‘ready for a structured dialogue’
India will play a
responsible role, says veteran parliamentarian
The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) is
willing to hold talks with other Tamil parties in
its bid to work together for the betterment of the
people, says its parliamentary group leader
Rajavarothayam Sampanthan. In an interview with The
Nation, Sampanthan said he was not aware of any
moves to change the party leadership, asserting that
any change would be brought about in a democratic
Q. Several changes have taken place in the
country’s political scene after the war. A few Tamil
political parties have come together to voice their
concerns on behalf of the people. How do you look at
The war came to an end in 2009. Many things have
happened since then. We had the presidential and
parliamentary elections. The people of the north and
east have substantially reposed their confidence in
us at the parliamentary elections. We have to
recognise these responsibilities and do our best for
the people in every possible way.
We are prepared to work with all Tamil political
formations and personalities. We do think that our
unity at this point of time is important, without
compromising on basic principles.
I am aware that several parties have been meeting
under the banner Tamil Political Parties Forum
(TPPF). The TNA has also been invited for these
meetings. The TNA did not participate since I was
not in the country at that time due to personal
reasons. Some leaders of the forum have met me and
we are looking forward to meet them again and have
Q. There was speculation recently that there
was a move to change the TNA leadership, as you were
not well and was away from the country. Are you
aware of such a move? What is your take on this?
We are a democratic political party. Any position I
hold is consequent to the democratic thinking of the
party and our people. To the best of my knowledge, I
am unaware of any proposed change. But, a change
will be a normal event in the future of the party if
the party and the people feel it is required,
according to the circumstances.
Q. India has been playing a big role in the
political scene of Sri Lanka. How do you look at the
role of India at this juncture? And what role does
Tamil Nadu play?
India is our closest neighbour.
It cannot be denied that the Sinhalese, the Tamils
and the Muslims very substantially came to Sri Lanka
from different parts of India.
Culturally, we are closer to India than to any other
country in the world.
In fact, I recently read in the Indian media, about
a proposal to revive the Nalandha University in
Bihar on which I think primarily, the Nobel laureate
Dr Amithiya Sen is currently working.
And all Buddhist countries in the Asian region are
going to be invited to play a role in forming the
university in Bihar. That shows the closeness of our
culture and of our historical past.
India has been concerned with finding a just and
peaceful solution to Sri Lanka’s national question
within the framework of a united country.
India has never thought of dividing Sri Lanka.
During the time of the LTTE on account of some
bitter experiences, India merely played the role of
Now that the war has come to an end and the LTTE is
no longer a hindrance to the evolution of a
political solution, India being close to the Sri
Lankan government, opposition and to the Tamil
political formations, is willing to be of help at
the invitation of all of us.
There is nobody who says we do not want India.
The government is not saying it.
The opposition parties are not saying it.
The Tamil parties are not saying it.
Everybody realises that India can play a useful
I think that India will play a responsible role.
There are certain realities that one cannot get
over. Tamil Nadu is one such reality. Tamil Nadu,
which has 60 billion people who happen to be Tamils,
is geographically very close to Sri Lanka.
That is the reality.
The central government of India, will in my view,
take its decisions with regard to Sri Lanka
according to its own assessments and also taking
into consideration, the responsible views of
political personalities and parties in Tamil Nadu.
Q. Is the TNA looking for the full
implementation of the 13th amendment or an improved
Any solution has got to be within a united country.
The unity and territorial integrity must be
The identity of distinct people of Sri Lanka, the
Sinhalese, Tamils and the Muslims, must be fostered
People must have the right to determine their
destiny in the territory in which they live, within
the framework of a united, undivided country.
After the Indo-Sri Lanka agreement in 1987, the 13th
amendment was the first constitutional step.
Thereafter, efforts have been made over a period of
23 years to evolve a political solution that will be
acceptable to the people through the Mangala
Munasinghe Select Committee proposals during
President Premadasa’s time, through the
constitutional reforms that emerged between 1995 and
2000 during President Chandrika Bandaranaike
Kumaratunge’s time, through the Oslo declaration and
the Tokyo communiqué during prime minister Ranil
Wickremesinghe’s time, and through the APRC after
President Rajapaksa assumed office in 2005.
The President addressed the inaugural meeting of the
APRC, the experts’ committee report and the
deliberations of the APRC.
Much work has been done.
A fair amount of consensus has emerged from these
Therefore, if there is political will and
commitment, the evolution of a political solution
should not be difficult.
And we expect that this will become a reality at the
Q. The TNA met President Mahinda Rajapaksa in
June this year. Have there been any progresses after
these discussions? Is there a possibility of the TNA
working with the government in the future?
The discussions took place after an extensive visit
of the TNA to the Wanni.
We visited 28 villages in the Wanni, and just before
the President left for India we discussed in length
and we submitted a report to the government in
regard to what we observed in the Wanni.
I made a statement in parliament in regard to what
We discussed at length on the resettlement,
rehabilitation, livelihood opportunities and various
We also discussed the need for a political solution
and the modalities that could be agreed upon to take
these processes forward.
Certain initial understandings and agreements were
It was agreed that certain mechanisms would be set
up to deal with these processes.
One is the resettlement, rehabilitation, livelihood,
development and reconstruction and the second is to
find a solution to the political question.
Those mechanisms have not been formally set up yet.
Nevertheless, there have been contacts between the
Members of Parliament of the TNA and personalities
in the government in regard to these matters.
We want these processes to become functional.
We have communicated our nominees to the government
in regard to the process pertaining to resettlement,
We are ready to commence a structured dialogue,
based upon a framework for the evolution of an
acceptable political solution.
These matters are very essential and important not
merely in the interest of the Tamil people but in
the interest of the country as a whole.
We are prepared to play a very responsible role in
regard to the discharge of our responsibilities in
And we are looking forward to the government to
invite us to commence and continue these processes
that will bring us great deal of relief to all our