People of Sri Lanka have high regard and respect for Narendra Modi, Indian Govt: Senthil Thondaman
CHENNAI: Senthil Thondaman is the President of the Ceylon Workers Congress, the largest trade union in the island nation. He was the former Chief Minister of Uva province in Sri Lanka and also a former minister in the same province. His party, the Ceylon Workers Congress has two Members of Parliament. Thondaman is a passionate Jallikattu fan and has created awareness of Jallikattu across the globe. He spoke to IANS in a telephonic interview:
Q: Sri Lanka is reeling under a crisis and the situation is grim. How do you rate the present situation and what is the future?
A: Sri Lanka is indeed passing through a tough phase. However, we are a democratic country and we do have our own strengths. With a new government in place we have to see how they are able to tackle this issue. We are optimistic but there will not be solutions overnight and will take time. I feel that things will change for the better if the government gets its act together.
Q: There was stiff opposition to the Rajapaksa family and even Ranil Wickremesinghe faced a rebellion from the public. Your comments?
A: There was public ire against the Rajapaksa family and people vented their anger. People were suffering from all sorts of problems including a shortage of food and all essential commodities. Jobs were not there and unemployment was at an all-time high. The foreign exchange reserve was woefully short and even essential commodities could not be imported including fuel and food items. This led to total chaos and the government was found wanting. As far as Ranil Wickremesinghe is concerned, he is one of the most experienced parliamentarians in the country and he should be given some time to perform and let us see how things turn out.
Q: Is your party joining the government?
A: We have two Members of Parliament and at present, we are not in the cabinet. In future days, we will have to see about that proposition. Anyway, let us wait.
Q: How was the Indian government’s response to the Sri Lankan crisis?
A: The Indian government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi helped us with all the support we needed under the “Neighbourhood first” policy. The timely support and help given by the Indian government and the specific interest shown by the Indian Prime Minister in our crisis have given a fillip to our position. We were provided with all the essentials by the Government of India and the people of Sri Lanka have high regard and respect for the Indian Prime Minister and the Indian government.
Q : China is having several commercial interests in Sri Lanka. How do you rate the relationship of the people with the Chinese and India?
A: You see both are totally different. India and Sri Lanka have an umbilical cord and we are culturally, socially, and religiously bound by each other. People do consider Indians as our brothers and the love and respect for India are totally different from that of the Chinese. China is a country with whom we have commercial tie-ups but the relationship with India is totally different. Indians are like brothers to we Sri Lankans.
Q: There were reports of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) getting their act together and coming back to Sri Lanka. Your comments!
A: I don’t think that there is any possibility of the LTTE coming back in Sri Lanka. There are no such political moves as such in Sri Lanka at present and the possibility of the LTTE getting their act together is very untrue. Such reports don’t give the correct grassroots picture.
Q: What are the main activities of the Ceylon Workers Congress?
A: Ceylon Workers Congress is the largest trade union in Sri Lanka and as a political party, we have been relentlessly fighting for the citizenship rights of Indian origin people in Sri Lanka since the British left. We were able to get citizenship for Indian origin people in Sri Lanka because the Ceylon Workers Congress took up the issue since 1965 and got the people of Indian origin citizenship rights and the last batch got citizenship in 2003. This has been one of the major achievements of the Ceylon Workers Congress.
The Ceylon Workers Congress has been involved in working among the 6,00,000 tea workers and tea factory workers of Sri Lanka. We are the biggest organization among the tea workers including tea factory workers. You know in tea estates, the workers live in line rooms and we had taken the initiative to construct homes for them. Since 1987 when we took this up, till date we have constructed 39,000 homes for the tea workers. We are involved in all the activities of the Sri Lankan tea workers.Comments