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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2586

TNA to decide on Sri Lanka President’s invite this evening

By K.T.Rajasingham

Colombo, 25 March, (Asiantribune.com): Orphaned by the lossMavai S. SenathirajahMavai S. Senathirajah of contact with LTTE, their God-Father, the TNA lawmakers are on horns of dilemma about their future in general and on President Rajapaksa’s invitation for an interaction on March 26.

"We are tossing the issue. This is the fourth invitation. We do not know how to handle it. May be by today (Mar 25) evening, we will arrive at a consensus decision", TNA chief whip, Mavai S Senthirajah, MP, told the Asian Tribune in an exclusive interview.

He and twelve other Tamil National Alliance (TNA) lawmakers held a brain storm session here on Tuesday. Frayed tempers, sense of bitterness, and above all a feeling of being let down marked the deliberations that lasted six-hours but consensus eluded them.

R. Sampanthan, TNA Parliamentary Group Leader chaired the deliberations.

All the TNA MPs in town attended the meeting, according to Senathirajah, who is also the General Secretary of the Ilankai Thamil Arasu Kadchchi. It was on this party’s ticket TNA members contested the last Parliamentary elections. "At present 12 Members available in Colombo and they all participated in Tuesday’s meeting".

He said they have decided to contact the other TNA members. Majority of them have gone abroad and one or two are holed up in the Vanni. "By today, we will meet again to respond to President Rajapaksa’s invitation", Senathirajah said.

Asian Tribune asked him whether the TNA has had any contacts with the leadership of the LTTE. He replied in the negative.

"For the last six to seven months there has been no contact with them (Vanni leadership)", the TNA lawmaker said.

"The entire communication system (of LTTE) has collapsed", he pointed out and said they are not in a position to establish contacts with them.

Asked why TNA had ignored ‘three invitations’ for talks, Senathirajah replied that they had felt it was not the ‘opportune’ time for such interactions.

"I am not denying… We have received those invitations. But you see, at that very time leaders in India (Tamil Nadu) were protesting in favor of us, ethnic Tamils in Lanka. So we felt it was not an opportune moment for the TNA to sit with the President for talks".

Excerpts of the Interview:

Asian Tribune (AT) : I need to have some clarifications from you. The other day, when Asian Tribune interviewed Sri Lanka President, he said that he has extended an invitation for the TNA three times for talks and that you had far not responded. Your Comment?

Mavai Senathirajah (MS): Yes, We have received invitations from Sri Lanka’s President to discuss the present situation. We will meet this evening to finalize and inform the President of our stance on the invitation.

AT: That means you haven’t so far decided about the invitation….

MS: No … no. We need to have the appropriate and opportune time decide on such issues. There should be the ripe time for these issues to be taken up? But yesterday, Tuesday, our group met to discuss the latest invitation; but we couldn’t come to any firm decision and we postponed our meeting for today for a final and conclusive decision (on the invitation to discuss political situation).

AT: Don’t you think it will be appropriate if all political parties arrive at a solution to the ethnic issue…

MS: We are not sure whether the Sri Lanka Government would arrive at any decision favorable to the Tamils at the proposed meeting, anyhow we will decide about President’s invitation this evening.

AT: When we interviewed the President, he said he had invited you people for talks three times. Is it true?

MS: I don’t remember that we received the invitation three times. But I remember one instance. At that we felt it was not an appropriate time for us to respond (to the President). You see, what happened was when we received President’s invitation, at the time Leaders of the political parties in Tamil Nadu were protesting against the Sri Lankan Government. We felt that that was not the appropriate time for us sending in our response to the invitation of the President. As I told you, President and the Sri Lanka Government have not taken any steps to act on those matters we had brought up before the President, when we had occasions to meet him.

AT: During our interview with the President we asked him why not invite and the TNA Members of Parliament, listen to their views and take actions to solve the present humanitarian crisis.

MS: O! Thank you for your concern. We will pursue the latest invitation. We will convey our stance.

AT: Tell me. What is your view on the problems faced by innocent Tamil civilians who are trapped in the war zone?

MS: We have already told our position very clearly to the UN deputy head Sir John Holmes and others.. We told them that an institution like UN must come forward for talks with both sides of the conflict and evolve ways and means of taking out the civilians trapped in the conflict zone and arrange to provide for their safety and security.
Let me tell you one thing very clearly. TNA doesn’t want the IDPs trapped in the conflict to be shifted to other districts and held in camps.

AT: Why? Other districts mean?

MS: In case if you bring the IDPs away from their original places of residences and provide them temporary shelter in other districts, then it might take a longer period for them to be resettled in their original places.

We know well what had happened earlier to the IDPs in the Jaffna Peninsula. And to thousands of IDPs from the Valikamam North; it is now more than 20 years since the people of that area were displaced and even after the Supreme Court had ruled that the displaced people should be resettled in their original places, the Army has so far not acted. Remember the order came from the Apex Courts of this country and the army has not acted as yet.

We are of the view that a similar situation should not arise in the case of the present IDPs. We are of the opinion that the IDPs who are crossing into the Government controlled areas should be temporarily resettled in Kilinochchi, Paranthan, Palai and other such areas and subsequently they should be allowed to return to their own places in the shortest possible time. Then only they will be able to settle them in their natural places of residence and come to grips with their livelihood arrangements. We are very clear on the IDP issue. We are very firm in our resolve. Bringing them outside their original habitats ….

AT: Sorry for interrupting you. I asked you what you means by other districts, outside means.. What do you think of Vavuniya? This is also part and parcel of the Vanni region?

MS: No, they are being taken to the outskirts of Vavuniya and are settled in areas and kept in areas where Tamils are normally not living. The IDPs can be brought to transit camps in areas like Kilinochchi, Paranthan and Palai.

AT: OK! In that case, what about Point Pedro East, Kodikamam, Chavakachcheri areas in the Jaffna district?

MS: No they are not Vanni areas no? Why can’t they be kept in the Kilinochchi region? It is a sprawling region, no? Instead of bringing the IDPs from their original home regions and spending vast sum of money for their upkeep at transit village, they can set up temporary camps in the Kilinochchi areas and then resettle them.

In other countries, you may be aware, it is the international organizations like UNHCR run IDPs transit camps. We are of the view that if the IDP camps are managed and run by UNHCR and other international organizations only, then the IDPs will be able to live in the transit camps without any fear or threat or intimidation. Government should set up transit camps according to such international standard.

AT: I remember that when I interviewed Mr. Basil Rajapakse MP and the Senior Advisor to President Rajapaksa, he told me that the IDPs will not be kept for more than three months in any transit camp. He said that they would be resettled within a three month period. He also said that those IDPs from Mannar will be resettled before the end of April itself.

MS:If that is the government plan and proposal, there is no logic behind keeping them in other areas and spending so much money?

AT: He (Basil Rajapakse) told us that the IDPs are kept in transfer villages until the resettlement arrangements are completed. Any how the point is you all are elected representatives of the Tamils who are affected. Donot you think it is your duty that you people, the elected lawmakers, come forward and discuss with the Government regarding the welfare of the people in your constituencies.

MS: Yes … yes, we will consider about this issue today. As I told you, all our parliamentarians are not available at present; we are contacting them and also get their feedbacks on this issue and accordingly respond, may be today itself as the meeting called by the President is scheduled to take place tomorrow at 6 PM at the Presidential Secretariat.

- Asian Tribune -

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