PTA Simply For Taking Political Vengeance – Sunil Handunnetti

Chairman of the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) and JVP MP Sunil Handunnetti believes that in order to bring about true reconciliation in the country, politicians should first cast aside their racial bias and separatist ideologies. In an interview with The Sunday Leader he said that it is inadequate for the government to go before international bodies and promise various actions, while political prisoners in Sri Lanka are still lamenting in jails; some not even formally charged yet. He stressed that these people have suffered enough and that the government must fulfill their promises and formally charge them or if there isn’t enough evidence, release them.He further pointed out that even the Northern Provincial Council (NPC) should first clear out their backyard and throw away separatist ideologies if they want to truly help the Tamil people. He also said that propagating separatist and racial ideologies will only create more division among the people and misery for them.
Following are excerpts of the interview:

Q: Tamil political prisoners began a fast in protest over their detention. The prisoners are demanding their release or to be formally charged. Why are they still being kept?
A: This is really wrong. Even this government goes to the international community and claims that there are no political prisoners in Sri Lanka and that all political prisoners have been released. However, still there are many political prisoners in the country. These prisoners have protested on several occasions asking the government to either charge them formally or release them.
Therefore, it’s wrong for the government to claim internationally that there are no political prisoners while keeping them incarcerated. If they want to show the world that the war is over, they should make an effort at least to release these political prisoners. However, we do not see that the government has any commitment in this regard.

Q: The former government used anti-terror laws to arrest LTTE suspects and their (former government) supporters, but the current government has said it will replace the laws while maintaining national security. Why has the PTA still not been repealed?
A: We have been saying right along that this PTA is in place simply for taking political vengeance and not for achieving any other purpose. This was brought to restrain the JVP; not to restrain any terrorism. So we are of the firm view that the PTA should be repealed because the country has ample provisions with the civil and criminal laws to deal with any offence.
This act is nothing but a tool to suppress any political power against the government. We have been fighting from the very beginning for the repeal of the PTA and we are still.

Q: Now there are allegations that the rehabilitated ex-LTTE cadres are dying and that they had been poisoned during their rehabilitation. The Northern Provincial Council (NPC) passed a resolution last week calling for foreign doctors to conduct medical tests in this regard. What is your view on this development?
A: I am not aware of such a situation. However, if such a thing is happening, it certainly should be investigated. But I don’t think we need foreign doctors to do tests.
For example, if a patient dies of a certain illness and there is suspicion that the death happened due to some other reason, we do not get foreign doctors to come and investigate the cause of death. We do it locally. Moreover, we have had instances where people have died because of wrong medication given to them. But we did not bring foreign doctors to any hospital or any part of the country to investigate such deaths, because we have enough laws and provisions within the country to investigate such incidents.
I think the Tamil leaders also should put aside these racial and obsolete ideas and learn to think rationally. Trying to cling on to the same racial thoughts that they had during Prabhakaran’s time will never allow the country to move forward, and it will never allow true reconciliation to take place. These people must learn to get away from these negative thinking and assist in bringing about true reconciliation and harmony among all races and religions.
Hence we call on all these parties with obsolete thinking to past aside their racial and irrational thinking and assist in uniting the people.

Q: Do you think these are just racially motivated thoughts of the political leaders and not of the Tamil people?
A: It’s not the people but the political leaders who fuel these ideas just for their political survival. The Tamil people have issues such as the issues of political prisoner, missing persons, and they also do not have a proper economic stability. The politicians living in Colombo have no clue of what these people are going through in these remote areas.

Q: The NPC too harbour racial views that could ignite racism in the country. The Southern politicians use this to indicate that the ideologies of the LTTE have still not been cast aside. How do you view this situation?
A: Well, such ideologies still prevail even with some parties in the South. Racial ideologies are not just confined to politicians of the North. However, these southern politicians do not try to instigate tensions among the people. We cannot ignite religious and racial tension in the country and try to progress politically. The people are now more aware of the situations and they know what is happening. No one can simply use these ideologies to deceive people.
For instance, Wigneswaran wants the water from Moragahakanda to be diverted to the North. However, having the power within the NPC, he still cannot even share the water from the Iranamadu tank; yet he is talking of the water in the Moragahakanda reservoir. The NPC has been in power for around four years now; what have they done for the people? Why can’t they do something worthy instead of trying to ignite racial and separatist ideologies? They should work for the people. Instead they are depending on the central government for everything. They have not even done as much as we have done for the people of the North. We have done work in six villages so far.

Q: What is your view about the country’s economic stability?
A: Let’s presume we cannot see such economic prosperity because we are politically biased. Do the people of this country or even the UNP supporters can witness such an economic progress in the country? I don’t think so. The government said that by January 1, 2015, the cash flow in the treasury was at minus 196 billion rupees. By April, it was minus 208 billion rupees. For the first 4 months of this year, the government has borrowed Rs. 50 billion. So where has the country progressed economically? This government is only hoodwinking the people.

Q: The JVP have repeatedly claimed that both major parties have failed the people, and they have no proper economic plan for the country. What measures would you take if you were given the opportunity to rule the country?
A: First give us the power. We cannot do much being a minority party. Give us the people’s mandate, and we will show everyone what we can do.
The goods are available in shops, but the people cannot afford them. Therefore, we need to improve their purchasing power by developing the local economy and industries. Now what we have is a tax dependent system. What we need is a local industry based economy where we can create more jobs to make people financially independent.
The people should vote for us if they need us to free them from all burdens that they suffer now. There is no point praising the JVP claiming that we stand up for the rights of the people. They should vote for us, so we can really do something productive for the country.

By Thushari Nathaniel

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