by Arthur Wamanan
General Secretary of Citizen’s Front and Parliamentarian J. Sri Ranga charged that Tamil politicians were taking people for a ride for their own benefits.
In an interview to The Nation, Ranga said the likes of Tamil National Alliance (TNA) misled the people and were not genuine on going for a political solution to the ethnic conflict. Ranga also ruled out the possibilities of his joining the UNP, labeling its leadership as ‘government sponsored’.
He contested the Parliamentary elections under the UNP banner in 2010, and later expressed his willingness to be independent being in the opposition. However, he supported the Freedom Alliance government when it brought the 18th Amendment to the Constitution.
Following are the excerpts of the interview:
Q. There are speculations on your political stance. Some say you are with the government even though you entered Parliament on the UNP ticket. Your response?
Most politicians are involved in a campaign that I am with the government. These campaigns are carried out by those who are scared of me. I am still sitting with the opposition. I have not joined the government. I only supported the 18th Amendment while being in the opposition, and I continue to remain in it. These allegations are carried out by pro-TNA media trying to portray me as a person attached to the government. But it is not true. They allege that I have requested for a portfolio in the government. How can I do that while being in the opposition? I contested in Mullaithivu without the support of the government and won two seats. In fact, certain sections of the government did not like me contesting in Mullaithivu and wanted me out.
I faced several obstacles. When I contested in Nuwara Eliya, people questioned how can a Jaffna-born person contest. But I was successful. I don’t differentiate Tamils from Jaffna or Upcountry. They are all Tamils. I am against all divisions based on race and religion, and I have been successful working on this concept. The people who brought me to Parliament know this very well, and they believe me.
Q. How far have you been successful in your political endeavors?
As I said, I faced numerous challenges in politics and have overcome them successfully. For example, I contested in Nuwara Eliya and Mullaithivu. Many people thought that I would fail in politics. I was against the concept of Indian Tamils and Sri Lankan Tamils and worked on that basis. Many politicians representing Upcountry laughed when I went to Mullaithivu. But today, these very politicians have put up their political offices in Mullaithivu.
Q. How do you see the political situation in Sri Lanka, especially when it comes to the Tamil people?
Tamil people are misled by certain politicians and people with them. For example, there were two versions about Shiv shankar Menon’s recent visit to the country. The government stated he was happy with the situation in the country. However, Sampanthan issued a statement quoting Menon as saying he would not allow the government to delay the discussions.
The people are misled here. It was actually a group of 18 MPs including Sampanthan and Amirthalingam who asked for Tamil Eelam through the Vadukkodai declaration. None of their children were ever involved in the ethnic conflict by way of armed struggle or in anyway. They are not among the political prisoners or the ones who are reported missing. What I’m trying to say here is that people are being taken for a ride by certain politicians.
Q. What role should TNA play in the current context?
I saw in one of the media reports Sampanthan said that the TNA cannot be taken for a ride. It is not a question of the TNA being taken for a ride. Our concern is that the Tamil people should not be taken for a ride when it comes to the political settlement. Besides, there are quite a few issues that need to be solved within the TNA. There are differences of opinion within the TNA members. Some want the alliance to be registered as a party, and some others want the Ilankai Tamil Arasu Katchi (ITAK) to be dominant in the alliance.
For example, there are those who criticized Sampanthan raising the national flag. At the same time, there are some who refuse to speak on the matter thinking that they would not be given a chance to contest in future polls under the TNA. These issues have to be addressed. There are members of the alliance who feel that they do not have any rights within it. Therefore, the TNA should first ensure the rights of its members before speaking about the rights of people. TNA is only surviving because of the government.
Q. You say certain elements within the government are working against you? Who are they?
People like Rishad Bathiudeen like to be in control of whatever is happening in Wanni. He did not like me contesting in Mullaithivu. He openly said it. The government too is not addressing this issue. Every activity in the Wanni goes through him and politicians affiliated to him. Every activity in the Wanni needs political backing. Therefore, the people have got fed up. That is why the people are voting for the TNA. Politics has become easy for TNA due to such actions by certain politicians with the government.
Q. What are the general issues faced by people in the North?
Private companies cannot have contracts. All are done by politicians. No local contractors are involved in road and building constructions. How can the people survive like this? Politicians are doing the contracts.
Q. What is the situation when it comes to the estate sector people?
I am meeting with the people every week. Because, these people do not get to see their representatives after elections. But, I have changed this scenario. I meet them and do whatever I can while being an opposition MP. Today, other politicians have also started there mobile campaigns. This is the change we made. We have not requested for ministerial posts. But, we have requested for money for the regional development, while being in the opposition.
We are now focusing on providing education to the estate sector people. I can’t satisfy all the needs. But, I am doing whatever I can. We have got government support to put up roads. But we need to go a long way in terms of education, health and nutrition.
Q. You entered Parliament having contested under the UNP. Why have you moved away from the party? Why don’t you work with the UNP?
No. You cannot work with the UNP. The UNP has a government sponsored leader. I agreed to contest as an alliance. My agreement said that I would form an alliance with the UNP for the election. The UNP has not allowed me to speak in Parlament for over one year, since I supported the 18th Amendment. The UNP wanted to base my speech on their policies, which I refused. Even the government did not help me to safeguard my parliamentary rights. I fought my own battle alone. courtesy: The Nation