Douglas confident of a political solution

Sri Lanka’s topmost Tamil minority Minister in the northern town of Jaffna on Sunday expressed confidence that the government will be able to finalize a political solution for the Tamils in the country.

Minister of Traditional Industries and Small Enterprise Development Douglas Devananda told Xinhua in an interview that the solution should be based on 13 Amendment to the Sri Lankan constitution which was part of an accord reached between India and Sri Lanka in 1987.

The “Indo-Sri Lanka Accord of 1987” was seen as a goodwill gesture on the part of the government of India to restore the rights of Tamils in Sri Lanka.

“The political solution is already in our constitution under the 13th Amendment based on the Indo — Lanka accord. Forming a final political solution based on that will be the way forward. We have already had elections in the east and we hope to have elections in the north soon as well. So we hope the political solution will also be reached soon,” Devananda said.

Devananda, who heads the Eelam Peoples Democratic Party (EPDP) which is an alliance member of the government, escaped assassination attempts on at least 13 occasions at the hands of suspected Tamil Tiger rebel hit squads and suicide cadres.

The Minister recalled that despite those attempts on his life he did not run away from politics but instead stood his ground and spoke out for the rights of the Tamils.

He said the country has also managed to address issues faced by the war affected people through reconstructing and developing the war affected areas in the north and east following the defeat of the Tamil Tigers three years ago after 30 years of bitter war.

“The people were misled by some Tamil political parties and that led to the war which saw the Tamils themselves being badly affected,” Devananda said.

However he insisted that the government did all it could to protect the Tamils in Jaffna without discrimination during the fighting despite the difficulties at hand at the time.

“During that period the A9 road was closed. Because of that our people faced a lot of difficulties. But we transported supplies to Jaffna by air and ship and managed to address some of the issues temporarily,” he said.

The A9 road is the main road connecting the north and south of the country but it was closed during the final stages of the war as the rebels controlled most parts of the north.

Jaffna was cut off from the rest of the country during the fighting but food and medical supplies were transported to the town by air and by sea, while civilians were also transported between Jaffna and Colombo using a navy ship.

“But now with the opening of the A9 road the people have been able to get exactly what they want based on their needs. I should thank President Mahinda Rajapaksa for that. The Mahinda Rajapaksa government is addressing post war issues without any discrimination among the people in the north or south. They are being treated equally. But when we say equally I should say the president is spending more funds to develop the north than the south,” Minister Devananda said.

The EPDP led by Minister Devananda was at one time accused of having illegal weapons and operating as a paramilitary group in Jaffna.

Devananda however insists that his party does not carry weapons and is purely involved in democratic politics.

“Those who had understood the true ground situation are helping us a lot. But those who have misguided agendas or those who were misled by false agendas continue to raise allegations against the government,” Devananda said.

The Sri Lankan government has been accused of committing human rights abuses during the final stages of the war, an allegation Sri Lanka has firmly denied.

Countries like China, Pakistan, Russia and Iran have always backed the government against the allegations and attempts to push for a UN backed international human rights investigation in the country.

Most of the allegations are propagated by part of the huge Tamil Diaspora living in the west, especially in Britain and Canada.

Devananda however says most people of the Tamil Diaspora have understood the real situation in Sri Lanka and are not raising a hue and cry over the human rights allegations.

“But there are a few who are not only agitating on their own but are also getting others to agitate against the government. But I believe even they will have a change of heart and understand the real situation soon,” he said.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa has also called on the Tamil Diaspora to visit the north and see for themselves the post-war developments and to support the government in its efforts to reconcile the communities in the country. (Xinhua)