The Jaffna District MP, former Minister and the Leader of the Ealam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP) Douglas Devananda said that Amendments are the Constitution needs to amended and interested parties should decide what Amendments are to be made. He added that the confusion between the Orumiththa Nadu and Ayikkiya Nadu is mere word play of the TNA to deceive the Tamil People.
Devananda denied any alliance with or support to Joint Opposition’s Podu Jana Peramuna and stressed that he remains an independent party member. He believes that former President Mahinda Rajapaksa can be a good leader and win the people’s hearts once again, as he might have realized by now the errors committed in the past.
Many parties including the Maha Nayake Theras are in total opposition to the proposed Constitution. What is the stance of the EPDP in this regard?
A: Well, this is a democratic country and anyone has the right to express their views and religious leaders are no exception. I personally think that the Constitution should be amended. There are many parties and many views on how the changes are to be made and what provisions should be excluded or included.
From the perspective of the Tamil community, devolution of authority by the Constitution is very important. We look at the Constitutional Amendments in terms of devolution of powers, absence of which was, the cause for taking up arms by us, some decades ago.
Subsequently, with the signing of the Indo-Sri Lanka Pact, we were assimilated into the national flow with the expectation of putting an end to our problems in a democratic manner. As a result, Sri Lanka was introduced to the Provincial Council mechanism and the 13th Amendment was added to the Constitution. I would criticize the Tamil leadership for not making use of that in an advantageous manner towards winning the rights of the Tamil community.
With regard to the Constitutional Amendments, what we expect is the full implementation of the 13th Amendment.
What have you to say on the how some politicians in the Northern Province behaved when President Maithripala Sirisena paid a visit to Jaffna recently?
A: They staged a protest on behalf of the political prisoners and I think those politicians make use of thepolitical prisoners to get political mileage.
The issue of political prisoners should be discussed with the political leadership of the country because the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) proclaims that they are the sole representatives of the Tamil community. They also boast that they are the ones who spearheaded the move to bring this Government to power. Hence, it is their responsibility to discuss the problems faced by the Tamil community with the Government.
Yet, no political resolution has been implemented up to now. TNA only pays lip service to the problems of Tamils and keeps mum with regard to the indifference and inactivity of the Government over resolving issues of the Tamil people. They have failed to provide solutions to the problems of Tamils although they are influential in this Government.
What is your view of a true Opposition? And do you think that TNA serves its responsibility as the country‘s Opposition party?
A: An Opposition party is not supposed to oppose the ruling party in all contexts, but should be wise enough to oppose the ruling party if it engages in something which is detrimental or harmful to the country and its inhabitants.
In the history of Sri Lankan politics, the Opposition is branded as a party which opposes the ruling party’s decisions and actions however, advantageous they are to the country.
I do not view TNA as an Opposition at all. It lacks the attributes of a true Opposition. The position of Leader of the Opposition is a boon to the TNA. They abuse the post of the Leader of the Opposition to derive various personal advantages. They serve not the country. The Opposition Leader R. Sampanthan has neither been able to act as a true Opposition Leader nor done any service to the country.
Which alliance is EPDP a member? It is said that you are a supporter of the Joint Opposition‘s Podu Jana Peramuna. Is that true?
A: No. Neither I nor my party is an ally of Podu Jana Peramuna. I remain a member of the EPDP.
Well, you seem to oppose the Government. Although TNA and the JVP superficially oppose the Government, they are not the true Opposition. Many are of the opinion that those who truly oppose the Government belong to the JO. In that case, aren‘t you a member of the JO or its political wing, Podu Jana Peramuna?
A: No, although I do not support the Government and often criticize it, I am not a member of the JO. I am of an independent party which is the EPDP. Although I am in the Opposition, I always appreciate and encourage the good moves of the Government and point out and oppose the misdeeds.
What is your observation of the welcoming of Podu Jana Peramuna got in Jaffna?
A: It is hard to comment on that. When we were in power I have observed that Tamil people did not favour and like Mahinda Rajapaksa’s Government. That is why they toiled to bring this Government to power.
If Tamil people find comfort and feel that their rights are preserved under this Government, why don‘t you join hands with your community people and support the Good Governance Government?
A: I was a part of the previous regime. But, this time I didn’t want to play a role in Government and continue to serve my community by being outside of the Government. This is one type of view of the Government. Formerly, I was in Government and observed how the community can be served. Now, I stay outside of the Government and observe how I can serve the people.
Although the problems of the community are the same, the view is different; how it is looked at and dealt with.
You were a member of the Cabinet in the previous regime and had the authority to serve the people better. How do you find your present status which is void of power and perks?
A: Although less inundated, I continue to serve my people. There is a vast difference in serving people when in power and when not. Formerly, when I was a minister, when the public presented their problems to me, I could guarantee that they are resolved. I cannot give the public that assurance now, as I am not as influential as earlier. But, I attempt my best to provide some kind of solution to their problems.
There is huge uproar in the country over the Unitary State (Orumiththa Nadu) and United State (Ayikkiya Nadu). Which concept do you think is suitable for a country like Sri Lanka?
A: Orumiththa Nadu implies a Federal State. ITAK (Ilangai Thamil Arasu Katchi) is known in English as the Federal Party. In order to conceal their ulterior motives, they use the term ITAK at present.
This is like a battle of words. We should refer to the Constitution before any decision is made. It says if any confusion arises in terms of languages, the national language – Sinhala should be the final.
If the leaders of the country find it difficult to comprehend the meaning of Orumiththa Nadu and Ayikkiya Nadu, they will refer to the Sinhala terms.
This is a senseless clamour that the TNA is making. They are very good at deceiving the Tamil community with vain hubbubs.
In case former President Mahinda Rajapaksa gets an opportunity to be the President of the country, again, will the Tamil people support him?
A: In accordance with the Constitution, he cannot become the President of the country again.
Right after the end of the war I wrote to, the then President, Mahinda Rajapaksa that he too can become a Dharmasoka. I explained to him how Emperor Chandasoka who was a king of war became Dharmasoka, a king of righteousness. I said that he too can become a righteous President. But, he did not change his attitudes and actions at that time.
He also had a destructive set of people encompassing him who are the chief cause of his defeat.
I think he has learnt his lessons well during this two years and he can emerge as a totally different leader. Sometimes, he might not have taken all those detrimental forces into account then, but might have got a good understanding of them now. He might have a different perspective of them, when he looks at them, when he is not in power.
When you were a Cabinet Minister during the previous regime, you set up an industrial zone in Achchuveli. What is its present status?
A: There is no improvement whatsoever in that project. Those who are in-charge of that seem to have no interest in that project.
I cannot see any productive output from the Chief Minister of the Northern Province, C.V. Vigneswaran. He is good at talking but not at executing. He doesn’t show any interest in serving the people of the Northern Province but deceiving them with exaggerated and aggressive speech.
When I was in power I converted the needs of the people into my call of duty and fulfilled those needs.