By Chathuri Dissanayake
An unusually amicable Northern Chief Minister yesterday extended a proverbial olive branch to the southern people to initiate a dialogue with the people of north. The otherwise vocal Tamil National Alliance (TNA) politician C. V. Wigneswaran claimed that the people of the north are largely misunderstood and misrepresented.
To avoid further misunderstanding between the people of the south and the north, and to dispel any doubts about the northern people, the Tamil Peoples’ Council launched a dialogue between north and south, Wigneswaran said.
The Chief Minister, known for his frequent outbursts against centrist politics, claimed he was largely misunderstood in the southern parts of the country, due to distortions and misinterpretations.
“You do not know me, except for what somebody else tells you. Many of you do not know me at all but have all sorts of ideas about me; all because of a third party’s opinion. It may be because of a wrong understanding, interpretation, translation or it may be deliberate.”
“Therefore it is necessary for us to understand each other and it is important that we cultivate this as we are lacking understanding,” he claimed.
Speaking in all three languages, the Chief Minister engaged with the media to answer questions, highlighting that the language limitation too, has fuelled misunderstanding.
It is the attitude of the southern people which has created the misunderstanding, Wigneswaran said, responding to a question about the commemoration of dead on the day same day the LTTE formerly celebrated ‘Maaveerar Naal’ (Great Hero’s Day).
“You think that if they get together they will fight again. The families who are commemorating their departed don’t think the same way, they mourn the dead that day,” he charged.
Stressing that the focus should move away from a possible resurrection of the LTTE, Wigneswaran appealed to southern factions to pay attention to the reasons for the emergence of the terror group.
“What we say is that there is no need of LTTE to find a solution to the problem,” he said.
Wigneswaran also renewed his calls for withdrawal of the army from the north and the release of land occupied by the army. Outlining the major challenges northern citizens face, he claimed the primary issue is that the centre is not ready to engage with the north outside of a top down approach.
He stressed the need for accepting the differences between the communities as the way forward.
“Although the north and east are part of the same country, don’t forget that we have a different language, background, culture and religion. We even have different terrains - we don’t have rivers we have only tanks and wells. We have a lot of differences and you must come to terms with that,” he said.
“The fact that we are not able to feel ourselves as equals in every way as far as rights are concerned is one of those glaring problems that we are having. We have to look at it socially, politically, economically and personally; all these things come to play if we are to move as Sri Lankans. Right now we don’t feel like Sri Lankans, we feel like third-class Sri Lankans,” he lamented.
Wigneswaran said the north-south dialogue initiated by the Tamil Peoples’ Council will continue to dispel misunderstanding and promote discussion, a much needed element for reconciliation.
When asked if the Tamil National Alliance endorses the action taken by the TPC, Wigneswaran said he doesn’t think “R. Sampanthan would have a problem with it”.
“I explained this to Mr. Sampanthan, he seems to feel there is nothing wrong if we are not interested in a party agenda. We are in a position to help them in their desire alleviate the problems of Tamil people. I don’t think he has any problems with that,” he said, stressing that the TPC has no intention of forming any political party.
There is a difference in the approach between the TNA and the TPC he said.
“We think that not voicing opinions because you are scared of the Government is wrong, if we have problems we should voice it so we can solve it. So there is a difference in how we communicate our problems, but not about the fundamentals of the matter, Mr. Sampanthan has not said that there is anything wrong in our approach,” he said.
The Chief Minister’s remarks were made at a media briefing held by the TPC at Foundation Institute, Colombo.