As long as Sri Lanka remains divided on lines of race, religion, caste, language, regions, poor and rich, the country will be devoid of the ‘balance’ to forge ahead, says Sivaraja Rashasingham, PLOTE’s coordinator based in Norway.
“The ‘imbalance’ could open the door to outside forces to take control. It is left to us to decide whether to allow such forces to triumph or to take ‘control’ ourselves without being slaves to external elements, who will have their way, if they succeed”, he said in an interview with The Sunday Island during a visit to Colombo, last week.
PLOTE (People’s Liberation Organization of Tamil Eelam), a one-time militant group, later worked with the Sri Lanka Army (SLA) to crush the LTTE. After entering the political firmament, PLOTE contested parliamentary polls. The group’s leader, Dharmalingam Siddarthan, is a Member of Parliament.
Q: How active is PLOTE in northern politics?
We do enjoy ground support. We also had a member in the Northern Provincial Council. In fact, we wanted two slots, which we could have won, but the TNA gave us only one. Our leader, Siddarthan is with the people in the North most of the time.
PLOTE was a militant group at one time, but we surrendered arms to Norwegian representatives here. The LTTE then started attacking us and we lost around 300 cadres as a result. During the President Premadasa government, we were rearmed to defend ourselves as the LTTE was gunning for us because we worked with the SLA. We knew the (northern) territory well and that was useful to the army to trap and attack the LTTE.
We handed back all our weapons because we believe that Sri Lanka need not have two armed forces. We move about freely now doing political work. There are no arms, no bodyguards.
Q: What are your thoughts on the Tamil political leadership?
Tamil political parties are fractured, and there’s no unity amongst them. They are pulling in different directions. Political leaders should think of the future of their grandchildren, not their own. The TNA has lost its place because it is no longer neutral. At one time, it supported Sarath Fonseka as presidential candidate and now they are supporting democracy in parliament!
The perception in the south is that the TNA is an anti Mahinda Rajapaksa party ‘controlled’ by Western countries, where the Diaspora and the most powerful Tamils live. The influential Tamils are in the West, not in India. How many children and grandchildren of TNA members live in Western countries? They are not in India.
Since independence from the British, we have had politicians who worked for the country, while there were some others who thought on communal lines in a bid to divide the country.
We have a situation now where people don’t have much regard for politicians, who they say are “corrupt and work for their own self-interest” and are not concerned about the country and its 21 million people.
All politicians should think of developing Sri Lanka within their capacity. It’s very easy to sell, but so difficult to buy back as nobody wants to give back without a profit.
Q: You coordinate PLOTE activities from Norway?
Yes. I have been living in Oslo for the past 32 years. I was born in the North of Sri Lanka and was a PLOTE activist and later settled down in Norway, where I am a citizen now. I continue to serve the group as its coordinator.