Tamil National Alliance (TNA) recently went to the United
States and met with several US State Department officials
and the UN Under Secretary General, Political Affairs, Lynn
Pascoe.TNA Parliamentarian M.A. Sumanthiran, a member of the
delegation, speaks to The Nation on their visit and the
displeasure expressed by the members of the Tamil Eelam
Liberation Organisation (TELO) over their exclusion from the
US visit and the talks with the government
Q. A delegation of the TNA recently concluded its
visit to the US and Canada. What was the reason behind your
visit? What were the outcomes of this visit, if there were
A. We went upon an invitation made by the US State
Department. In Washington, we met with three high officials
in the State Department, namely Assistant Secretary of State
for South Asian Affairs Robert Blake, Ambassador at Large
for War Crimes Issues Stephen Rapp and Wendy Sherman of the
State Department. We also met with other officials as well
including congressmen and senators.
The discussions were with regard to our stand in respect of
a political solution and shared our views on the issues of
accountability and the work of the Lessons Learnt and
Reconciliation Commission (LLRC).
We were at the United Nations (UN) in New York as well. We
had an appointment with the Secretary General (SG) Ban Ki-moon
on November 1 at 3.30 pm. However, it was cancelled at the
last moment as he was going out of the country.
So we met with the Under Secretary General, Political
Affairs Lynn Pascoe at the SG’s office. We also met with the
officials of the Canadian Foreign office and the UK Foreign
They were keen on finding out our views being
representatives of the people who were affected due to the
Q. What were their concerns with regard to the
political situation in Sri Lanka?
A. Their concerns were with regard to the
non-fulfillment of the undertaking given by President
Mahinda Rajapaksa to Ban Ki -moon when he was here in May
2009 with regard to a political solution, with regard to the
resettlement of all the people back in their homes and with
regard to setting up an accountability mechanism.
Q. There are some who are of the view that your visit
to the US was not successful owing to the fact that you
could not meet with dignitaries including the UN Secretary
General. What do you have to say about it?
A. Well, if meeting the SG was the target then obviously
it wasn’t successful. But, SG who gave an appointment had to
go abroad at the last minute. The visit cannot said to be
successful or unsuccessful like that.
Q. But have you requested for another meeting with the
SG sometime in the future?
A. No. This meeting was planned because we were going
there on the US State Department visit and we could go to
New York while being there and met with various officials in
Q. Your visit to the US had created some friction
within the TNA. The TELO had expressed their displeasure
over not being included in the delegation. What do you have
to say about that?
A. To my knowledge the TELO had not expressed
Q. But, Shivajilingam did express his displeasure over
A. Shivajilingam rejoined TELO recently. He was the one
who was expelled from the TELO for violating the joint
decision by the TNA not to contest Presidential Election. We
broadened the TNA recently to accept the likes of
Anandasangare and Sidhdharthan and in that context
Shivajilingam was also taken back into the TNA. So, this has
to be viewed in that context.
The TELO leadership had discussions with us before we left
and they perfectly understood the delegation could not be a
large one. Originally the invitation was for me and
Sampanthan. But we wanted certain representation from the
other parties since we were an alliance. But, we couldn’t
ask for more than four people to be in the delegation. That
was explained to Adaikkalanathan and he accepted that. This
happened before we left.
Q. Do you think that this issue would be a problem for
the TNA in the long -run?
A. No it wouldn’t be a problem because that was resolved
with the TELO leadership before we left.
Q. They had also expressed their dissatisfaction since
they were not included in the team that holds talks with the
government. Your response?
A. They had never requested that they be a part of the
delegation. There was to be two committees initially. One
was to deal with finding a political solution and the other
to do with the day-to-day affairs faced by the people.
Adaikkalanathan’s name was also included in the latter
committee. Unfortunately, the President never appointed that
committee. He only appointed the committee that looks into
the political solution.
Q. But now this same committee is looking into the
day-to-day affairs of the war affected people, right?
A. No. We raised the immediate issues faced by the
people at this forum as the other committee was not
appointed. But, they really do not have the mandate to look
into those things.
Q. What is the state of the talks between the
government and the TNA after its recommencement?
A. We met twice after the recommencement of the talks.
We haven’t made any progress during those two rounds of
talks. The third meeting is fixed for November 16. We have
requested that we meet regularly after the next meeting
because the budget debates would start the following week
and everybody will be available here. So there cannot be an
excuse that some members of the government delegation are
not available. We have said that we need to see some
progress before the end of the year.
Q. The TNA is still looked upon as a party that
continues to carry forward the political views of the LTTE.
How do you respond to that?
A. That is a very wrong perception. The LTTE had had its
main method an armed struggle, the use of violence. The TNA
has never endorsed violence even during the time of the LTTE.
We have very clearly stated our position with regard to
that. In our meetings with the Sri Lanka Tamil community in
Canada and UK, Mr. Sampanthan has told them that our
objective is to find a political solution within an
undivided, united country and that we cannot be running two
courses. This is our clear position. And we will work
Q. How do you look at the development process that
takes place in the north and east?
A. There is no development that benefits the people.
There are roads, bridges and culverts being built but they
do not benefit the people. That is worse when the people do
not have the roof over their heads and they have to watch
all these mega projects going around them without priorities
such housing and their own livelihood opportunities are not
Q. But, don’t you think that this issue is not
confined to the North and East alone, it applies to all
places in the country?
A. Yes it is true. But the need of rehabilitation works
for the people who have been resettled is far more than the
rest of the country. They have lost all their belongings,
their relatives and houses and have been rendered destitute.
They were in temporary shelters and cannot be compared to
other parts of the country. And when they have been allowed
to go back to their places, they have not been given
anything. Just tarpaulin sheets, tin sheets and a few sticks
and the government says they are spending so much on
development. That is the irony that they have all that money
to spend and they have chosen not to spend it on the people.