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No Chance Of Another Armed Struggle – Dharmalingam Siddharthan-
Category: STATEMENTS, Posted on: 5/9/2017 12:00:00 AM

 

Tamil National Alliance (TNA) Parliamentarian Dharmalingam
Siddharthan believes that permitting the Tamils in the North or East to
commemorate their dead will not lead to another armed struggle or be viewed as
encouraging separatism. In an interview with The Sunday Leader he said one
man’s terrorist is another man’s liberation fighter. He believes the relatives
of the dead should at least have the right to mourn the death of their loved
ones. According to Siddharthan, many of the issues facing the Tamils in the
North are still not resolved and the government mechanism in this regard is
extremely slow. He lamented that the crime rate in the North is rising and he
also feels there is a breakdown of family values and traditions among the
people. He said while the military was not directly involved in aiding certain
gangs, some individuals encourage and support these youth gangs.



Following are excerpts of the interview;



by Thushari Nathaniel



One man’s terrorist another man’s freedom fighter



Many issues facing Tamils in the North not resolved



Individuals encourage, support youth gangs



Q. The heroes day was celebrated in Jaffna and the East and  some parties were concerned that since the
LTTE is a terrorist outfit they should not be allowed to hold these
commemorations publicly. What is your take on it?



A. The first factor is that one man’s terrorist is another man’s
liberation fighter. Secondly, the relatives of the dead should at least have
the right to mourn the death of their loved ones. For most of them they do not
even know when their loved ones were killed, especially those who were members
of the LTTE and as such they should also have at least one specific day that
they can remember their dead and perform their rituals. For these families it
is immaterial if their children, husbands or family members were members of a
terrorist organisation or not, for them they are their kith and kin. For them
they only know that their loved ones are dead. Before the war they were doing
it every year and after the war ended it was stopped. Personally I don’t see
any harm in allowing the Tamils in the North or East to mourn their dead. I
don’t feel that allowing this will lead to another armed struggle in this
country or fuel terrorism. If they are not allowed to commemorate their dead,
then there is frustration and they will feel that they are being deprived of
the right to even mourn their dead.



However, the commemoration of the dead should not be politicised by
both sides.



Q. How smoothly or effectively are the reconciliation efforts
progressing and how much of a threat are the extremist factors to
reconciliation?



A. The reconciliation process in my view is very slow and not as
effective as expected. Certain things that we want to happen are happening very
slowly  and it is frustrating a lot of
people. For example the people in IDP camps are really suffering. At this point
it is really cold in the North due to the inclement weather and these people
are not prepared to face these situations. At least if they were in their own
homes they could have been prepared for such incidents, or even have the
feeling that they are in their own places of residence. However, in these camps
these people are helpless as they have to wait and depend on the authorities to
provide for them, which is very frustrating for them. They have been suffering
for over 30 years. Especially those from the Palali region they are suffering
immensely and for them it has been an endless wait. Some have even lost hope
that they will ever be able to lead normal lives in this life time. However, I
am not saying that the government is not doing anything, but what I feel is
that what is being done is very slow. I don’t know what will happen in the end
but something is happening as the President and Prime Minister are doing their
best but we will have to wait and see what eventually happens.



 



Q. The government assured the UN that the resettlement of the war
displaced will be completed in three months. How far has the resettlement
progressed?



A. It cannot practically happen in three months. The people feel
that something is happening but it is not happening to their desired pace. The
displaced people are slowly moving into their places of origin, but this is at
a snail’s pace and not effective enough. I do understand that the government
may have its logistical problems and procedures to deal with, but for people
who have been displaced for so long and have lost everything they ever owned,
these issues are immaterial and for them all they look forward to is the
eventual outcome and that is to be resettled in their own lands and commence
their lives. When this does not happen as fast as expected, the people are
invariably frustrated.



Q. The recently presented budget by the unity government has come
under criticism from many quarters. How do you see the budget as a whole?



A. Generally I don’t think it has given anything to the people. I
admit they have reduced the prices of some items but that is not enough.
Moreover, although the government stipulates this lower price, most of the
shops do not adhere to it and eventually the goods are sold at the same high
price. The government servants are also not happy as they have not received any
relief from this budget. The budget should be for the whole country but some
areas are neglected in making the allocations. Even in the North which has
suffered immense destruction over the past 30 years, we don’t see much
happening and not many  allocations have
been made in order to rebuild those areas either. We expected a lot from this
government and this budget but we were disappointed. Even the money allocated for
the Provincial Councils is hardly enough and it covers only the recurrent
expenditure.



