That is a move to distract attention from main threat to national security
Opposition utters rubbish in Parliament
Not ready to listen to narratives of Tamil leadership in north
Eastern Province should not be merged with north
In the wake of Channel 4 Dispatches, State Minister of Rural Road Development Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan alias Pillayan, who faces allegations, responds to questions from Daily Mirror about his alleged involvement in atrocious acts. As one time Chief Minister of the Eastern Province, he also shares his views on the 13th Amendment. Excerpts:
QAzad Maulana, who worked as your party’s media spokesman, makes a whole lot of allegations regarding the Easter Sunday attacks. What is your response?
Azad Maulana was with us. He worked for us mainly when I was the Chief Minister of the Eastern Province. One and half years back, he had some family issues. He cited various other hardships and wanted to leave. That happened more than one year ago. Now, he is out of the country. What can one do to become rich overnight? The easy way out is to make false allegations in this manner. Unlike us, he was not with the LTTE. He only joined our party Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulihal (TMVP). He cannot talk about anything related to the LTTE. So, he has chosen to talk about the Easter Sunday attacks which is a controversial topic. What he now does is a work of drama. He plays the role of a drama actor nicely.
QYet, we cannot disregard these allegations because they reignite controversy. The Rajapaksas are implicated as those who worked out such a plot to get back to power. What is your response?
You are well aware of how political machinations, engineered by the Western world, work. Who is behind the expulsion of former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa from power? The West is responsible for it. Nobody can say Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa came to power only because of the ground situation that turned favourable to him after the Easter Sunday attacks. His party Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) won the 2018 local government elections. That is way before the Eastern Sunday attacks. It means the ground situation in the Sinhala majority areas was in anyway in favour of him even before the Easter Sunday bombings. The foregone conclusion of the local elections was that the SLPP was bound to win the elections to follow. The West always wants its favourites installed in power here, though.
Such dramas like Channel 4 films are often staged ahead of the sessions of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). I think the Tamil Diaspora scattered around the world, along with other extremists, backed Channel 4 to produce this film. Such extremist elements approached Azad Maulana and used him.
I feel sad about one thing. There are a number of youths brainwashed by Zahran Hashim who led the suicide bombings on 2019 Easter Sunday. There are many such people who pledged allegiance to his extremist movement. Today, no one talks about them. What is happening now is a distraction of attention from the main problem posing a threat to national security.
Today, global ISIS terrorism is confined to small pockets in Syria and Iraq. It has almost been vanquished. What is now happening in Afghanistan and some parts of Africa?
The opposition politicians should not play politics. They should talk about the development and national security of this country. Instead, they utter rubbish in Parliament. They pinpointed me. At the time of the attack, I remained incarcerated. How can I plot a destructive attack like this from behind the bars? This is a joke. ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was alive during the time of the Easter Sunday attacks. He claimed responsibility for the attack. ISIS news agency Amaq announced it. Still, some MPs talk like madmen. Theirs is an attempt to protect these banned religious extremist organizations. In Parliament, we should discuss how to protect our country from international terrorism. Channel 4 is funded by the Diaspora elements who despise the Rajapaksas. We should deal with extremist elements through legal means.
In a war, everyone – be it Sinhala, Tamil or Muslims- is affected. War is war. It is true that the members of the military, the LTTE and civilians died. If there are allegations, they should be cleared. That is what the government is doing now.”
QYou are a politician based in the Eastern Province. Did you notice religious extremism emerging there?
I know what Tamil history is. I know what Muslims are doing. I know what they do in terms of development. However, I never imagined acts of terrorism.
QWhat is your position, as one time Chief Minister of the Eastern Province, on President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s move for the implementation of the 13th Amendment?
Ours is a sovereign country. We introduced the 13th Amendment at the behest of India, consequent to the advent of Tamil militancy in the north and the east. It is normal that people living in our province should be allowed to look after their own affairs. When I was in the LTTE, I fought for a separate state. Yet I realized that it is impossible. The 13th Amendment is part of our constitution. That is to give powers to the Provincial Councils. That is a normal thing. That is not for the partition of the country. There is no need to partition this country.
QWill you contest to become the Chief Minister if there is an election to the Provincial Councils?
Let’s cross the bridge when we get to it! There are no such elections at the moment. There will be elections next year. As the leader of TMVP, I am ready to face any election.
QStill, some people believe in separatist ideology. What is your response to them?
It is wrong. Who is talking about such separatism? They are the ones living luxurious lives. We should not leave room for them to interfere in our matters. We, as people living in this country, should take our decisions. There are extremist elements both within the Sinhala and Tamil communities. We should not allow any of them to gain the upper hand. Today, you see how Singapore has developed. We have to think of ways and means to achieve such prosperity.
QWhat is your response to allegations of genocide being made in countries such as Canada?
Only our people have made way for it. We should share powers in our country and govern properly while protecting the national sovereignty. Canada is a country with a huge Tamil population. There are key businessmen among them. They are all at work. In Canada, we find vote bank politics being played out.
You are well aware of how political machinations, engineered by the Western world, work. Who is behind the expulsion of former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa from power? The West is responsible for it.”
QIn the UNHRC resolution, there is a call for an investigation into the alleged human rights violation and accountability issues. You were also involved in the war. What is your response to allegations about such wartime happenings?
In a war, everyone – be it Sinhala, Tamil or Muslims- is affected. War is war. It is true that the members of the military, the LTTE and civilians died. If there are allegations, they should be cleared. That is what the government is doing now. The government has established various committees such as the Office of Missing Persons (OMP). Efforts are underway to set up the truth-seeking commission. These bodies should take decisions. If there are wrongdoers, they should be punished in terms of the law of the country.
What is needed is a local reconciliation mechanism. It cannot be done from abroad.
QSome political party leaders in the north call for the merger of the Northern and Eastern Provinces. You are a politician based in the East. What is your response?
Like some Sinhala leaders behaved in the past, certain Tamil leaders in the north also did wrongful things. In Jaffna, they tell people that it is difficult to cohabitate with the Sinhala people. Yet, the very same Tamil leaders live among Sinhala people in Colombo 7 in a luxurious way, keeping spacious gardens. How can they own such large lands in Colombo 7 area? Who are the children of Tamil leaders such as C.V. Wigneswaran and M.A. Sumanthiran married to? One should examine the parental background of Tamil National Alliance (TNA) MP Shanakiyan Rasamanickam.
These leaders have a different narrative to the ordinary Tamil people. We don’t listen to the narrative of the northern Tamil leadership. We have our own province. Ours is one of the nine provinces of Sri Lanka. Most of our people are Tamil-speaking. Religion-wise, there are Hindus, Muslims, Christians and Buddhists. I am for co-existence among all.
QThere are disputes over some Buddhist archaeological sites in the east. What is the solution to address them in your view?
This issue cannot be addressed through a politically motivated approach. Any high-handed approach is also not advisable. If there are archaeological sites, all should be united to protect them. Otherwise, people get scared when there is a sudden presence of Buddhist monks along with large fleets of vehicles near these sites. Ordinary people get panicked then. Instead, ordinary people should be convinced to look after archaeological sites on their own. They should have a sense of ownership of these sites as their heritage.
Without doing that, it is difficult to solve problems through rhetorical acts by some Sinhala politicians.