MP for Vanni:
Tamil People ‘Will Achieve Nothing With The Politics Of Compromise’
In an exclusive interview, a Tamil MP from Vanni, Sivasakthi Ananthan, explains why he wants to “drain the swamp” in Sri Lankan politics.
In a wide-ranging interview, Sivasakthi Ananthan, a politician from the Tamil National Alliance talks about the problems facing Tamil voters in his constituency, the disharmony between various Tamil political parties and why it is essential that Sri Lankan women find a voice in politics.
The Catamaran: The relatives of those who went missing during the civil war are still demonstrating in northern Sri Lanka – yet everybody seems to have forgotten about them. What position does your party, the Tamil National Alliance, have on this topic?
The current government is famous for forming committees and appointing commissions. They do this to buy time.
Sivasakthi Ananthan: The families of the disappeared have been trying to bring attention to their cause for the past eight years in the face of intimidation and threats. We have organised protests and held marches and our people know the part we have played in those struggles.
Their heroic struggle continues despite the change of government in 2015. We have questioned the prime minister in parliament on this topic directly and we received the government’s response. But they couldn’t give us any definite answers and proved that they are unable to deal with this situation.
Thanks to an initiative by one of our party members, nearly 7,000 letters were sent to the government to emphasize the demands of the relatives of the disappeared. Yet this pressure does not seem to be enough to have any impact on the government.
Our political leaders are not very good at organizing peaceful protests. They are confused. They do not understand the power of a non-violent protest. We need a mass struggle and all political parties and civil society organisations should be engaged in creating this. In this interview, we challenge them to do this.
The Catamaran: The Tamil people of Sri Lanka have many problems to deal with. How is the Tamil political leadership helping them with this?
Ananthan: We have been given a mandate by our people. We should be worrying about our people. After all they elected us as their representatives to act for them, not to sleep safely in our cosy beds. Nobody can dodge the responsibility.
However we think the Illankai Tamil Arasu Kachchi – it calls itself the leading party for Tamils in the country – is not taking part in the struggles of the people. It believes that if it joins the people in their struggles this will cause a reaction in the south and there will be a change of government for the worse. They change policies according to their own opportunism.
On the other hand, the stance of the other two constituent parties is strikingly different. Just saying that the struggles of their people are justified but then not taking any action, is not right. We want to tell you that we are always with the people. We serve as representatives of all the people.
The vast majority of today’s MPs have no experience serving an active political party or working toward achieving an objective. This is one of the major reasons for their reluctance to take up the struggles of the people.
The Catamaran: Problems faced by unemployed graduates in northern and eastern Sri Lanka are worse than they are for those in other parts of the country. What can be done about this?
Ananthan: After assuming power the government announced that they would create 1 million jobs. But that remains an empty statement. The ruling class has dodged this issue, blaming everything on the civil war. But they cannot do this anymore. They have been exposed.
Our youth are ready to work in any sector that would guarantee them a livelihood. The Sri Lankan government should have a clear cut policy on labour and employment that will help them do this.
The Catamaran: Some people believe that even though there are many Tamil MPs on the subcommittee that is working on drafting a new Sri Lankan Constitution, that Tamil-specific issues have been sidelined.
Ananthan: The current government is famous for forming committees and appointing commissions. They do this to buy time. After reports by committees are submitted, nothing happens. This is what the government was doing, even when it came to United Nations issues. In this situation should we be expecting a new Constitution? Will there be solutions for the Tamil people’s issues? It is a mystery, it’s like some long television soap opera.
We have to struggle for our people both inside and outside parliament. We will achieve nothing with the politics of compromise. This is well known.
The Catamaran: Why do you think everybody is tussling over the timing of local elections?
Ananthan: Those at the centre of power are waiting. Local elections won’t be held until the timing is favourable for those in power.
The Catamaran: Why is it so important to have women represented in Sri Lankan politics?
Ananthan: There is a higher proportion of women than men in the country. And the situation is worse in the north and the east. There are more women than men as heads of families and females also face different challenges in society than men. That’s why they need to be represented in politics. During the Tamil armed struggle women played many roles and were also active in politics. It is vital they continue to play a leading role.
The Catamaran: How do you see the future developing for Tamil voters and Tamil politicians in Sri Lanka?
Ananthan: As the political situation changes, the Tamil leadership is going to be split. Unity will be destroyed. They will contest the upcoming elections separately and that is going to prove there is no Tamil leadership. By falling into line with the government’s agenda they are going to destroy the Tamil community in the future.
The principle that politicians should serve the needs of the people who elected them must be strengthened. That applies to everyone who cares about the rights of the Tamil people. With the support of the Tamil people, those new politicians should come forward and consign the political brokers to the dustbin of history. Only this will lead to a prosperous future for the Tamil people.