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Northern Politicos Not Happy

by Roshani Nathaniel-Monday, January 09, 2017

Sampanthan, Sidharthan and Suresh Premechandran

The Tamils in the North played a pivotal role


in the change of regime and they expected their burning issues,
mainly the resettlement, releasing of political prisoners and
reduction of the military presence in the North to be fulfilled.
Some election promises have been partially activated but
according to the Northern people the majority of their
expectations have not been fulfilled.
The Tamils in the North are also rather disgruntled with their
elected leaders and feel that their issues have been neglected for
political gain. According to TNA member Suresh Premachandran
the government process is very slow and still the armed forces
are holding onto the private lands and still the people cannot
return to their own area. The government used to say that once
Maithripala Sirisena takes over as the President about 4,000 acres
of land from the North including Trincomalee has been returned.
However, according to the Chief Ministers estimation about
67,000 acres of land is being held by the armed forces. More than
half of that land belongs to private people. This is the biggest
problem as far as the Tamils are concerned, he said.

Although the government passed a law about opening an office to


look into missing persons issues, but till today there is no such
office that has been established. This too is another ongoing
problem, according to the Northern politicians.
The third issue is the political prisoners who have had no solace
for many years being incarcerated without either being punished
or released. All these main problems are still very evident and the
Tamil people in the North are suffering due to the governments
lethargy.
Apart from the resolution to the Tamil National problem we are
still facing many other issues. Even though the war is over these
issues are still continuing. However, the government is doing
nothing to address these issues and we are certainly not happy
about it, said Premachandran.
Speaking to The Sunday Leader TNA parliamentarian
Dharmalingam Sidharthan too admitted that the Tamils in the
North are a bit disappointed about the performance of the
government. When the new President was elected in 2015, the
Tamils had a lot of expectations but today they feel that the
progress is very slow. They are very disappointed about the slow
release of lands, releasing of political prisoners and even the
unemployment problem. There is no job creation and even the
available government jobs are being filled by the youth from the
South. These things are affecting the Tamils and they are not very
happy with the government, he pointed out.
However, he said compared to the previous government today the
people are living without fear. During the past they were afraid of
disappearances and white vans etc, but today that fear is not
there anymore and the people feel free. At least this sort of
action provides some relief to the people, he added.
Disappointed with their representatives

The TNA is basically the only Tamil party in the country


representing the Tamil people. Hence the TNA was elected by the
people and sent to parliament to represent them and their issues.
However, since being appointed the Leader of the Opposition, the
TNA over the past two years have become very unpopular among
the majority of Tamils in the North. The people are not being
informed of what is happening in the constitutional council.
There is no transparency and Sampanthan and Sumanthiran are
doing whatever they want and the people are very sceptical about
them.
They feel that the people are going to be sold by these members
of parliament. The TNA in their election manifesto put forward
some basic demands. That is that the North and East which was
merged for 18 years should be merged again, but now it has been
refused by the government, said Premachandran.
Likewise they were calling for a Federal system but again the
government now says it will be a unitary state and unitary
constitution. All these problems are there and we do not know
what is happening at present in parliament as our representatives
are not keeping us updated on what is happening. This was what
they were voted in for, but now the TNA are going on their own
path and not in the least concerned about the people, he said
adding that they are not aware of what is going on in the Steering
Committee of the Constitutional Council, and it is the main reason
the people are disappointed with the TNA.
However, Sidharthan said the TNA leadership perhaps has a
reason why they do not give out all the information about the
discussions that take place. I do agree that the people are not
being kept informed of what is happening. Even the rest of us
parliamentarians sometimes are not aware of what is being
discussed between the government and the TNA.
But at the same time I would not say that we are completely in
the dark. Sampanthan sometimes does explain to us what is
happening during our TNA parliamentary group meetings. He also
maybe having a reason for not divulging everything that is

