proposals not the basis for talks"
People's Alliance parliamentarian, Arjuna Ranatunga, whose
election office at Kotte was attacked, last week, said he is
disturbed that violence is taking control of society. Blaming the
United National Party (UNP) for the attack, Ranatunga who obtained
over 98,000 votes at the last election in Colombo District said
his vision for the city is to develop the infrastructure that
would include constructing flyovers to ease the existing traffic
congestion. "Colombo's traffic is horrible. We need to have
overhead bridges," he said. Describing himself as a 'friend'
of Tamils, he says a future government should have a strong
document to start negotiations.
He believes the interim administration proposal of the LTTE cannot be
accepted as the basis for talks. He also says though he is willing to
talk to the LTTE in his official and personal capacities he cannot
accept the LTTE as the sole representatives of the Tamils. "Then
how about other Tamils and other Tamil parties?" he questioned.
What is the thrust of your campaign for the election?
My aim is to carry out a non-violent campaign right throughout. It was
unfortunate that my office at Kotte was attacked last week. Until the
attack took place my campaign had been good. I am disappointed that
violence is once again taking control of society. To mention about my
campaign I must say it has been very positive so far. I keep receiving
support from a cross section of society. Immediately after my office was
attacked the youth of my party got a little agitated. They too wanted to
respond to the attack in the same manner but I put a stop to it. I
calmed them down and told them we must go ahead with our vision. This is
what I am trying to say. Some politicians may not realise the
consequences of such actions. But they just do it. It is very sad.
Why do you think people should after just two years vote the new
alliance - UPFA - to power?
Initially I opposed anybody criticising the UNF government because I
believed that the UNF government should be given its full term to carry
out its own programme. So we allowed the party to govern the first year
without any major interruption. But during the second year we saw a lot
of areas where criticism was needed. And we started to pinpoint them to
the UNF. But later we realised that the UNF government never bothered to
pay heed to our views. For instance the peace talks.
strongly believe Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe should have invited
one or two from the PA too to talk with the Tigers. Then the other
mistake was not bothering to inform the nation about the progress of the
talks. Besides, the greatest mistake was to keep President Kumaratunga
in the dark. So this angered most of our supporters and members and then
we thought that a change is necessary. The other thing is the
privatisation programme. I understand privatisation is necessary for
economic growth, but not the way the UNF has been doing it. We can't
always be profit oriented, but be service oriented as well. This is from
a political viewpoint. Otherwise from the social viewpoint, I am
personally sad that the value system is fast eroding in Sri Lanka. Our
politicians are doing nothing about it.
must mention that the electronic media has contributed to the erosion of
social values to a great extent. In the good old days the youngsters
were told to respect elders, but nowadays we do not see this happening
in Sri Lanka any more. I feel I must try to fight for the resurrection
of the lost culture in Sri Lanka. This is my only vision and I think
through my political life I could achieve it.
But there were also charges of corruption under the PA regime. Then why
did not the President dissolve parliament at that time in her capacity
as the head of state?
I am not saying for once that there was no corruption under the PA
regime. The PA regime did not rule the country without any corruption.
But that is past. Just because the PA was involved in corruption we
cannot ignore another party in governance also getting involved in
What are your plans for the Colombo District in general and Kotte in
In my electorate what I found out was that the people want peace. So
firstly, I want to see how I could offer that by way of creating a
peaceful atmosphere. In Kotte, a whole lot of youngsters are without
jobs. They are idling. They waste a lot of their precious time and
finally get involved in anti social activities. The increase in these
activities by jobless youth has become a major threat to society and
decent residents are worried about it. So I want to focus my attention
on this issue first. I also found out that there is no playground for
them. I think we must create playgrounds for the youth to get involved
in physical activities rather than wasting time and smoking ganja. If I
take Colombo in general, I think the city is too congested and we have
more vehicles with a few roads. Every new government only makes promises
to develop the infrastructure but nothing happens. I have decided to
push for the development of infrastructure by constructing flyovers. We
must have overhead bridges like other countries to ease the congestion.
Are you in favour of a future government talking to the LTTE to solve
the ethnic crisis and what is your position with regard to continuing
the peace process by having a dialogue with the LTTE?
