Following is the complete text of the last live programme Mr. N. Raviraj attended on Derana TV yesterday. Mr. Raviraj was invited for the Derana Aruna programme last morning from 7.30 am to 8.00 am to discuss the A-9 closure and recent attacks on civilians. He was in the Derana studio in Nugegoda for about 45 minutes before being attacked by an unidentified gunman in Narahenpita within two hours after the interview.
Q: Hon Member, Your party launched a massive protest in parliament against the de- merger of the North and the East following the recent Supreme Court judgment. What was the reason for these protests?
A.We in the TNA started agitations demanding the reopening of the A9 Road… Meanwhile on Oct.16th, the Supreme Court passed the judgment on de-merger of the two provinces. However, we do not have a problem with the judgment… we have a political problem. The people in the north-east aspire to live together. They aspire for the merger of the two provinces, it is a basic human right of those people.
In the ancient times, there were Sinhala and Tamil kingdoms in Sri Lanka. It is not new to our people. That is mainly an area of Tamils from ancient times. It does not mean that we want to divide the country. We believe that North and east be considered as a one unit. That should be the base if to find a solution to the ethnic crisis.
Q: Why do you insist on the de merger of the two provinces, and what special privilege will the Tamil community have by that or in what manner does the merger benefit them?
A.Why do you people say that this country should not be divided? Because, then only people feel more strong and powerful. Likewise, Tamils will feel more powerful when they are together. The merger will enhance their strength and provide them the opportunity to look into their affairs well. It is their aspiration. The two provinces are prominently Tamil areas.
Q: If you are accepting that living in unity will make people more powerful, why don’t you support the unitary state concept ?
A. Unitary state concept is no longer acceptable now. It is an old system and has no validity today. When we achieved independence in 1948, not a single Tamil leader talked about a separate state or a federal state. Who forced us to the present situation?
Q: You say that Tamil leaders did not demand a separate state. But, Wasn’t Mr.Ponnambalam’s 50-50 demand the origin of this crisis?
A. In 1947 when India achieved independence, Mohamed Ali Jinnah demanded Pakistan to be separated. We asked for 50-50 and then a Federal system and now the LTTE is fighting for separate state. However, as politicians we still believe in a united country. Who is responsible for this state? Since independence, we were being discriminated. First, they abolished the clauses in Soulbury Commission, which provided safeguards for the minorities, and then they brought Sinhala Only Act. Thus, who pushed us to this state? India that gained independence in 1947 has 22 states now. Yet, it is a united country today, because they implemented the right administrative system. Some fear federal system would divide the country. But the best example we can get is from India. In 1965, Tamil Nadu demanded separate powers. But today if you ask a Tamil in Tamilnadu, they will say we are all Indians..! Jaffna people are starving due to the closure of the A9.
We are one family. In a family, mothers generally tend to love or treat a disabled child or the youngest more than others. What we do is taking all the facilities including food from that child. That is what they did exactly by closing the A-9. In 1995, government launched operation Jaya Sikuru to open the A-9. Vice –versa, this government says it cannot open it, giving the impression that those people do not belong to our country. Thus, we will provide them goods in ships. What is this all about?
Q: The issue of the A9 road is an outcome of terrorist activities… everybody is aware that LTTE take ransoms and tax people on the A9 road?
A. They say LTTE taking ransom. What a lie…. A9 was opened only in 2002. how did the LTTE survive so far? Didn’t they earn before? Didn’t they have enough food and other facilities? This was a downright lie of the government. I returned from Jaffna only yesterday. I accept that LTTE tax people.
Q: But didn’t the LTTE attack the military checkpoint?
