By Arthur Wamanan
The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) has said it was still
committed to proceed with the talks with the government. TNA
Parliamentary Group Leader, R. Sampanthan says there was no
truth in allegations that it was acting on instructions of
the Diaspora, adding that the party had clearly stated their
position on the solution to the ethnic crisis.
Sampanthan speaks to The Nation on the state of the TNA-government
talks and the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC).
Following are excerpts:
Q. The government had criticised the TNA for not
cooperating with them on the talks and absconding from talks
with the government and affecting the smooth flow of the
talks. Do you agree with this allegation?
Such criticism on the part of the government is totally
unjustified. We have defined the contours of a political
solution at our first meeting in January 2011. At the
request of the government we submitted a written proposal in
February 2011. On a further request, we submitted a more
comprehensive proposal in March. The government agreed to
respond to that proposal to enable a meaningful dialogue to
commence. However, the government did not respond to that
proposal and at our meeting on August 4, 2011, we insisted
that no dates could be fixed for the next round of talks
until the government came up with a response since more than
four months had lapsed from the governmentís undertaking to
respond, and seven meetings had been held during that
period. No date was fixed for further talks.
Subsequent to a meeting between the President and me on
September 2, and certain decisions arrived at the said
meeting, talks recommenced on September 16. I will not, for
the present, go into details of those discussions.
After talks commenced, the issues to be discussed were
identified and talks have commenced on some of those issues
in regard to which the government stated it had some
The talks are continuing. We have acted with a sense of
responsibility at the talks. The talks that have taken place
have been around the same issues that have been considered
at different times between 1987 and now.
QThe TNA has not made any new proposals.
I regret to state that it is the government, which has been
the cause for the delay. We want to engage in the talks
constructively. Because it is our view that reasonable,
workable and durable political solution needs to be arrived
at both in the interest of the Tamil people and in the
interest of the country as a whole.
Q. The government had also been critical on the
demands made by you, such as giving police powers to the
periphery was not practicable. The government had also said
the TNA should be flexible in their demands for the talks to
move forward. What do you have to say about this?
All that I can say is the issues that we have raised and
discussed are issues on which there have always been
discussions. There has even been a measure of agreement. And
it would be unreasonable to accuse the TNA of not being
flexible. Being flexible does not mean agreeing to the
government, retracting from positions already accepted.
Q. There are also allegations that the TNA is acting
on the instructions of certain sections of the Diaspora and
not working on the interest of the people. Your response?
It is extremely unfortunate that the government makes this
allegation. I am aware that the government is in possession
of addresses delivered by me to the Tamil diaspora both in
North America and the United Kingdom when I was there
recently. Far from being influenced by the Tamil Diaspora,
we have very truthfully told them that on our part., we will
make a constructive contribution towards achieving a
reasonable, workable and durable political solution. A vast
majority of the Tamil Diaspora is in agreement with this
Instead of making unfounded accusations, the government
should deliver on its commitment to evolve an acceptable
Q. Do you see the talks heading towards a positive end
considering the negative reactions by the government?
We are committed to doing everything reasonably possible to
make the talks a success. There has to be positive
contribution by the government also for success to be
achieved. We will appeal to the government to make a
Q. The government has come with a proposed Parliamentary
Select Committee (PSC) and has said it was awaiting your
representations to it. However, you are yet to nominate
members from the TNA to the proposed PSC. Why are you
delaying it? Are there chances of you joining the PSC at any
point of time?
Bilateral talks between the government and the TNA started
in January 2011. There was no talk of a PSC at that point of
time. Proposals with regard to a PSC came up only in
August/September 2011. The discussions between me and the
President dealt with issues pertaining both to the bilateral
talks and the PSC. These matters have also been referred to
in the minutes of the talks between the TNA and the
The TNAís future course of action will be consistent with
the agreements arrived at as recorded in the minutes of the
Q. The Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC)
recently came up with its report. You have expressed
disappointment over the content of the report. At the same
time, countries like Canada that were critical of the
government on issues related to human rights had commended
the report while making their own reservations. Donít you
think that the recommendations by the LLRC would provide
some basis on which the crisis could be solved?
The LLRC recommendations are a mixed bag. Ever since the
report of the Panel of experts appointed by the Secretary
General of the UN came out and ever since the international
community commenced highlighting the matters contained in
that report, the government has endeavored to make out that
the report of the LLRC will deal with the issues covered by
the Expert Panel report. That was primarily on the issue of
accountability pertaining to violations of international
human rights laws and humanitarian laws.
We do not accept the report of the LLRC on the issue of
accountability. It is our considered view that the victims
of the war, many thousands of Tamil civilians have good
reason to be disappointed with the report of the LLRC.
We have referred to the several violations that occurred in
the course of the conduct of the war as and when they
happened, in Parliament. And these are a matter of record.
We know the truth with regard to what happened. We had no
alternative but to state the truth in the statement we
issued. We could not fail in this duty by the victims of the
We do acknowledge that the LLRC report also refers to a
number of other matters pertaining to a political solution
such as language, law and order, disarming of paramilitary
groups, detainees and so on. Some of these matters were also
referred to in the interim recommendations of the LLRC made
more than one year ago.
The LLRC itself has lamented that the Sri Lankan State has
not implemented those interim recommendations.
Given the track record of the Sri Lankan State, one has to
await the implementation of whatever other recommendations
had been made by the LLRC before believing that these would
become a reality.
In our initial statement we have also stated that we would
be making a comprehensive statement in due course and these
matters will find preference in the comprehensive statement
that we will make.