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Feature : Peace changes people's lives in North

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Defeating Tigers vital to restore democracy in North

Minister Douglas Devananda hopeful of seeing an active Northern Provincial Council soon:

Dozens of Jaffna students were around Minister Douglas Devananda when we visited his highly secured Social Services Ministry in Colombo to which the LTTE sent a handicapped woman suicide cadre to take his life.

The students have come all the way from Jaffna to visit Colombo and were showing their new innovations to the Minister.

"You should use your creativity for development not for terror acts", the Minister was advising the students while admiring their work.

Minister Devananda is of the opinion that Tamil community has been deprived of all their democratic rights because of the LTTE leadership. Destroying the LTTE leadership is a prerequisite to ensure democratic rights of the Tamil people in the North.

"To re-establish democracy we have to defeat the LTTE", Minister Devananda says in an interview with the Daily News.

He says he is happy the way the Government has taken steps to implement the Provincial Council system in the East and hope that Northern Provincial Council will also be established soon after the liberation of the North.

"A political solution has already been started with the implementation of the Provincial Councils system for the Eastern province. Once the LTTE is defeated the full implementation of the 13th Amendment will be possible," the Minister says.

Following is the full interview the Daily News had with Social Services Minister Douglas Devananda who is also the leader of the Eelam People's Democratic Party, on the current situation in the North and in the Wanni.

Q: As a leader representing the Tamil community how do you see the defeat of the LTTE at the hands of the Security Forces as they claim that the LTTE is facing the final blow in the Wanni ? What is your assessment on this situation ?

A: The first thing is that we have to defeat the LTTE and we wanted to defeat the LTTE. For the past two decades after the signing of the Indo Sri Lanka Peace Agreement the Tamil community faced immense problems as they were deprived of democratic rights in the North and the East.

The reason for the deprivation of democratic rights to the Tamil community, is the LTTE. To re-establish democracy we have to defeat the LTTE. Therefore there is no change in our stance that the LTTE should be defeated. To achieve this task the Security Forces are engaged in a process of defeating the LTTE after identifying the correct targets.

The Security Forces should defeat the LTTE in this war and should achieve victory against the LTTE to restore democracy in the North. After that we should create an environment conducive for the Tamil people to practice democracy in the North. After the creation of such an environment to practice democratic rights, people can solve their problems themselves.

Q: As a leader representing the Tamil community are you justifying the military approach to this problem considering the hardships people have to face in the North at present and what is the plight of these      civilians ?

A: I am not justifying this war. The Tamil people in the North have to face this situation because of the LTTE. If we allowed the LTTE to continue their terror acts, once again it will be the Tamil community and also the entire country who will have to face these difficulties. Therefore, it is unavoidable for any Government to take action to destroy the Tiger leadership. That must be done. Once we take measures to destroy the Tiger leadership, it is natural that the Tamil people have to face a problematic situation.

The common practice of the LTTE is to use the innocent civilian population as a shield. They used to escape from the Security Force pushing forward the innocent civilians to the front as shield. Then they withdraw from the areas they are holding.

But the Government is making their best efforts to liberate the areas in the North causing minimum problems to the civilian population. That is why the Security Forces are taking such a long period to liberate these areas.

Q: The Government is trying its best to take the civilian population out of the Tiger controlled areas by convincing them of the exact situation by various means. Is it possible at this stage ?

A: The LTTE is keeping them forcibly. I think we will be able to do that once Security Forces advance further into their territory.

Civilians will distance from the LTTE once they observe the real threat.

Q: The LTTE now says that they were engaged in delaying tactics and has entered real fighting. According to

The Security Forces should defeat the LTTE in this war and should achieve victory against the LTTE to restore democracy in the North. After that we should create an environment conducive for the Tamil people to practice democracy in the North. After the creation of such an environment to practice democratic rights, people can solve their problems themselves.

 your opinion what is the real situation ?

A: Every time they can't defeat the Security Forces. People are not supporting the LTTE now. They are in a very weak position as they were not getting enough support from the Tamil community itself. They have been isolated from all sides.

Q: You were of the opinion that the LTTE should be defeated to establish democracy in the North. Is that the only way of solving this problem ?

A: I believe so, because the LTTE leadership is the only obstacle for the establishment of democracy. Democracy is an immediate requirement for the Tamil community in the North. In the Eastern province the process has already been started. There is no such LTTE presence in the Eastern province. There may be some cadres in the Eastern province but not in large numbers.

But in the Northern province they are totally controlled by the LTTE. People do not have any freedom to express their views or to solve their day-to-day problems. For this they should have a conducive environment to practice their democratic rights.

They have been suppressed by the LTTE. There are abductions, extortions and all sorts of problems in the North due to the existence of the LTTE leadership. We can solve all these problems overnight if we can get rid of the LTTE leadership.

I strongly believe if democracy is there all sorts of problems even the political problems can be solved overnight. In the South also people are facing problems because of the LTTE. The terrorism problem is there directly because of the LTTE and all the other problems have cropped up indirectly due to the LTTE. So we have to get rid of the LTTE from the Sri Lankan soil.

