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While leaders of political parties in Tamil Nadu have been strident in their demand that India boycott the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Colombo in November, C.V. Vigneswaran, chief ministerial candidate of Tamil National Alliance (TNA) in the Northern Province council elections, has called for India’s participation.

“I am not for this business of boycotting,” the former Supreme Court judge told TOI in an exclusive interview in Jaffna on Thursday. Campaigning for the elections to three provincial councils - Northern, Central and North-Western - scheduled for September 21 ended on Wednesday.

“We must have the courage of conviction to tell the Sri Lankan government that it has done this and this and what does it got to say... It is better you say it at the CHOGM rather than keep away,” he said.

Pointing out that Tamils lost the Eastern Province due to their leaders keeping away from the election, Vigneswaran said, “I am not a politician. I don’t look at these things in the same way as politicians do”.

Accusing Tamil Nadu politicians of playing with the Tamils issue by treating it “like a tennis ball”, Vigneswaran said India owed it to the Lankan Tamil community to help revive democratic institutions. “We especially need the support of south India”.

While confident that his Tamil National Alliance (TNA) would get a majority in the elections, being held after 25 years, Vigneswaran, however, feared there would be attempts by the Sri Lankan army to prevent people from casting their votes. “Our difficulty is not in getting a majority. We have to contend with the army...They would probably allow people whom they think might vote for the government and prevent the others,” he said. As a judge he had heard election petitions about “such things” happening in this part of the country, he said. “Otherwise, we are fairly confident that 80 to 90% of the people are with us”.

The former judge said there was great expectation among the people that something might come out of this election. “So, it is essential that there should be a good turnout.

Depending on the turnout, it would be possible for us to make out the wishes and aspirations of the people. We are fairly confident there would be a good turnout,” he said. On development projects being taken up by the government in the war-torn areas, Vigneswaran said, “It is mere propaganda. Roads and other infrastructure projects are just showpieces. The roads have been put up with the help of foreign collaborations and donations. They have been most beneficial for the army to keep the electorate under control.”

He said the problems of war widows and internally displaced people, housing and other issues are yet to be addressed. On criticism by the ruling alliance UPFA that the TNA’s manifesto promoted separatism, he said, “There is a misunderstanding. The government is unnecessarily creating trouble. We are for a democratic institution based on federalism within the boundaries of Sri Lanka”.

On allegations that he had glorified the LTTE and its leader Velupillai Prabhakaran and addressed him as ‘Maveeran’ (great warrior) in his election campaign, Vigneswaran said, “It is all perception. If you are going to call him a terrorist, should I also not address those who are being now hauled up in the international forum for war crimes as terrorists?” The TNA leader said Keppetipola Disawe, who was considered by the British as a dangerous criminal, has roads named after him and statues built for him. “Prabhakaran was a freedom fighter. He may have been brutal, but so is the government,” he said.

- Times of India