The newly elected leader of the Tamil Arasu Katchi (ITAK), Sivagnanam Shritharan spoke to the Tamil Guardian for an exclusive interview on how he hopes to further Tamil aspirations. Below are excerpts from the interview.
- I am ready to make as many concessions and sacrifices as I have to.
- The 13th Amendment is not a political solution for the Tamil people.
- Our journey is towards a federal solution.
- Tamils are the indigenous people of this land.
- The role of the Tamil diaspora is important to unite the Tamil nationalist forces
The newly elected leader of the Tamil Arasu Katchi (ITAK), Sivagnanam Shritharan spoke to the Tamil Guardian for an exclusive interview on his aspirations and how he hopes to further Tamil aspirations. Below are excerpts from the interview.
Q: You have been elected as the leader of the Tamil Arasu Katchi (ITAK). Do you have an intention of embracing all parties?
A: In order to win the national aspirations of the Tamil people, I will make my best efforts to rebuild the mobilisation of the Tamil nationalist forces as they were before 2009 and to unite everyone without the expectation of leadership or competition so we can chart the correct path for the rights of the Tamil people. I am ready to make as many concessions and sacrifices as I have to. To embrace everyone and work with a spirit of sacrifice towards the journey of winning the national aspirations of the Tamil people.
Q: There is a perception that the TNA is going to limit itself to the 13th Amendment. What is your position on this as the new leader of the party?
A: I have made it very clear through many interviews and forums that the 13th Amendment is not a political solution for the Tamil people. As far as the political aspirations of our Tamil people are concerned, it is our opinion that a solution reached within the 'Unitary State' will not fulfill those aspirations. Our journey is towards a federal solution. Accordingly, we incorporated this aspect into our party's policy. Therefore, the 13th Amendment has so far not been a political solution for our people. Many of the provisions of the 13th Amendment have been removed by the Government of Sri Lanka. None of us think that a major solution can be achieved by using the term 13th Amendment over and over again.
We are moving towards a solution in the merged North-East where the land of the Tamils, their language, culture, and cultural identities are recognized. Above all, it must be recognised that the Tamils are the indigenous people of this land. It must be recognised that the Tamils are a unique national ethnic group. Our journey is moving in this direction. We believe that the time for that is near. Therefore, it is not a matter of mere sloganeering. It must include other forces that can provide strength on that basis. We will unite with other parties and make every effort to achieve a political solution by demonstrating our strength, as a strong force.
Q: What would you like to say to the Tamil Diaspora as the elected new leader? The Tamil Diaspora is seen as a major influence in Eelam politics. What is your take on them?
A: One of the most important ideas I communicated during the last party leader election was that it is very important to unite the Tamils in the land and the Tamils in the Diaspora and join with the Tamils of Tamil Nadu to create a new avenue for the political emancipation of Eelam Tamils.
The relationship between the Tamil Diaspora and the ITAK is at a low ebb now. There could be various reasons for this gap. Sometimes the expectations may have been high. Transcending all that, we all should come together to focus on the thoughts and demands of both of us (Diaspora and ITAK) at one point. The role of the Tamil Diaspora is very important to unite the Tamil nationalist forces in the land and create a one-way journey for all. Only by embracing them can the Eelam liberation struggle be carried forward or Tamil national liberation can be achieved. Therefore, we will seek and develop ways and means to further increase the strength of the Tamil Diaspora at the attainment level of Eelam national liberation.
Q: Are you prepared to meet and engage in discussions with other party leaders?
A: Of course, once I assume the role as leader of the party at the conference, I will meet and interact with other party leaders to start democratic dialogues. At the same time, the civil society and Tamil nationalist activists in the North and East should be brought together to create an open democratic dialogue with them. We have to initiate dialogues with the organizations in the Diaspora. Through such democratic initiatives, we all can focus on a common ground. This will pave the way for advancing the demands and formulating common political policy. We will try hard towards this end.
Q: Looking at ITAK's general position, there is a critical view of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). In particular, some former leaders' comments can be highlighted in this regard. Soon after you were elected as the leader, you went directly to Kanagapuram Thuyilum Ilam and paid homage to the heroes. What is the position that ITAK will take regarding the armed struggle of the Tamils under your tenure?
A: As a Member of Parliament serving for the past 14 years; it has been my policy both inside and outside of Parliament that the people should be awakened together with the other activists to garner support for our cause. I have a clear view that it must start from the tombs of the heroes who were martyred. The blueprint for Eelam national liberation has been drawn up accordingly. There may be some of us who have views or misunderstandings against the LTTE.
However, most of our General Assembly members, more or less 184 people have voted for me. This means they support my ideology. In other words, the major strength of the party is Tamil nationalism. They have clearly stated that it must begin from the graves of the late Eelam national liberation fighters.
So my first salutation is remembering those departed souls. Let us embark on our journey by reflecting on our thoughts about them in our subconscious mind. I don't mean this will be an armed struggle. We will take full form to achieve a permanent political solution based on the concepts of the national liberation struggle by giving due respect and recognition to the way our fighters and our people sacrificed their lives during the armed struggle.