Q: What about the economic problems. Can they be solved through the elimination of the LTTE ?

A: We can solve the economic problems too. For example in Jaffna fishing has been restricted. Because of the war prices are going up. There is no freedom of movement. There is no peace. Everything has been restricted. People cannot express their views freely. They can't move freely. They have to act with lots of restrictions. Due to security concerns people in Jaffna can't move freely, cannot do their jobs properly. They have to restrict their activities due to security concerns. Now they have to take detours to reach their destinations.

If LTTE problem is not there they can engage in all these activities freely. I am telling these things with my experience. Even all the economic problems have cropped up because of the LTTE.

Q: Does that mean that there is no necessity to have a political solution to address the problems faced by the Tamil people?

A: A political solution has already been started. The Provincial Councils are there to address these problems. For the last 18 years I have been advocating that. That is the only practical solution we have to start with. So we have started the process in the East. People have elected their representatives.

In one year or two everything will come in order. Immediately you can't expect things to be solved overnight. Likewise for the Northern province with Cabinet approval the President has appointed a Task Force until the elections take place.

Something has been started. Earlier there was a confusion from where we are going to start. Now we have started with the Provincial Council.

Social Services Minister Douglas Devananda

 

A group of students from Jaffna show a water pump perfected by them to the Minister at his office. Pictures by Rukmal Gamage

Q:Are you happy with the way Government has implemented the Provincial Councils system ?

A: There are problems regarding the full implementation of the Provincial Councils system. These problems have cropped up due to fears of violence, the existence of the LTTE. Once we weaken and defeat the LTTE these fears will disappear. Once the LTTE is defeated I feel the full implementation of the Provincial Councils system will be possible.

Q: Do you think people in the North are prepared to embrace the democratic path after being suppressed by the LTTE for the past 25 years ?

A: Yes, they are ready. In 1994 people used to say that through elections and through Parliamentary democracy we cannot solve problems.

They said if anyone contests the elections they will be killed. We did not bother about these comments. It was us who came and contested the 1994 General Elections.

We accepted the fact that problems can be solved only through Parliamentary democracy. So we started the process after contesting the elections. It was after that the TNA 'Tiger Nominated Agents' came forward to contest the elections.

They were forced to enter the democratic process due to our entry into the democratic process. Likewise, they will have to contest the elections to elect their Members to the Provincial Councils once democracy is established in the North. People in the North will embrace democracy wholeheartedly.

Q:There are a lot of Tamil political parties that stand against the LTTE. But there is a perception among the Southern people that they are not in a position to unite against the LTTE. What is your opinion on this ?

A:There may be different opinions among Tamil politicians in a war situation. When there is a national issue in the South, they cannot unite to solve those issues. In the same manner we also have diverse opinions on this issue. There is an opinion among the people that I, Douglas Devananda is plucking coconuts after climbing the tree while Ananda Sangaree is plucking coconuts using a pole without climbing the tree.

Our difference with the other Tamil political parties is that they are thinking there is no political structure to solve this problem. Our stance is that we can have political stability only once we solve these problems. That is the difference between the EPDP and the other political parties. I am genuinely trying to solve the problem.

The others want to create issues and solve them. Therefore they don't want to solve the problem because once the problem is solved there is no political survival for them since there are no more issues for them to talk about.

In our case, only when we solve the problem will we have a political life. Those political parties have changed their stances several times. Even Ananda Sangaree in the earlier stages endorsed the view that the LTTE is the sole representative of the Tamil community.

Q: What is the plight of the Jaffna population. Are they having a better life there ?

A: As a democratic Government we are trying to identify the problems and we are trying to solve their problems. I don't say that there are no problems. There are problems. But we as a democratic Government are trying our best to address their problems.

Q: When there is an issue concerning the Tamil community many Tamil politicians are seeking Indian involvement to solve these issues. As the EPDP leader what is your opinion on this ?

A: There was a time this has happened. The signing of the Indo Sri Lanka Peace Agreement took place during that period. As a result of this agreement the Provincial Councils system is now being implemented in Sri Lanka. Once the Northern Provincial Council is established the entire country is part of this system.

But due to the existence of the LTTE, there are obstacles to implement this system fully. Once the LTTE leadership is defeated we can fully implement this system. Q:The LTTE is trying to use the civilian population entrapped in Wanni as a shield against the Security Forces. As a Tamil political party how can you be involved in this situation ?

A: My suggestion is that the once the people see the devil they should go away from it. So we are telling the people not to associate with the LTTE. If they associate the LTTE knowingly or unknowingly they will be in trouble. Not that we are warning them but telling the real truth to them about the LTTE.

Q: What is the correct situation of the LTTE leader Prabhakaran. There are reports that he is trying to flee from Wanni once troops advance into Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu ?

A: There are diverse opinions on his situation. But no one has seen him directly. We are not bothered about whether he is injured or living under a deteriorating health condition. Our stance is that he should be killed. People can be relieved of all these burdens on them once we see Prabhakaran dead.

Courtesy : Daily News

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