By Ariyaratne Ganegoda
The Tamil National Alliance (TNA), in a ground-breaking approach to national reconciliation, invited members of the Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim and any other community to take up residence in the North and East if they so desired.
"They are most welcome," the TNA said.
Addressing a media conference at ex-Deputy Major Azath Salley's political office at Barnes Place, Colombo 7, TNA Parliamentarian, M.A. Sumanthiran, said, "All communities are welcome to settle in the Northern and Eastern Provinces. As representatives of the people of the North and East, we can say very clearly that anyone freely choosing his or her residence in the North and East is most welcome."
"As Democratic People's Front (DPF) Leader Mano Ganesan encapsulated earlier, it is only the planned colonization projects with sinister motives of ethno-population engineering or change of demographic patterns that we are firmly opposed to and continue to oppose," he said.
Earlier, Ganesan referred to a proposed plan by the security forces to settle families of the Army and other armed forces personnel in the North and East, with a view to changing the demographic pattern of the area with sinister objectives.
"Already Tamils and Muslims are living amicably in the Northern Province. In the Eastern Province a vast number of Sinhalese are living with the Tamils and Muslims. That augurs well for national reconciliation. We welcome any member of any community to come and reside in the North and East," Ganesan said.
When the media conference began, Ganesan and other Tamil party leaders expressed condolence at the tragic death of Ceylon Today journalist Amila Jayasinghe on Tuesday. They observed a two-minute silence as a mark of respect for her.
Sumanthiran said the Tamil community is very much concerned about the recent arrests in the Northern Province, particularly in Jaffna, where several youths were arrested under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). "The PTA was brought in 1978 for a period of only six months. Thereafter, it was extended for another two years. It is one of the most Draconian pieces of law this country is saddled with," he said.
"Under international pressure, the government allowed the State of Emergency to lapse. But, they continued with the PTA, which is far more sinister than the Emergency Provisions. Under the PTA, a person can be detained for 18 months without being produced before a Court of Law. These Jaffna youth have been arrested and they have not been produced before a judge. They have not only been arrested, but they were imposed with punishments.
"The authorities have found them guilty and prescribed a period of rehabilitation. We are being told that those persons have voluntarily accepted being subject to a period of rehabilitation. This is not acceptable in the least. We warn the government not to resort to this type of heavy handed approach. This will not bring about the described consequences or reconciliation at all. This is a pre-planned play by the government to derail any possibility of reconciliation to increase tension to motivate the young people to think of other ways.
In this matter I would like to appeal to the young Tamil people of the Northern Province not to fall into this trap of the government. I urge the Tamil youth to be extremely watchful and not give any room for anyone to point fingers and say violence is re-emerging in the Northern Province. Don't give into that. Keep well away from the possibility of being tarnished with that kind of accusation. Because it seems the government wants to suppress the democratic rights of the youth and shrink the democratic space.
"I warn the government if you deal in such heavy handed manner there will be repercussions," he said.
Sarath Manamendra, Leader of Nawa Sihala Urumaya and Ex-deputy Mayor of Colombo, Azath Salley also spoke.