Yes of course. We need to talk to the LTTE. They are the key players
and we must meet them. This is reality and whatever party comes to power
must be able to do it. I believe the peace process should go on. I am
all out for peace. I am a great believer in discussions. Problems cannot
be settled if the rival parties or the warring factions refuse to sit
and hold decent talks. Though we term the present crisis as an 'ethnic
crisis,' I strongly believe there is no enmity between both the
Sinhalese and Tamil communities.
have a whole lot of Tamil friends here and abroad. When I go to London I
live with my Tamil friends. I like them a lot. The so called ethnic
problem was created by power hungry politicians. It is their own product
and the younger generation had to suffer as a result. Successive leaders
in this country have used this tag 'ethnic conflict' to come to power
and nobody could deny this. So I think there is a greater understanding
among both communities now and I don't see any reason why we cannot sit
down and talk out our problems for the betterment of our own future and
the future generations.
In that respect are you in favour of negotiations with the LTTE on the
strength of the interim administration proposal?
I think we cannot agree to start any future negotiations keeping the
LTTE proposals as a base. The problem is that the government must have
something concrete in its hands to offer the LTTE. After all it is the
government that should be in a position to dictate terms to other
parties. It does not mean that we have to throw the LTTE proposals.
Perhaps we could give consideration to some of the facts in it. But a
legitimate government must have in its hands a strong proposal to
commence any type of talks. This is what I say.
You were one of the leaders of the Patriotic National Movement, which
called for the interim administration proposal of the LTTE to be thrown
to the dustbin. Now how do you justify your action?
Well at that time I supported it, simply because the government did
not have a document to commence any talks. But what I am saying is that
the government should have a stronger document to start negotiations.
Then of course we could consider whatever proposals put forward by the
LTTE. I am a patriot, but I don't agree to the hardline Sinhala Buddhist
views. I love peace and I love all the communities. I want to see all
communities living in peace and with equality.
Would you accept the LTTE as the sole representatives of the Tamils?
How do you justify the dissolution of parliament by President
The discussion for the dissolution took place I think about six months
ago. I have already said earlier why the people should vote back the PA
to power. So for this same reason President Kumaratunga thought it fit
to dissolve parliament.
Sri Lankan society has become extremely violent in the recent past and
politicians have played a major role in directly contributing towards
this end. What do you think can make the politicians understand that
they should refrain from doing this?
I think from time immemorial our leaders from
both the major parties failed in their duty to punish politicians
when they were caught doing something wrong. Our political culture is
also a dirty one. For example when one leader of a party throws out a
member due to some charge of corruption the
leader of the rival party welcomes him with a bouquet. Now in my
view this is deplorable. This should not take place in our country. When
one leader throws out a person, the other party should also not take
him/her into the party. Then only the member who violates laws or
engages in corrupt practices would realise that there is no place for
him in society. In Sri Lanka it is different. A politician who steals
today is seen in the other party tomorrow. I am trying my best to change
this dirty culture.
In this backdrop would you support the Cross Over Bill if presented to
No I will not support it. Politicians should not be allowed to cross as
and when they want to. There must be discipline for the politicians
first and then the whole country would be disciplined.
MoU not valid, new
one should be signed" - Karuna
a dramatic turn of events, one of the most feared guerilla
movements in the world, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)
has been divided into two by its Eastern Commander, Muralitharan
alias Col. Karuna who recently broke ranks.
rebelled against the Wanni leadership for alleged discrimination
against the cadres and the people of the east, Karuna appeared
relaxed and prepared to take on fresh risks at Minagam Village in
interview with The Sunday Leader, the LTTE’s beleaguered Eastern
Commander called himself a ‘man of peace’ with no wish to
return to war.
He also said that
the Eastern Province couldn’t be considered as part of an exclusive
traditional Tamil homeland due to its unique ethnic configuration.
He also took broad
swipes at the Wanni administration for violating the truce while using
the Eastern Commander as a convenient cover and pledged that there would
be no more truce violations in the region under his command.
The dissident also
said that a fresh Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) should be signed
following the defection and that he should be allowed to lead a separate
delegation if and when peace talks resume.
Following are excerpts of
Dilrukshi Handunnetti In Illipadichenai, Batticaloa
What was the nearest cause that led you to break away from the LTTE?
