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We Will Support UNP To Form A Stable Government – M.A. Sumanthiran

By Waruni Karunarathne

The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) Jaffna District parliamentarian elect, Attorney M.A. Sumanthiran told The Sunday Leader that the TNA has not changed their position on the demand for a federal form of governance. It is also noteworthy that the TNA, a party at times defined as a male chauvinist political party has allocated one slot out of their two slots in the national list to a woman whereas some other major political parties in the country have simply ignored creating room for a single female nominee in their national list. 

Following are excerpts of the interview:

Q:  What is the TNA’s position about the United National Party (UNP) and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) forming a national government?

A: The concept of a national government is now defined in the constitution. It is a matter of the largest party and the second largest party in the parliament forming a government. The TNA is neither the largest party nor the second largest party in parliament. Therefore, we have no role to play in this.

 

Q:  Do you think a national government is required at this point?

A: That is a matter for the UNP and the SLFP to decide.

 

Q: With a national government, the TNA becomes the largest party in the opposition. In that contest, what do you think your role is?

A: We will have to be a responsible opposition. A responsible opposition would support the matters of the government that are constructive and good on a case by case basis and should oppose the government on matters that are adverse to the country. That is the role that we would play as a responsible opposition.

 

Q:  How would the TNA get the government to address the Tamil national issue in the new parliament? How do you expect to extend your support? 

A: The Tamil national issue is our priority. We have a clear mandate from our people that the Tamil national issue must be resolved in a way that is acceptable to the Tamils and all the other people in this country. Therefore, we will commence discussions with the government with regard to resolving that long term issue.

 

Q:  Has the UNP or the SLFP approached the TNA asking support to get majority in parliament?

A: No, we have not been approached.

Q:  If they approach the TNA, what would be your response to that?

A: Well, if the UNP approaches us, we will give them our support to form a stable government. Because that falls in line with the mandate our people gave in January for a change. That change is reflected and led by the UNP at the moment. Therefore, we will give our assistance for the UNP to get the required majority in parliament. But we will not accept any ministerial portfolios.

 

Q:  Would you be able to tell us the contents  of the recent discussion with the US Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Nisha Biswal and Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labour Tom Malinowski? 

A: We met US Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Nisha Biswal and Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labour Tom Malinowski during their visit to Sri Lanka last week. Several TNA members including leader R. Sampanthan, TNA MP Mavai Senathirajah , Northern Chief Minister C.V.Wigneswaran and myself met them and we discussed the international inquiry report which is due in September at the Geneva Human Rights Council sessions and as to how recommendations in that report can be implemented. The US officials gave us their assurance that like in the past year, the US will lead a resolution to implement those recommendations and they will try to have a consensus resolution with the government of Sri Lanka. We also discussed the long term political position and the necessity to start discussions. They said they will convey our concerns to the government. Meantime, we noted that there are things that can be done immediately to show the good will and to demonstrate positive move towards addressing the national issue. We identified three issues that need to be immediately addressed – the release of the Tamil political prisoners, the release of land held by the government through the security forces in the North and the East and the necessity to set up a mechanism urgently with regard to missing persons. The US officials also agreed with us that those matters can be attended to without any further delay. They will probably talk to the government regarding those concerns.

 

Q:  The government promised that they would initiate a domestic mechanism to address the human rights concerns. Do you think you that the UNP has initiated necessary steps during the interim regime to meet those concerns?

A: For that they will have to wait till the report is out and go along with the recommendations in the report. Then the government can work in that line rather than initiating any process right now. We will wait for the recommendation of the report to urge the government to implement those recommendations.

 

Q:   The TNA has been demanding a federal system. However, the UNP government has clearly stated that they would not agree upon a federal system. In this context, how do you expect to work with the new government? 

A: Our position is the same. We are not dependent on the government whether they agree with us or not. Our position is that the form of governance in this country must be federal. We will negotiate that with the government. They have their position and we have our position and we will have to sit down and talk about it.

 

Q:  The Eelam People’s Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF) has expressed disappointment about the TNA national list appointees. They claim that the decision was taken by the Illankai Tamil Arasu Kachchi (ITAK) alone. How do you respond to that?

A: This decision was taken in consultation with everybody. But perhaps not everybody agrees with the decision that has been taken. Nevertheless, the decision was taken responsibly.  First of all we had to give a national list slot to a woman because no woman has got elected to parliament from the TNA. All the women who contested the election were fielded by the ITAK – non of the other TNA constituent party fielded even one female candidate. Therefore when we decided to give one slot of the national list to a woman it had to be necessarily a ITAK female contestant. This female candidate we have nominated to the list failed to get elected to parliament only by 302 votes from the Vanni electoral district.  In Mulathiuv, she came first. She is also a graduate and is the Assistant Director of planning in the AGA’s office. She lost her leg during the last phase of the war. She represents not only women but also war affected women in the North. That is the justification for appointing her. Then, we gave the other slot of the national list to a person who came second in the Trincomalee district – that is because the only MP that was elected to parliament from Trincomalee is Sampanthan. As the party leader, he has a bigger responsibility and therefore he can be hardly described as a MP who could look after the interest of the district. His concerns cannot be limited to one district but he will have to look into the interests of all the districts in the North and the East. People of Trincomalee should not suffer simply because they have elected the leader of our party to parliament – thus we had to give a MP to Trincomalee to look after the local interests and therefore we appointed the person who got the second highest in our list in Trincomalee.

 

Q:  As a party, would the TNA consider taking a policy decision to increase the nominations given to women in future?

A: Yes. Personally, I was very disappointed about the amount of nomination given to women to contest the election. I publicly called for 50% nominations to be given to women – or at least 30%. That was my stance – but that was not listened to. The TNA gave nominations to four women – each for each electoral district which was hardly sufficient. In this context, it is not a surprise that none of the women got elected. My public criticism of the party is that they did not field sufficient number of women. Even after the election, my position was that both national list slots should be given to two women but only one has been given. We will continue to agitate and the party should reform itself and give equal opportunity to women.

2 Comments for “We Will Support UNP To Form A Stable Government – M.A. Sumanthiran”

  1. Asoka

    Old Proverb, Never ever TRUST TAMIL who front of the MIRROR, TAMIL who DEAD and TAMIL who going to BORN

  2. Lanka Watch

    Mr. Sumanthiran is wrong here. The Tamil people gave a mandate for a change
    from dictatorial system of governing to a democratic system on Jan 08th and 17th august and not a mandate to UNP to form the next govt. and he has assured TNA’s support to form a stable govt. with no valid reasons, immediately after the election but UNP had side lined TNA now and did not consult them on any matter

    Unlike westernized areas like Colombo, N/E women are not keen in contesting seats and like wise the voters of N/E rejected all women candidates. It is not that people of N/E do not like women to participate in politics but this is not the time to enter politics as they are still mourning for the dead partners and some in search for the missing ones. The women folks are not settled down yet to have a woman leader.or an MP. Mrs.Maheswaran of UNP won on sympathy votes, which is understandable as her MP husband was murdered for political reasons.

    Suresh Premachandran was the chief spokesperson of TNA and the leader of a
    constituent party of TNA and it was wrong on the part of ITAK/TNA to have
    sidelined him under the pretext that there should be a Tamil woman candidate, which was not the demand of the people. There could be a problem here as the
    other constituent parties may say that ITAK wants to eliminate the parties formed
    by former militants and establish themselves as the sole reps. of the N/E Tamils
    and there could be a division, sooner or later..

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