President, FM misleading int’l community – EPRLF Chief

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Leader of the Eelam People’s Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF) and former MP Suresh Premachandran charged that President Ranil Wickremesinghe and Foreign Minister Ali Sabry were misleading and making contradictory statements to the international community, including USAID Administrator Samantha Power, who visited Sri Lanka, on repealing the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), resolving the missing persons issue, releasing land in the North and East, making the Northern Province an economic hub and offering employment for the youth, among many other matters.

“I am in a quandary whether the President is making honest remarks because 13 years has passed and the detained prisoners have not been released and many have died in prison,” he said.   

He said there have been several hunger strikes by inmates and successive governments had assured that they would be released. He pointed out that the current President, in 2015, while he was Prime Minister, attempted to work on it but there were no constructive approach in place.

He said those who were released were on bail based on the country’s law and no politicians released them or initiated their release as they claimed.

“The government says they would repeal the PTA however now they are looking at a process under which the detainees could be released. This is a completely an eyewash and contrary to the statement Foreign Minister Sabry makes to the international community in Geneva about repealing the PTA.”

He also pointed out that the families of the enforced disappeared are still wanting to know what had happened to their loved ones and have been protesting for over 2,000 days. “Many of those mothers and close relatives have died without hearing the truth.”

He recalled that the President, several years back, confirmed that those who disappeared are dead and never took any initiative to hold inquiries or find a practical solution to get to the truth. “Those that surrendered to the Government, those who have been arrested, comprise over 16,000 persons according to Government findings and inquiries, but they did not investigate how it happened.” He alleged the reason for it was the fear that military personnel would be found guilty and would result in war crimes charges. “This has resulted in ignoring the issue whereas the relatives, and mothers and fathers are still looking for those who went missing. In this background, Wickremesinghe and Sabry are telling the international community that they would resolve the issue soon.”

Premachandran also said the land grab in the North and East is still continuing where the Army and the Navy are taking over private lands owned by locals. “In Palai, Jaffna, the military has tried to take 1,400 acres of land to run a farm. These lands are Tamil people’s properties that have been occupied for generations”. He reiterated that even former President J.R. Jayewardene accepted that it’s the Tamil people’s traditional land and through the Indo-Lanka Accord the two Governments wanted to merge the North and East.

He pointed out that in Kuchchaveli Divisional Secretariat, over 27 square km, which is nearly 7,000 acres of land, has been turned into a Sinhala village named Padavisiripura and the area merged with another Sinhala Divisional Secretariat that was linked to the Divisional Secretariat of Anuradhapura. This has led to the separation of land between Mullaitivu and Kuchchaveli. “Similarly, there are new settlements in the ancient Thirukoneshwarar temple area.”

On the same line, he projected that the President said he would create an economic centre in the Northern Province where around 90,000 women-headed families are living. “There are differently-able young women and men living unable to move about.  There are no job opportunities for them. During the good governance, President Wickremesinghe planned to make an economic centre in Omanthai in Vavuniya and 22 acres of land was allocated. Today that building is dilapidated due to politicising the venture.”

Similarly, Premachandra pointed out the Palaly Airport has been kept shut and travellers have to spend over Rs 150,000 to travel to Katunayake for flights. He alleged that the Government fears that Palaly airport would boom businesses and the Tamil Diaspora would use it often while other airports would lose business. “So, politicians telling the international community about promoting the North and East as a trade hub are hogwash.”

He urged the President to find quick remedies resolve the burning issues rather than hoodwinking the international community.

By Sulochana Ramiah Mohan