There are two main reasons behind my defection from the LTTE.
I do not like war. I have also had sufficient past experience to gauge
the mood in the north when preparing for war. At such times, the
northern command would order me for more troops. All along, it had been
a case of the east being called upon to provide the necessary soldiers
to the north to wage war.
time it was no different. I do not know the rationale behind preparing
for war in this peaceful backdrop, but however the northern command
asked me to send soldiers there. My instant reaction was to turn down
that unfair request. I objected to it because I felt it was uncalled
second reason was the continued discrimination and the abject neglect of
the LTTE's eastern wing and the region as a whole. The people of the
east and the soldiers themselves never got the treatment they deserved
from the Wanni administrators.
the question of discrimination, all you have to do is to take a good
look at the structure of the Tamil Eelam high command. There are more
that 20 divisional heads in this liberation movement of ours but
northern leaders largely dominate it.
of course there was the issue of unequal distribution of resources
between the north and the east. In a sense, we were often left with the
crumbs that fell from the north.
If there was continued discrimination against the people and the cadres
of the east, did you make any attempt to make representations to the
Wanni leadership prior to the sudden defection?
Yes. I have been making repeated representations to no avail. It has
been the form for years. Such requests often went unheeded.
it has to be understood that things are very different today. When you
speak of the times of war and times of peace, comparisons are not
is only when things begin to settle and normalcy returns that people are
able to think of other issues such as being discriminated against, etc.
During times of war, concerns are entirely different. When waging war,
all our efforts are concentrated on the war effort and everything else
is given secondary importance or no importance at all.
now, with normalcy returning do the people begin to think of improved
conditions of living, more infrastructure facilities and refuse to put
up with the discrimination that has been going on. I can tell you that
it is not a sudden decision. I have been making this request for a very
long time. But all of that proved futile.
You said you do not like war. It is an interesting comment because it is
none other than the Eastern Commander who has been dubbed a war monger
and portrayed as the most vocal of LTTE leaders in expressing opposition
to the initial signing of a truce between the government and the LTTE.
The general impression is that you are one of the most ruthless LTTE
leaders who refuses to consider anything else but a military option?
It is certainly not true. Does it mean that the south believes that we
happen to love war very much? That I am a man committed to waging war
What I meant was that you are supposedly keener on waging war than
When you asked me the first question, I gave you two reasons for my
wish to break free. There is also a third factor - the continued
violations of the truce.
you know, I was the Eastern Commander of the LTTE, well versed in the
art of waging guerilla warfare. That was my strength as well. But by
using that, the Wanni administration often wished to portray me as a
cruel person and a warmonger.
in truth, the elimination strategies are largely the work of the LTTE's
Intelligence Chief, Pottu Amman who is operating from the Wanni. It is
his unit that indulges in all these truce violations despite the
existence of a valid MoU. There were so many perpetrations.
as you know, I am the commander of this region and hence answerable to
all the parties concerned. Whenever violations occur, the Sri Lanka
Monitoring Mission (SLMM) would question me as to why it continues to
happen here. They would want to know why violations are rampant here.
time they questioned me, I was unable to tell the exact truth. I am the
de facto Eastern Commander and I remain responsible and answerable for
the violations as well. All along, it was the work of Pottu Amman's
intelligence unit. This situation also contributed to my decision to go
You apportion complete blame to the northern command and Intelligence
Chief, Pottu Amman for the truce violations. Are you disclaiming
responsibility for all the violations that had been taking place so far?
That is correct. I violated no truce.
making the east a region of truce violations and general chaos, I firmly
believe that by doing so, they also tried to portray me as a warmonger
hell bent on going back to war.
In the present circumstances, is there a serious threat to your life
emanating from within the LTTE ranks?
Since I made a just request based on the aspirations and expectations of
my people and my soldiers, fear of death will not deter me from this
fresh journey. Death means nothing to me. Even if that happens, the
outside world would come to know why I was eliminated and get the true
picture of what is really going on here. That would also prove the real
object of the Wanni administration to the outside world.