Development too is minimal or nothing at all. Hence all in all the
budget is not promising and the government keeps saying that these measures
taken will yield results in the  long
term. Therefore we cannot expect anything much now but we will have to wait and
see. What is allocated, if you calculate it carefully is simply not enough for
the projects of the Provincial Councils. Hence all in all it is not a very
promising budget.



Q. If it is not a very promising budget, why did the TNA support it
and vote in favour?



A. We voted for the government and not for the budget. This is
because we believe that at this stage we must show our support to the
government. Not just that we don’t want the people to feel that the government
is weak. Because of that we supported the government with the hope that it will
help the constitutional process. We want the government to go in the right
direction and that is why we voted in favour.



Q. At a time when the people are being burdened by taxes and the
rising cost of living, is it fair for this government to propose an increase in
parliamentarian’s salaries and allowances?



A. For the ordinary public it will certainly not be seen as a good thing.
But as a member of parliament I myself have to travel to Colombo from Jaffna to
attend parliament sessions. I travel by road and it costs me at least Rs.
40,000. When we travel around in the electorate too it is an additional
expense. In my opinion an MP who travels around the electorate and meet the
people and interact with and resolve their issues, do need funds to facilitate
their travel. Sometimes even the people in our electorates come to us for other
help such as medical, in the case of a funeral etc and it is our duty to help
them. Even the southern MP’s face the same issue where they cannot meet their
expenditure and when this happens our effectiveness as parliamentarians and
representatives of the people is reduced greatly.



In that sense I feel that this increment is some sort of incentive
for us to cover our expenses. The Rs. 2,500 allowance for attending parliament
will at least cover our petrol expenses to some extent. However, for the normal
citizens it may seem like we are enjoying privileges and having a comfortable
life because they don’t understand what our duties are.



Q, Today we hear many incidents of the underworld emerging and
crimes taking place in broad daylight. Do you feel that there is a rise in the
crime rate or as many others feel do you think that it is just being reported
widely?



A.In a way yes I believe it has increased especially in the North
and East. One of the main factors is that criminal elements are also involved
in it. I personally wont accuse the military as such but certain individual
forces personnel too are involved but I wont blame the whole establishment for
it but individual elements.



The war is over but there is alot of interaction between military
personnel and the youth in the North and some of them actually encourage the
Tamil youth and support them in the wrong that they do. The intelligence units
maybe using these boys to get information, but by doing that they are
encouraging them even to engage in crimes indirectly.



However after this government came to power I don’t see that
happening but individuals are still perhaps engaged.



Q. In the North family ties and discipline was something that was
admired. However, in today’s society especially in the North, do you see a
breakdown of these traditional values and culture?



A. Certainly there is a breakdown and maybe this is an effect of the
war. During the war the parents found it hard to have disciplinary control on
their children in the North as before. If they were being disciplined by the
parents they would threaten to join the LTTE and the parents were helpless.



Earlier respect for elders was very high in the North and the  crime rate was very low. Even at midnight the
people in the North never feared to go out on the streets and females were safe
at any time. People never even locked their home doors at night as they were
certain no one would intrude or steal. But now people wont dare come out at
night and even after locking their doors people are afraid. The culture in the
North has changed drastically for the worse.



Q. Why do you think this situation has arisen in the North?



A. One of the biggest issues is the unemployment in the province.
But this situation has not befallen the village youth but it is the youth of
upper middle class families that are engaged in such activities. In most
instances their relatives are overseas and the foreign money flows in and these
youth don’t feel that they need to work hard to make a living and they just
loiter around and eventually get involved in such anti-social activities.



Adventurism is also another factor and after the war ended they were
encouraged to get into gangs and this eventually led to gang fights etc. During
the war they did not dare  do such
things. Now with the increased freedom, these youth are abusing their freedom
and as a result such anti-social elements emerge.



Q. The TNA being the party elected to represent the Tamil people,
has somewhat lost the confidence of their supporters and the people feel that
they have been let down by the TNA who have become the government’s allies. Do
you agree?



A. I don’t think so. At most of the meetings I was there with
Sampanthan and he is very adamant with the government that they should deliver
on the promises made to the Tamil people in terms of resettlement, missing persons,
political prisoners etc. He was very stern and used very strong words demanding
that the government deliver. But, in my opinion the government is very slow in
implementing certain measures and this is leading to a lot of frustration and
disgruntlement.



Perhaps the government feels that if they rush things they might
have to encounter issues from extremist elements of the South. The government
feels that if they release the political prisoners the opposition might attack
them. However, whatever the issue or excuse is the fact remains that the
government is very slow in implementing certain decisions and this is not good
for the country nor is it good for reconciliation. (Thanks Sunday Leader
04.12.2016)




           

 


 




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