from this stating that it is the matter of the sovereignty of Sri Lanka?

A: That is why; we demand the federal system. Though the word “federal” is not mentioned, the key features of federal system should be included. In the system, the matters with regard to the devolution of power, should not be able to be removed even with the 2/3 majority or through the referendum. We need to bring the double majority setup in each region in order to keep the accord without being spoiled. That is why; we demand the federal system.


Q: While stating about reconciliation, the president stated that everybody states that reconciliation should be taken to north but reconciliation should be initiated from south. He added that reconciliation should be initiated from the Buddhist temples.

According to the mindsets of the ethnic majorities, reconciliation means the compatibility of the defeated and weakened ethnicity with the ethnic majorities after giving up its legitimate rights and political aspirations.

From the South African experiences on reconciliation, what does the TNA take steps to convey the concept of reconciliation to South?

A: The President does this work. He stated like this towards the Sinhalese people in the Independence Day Celebrations. These comments of the president were opposed by none in South.

We did not do this task properly. Language barrier is the key issue for doing this task. We should directly meet with the people in South in this regard. Sampanthan delivers interviews to the Sinhalese papers. His interviews are published in the Sinhala papers every Sunday. We try to do this. But it is not enough.   


Q: When the Prime Minister was addressing in front of the military soldiers, the Military Commander raised a question asking whether the military soldiers be investigated either individually or jointly before the Courts.

Responding to the question raised by the Military Commander, the Prime Minister stated that international probe should not be conducted. Instead of that domestic probe may be conducted. Further details in this regard would be explained by the Minister of External Affairs.

While the war scars are being in the minds of our people without being healed,

In Japan, the President stated that reconciliation should not be built by using brick stones also he added Tamil people demanded the lands belonging to them.

The President is also not a sole leader of the majoritarian Sinhala-Buddhists.

International pressure, monitoring and considerations are not on this government of good governance. According to some section, International Pressure is not exerted on the present government due to the illusion of being as the government of good governance. According to them, if Mahinda comes to power only, the international pressure would be exerted on the government. What do you think about this?

A: It is true that the pressure would be continuously exerted on the cruel ruling. But, the pressure exerted on them should turn to a point. The turning point came at the right time. The regime change occurred when the investigation report was about to be revealed after conducting the international investigation. If the regime change is not occurred then the human rights resolutions cannot be brought as the human rights resolutions cannot be forcibly implemented.

We are very much strong-minded on the investigation, contribution by the International Community, contribution of the plaintiff, the international resolution which became possible through the bargaining and the way we lead this.

We will do many things without publicly stating.

Criticisms made each and every movement of us from our side will be favorable to Mahinda’s faction.

If the election had been boycotted when a circumstance of changing the regime was possibly emerged, the people would have gone abroad without being tolerate the torturous life anymore.

We will never give up our basic political aspirations. But we will behave with carefulness.


Q: Amirthalingam became as the opposition leader after the Independence. But, the then situation was very tense. He had to leave from the country. Thus, he cannot associate with South. What does the TNA do as the opposition party and the party which has good understandings with the ruling party with regard to the issues of political prisoners, disappeared persons and land?

Despite the high level authorities accept the release of the lands; it is not worked out at the ground level. Consequently, people are very much frustrated. Ex-cadres are arrested by showing a few incidents as the reasons. More than 12000 ex-cadres who were released after being rehabilitated lost their sleeping following the arrests. What does the TNA think about this?

A: We had a long discussion with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Sep in Geneva. He stated that according to his experiences, reformation of Defense Sector is not satisfactorily made in the countries where changes are being occurred. The situation prevailing in your country is also the same in terms of the changes in the reformation of defense sector, he added.

I am not saying this for specious trend. The recent arrests are the evidences for this. Some of the high ranking ex-cadres who were the informants to the Military Intelligence were arrested. One of the English newspapers stated that in order to reduce the influences of the Military Intelligence, these arrests are being taken place. There may be some facts in this article. 5000 persons are monthly paid by the Military Intelligence. Even though the Military Commander cannot influence in the affairs of the Military Intelligence, the particular newspaper further added.

The government is ready to release the lands. But, it is accused that the military soldiers are hesitating to do that so.

When we speak to the State Minister of Defense with regard to this, he stated that the navy is ready to release the lands but the military is hesitating to do that. Those military personnel who refused to release the lands are mostly the ones who are afraid of being investigated on war crimes. The president couldn’t completely control his own political party. It is wrong that we casted our votes to Maithri but he did nothing to us. He did something. But he did not do the whole things as there are several other issues he is still facing.

I explained to our people that the regime change is not a matter like passing a line instead it is a matter like crossing a river by sailing on a boat.

50 political prisoners were released. But we expected that all political prisoners except 20 would be released. There are prolonged delays with regard to the issues of disappeared persons.


