Illankai Tamil Arasu Kadchi (ITAK) leader Rajavarothian Sampanthan, MP, yesterday alleged that a recent dispute involving some constituents of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) over ministerial appointments, in the first Northern Provincial Council (NPC), had been exaggerated.
The veteran politician, representing the Trincomalee District, said the so called crisis was nothing but a storm in a tea cup.
Sampanthan said that some of those who had shunned last Friday’s swearing-in ceremony in Jaffna to express their discontentment had now taken oaths separately, therefore the TNA was ready to move forward.
Sampanthan, in a brief interview with The Island, emphasized the pivotal importance of members adhering to a decision taken by the political authority, in this case the Chief Minister of the NPC, C. V. Wigneswaran, though they had the right to differ.
Of the 30 members, nine elected councilors, representing the EPRLF, the TELO and the PLOTE, skipped the swearing-in ceremony, accusing the dominant constituent, the ITAK, of not being fair in allocation of ministries. The TNA comprises the ITAK, TULF, EPRLF, TELO and PLOTE. Of the 30 seats, the ITAK had secured 17, with the EPRLF (6), TELO (5) and PLOTE (2) sharing the rest.
The NPC comprises 38 members, with the SLFP-led UPFA having seven and its constituent, the SLMC, one.
Asked whether the dispute would undermine the TNA grouping in parliament, Sampanthan said that they had secured a magnificent electoral victory in the Northern region in the first provincial council polls held in accordance with the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.
Sampanthan said: “I don’t think the disagreement over ministerial appointments will undermine our unity in parliament as well as the NPC. We are committed to providing relief to those who had suffered during the conflict. Therefore, the TNA will not allow the work of the NPC to be derailed.”
Sampanthan said that the TNA parliamentary group comprises 13, with the ITAK having nine and the TELO and the EPRLF two each.
Strongly refuting suggestions that the ITAK had interfered with ministerial appointments, Sampanthan said that it had only told CM Wigneswaran to ensure that the best possible members were given ministerial portfolios. The TNA chief stressed that CM Wigneswaran accommodated two ITAK members (Kilinochchi and Vavuniya) and one each from TELO (Mannar) and EPRLF (Jaffna) in his cabinet. As a person elected from the Mullaitivu electoral district couldn’t be accommodated due to the strength of provincial cabinet being restricted to five, including the CM, Anthony Jeganathan (ITAK) from Mullaitivu was given the post of Vice Chairman. ITAK member from Jaffna, C. V. Kandiah Sivagnanam was named Chairman after PLOTE leader Dharmalingham Siddarthan (former MP) declined to accept the post. Siddarthan was not available for comment.
The Vice Chairman would work closely with the CM in handling important subjects, Sampanthan said, adding that all elected members, including those given bonus seats, were to be assigned subjects under different ministries. The bottom line was that all members would have plenty of work to do in the Northern region, worst affected by the conflict.
Sampanthan said that ITAK members were given both bonus seats. The TNA accommodated a defeated Muslim candidate, Ayub Asmin (Mannar) and Ms Mary K. Gunaseelan (Mullaitivu) on the bonus seats.
Asked whether the TNA was ready to work with the government, Sampanthan stressed that it would adopt a very positive approach in its dealings with the government. The MP expressed the belief that the government would be genuine in its efforts.
ITAK General Secretary Mavai S. Senathirajah, MP, yesterday said that the remaining rebels too, would take their oaths soon. Senathirajah asserted that the issue had been resolved amicably though some speculated about a major crisis in the wake of a section of the elected skipping last week’s swearing in ceremony. (The Island)