The Tamil National Alliance would work with the government, to provide Sri Lankan Tamils in the north and east, with proper housing and livelihood, and to give them an opportunity to recommence life.

The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) would want the maximum amount of exercise of power, should it lead Sri Lanka’s Northern Provincial Council (NPC) following the elections slated for September, its members said on Tuesday.

Addressing the Foreign Correspondents’ Association, TNA leader R. Sampanthan said that in regard to the people of the north and east, affected by the war, the Alliance had endeavoured to avoid an attitude of confrontation with the government and had offered to cooperate.

Mr. Sampanthan added that the TNA would work with the government, to provide them [the people] with proper housing and livelihood, and to give them an opportunity to recommence life.

M.A. Sumanthiran, TNA MP, said that the issue really was the extent of executive power the Governor will be willing to share with the board of ministers. “Under the Constitution, the entirety of the executive powers of the province is vested with the Governor. So there will have to be certain negotiation in accordance with the people’s democratic wish and expectations.”

The board of ministers, he said, must have sufficient executive powers to carry out their own programmes, in regard to economy, job creation, agriculture and fisheries.

Observing that the TNA has offered to work with the government, Mr. Sampanthan said: “We have clearly told the President that if he works with the TNA, being the democratically elected representative of the Tamil people, more funds will be available for rehabilitation and resettlement work in the north.” The TNA’s participation would give the entire process an increased measure of credibility and the diaspora would also be prepared to be involved in a big way, he said.

“I even told him [the President] that his government was facing serious allegations on questions of human rights, democracy and good governance.

"If the government is seen to be working with us, and if there is substantial improvement in the living conditions of the people in the north and the east, that will add to the government’s benefit… It would diminish the gravity of the accusations,” he said.

Tamil coalition

On whether the Alliance was open to a broader Tamil coalition, "We will be willing to work with anybody who wants to work with us. We function in a democratic way. We have some little problems among ourselves, but those will be resolved. We are prepared to form a broader coalition. The only thing is they have to genuine, credible and willing to work within a given policy framework." he said.

The TNA is an umbrella organisation for Tamil parties such as the Ilankai Tamil Arasu Katchi (ITAK), All Ceylon Tamil Congress (ACTC), a wing of the Eelam People’s Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF) and

Tamil Eelam Liberation Organization (TELO), Peoples’ Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE), and Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF).

Though the TNA faced the threat of a split recently – with some of the constituent parties accusing the ITAK of dominating – the Alliance has stayed together for the battle at the NPC elections that are likely to be held this September.

Political commentators in Sri Lanka say that the TNA is quite likely to win the polls, considering the support it has in the north that has a majority of Tamils, and also the absence of any other strong alternative Tamil party.

Observing that it was “exciting and uncertain times” in Sri Lanka, Mr. Sampanthan said: “The TNA has been committed to the evolution of an acceptable resolution of the conflict, in a peaceful, non-violent way, within the framework of a united, undivided Sri Lanka”.

NPC elections

On whether the TNA was confident that the elections will be held, given that some sections were opposed to the 13th Amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution, Mr. Sampanthan said: “I don’t know.” He said the President has public talked about the election. After the cabinet meeting, the acting Media Minister has stated that the elections will be held in September. “We also have information that the President has made commitments to several other countries. So we do think that in this context it would be reasonable to think that elections could be held. But whether they will be held, whether everything will be reversed, I cannot now predict.”

Fishing rights

On the TNA’s engagement with the ongoing issue among fishermen of Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu, Mr. Sumanthiran said that the two governments were exploring deep sea fishing as a possible alternative. Last year, the TNA had appealed to the Indian government to provide Sri Lankan fishermen facilities to enable them to go deeper into the seas, he said.