Were some 30 odd cadres from the north dispatched to capture you in your
Anything is possible. But living amongst my people and my soldiers, I
have nothing to fear. But I have heard that a group has been sent to get
There is a truce in existence and hence guns from both sides have fallen
silent. In your present predicament, have you considered the possibility
of seeking protection or some measures of security from the Sri Lankan
government or any other source?
There is no need for me to resort to such measures. I have no need for
any external assistance. Already, we are strong enough.
are the people who regained the land and saved the people in the north.
The Wanni administrators are alive today due to the supreme sacrifices
made by our soldiers from the Eastern Province. Since the time of the
IPKF, it is we who provided bodyguards to the leaders there and ensured
them of their own safety.
is why we fail to understand, despite all our sacrifices as to why the
Wanni administration is unable to accept a just request from this end.
The Easterners largely carried out the war effort and their needs should
have been addressed long ago.
Did you feel this way for a long time and seized the moment when you
realised that this was the best moment to declare yourself free?
My decision did not stem from a deliberate plan. The immediate reasons
were the ones I gave you. But I was not planning on any defection, I can
assure you. We were asked to send more soldiers from the east to the
north once more. I immediately objected to such a demand. It was an
inevitable situation. I had to lodge my protest by defecting
What exactly was your reason for refusing reinforcement?
That to me was a clear indication of the north harbouring intentions of
resuming war. As I said before, I did not think it is correct and I
refused to fortify the Wanni base.
With a serious split between the northern and the eastern command, how
would it affect the low ranking cadres who might get confused by the
tussle? How would they even know whose orders are valid now?
We do not detect any signs of such confusion evident in our soldiers.
They are extremely happy about the decision I took. They too agree that
there is no reason at all to send any of my soldiers to the north,
particularly at a time when there is a truce and the war has come to a
have no wish to go to the Wanni and simply perish there. I can tell you
that my soldiers are the happiest people today because of this decision.
Just look around and see for yourself. They need not be sacrificial
are now leading a normal life and their minds are free of thoughts of
I may give you the statistics, for 2,270 soldiers from the east who have
died for the cause, there have been only two deaths reported from the
north. Just look at the
contrast and the level of sacrifice made by the eastern soldiers?
What kind of numbers do you command? How many have pledged allegiance to
the eastern command?
I have well over 5,000 cadres with me. They are strong and loyal.
So there is no question of a possible reconciliation between the
northern and the eastern command? Are you determined to remain free of
We rule out any possibility of such reconciliation. According to you,
who wishes for reconciliation?
The northern command has invited you to return to the fold and an
amnesty has been offered? Would you consider it?
It is not the prevailing mentality over there. They said that an
amnesty is being offered. With that amnesty, I could start leading a
is no need for me to consider any such amnesty. I am no culprit. I
simply made a just request on behalf of the people and the cadres.
are no longer under their control. Therefore it seems a ridiculous
suggestion from the north, which is only aimed at clipping my wings.
You said you were instructed to lead a private life. Does it mean that
you were requested to leave the country?
Yes. It was an offer like that.
What were the conditions of the amnesty offered?
I think the very decision to offer an amnesty to me is a huge joke.
Pirapaharan himself knows about me. It is he who knows me best, my
capacity. Most of the time, it is I who gave protection and saved him
from many a desperate situation. He knows how far I could pursue my
cause. He knows the strength that is available in the east.
gave that ridiculous amnesty idea to the Wanni leadership I do not know.
All I can say is that Pirapaharan knows me, and knows me very well. He
also knows whether I would accept such an offer or not.
You attributed truce violations in this region to LTTE's Intelligence
Chief, Pottu Amman. Statistics prove that violations of the truce are
rampant in the Eastern Province. How would you explain the high rate of
MoU violations as the LTTE's Eastern Commander?
I can promise you one thing - this very firmly - that there would
not be any more truce violations taking place in the Eastern Province.
The reason is that the very people who were unleashing all types of
violence throughout this region will be prevented in the future.
Since the handing over of nomination papers, two non-TNA Tamil
candidates from the UNP and the EPDP were killed in Batticaloa. The
north has been quick to dub the Eastern Commander as the perpetrator in
the aftermath of your defection?
I know my name is being linked to all types of incidents the Wanni
leadership can think of. This is no surprise.
