Defence Secretary, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, clearly stated that maintaining law and order in the Northern Province is the responsibility of the Chief Minister, C.V. Wigneswaran, but added that the Chief Minister has no power to issue orders to the police. He said the Leader of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), R. Sampanthan, has to establish peace and unity instead of making meaningless statements.
Rajapaksa made these comments when he met the editors of Tamil newspapers at the Defence Ministry on Wednesday.
At the meeting, which lasted for more than an hour, the Defence Secretary responded to various questions with regard to the problems that had surfaced in the post-war North.
He said the TNA should not think that the people in the North had given them the mandate to agitate for the withdrawal of the Security Forces from the North.
Eighty per cent of the people in the North want the Security Forces to remain in the North, he stressed, adding that this has been proved by two recent independent reports.
“As the Northern Provincial Council has now been established, it is the responsibility of the Province’s Chief Minister to maintain law and order in the region. He should coordinate with the police to ensure the security of the area while maintaining law and order. However, the Chief Minister or any other minister has no power to order the police.
But they could give a directive to the police to maintain law and order. The Chief Minister could set up vigilant groups in order to support the police force to curb the unlawful activities that take place in the province,” Rajapaksa said.
Referring to land issues in the North, the Defence Secretary said, the TNA had been complaining that the Security Forces had grabbed lands in the North. For more than 30 years, the Security Forces had been located in various places in the North to tackle terrorism, he said, noting that the TNA had not uttered a single word over the lands where the Security Forces were present at that time.
However, as arrangements have now been made to return the lands to the owners, the TNA is trying to create problems, he said.
“Certain areas are strategically important for the security of the country. Therefore the Security Forces will remain in those areas. The lands in most of the areas in Palaly belong to the State.
“However, some of the lands which are being released are agricultural lands. A limited number of land area will be acquired for military purposes and due compensation would be paid for it,” he said.
Commenting on the TNA’s role in building peace in the country, he said that instead of talking without substance, the TNA leadership must come forward to safeguard the hard-earned peace.
“TNA Leader, R. Sampanthan, must use the good opportunity the alliance has gained to serve the people instead of creating problems again,” he said.
Referring to the encroachment of Indian fishermen in the Northern waters, Rajapaksa said the Indian fishermen were systematically robbing the marine resources available in Lankan waters.
“The Indian fisher folk had already destroyed most of the marine resources in their territorial waters by adopting prohibited methods of fishing. And now they are using the same methods in our territorial waters to destroy our marine resources by infiltrating our maritime borders,” the Defence Secretary said.
At the end of the discussion, he requested the Tamil editors to focus more towards building peace and harmony through their respective newspapers instead of adopting a confrontational approach with the South.
(Courtesy: Ceylon Today)