discussed at the meetings with the government for good reason,


he added.
According to Sidharthan, certain things are best kept in secrecy
because if it is being discussed openly and made a big fuss of it,
there could be other agitations and disturbances or opposition
from the South. Therefore I am sure Sampanthan has a good
reason for not divulging all the details that might eventually derail
the whole process. I am sure he has good reason. I think although
there are many complaints that the TNA is not concerned about
the daily problems of the Tamil people, but I think Sampanthan
feels that if he can find a solution to the national issue the rest
can be looked after by the rest of the members, he said, adding
that if the TNA leader goes to ask the government help every now
and then over the Tamil issues and get favours, he would not be
in a position to be hard on the government on the main matters.
The war widows and injured during the war and those who lost
their loved ones are still waiting for justice to be served.
Disappointment among all these people is very high and the
people feel that they voted and sent their representatives
expecting them to take up matters concerning the Tamil people
and get the government to provide the Tamil people solutions to
these issues. However, Premachandran charges that it is not what
is happening and the TNA representatives are safeguarding the
government and their positions and have turned their backs on
the Tamil people of the North. Hence, the people are very
disgruntled and unhappy with the elected members.
Resettlement
On the resettlement front, Premachandran said the government
has built around 200-250 houses in Jaffna and the houses were
built by the Armed forces. However despite these houses being
built the army is still occupying most of the lands belonging to the
people and the resettlement process is very slow.

Although President Sirisena promised that the resettlement will


be complete within three months this too was nothing but an
empty promise. The military holds most of the lands and the
Northern Commander claims that they need a considerable extent
of lands. So far the government has released only a small portion
of the lands. The military dont need that much of lands. If it is for
security purposes, we can understand. They use them to cultivate
and establish recreational centres and so on. The military must
not engage in such activities. The Tamil people own these lands.
While they are suffering in camps, the military cultivates on their
lands. Why cant the government understand unfairness in this
process? he questioned.
According to Premachandran, the government has no control over
their own military. So, it was obvious to us from the start that the
government will not be able to complete the resettlement
process within three months as they promised. After this period,
they will come up with some excuse as to why they could not
complete it, added Premachandran.
Sidharthan too admits that the resettlement process is very slow
which has led to the disappointment of the Tamil people. On the
development front nothing much is happening after the new
government came into power. With the previous government, the
roads were done up and development at least to some extent was
taking place, but unfortunately although there are positive signs
on the human rights side, development seems to have come to a
somewhat standstill in the North, said Sidharthan.
Future of the North
As far as the displaced persons are concerned there is no
alternative but to fight against the government to get our rights,
said Premachandran. What I mean by fighting is that the people
need to agitate. The UN charter too specifically says that the
displaced people should be allowed to return to their original
lands. When the government and the army is refusing it what else

can we do but to agitate against the government. This is what will


eventually happen. We were hopeful that the new government will
keep to their promises. But although the President promised us it
has not been honoured. Even to release some of the lands the
government is in discussion with the army and only if the army
agrees the lands will be released. Hence the army is army holding
huge portions of lands just for their commercial purposes. They
are having their hotels, yoghurt factories and farms while the
Tamil people are suffering. The problem is that the government
does not have a proper political resolution to release these lands
otherwise it will definitely not happen. There is only about a
million people in the North and we dont need so much of the
military here as now the war is over. Even after the war there
have not been serious incidents that call for such a huge military
presence, he said.
According to Premachandran, there are also no jobs in the North
and even the fishermen are facing huge issues with the Indian
fishermen encroaching on Sri Lankan waters. This is affecting the
livelihoods of the Sri Lankan fishermen.
The Indian trawlers come to our waters and they destroy our
marine resources and the Northern fishermen are facing
numerous issues due to this situation. Therefore the Tamil
fishermen in the North have urged the government to prevent
Indian fishermen entering our Northern waters and destroying our
fishing resources and also the livelihoods of the Northern
fishermen. The Sri Lankan Navy too have been keeping up their
pressure and arresting the Indian fishermen who encroach on Sri
Lankan territorial waters.
However, another issue is the Southern fishermen coming to the
Northern waters to fish. They are also doing the same thing as the
Indian fishermen which is affecting the Northern fishermen
especially in Mullaithivu, he added.
Certain politicians in the North feel that it was important to have
better Tamil representation in the government and also there was
a need for other Tamil political parties to come up in order to

create a more vibrant democratic rule in the North it is best to


have a number of Tamil parties. According to Sidharthan,
Currently it is a one party rule in the North and its the TNA. I
always believe in democracy and I feel democracy in the North is
lacking since the LTTE emergence as the main party. Even now it
is a one party dominance. A vibrant democracy must be there but
today I dont think that the Tamil people can afford to break up
the TNA until the political process is completed. Certainly we need
other parties, but right now we have to keep the TNA intact, he
pointed out.
Posted by Thavam