I can say is that this is a unique characteristic of the Wanni
administration. On many occasions, my name was used as a cover for their
barbaric acts. I am ready to go public with the truth. That is their
style. But the near future would show you that my character is
I am the regional leader, you will see how things would improve
startlingly in the next few months here. The world would soon know.
Would you clearly state whether you were sacked by the northern command
or whether you willfully quit?
It is one of the most ridiculous suggestions that I have heard in a
long time. It is a helpless and weak effort by the northern command to
undermine the eastern command.
we have already declared ourselves free from the northern administration
long before the Wanni rulers issued that hilarious declaration. There is
nothing there for us to go back to.
have no wish to be under their administration - a matter made very plain
to the Wanni leaders. It was after our breaking away only that they
declared me as expelled along with the cadres that continue to support
is no logic in what they say. How can they expel someone who has
willfully taken a decision to call it quits? After that, they cannot
exercise any control over me or the cadres I command.
official purposes, we also informed the Norwegian Embassy about our
decision to part ways. The very night we decided to break free, we kept
the truce monitors informed that we are no longer under the northern
command and are a separate group henceforth.
Now that you have declared yourself as a free man, what are your future
plans? Would you wish to form a political party or some other liberation
I don't see any need for such a separate identity. Names don't really
matter. We shall remain as in the past - the LTTE wing of the Batticaloa
and the Ampara Districts.
the same time we are largely interested in the development of the area.
We are interested in cultivating these areas and providing
infrastructure. You can see that this is a largely underdeveloped area.
We have more developmental goals in our minds than to undermine others.
the same time, we are compelled to maintain the cadres here. Not because
of any other reason, but merely to protect ourselves from the Wanni
What is your response to the alleged arrest of some 16 of your loyalists
in the Wanni area following your defection? Are they under house arrest?
There can be possibilities. The eastern soldiers who are now in Wanni
are largely being disarmed and it is expected that those who pledge
support to me would naturally run extra risks in the days to come.
It is also said that your decision to defect was largely supported by
some external forces? It is said that you are backed by India's RAW?
I can clearly tell you that any external force did not prompt my
decision. I have no such links. This is an internal decision that was
not taken at the behest of any external force. We make our own
it is the northern command that is coming up with these theories. They
are saying this because they have nothing else to say. There is no
justification they could offer for my decision to break away as they
know that the Wanni administrators were unfair by the east all along.
only force I have is the support base I enjoy among the easterners. Our
aim is to serve their aspirations. We are accused of many things but
these are baseless allegations by disgruntled parties. The truth will
come to light soon enough.
there is a separation between the north and the east. We are no longer
under the same command. It will remain like that.
I can see that there are a large number of youngsters playing within
your camp area. The LTTE has officially declared that there is no
recruitment of children and those who have already become members of the
organisation are being rehabilitated through a UNICEF initiative. How
could you explain the presence of such young cadres here?
I can assure you that they are not as young as you think. They are well
over 16 years of age.
will not say that it did not happen before. The situation was very
different when we were at war. There is no need for me to bring in
underage persons into the movement.
Are you still having recruitment drives? Some of those faces, despite
what you say look very young?
No. They are not so young. There is also no need for me to recruit
soldiers, as there is no war effort currently.
You have officially defected from the LTTE. Does it at least make you
feel morally bound to the already existing truce or do you think that it
should be renegotiated?
I think it is only fair that a fresh MoU be signed in the present
the south, the defence portfolio has passed from the government to the
opposition led by the President. Here, the LTTE camp is having two big
factions. We are all at cross-purposes. My personal feeling is that
there is no MoU right now. Things have changed so much. As such, we must
work on a new MoU, taking into consideration the present realities.
Whoever is eligible to lead the south can sign it from there, but here
there are two sides today.
Does it also mean that you would demand the right to lead a separate
delegation in the event of peace talks resuming?
Most definitely, yes. I think the two factions within the LTTE today
are at cross-purposes. It is only fair that I lead a delegation
representing the eastern region.
unity is crucial'
the hustings draw near, Sri Lanka's premier Muslim political
party, the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) has come up with the
demand for self-rule by the Muslims in Muslim dominated areas in
the event of a permanent merger of the north and eastern
an interview with The Sunday Leader, SLMC Leader and Ports
Minister Rauf Hakeem declared that a grave restructuring of the
peace process should take place in order to ensure that the
community's interests are no longer overlooked when pursuing
Hakeem also suggested that the SLMC would pressurise any
future government on the need for community-oriented devolution as
a means of resolving the ethnic conflict.
