“We are confident. We will
win the East, as well as the North”
Kuhaneson alias Pillaiyan, is the other leading candidate for
the United Peoples Freedom Alliance (UPFA), in Batticaloa.
Pillaiyan, a battle hardened soldier, does not seem to get
excited over his rivals’ rhetoric. He is willing to take them
on, with his power base in the East. He says his strength is the
people, and of course the UPFA government. “I say this today,
because of the support, people have already extended to me and
my party,” he told The Nation, in an interview from his
Batticaloa head quarters. Admitting that his party – Tamil
Makkal Vidudalai Puligal (TMVP), has no written manifesto, he
said several developmental projects were in the pipeline and
once elected, an accelerated programme would be implemented, to
give what the people of the East have never gained, for the past
20 years. “The people deserve a better living. We are able to
provide them that,” he said. He said that, his only ambition
was to fair well in this election, so that, his party could
contest the future northern provincial council elections and
also take control of that province, as well. “We are confident.
We will win this province as well as, the North,” he challenged.
Following are excerpts;
Q: How far have you gone with your campaign in the East and
are you ready for the May 10, elections?
A: We have so far, faired very well. Our campaign will come
to an end on May 5. We have travelled to almost all the
villages, and areas in all three districts, in the Eastern
province. We now feel that, there is a heavy swing in our favour,
and we are very confident that, we will be able to throw the
biggest challenge to our heavyweights. We may be new to the
game, but we have carefully planned all our programmes and
campaigns and ultimately, we have managed to instil confidence
in the minds of our supporters. With the termination of our
campaign, we will be ever ready for the poll. No doubt about
Q: On what basis are you expressing your optimism, to win the
elections, given a tough challenge by your rivals?
A: My optimism, is absolutely based on the support, we have
received so far, from the masses. I would not be standing today,
to reveal this, if not for the massive support, we have received
so far. The confidence I have in this election, is also because
of the continuous support and encouragement, given by the UPFA
government. We feel that, we are not alone. I have 100 percent
faith that, we will win this election. Our biggest rival is the
SLMC-UNP combination. But a survey, in all three districts has
indicated to us that, we have an edge over them.
Q: The government on the one hand is promoting former SLMC
stalwart M. L. A. M. Hisbullah and at the same time, promoting
you. Don’t you see Hisbullah, as a threat to you, given his
seniority and experience in politics?
A: No. He is no big threat to me, because we are working
together. He is not my enemy and I don’t look at him, that way.
I understand he is an experienced politician. But in keeping
with President Rajapaksa’s word that, whoever who gets most
number of seats will become the Chief Minister, we are in our
own way working hard to achieve this target. But having said
this, I must confess that, there is no rivalry between us. He is
working hard to seek the Muslim votes, while I am working hard
to get the Tamil votes.
Q: Why are you working so hard to get a Tamil elected to the
post of Chief Minister? Why do you think a Tamil Chief Minister
is essential and not a Muslim?
A: Though we are working to see that a Tamil is elected, as
the Chief Minister, we are not going to protest against a Muslim
being elected, as the Chief Minister. We came to that conclusion
and we agreed to contest, within the same party. Having said
this, I must say that, a Tamil Chief Minister can, given the
current situation help ease the present tension in the province,
devastated due to the ethnic conflict. Further, a Tamil Chief
Minister can help the government, to resolve the present crisis,
as the ongoing conflict is between the Tamils and the Sinhalese.
This is why, we feel a Tamil Chief Minister is imperative.
Q: Is the government genuinely interested in your aspiration
to have a Tamil Chief Minister, and if so, are there any overt
plans, to promote this cause?
A: As far as I know, the government has so far shown its
interest and even encouraged us, to work hard. I must say, that
the government must in my view promote our interest, to have a
Tamil as a Chief Minister.
Q: Why do you think this election is important, to the Tamils
in in the East?
A: For the past 20 years, our people have been struggling
for their mere survival. It is no secret. Several attempts, to
emancipate them from their affliction have failed in the past.
The people have not been able to enjoy the kind of freedom and
democracy, enjoyed by people, outside North and East. The Tamils
and Muslims have never had a chance to enjoy a proper provincial
administration. They have lacked political leadership and proper
guidance. Therefore, I think the forthcoming election is going
to be a step forward in their life, through which, they would be
able to exercise their own franchise and other rights.
Q: Do you have a manifesto and what are the future plans, to
develop and improve some of the war battered areas, in the East?
A: We do not have a written manifesto, as such. But of
course, we have plenty of plans, to rapidly develop the East,
with the assistance provided to us, by the government. Several
developmental projects are in the pipeline and we have
formulated strategies, to meaningfully implement them, thereby
giving direct and indirect relief to the Tamils, Muslims and the
Sinhalese, living in the East. Their grievances would definitely
Q: If Hisbullah is not a threat to you, how about SLMC leader
A: Well, Hakeem has dragged us into unwanted controversies.
Continuing to brand us as ‘militants’ and ‘dangerous’, are not
going to be helpful to anyone. Almost in every speech he makes,
he drags us also without any base. But otherwise, he is no
threat to me. But of course, we are mindful of the fact that, we
are competing against a powerful opposition the UNP – SLMC
alliance. So we are working towards facing this powerful force.
Q: There is a common suspicion, even among some of the Tamils
that the TMVP, if elected, will not be able to run a provincial
government, given its inexperience and inability. What is your
A: This suspicion is common and we don’t get offended. This
suspicion must be there. That is why, we are working very hard
to show ourselves, to the people and explain to them, what we
are capable of doing. Prior to the local government elections on
March 10 also, the same suspicion prevailed and we proved to the
people that, we are able to do something different. After all,
we have the support of the people and especially, the support
from the government. So we are not that much concerned, about
this suspicion. Instead of continuing to suspect us, I think we
must be given an opportunity, to try our hand at various things.
This is not understood by some. I urge those who cast suspicion
on us, not to continue to suspect us, but give us a chance, to
prove our ability to run the province.
Q: You said you have the government backing and that is your
strength. Is it not possible to independently stand on your own?
A: We originally decided to contest on our own and work
independently. We knew this was possible, because of the support
we had from the people in our own areas. But what later happened
is this. We realised that, we were forced to face two huge
political giants – the UNP and the SLMC and the only option,
that was available to us to face this powerful force, was to
join the government. By joining the government, we became
powerful and resourceful to fight against our rivals. We had to
embrace the government, to become the majority. Independently,
we would not have stood a chance.
Q: UPFA chief candidate Hisbullah is provided with STF
protection and he also is reportedly using state vehicles, for
his political campaign. Are you also provided with STF
A: No. The government has given me the security, that is
entitled to all the candidates. But I am quite satisfied with
the security arrangements, by the government. Besides, I am also
using my own personal security and that is enough I must say.