Q: In providing the GSP + trade benefits and lifting the ban on Fish Exports to EU, were the comments of the TNA heard?

Does this government really attempt for the reconciliation?

What do you view about this?

A: Releasing the political prisoners and releasing the lands can easily be done by the government. From South, it was asked about the relationship between human rights affairs and the GSP + trade benefits. If a beggar begs money, we will give some money. But, if the beggar tortures his wife after taking alcohol using the money we gave him, then we will not give him some money. I explained them using this explanatory story. We keep in touch with the European Union continuously.


Q: Eastern Provincial Council is semi controlled by the TNA whereas Northern Provincial Council is entirely controlled by the TNA.

Do the provincial councils make the best use of the powers given to them?

Or else, does the central government impede the activities of the Provincial Councils?

A: Inability of exercising the powers given to the Provincial Councils is true. The entire blame cannot go to the Central Government.

It is unfortunate that most of the officers and politicians are not efficient in their works due to the circumstance prevalent in the past three decades. The central government also impedes the exercising of the matters included in the 13th Amendment.

But some statues can be brought by the Provincial Councils for its efficient functioning.

Despite the former governor did not accept the statues, passing only 5 statues within the two and a half years are not acceptable. The present governor of the Northern Provincial Council, who was previously being as the Chief Minister of the Western Provincial Council for more than 10 years, came up with some statues which were tabled by him when he was the CM of WPC, and asks the NPC to pass these statues.

Only 5 statues were passed whereas 250 resolutions were tabled in the Northern Provincial Council.

The way the eastern navy commander behaves with the Chief Minister of Eastern Provincial Council harmed the Muslims.


Q: Ostin Fernando is the present governor of the Eastern Provincial Council. He served as the Secretary of the Defense Ministry in 2002. He participated in the peace attempts made by Ranil. He came from the leftist background in the early days of his politics.

Some of the Muslim columnists recently wrote that why Prabaharan had opposed the Provincial Council could be realized by them now.

Muslims who did oppose the Provincial Council previously started opposing it publicly. The former Chief Minister of the Eastern Provincial Council Pillaiyan, who was collaborative with the then government, stated that he had no powers to appoint even the bus drivers and conductors.

The one and only Chief Minister of North-East provincial council declared the Separate Eelam without being able to run the Provincial Council.

These kinds of bitter experiences have been experienced by the Muslim section in this government of good governance.

From these experiences, will the Tamils and Muslim work collaboratively in future?

A: Muslims accept the need for the devolution of power. 13th Amendment to the constitution was not only opposed by the LTTE but also the TULF. Opposing to it, Sampanthan wrote a letter at that time.

Legislative powers are in the hands of the Governor.

In a joint statement delivered by Mahinda with India in 2010, he stated that by implementing the 13th Amendment and going beyond it, the devolution of power would be made as a meaningful one.

Merging the North and East, Land powers and Police powers are included in the 13th Amendment. By stating that by going beyond the 13th Amendment, the devolution of power would be made as meaningful clearly shows that 13th Amendment is worthless.

Mahinda gave this assurance in 2010.

Mahinda accepted the Solution Pact brought by Chandrika in 2000 August.

UNP opposed the Chandrika’s pact by stating that executive presidency was not abolished in it.

Muslims are not wholly accepting the things regarding the administrative units. But, they are giving fullest support for the devolution of power.


Q: Land grabbing establishing the Buddha statues and the viciousness of the Buddhist monks are still being continued. What does the TNA view in this regard? (This question was asked by one of the audience)

A: Attempts of establishing some of the Sinhala settlements were stopped. Attempts of establishing Sinhala settlements are continuously being made in Mullaitivu district. Defense Sections and Buddhist monks are behind these Sinhla settlements. Stating that all these Sinhala settlements are state sponsored is wrong. We try to stop the land grabbing as much as we could.


Q: Why doesn’t Sampanthan participate at the Mullivaikal Remembrance Event? (This question was asked by one of the audience)

A: As we made the regime change possible, observing the Mullivaikal Remembrance Event became possible after the 7 years. He had no time as he was in the midst of busiest schedule as it was the Parliament Week.


Q: It is said that there is a confrontation prevalent between the NPC and the TNA. NPC is functioning while being divided into several groups. Getting the financial assistance from the Diaspora and organizing it are unable to the NPC. Why doesn’t the TNA do this task efficiently?

A: We established “Rehabilitation” during the Mahinda’s regime. He did not allow it to be functioned properly. The NPC also started “Chief Minister Fund”. But, the governor impeded for that. Thandayuthapani is the Minister of Resettlement in the Eastern Provincial Council. Someone did not work for our political party during the last elections, which cause some contradictions among us. It is yet to be entirely set on.


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