A. Ok let me finish on the tax affair. Goods were sent in ships even when I was the Jaffna Mayor since 1995. A petrol litre was sold at Rs 1000. To whom those taxes went? I want to emphasize one thing. The LTTE never ever imposed tax on essential items sent by the government to be distributed freely among poor people in the area through Divisional Secretariats and on items related to education. Also who are paying taxes for the LTTE. Not the people here, not Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa, not Keheliya Rambukwella, not even Raviraj… it’s the people of those areas. When A9 was opened, the difference of a Petrol litre in Jaffna was only Rs 10 including LTTE taxes.
Q: Why are you opposing an alternative route?
A. Is not the Pooneryn route also going through Kilinochchi. Will there be no taxing then. Moreover, it is a more distant and difficult road and only two kilometres away from the sea. Besides, what happened to the people who went to observe the road yesterday? SLMM chief managed a narrow escape from an attack and had to hide in a bunker.
Let me tell one thing to Mr. Rajapaksa. Let’s close the main road to Hambantota and send all goods in ships from Colombo.
Q: But there is no terrorist issue in Hambantota?
A. Why are you always talking about a terrorist issue? If there is terrorism it should be suppressed using similar methods. In 1.1 clause, it’s clearly mentioned in the CFA that the A9 should be opened. If the government is not willing to do so, what they should do is to say that they do not accept the CFA, CFA is over and that they have started war. It has nothing to do with the innocent people of the area. .Now the A9 road is closed causing innumerable hardships to the innocent people. Even the animals in the area are starved to death. We have to obtain visas from the Army camp in the area to come to Colombo. Do you know that?
Q: Wasn’t it the LTTE who closed the A9 in their areas?
A. What nonsense! I even went to Kilinochchi and Pallai recently. I barely escaped a shell attack.
Q: From which side?
A. Obviously…. You do not look up to see from which side you have been attacked during a war. When I was in Jaffna, there were 50-60 shells from this side to retaliate one or two shells from the LTTE side. Situation is such that people of the area could not sleep in peace when there are no shell attacks. The LTTE is willing to reopen the road in their area with the intervention of international observers.
Q:These are happening because the LTTE attacked a ship carrying civilians. What are your comments on such terrorist activities?
A. Why does the government ferry civilians by sea? Let me explain. In one ship, have more than 1000 travellers aboard. Who are they? Only 300 of them are civilians and others are security personnel. I do not say that the security personnel should not come to see their kith and kin. But the government is only providing a civilian cover to ferry soldiers. You will understand that if the A9 road is open, these problems will not crop up. In 1995 the government launched Jaya Sikuru operation to open A9 road. Thousands of our youths were killed. Now the government has closed the same road.
Q: What solution do you proposed to overcome this problem?
A. There are many personal problems. My good friend J.VP Leader Somawansa Amarasinghe has problems. The JHU has problems and even general Fonseka has problems… The Buddha preached the benefits of alms giving. Buddhists say that we must help others. However, the monks who follow Buddha are opposed to the opening of A9 road to supply food to the people in Jaffna. Wimal Weerawansa said that if the UNO intervenes in the problems it will be a violation of the country’s sovereignty. What right does he have to talk about sovereignty? It was them who took up arms against the democratically elected government in 1971. In 1988/89 period, they did not allow us to light even a kerosene lamp. So how can they talk about sovereignty today.
Q: Several solutions have been proposed to the national problem. Indian Panchayath system is one such. What is your opinion in this regard?
A. Indian Panchayath system is a system in a village administrative system. After devolution of powers at higher level, some measure of autonomy is given to the village level. However, I have not yet heard that this system is to be implemented in Sri Lanka.
Q: Hon. Member, what measures do you proposed do you propose to resolve this problem
A. In fact, the Sinhala or the Tamil people do not want to see a military struggle and bloodshed in the country. They are prepared to live in peace. When the tsunami hit Mullaithivu area, it was the Sinhala people who helped the Tamils. They do not want war. I am for a negotiated settlement.
This was not only what I say. The first such example was set by the Emperor Ashoka after Kalinga war. First of all the people who are starved should be given food and build confidence. The TNA is committed to support any such endeavor.