"Historic obligation to show force of Unity" - Raviraj

[TamilNet, Monday, 22 March 2004, 00:12 GMT]
"Several public civil society organizations have joined us in carrying out door-to-door campaigns. We are telling Jaffna voters that a historical burden is placed on the Tamil society to demonstrate a force of unity in the forthcoming elections," said Mr.Nadarajah Raviraj, former Jaffna district Tamil National Alliance (TNA) parliamentarian, speaking to the Canadian Tamil Radio (CTR) Saturday.

Excerpts from Raviraj's interview with CTR follow:

Ponguthamil Mannar
Radio: Can you tell us about your campaign activities?
Raviraj: We are carrying out an intensive election campaign in Jaffna. Several public civil society organizations have joined us in carrying out door-to-door campaigns. We are telling Jaffna voters the historical burden placed on the Tamil society to show a force of unity in the forthcoming elections. Everyone is pleased with the absence of violence thus far.

Radio: Can you briefly tell us the key elements of your election platform?
Raviraj: The current election is being conducted during a time there is cessation of hostilities but peace talks have been suspended for lack of clarity. Our platform is based on our cardinal principles that a solution to the conflict has to be found based on the concept of Tamil Nation, Tamil Homeland and the right to self-determination. The Liberation Tigers have to be recognized as the sole representatives of the Tamil people. In addition, an interim administration should be setup based on the proposals forwarded by the Liberation Tigers to facilitate resettlement of displaced people and to rehabilitate war ravaged infrastructure. Also TNA would will pursue vigorously to find a resolution to the issue of High Security Zones which has disrupted the livelihood many of Jaffna fishermen and has displaced many Tamil families. We are requesting the Tamil people to politically empower the LTTE which has already demonstrated military parity with the State forces.

Radio: Are any candidates offering voters any short-term inducements?
Raviraj: Definitely. Douglas Devananda's first statement, when he visited Jaffna after his two year hiatus away from his electorate, promised jobs for 5000 youths. Residents from Sivankovilady in Aavarangal told us that EPDP has further brought lakspray (milk powder) packets, bicycles and sewing machines etc with the intention of buying votes.

Nadarajah Raviraj
Mr. Nadarajah Raviraj
Radio: Will people be swayed by these inducements?
Raviraj: Our people are unlikely to be fooled by these tricks. Tamil people willingly sacrificed a lot and took risks supporting the liberation struggle. We have no doubt that they will reject all candidates who do not genuinely represent peoples' aspirations.

Radio: There were reports of EPDP vehicle being attacked recently?
Raviraj: EPDP cadres are being given protection by the police and SLA while they conduct their election campaigns. The incident you are referring was the result of unruly behavior exhibited by the EPDP cadres in front of the house belonging to a TNA candidate. Jaffna campus students went to the help of the TNA candidate and there was a minor incident where an EPDP vehicle was damaged.

Radio: Ananadasangaree has been saying that people are forced to attend TNA meetings?
Raviraj: This is the type of behavior that created conflict within the TNA. I have several meetings to attend today. Our meetings sometimes go on till 2am. How can one force people in all the different venues to attend our meetings? Anandasangaree rarely gets out of this office and I can't see how he can gauge the mood of the people. SLA troops surround his buidling for security and people can't even see him. Today I am talking to you from my Chavakachcheri residence. Yesterday, the TNA meeting here was attended by over 1000 people and ended at nearly 1 am.

Radio: If you allow me to digress a little, why were you not able to sack Anandasangaree from the TULF presidency?
Raviraj: Anandasangaree was the Senior Vice President during Mr.Sivasithamaparam's presidency and our central committee duly recommended Sangaree as the president of TULF after the death of Mr.Sivasithamparam. Trouble started at the beginning of 2001 when he slowly began to distance himself from other TULF senior members. He abstained from many TULF meetings; started issuing memoranda independent of the other senior TULF officials. There were several attempts to unify the TULF leadership but they were not successful. Although the central committee passed no confidence motion against him, he refused to resign saying that he can only be removed by convening a public meeting.

Radio: Are you not concerned with your own safety?
Raviraj: Today we are working in a different environment. In the islets there are cases where people confronted the Sri Lanka Navy several times to resolve crisis between LTTE and SLN. Now public is our safeguard. If anything happens beyond this I am prepared to accept the consequences.

Radio: Do you think any voting irregularities will take place this time?
Raviraj: People are vigilant. Also public are not going to be intimidated by other groups. People are also empowered by the military strength demonstrated by the LTTE. Also, there are international organizations that are overseeing the election process.

Radio: On franchise of people in LTTE controlled areas?
Raviraj: This time the situation is different. People cannot be denied their right to vote as happened in the 2001 elections. TULF filed eight court cases - 4 for Vanni district and 4 for Batticaloa-Amparai district. Supreme court has decided in favor of us and have instructed to pay the voters compensation. With the prevailing peace Sri Lanka Government has no excuse to deny our people the right to freely exercise their franchise.

Radio: Your comments on the difficulties faced by the TNA candidates in Batticaloa district to comply with Karuna's pressures?
Raviraj: Reports coming out of the region need to be treated carefully. In the current environment where several external elements are keen to subvert our struggle facts can get distorted and can be given specific spin. We are all sad to see Karuna trying to incite sentiments based on regionalism. Strength of Tamils in the Eastern districts is closely tied to the strength of the Tamil community in the northern region. Tamil people of the Batticaloa-Ampara district will soon reply with rejection of this call for regionalism.


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