What prompted you to shift your political base at the last moment?
As a party leader, I have the discretion to shift to any place.
were serious challenges posed to the party from Digamadulla. Since I
took over, the internal power struggle within the district had
intensified. The infighting amongst some members of parliament and
candidates has weakened the party at a national level. These problems
largely emanated from politics in Digamadulla. Thus it was high time
that the leadership moved to its base in order to straighten the party
and also to see whatever dent has been created by last minute defections
would not affect the party's electoral prospects.
my entry, the campaign has gained momentum and I am certain that we
would be able to win this district without any doubt.
According to your detractors, despite being the SLMC leader, your
presence in Digamadulla is being objected to?
Definitely not. In fact it has had a beneficial effect. It has given the
campaign a boost. The party cadres feel encouraged because the
leadership has moved to the party's very base.
have stepped in at a time when last minute treacherous defections have
seemingly created the impression that the party has lost ground in its
main base. The leader's decision to fight the rebels has served as a
morale booster to the party cadres.
feel that in our election meetings, we are finally dealing with
criticisms and allegations that have been unreasonably levelled against
the leadership. It has now given confidence to the people and corrected
whatever loss of image we have suffered as a result of the recent
But, the question of non-acceptance is largely related to the fact that
you are not from the east and hence most have difficulty in accepting
you as the de facto Muslim political leader as opposed to your founder
leader M. H. M. Ashraff?
Though I am originally not from the east and derive my roots from
elsewhere, it is the people from the east who endorsed me as the SLMC
fact, when there was co-leadership in the SLMC, it was the very people
of this area who installed me as the sole leader. Despite those
circumstances, I have to admit that there are parochial, regional
mindsets. As far as the party is concerned, our party has national
appeal. And its leadership enjoys respect and reverence from party
cadres and therefore there is no question of any "rejection"
on grounds of me being a non-easterner.
Your chief opponents, NUA Leader Ferial Ashraff and SLMC defector M. L.
M. Athaulla are also contesting from the same district. Will not your
entry eventually lead to split the Muslim votes in Digamadulla?
I have stepped in here to stem the slide as far as the Muslim vote bank
during the last elections, Ferial Ashraff did contest from outside. The
fact that a handful of former members of parliament crossed over had
never affected our vote bank in the past. In fact, at every election,
despite crossovers and defections, the SLMC has increased the number of
you look at the statistics, in 1989, we came in with four seats. In
1994, we had two people at cross-purposes with the party leadership and
there were last moment defections. At the 1994 elections, despite all
that we increased the seats to seven.
after the demise of our late leader M. H. M. Ashraff, in 2001 we
increased it to 11. This despite four defections.
the next election, once again persons like Ferial Ashraff and various
others split the party in the middle. Yet, we increased our seats to 12.
reading of the situation is that people do not appreciate last minute
defections. People want to see principled politics, not the bartering
that takes place. If they truly wished to leave the party due to some
plausible reason, they should have done it long before the dissolution.
do defect. But when members defect following dissolution usually has an
adverse impact on their own political futures and not the party. We will
be able to prove this point once more when the 2004 electoral results
are announced. The country's politcal history has proved that defectors
do not generally survive.
Given the backdrop of volatile politics coupled with some last minute
defections, what kind of victory do you expect the SLMC would record?
We will definitely win 15 seats. I am confident of that.
Despite how you feel about the electoral success of the defectors, you
did give a rallying call to all SLMC factions that proved futile?
