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Though changes may be slow, no need to compromise demands - MA Sumanthiran

 

Tamil Guardian caught up with Tamil National Alliance (TNA) parliamentarian after his parliamentary speech on Sri Lanka’s constitutional assembly speech last week.

See parliamentary speech here: Majoritarian governance in Sri Lanka must end to continue as one country says TNA (12 Jan 2015)

Reflecting on a year of working with the Sirisena governance, MA Sumanthiran said that though affirmation and acknowledgement of positive intentions and steps of the Sirisena government were important, there is “still disappointment with the in the Tamil community as the changes are not as swift as they thought they would be.”

Stressing that though changes may be slow, a compromise on demands were not necessary, he said,

“Even if the progress is slow, one needs to acknowledge the progress for the progress to continue. The world leaders are doing just that. I think it encourages them to keep going as they are being affirmed in that. So as much was we have our difficulties in weathering this difficult phase and wait longer that we thought we would have to wait, I think we have to grit our teeth go down that path, remain positive and encourage the government to do the right thing. We don’t need to compromise on anything at all and keep saying the right things.”

See full transcript below.

The January change was a sudden one that was quite unexpected. Though many worked for change, no one thought it would come so soon. Mahinda’s advancement of the call for election caught the opposition of guard however we were still able to get rid of Mahinda. Looking back over the past year, we must compare past years and not look in isolation. In relative terms there is a change for the better. Tamil expectations were high as they were in a dire situation. To that extent there is disappointment as change is not as swift as they thought it would be. In lur perspective in terms of how the south has reacted in the context fo the whole context. Maithri’s inability to take full control of the SLFP has played a great part. If he had taken full control of that party I think it may have been different and we would have seen more change. See all this is part of the system and despite the system we managed to make a change for the better.

Somebody told us today that even if the progress is slow, one needs to acknowledge the progress for the progress to continue. The world leaders are doing just that. I think it encourages them to keep going as they are being affirmed in that. So as much was we have our difficulties in weathering this difficult phase and wait longer that we thought we would have to wait, I think we have to grit our teeth go down that path, remain positive and encourage the government to do the right thing. We don’t need to compromise on anything at all and keep saying the right things.

More lands to be released as this was a written promise.  However he is going along at the pace that the military is comfortable with. One can criticise that but it is a sensitive issue. When I met with Zeid last year he said that whenever there has been a transition one of the biggest problems has been the reform of the military. Which has been part and parcel of the dictatorship before. Security sector reform is not as easy as it seems. I think we need to give the benefit of the doubt. In Sampur he took the bull by the horns and came there and released the whole land. He said I’m not giving the land to the LTTE, I’m giving the land to its owners.

During the land release something interesting happened. When Sirisena came to give the lands Sampanthan garlanded Sirisena and said ‘You are the first Sinhala leader that I am garlanding.’ I thought it was a significant thing. A 83 year old veteran politician telling a the president that you are the first Sinhala leader im garlanding. Some people may have negative things to say, but I think so long somebody is taking the right path some encouragement and affirmation is necessary.

On political prisoners there was no promise as such before election but there was a general understanding that people not charged with particular offence would be release. That has happened to a certain extent where they have been released on bail. 47 out of 68 that were not charged have been released, albeit on bail. Others there are some technical legal issues pending. Whatever the offence they have been in there for too long. That dialogue has come to a stand still for a while.