Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP) leader and MP Douglas Devananda spoke about the latest political trends in the North, confusions created by the new election law and his expectations. Excerpts:
QWhat do you think of the outcome of LG polls?
In Jaffna, there are three main parties that can be taken into account, namely the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), the Akila Illankai Tamil Congress (AITC) and the Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP). TNA is an amalgam of a few parties. It got 150 members elected. The AITC too aligned with a couple of other parties and received 80. As a single party, the EPDP received 80 seats. We did it without money and governmental power. There was no media support whatsoever. However, I expected a victory bigger than what we got.
We outlined our policies under three counts in the run up to the elections. One is solutions to day-to-day concerns. The second is to address development needs of people. Thirdly, we promised to advocate political rights of our people while addressing development matters
In Tamil majority areas, liquor was used as an inducement, though I did not distribute such items. If you win over voters through offering liquor, it will not serve the intended purpose. I advocated politics for the well-being of people. That is my purpose. If I serve liquor as a gimmick to secure more votes, the sole purpose of my politics will be lost. I presented my policies to people.
QThe TNA emerged as the single largest party. But it cannot form administration in most cases single-handedly. Is the EPDP ready to align with them to form administration?
We outlined our policies under three counts in the run up to the elections. One is solutions to day-to-day concerns. The second is to address development needs of people. Thirdly, we promised to advocate political rights of our people while addressing development matters.
In most instances, a single party cannot form administration in local authorities because of lacunas in the new election law. In the North, there are 34 local bodies. A single party can form administration only in three of them. For the rest, the party with the largest number of seats has to tie up with another to establish administration. The EPDP can form its own administration in Delft and Kayts Pradeshiya Sabhas, whereas the TNA can do so in Pooneryn without the support of anyone. We are thankful to those who voted for us.
If any party approaches us to establish administration, we will support it from outside. But it is conditional. We will do so only if that party is ready to work in the greater well-being of people in our view. We cannot expect the TNA and the ACTC headed by Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam to resolve the issues of people. We do not want to spoil our name by aligning with them for political reasons.
QIn the appointment of mayors, chairmen and deputy chairmen, the EPDP support is needed. What will you do?
No party has contacted us officially seeking our support. There are unofficial approaches made here and there. The TNA has 16 seats in the Jaffna Municipal Council, the EPDP has ten and the ACTC 13. One person who got elected from the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) in respect of an electoral ward in Jaffna was imprisoned over a burglary case. There is no clarity on the next person to be nominated in place of him. It is not clear whether the vacant seat is due for someone from his own party or to the EPDP. Only the judiciary can decide it. If we get it, we will have 81.
The TNA has nominated its mayoral candidate right from the beginning. We, the EPDP, are not in agreement with this person chosen as the mayor. The EPDP members do not like him for his social misconduct.
Although it is mentioned as the third item on our agenda, that does not mean it should be the third priority area. We asked our people to elect us to control not only the local bodies but also the Provincial Council in the future. We likened these two organs of governance to human eyes. We need both to serve the people
QYou said you talked about political rights of people as the third item of your election programme. You secured a considerable number of votes. It means Tamil voters now focus more on their development and day-to-day needs instead of their demand for political rights?
Although it is mentioned as the third item on our agenda, that does not mean it should be the third priority area. We asked our people to elect us to control not only the local bodies but also the Provincial Council in the future. We likened these two organs of governance to human eyes. We need both to serve the people. Development efforts have ground to a standstill in the North for several years now. When people ask for development and solutions to their day-to-day issues, the TNA leadership only stresses on agitation for the political solution. As a result, those issues remain unaddressed.
QThe AITC led by Mr. Ponnambalam also emerged stronger at this election. It is a party that virtually demanded a separate State. What do you think of a large section of Tamils supporting a party with such a hardline position?
The TNA is stagnant in politics. They do not move forward or backward. People are disillusioned with them as a result. Mr. Ponnambalam’s party is not forward looking. In fact, it is a party with backward political trends. People were in a state of confusion this time. With media support, they exploited the situation and managed to secure some votes. This is a momentary success for them. It is not something permanent. A section of people, disappointed with the TNA, voted for them. It may not happen the same way next time. Our party has been able to double the number of votes.
In fact, we wanted to increase it by fourfold. We could not drive home our message to people properly this time. In the future, we will try our best to increase our vote base by leaps and bounds.
QThe new election system created confusion. And now it is introduced to the upcoming provincial councils elections. What is your view?
There is such confusion in respect to the proposed law to govern elections to provincial councils. The Prime Minister recently called for a meeting with the leaders of several political parties. Most of them viewed that we should revert to the old system with certain amendments. We look forward to discussing this matter. We also feel that the new election system is confusing.
QThere was a political change at the local government level outside the North and East. What do you feel about it?
We cannot deny the fact that the political force led by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa emerged victorious.
QIs the EPDP intending to team up with this new political force?
We have to remain patient for the time being and see what we can do. It depends on the response of Southern parties to other demands listed under three counts as I mentioned earlier. We will see with whom we can get our demands addressed. Then, we will decide whom to be aligned with.
QWhat do you think about the performance of the government?
The election results show it vividly. The government made scant efforts to win over people. If there were anything done, it was not communicated to people effectively. In the North and the East, development did not take place for a long time. Those are areas devastated by the war. These war-affected people have both mental and physical needs to be looked into. These needs have to be addressed. Alongside, they have to be won over.
In an interview with Dailymirror,