It was not my call but an effort made by the Federation of Mosques. It
also was supported by the College of Theologians of the Eastern Province
together with the Colombo business community. They all facilitated the
effort to bring all these dissenting factions together.
pressure was on the defectors to come under the SLMC banner and the
symbol. It is important to demonstrate the unity of the Muslim commuity
at this juncture. Hence the effort.
are crucial times indeed. Particularly because there is wide across the
board unity among the Tamil community when pursuing their politcal
rights. Keeping in mind the future prospects at the peace talks, it is
important for the Muslim community too, particularly the northeastern
sector, to show solidarity and that was the basis on which we held
discussions. We will go along with the facilitation of the pressure
groups that acted with a lot of responsibility. We discussed with all
sincerity, but finally they felt very disappointed for the way in which
the defectors behaved - very deceptively-giving the impression that they
were prepared for a compromise whereas all along they have had secret
dealings with the UPFA. They did not care about the Muslim political
strength, driven by their desire to get re-elected.
singular intention was to try and secure their seats. But the people are
thoroughly disgusted with the cut throatism they have displayed. They
will be punished accordingly.
are very angry and feel that they have been badly let down.
In the event the UNF comes back to power and an agreement is formed with
the TNA, are you willing to be a part of such a coalition?
It is clearly out of the question. In fact, our MoU with the UNF is
based on certain principles that largely pertain to the next round of
peace talks. There are four principle components in that MoU and one of
them is that the Muslims, led by the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC)
would be allowed to lead an independent and separate delegation at the
net round of peace talks and there onwards.
any solution to the resolution-either interim or final has to be based
on community oriented devolution of power in the northeast. Then, there
is the issue relating to an equitable share for the Muslims and other
communities in the reconstruction and rehabilitation work with the funds
pledged by the donor community.
the right of return for the Muslims has to be addressed. They have been
evicted and this right has to be guaranteed and fortified. Many of these
issues, the TNA, as it appears is at cross-purposes and are not
are matters regarding which we share common ground with the UNF.
the UNF wishes to bring in another partner to from an administration for
the sake of obtaining a majority, it is also incumbent upon the UNF to
convince them on these conditions on which the SLMC has joined.
they were going to have any truck with the TNA without sufficient
undertakings on the four issues that we have highlighted, we certainly
would not be a part of such a government.
According to your MoU with the UNF, is it incumbent upon the UNF to work
in consultation with the SLMC when taking political decisions hereafter?
Yes. If they are to form a government bringing in any outside party
other then those parties that have joined the UNF before elections, the
UNF must decide with the concurrence of the SLMC.
Would you not consider joining the UNF as long as they shared a
coalition with the TNA even within a national government set up?
That again is another issue on which we have agreed. In the event of the
UNF wanting to form a national government with the other political
parties represented in parliament that should be once again with the
consent of the SLMC. But I do admit that would require more
You have often stated that despite being a government negotiator, you
have nevertheless maintained that the peace process that continued was
"flawed." Are you at this juncture, suggesting some
restructuring of the peace process when it is resumed?
Most definitely, this process demands restructuring. Right now the
stakeholder identification has to be acknowledged as being faulty. It
should be corrected because here is another community that deserves
Despite all this, you have remained a member of the government
delegation at the peace talks?
Yes, I have been with the dialogue process since the very beginning.
But, despite being a member of the delegation, I have been agitating
that the structure of the peace talks should be necessarily changed -
particularly when it comes to a separate Muslim delegation.
fact, I got bilateral agreements with the government and the LTTE. The
Prime Minister has endorsed the need for the participation of a separate
Muslim delegation. Norway had confirmed at the recent discussions we had
with them that the written MoU we have signed with Velupillai
Pirapaharan in Kilinochchi would be honoured. They have unequivocally
stated that at the next round of peace talks, I would be entitled to a
separate Muslim delegation.
of these guarantees so far were observed in the breach and that caused
serious concerns and convulsions within the Muslim polity. To some
extent, the rebels used these factors to pursue their own parochial
politics. That's also part of the reason for the present disunity.
I am sure that people who understand principled politics would
appreciate our endurance and foresight. They would know that we did not
jeopardise the peace initiative but acted with maturity and
responsibility. Despite all the misgivings and setbacks, the SLMC will
play a leading role in obtaining the just rights of a community that has
been thoroughly neglected when it came to politcal aspirations.
there is the question of a possible merger of the north and the east.
have always said that it should only be a conditional merger. Merger can
only be made permanent if they also recognise the right for autonomy as
far as the Muslims are concerned. We would certainly go along with the
idea provided that definite, autonomous arrangements are created so that
there is Muslim self-rule in the areas dominated by the aid community.
We will not settle for less.