Construction, Engineering Services, Housing and Common Amenities Minister Wimal Weerawansa said the approach adopted by the LLRC Report is of paramount importance for the Government’s reconciliation process. The Minister told the Sunday Observer that the need of the hour is to strengthen bilateral relations with friendly countries and also to win over countries who stand up for us.
The Minister said it is no easy task to win over those who hatch conspiracies against us. We should not think a Report such as the LLRC would help us to win over these countries which are against us. The LLRC Report provides the support to countries which look at our issue in a fair and neutral manner to appear on behalf of Sri Lanka before the international community. The LLRC Report has provided some support to successfully defeat international pressure exerted on Sri Lanka over alleged war crimes.
Minister Weerawansa said, today we are not dreaming about an isolated State. Every country has dignity. We need a world which respects this dignity, human rights and the independent existence of every country. There is a section that respects these principles. Except for a few Western and European countries, the majority maintain this stance. We should move forward with a world that helps us to secure the future. This does not mean that we should move with our enemies who want to divide our country and attempt to raise the issue of separatism again. Those who act against us or hatch conspiracies against us are not the only people in the world.
Q: What are your comments on the LLRC Report? Has it met with your expectations?
A: Really we do not want the LLRC report. The LLRC report was a requirement of local and international forces who are disenchanted over the military victory achieved by the Government against terrorism.
They were anxiously waiting until the report was published. We had confidence in the armed forces and that they had not committed any offence. We understood that the country was rescued by the armed forces from the most ruthless and powerful terrorist organisation in the world.
The release of the LLRC report was only awaited by those who were of the view that crimes were committed and that they should be punished. It looks like these elements are not satisfied even after the LLRC report has been released. However, India had shown a positive approach on the report and we are happy with India’s stance.
The official communiqué issued by the US and opinions expressed by certain sections, shows that they are not satisfied with the report. This report provides support to those who look at our issue in a fair and neutral manner, to appear before the international community on behalf of Sri Lanka. In comparison to the international operation launched against Sri Lanka, the LLRC report has successfully defeated international pressure exerted on Sri Lanka.
Q: The LLRC was a mechanism to reply to allegations levelled by certain Western countries. What more can be done to thwart their attempts to for an international investigation on Sri Lanka?
A:I don’t agree with all the contents in the LLRC report. But the approach of the report is important. The LLRC report has not laid adequate emphasis on the damage caused to the Sinhala and Tamil community by Tamil separatism.
We agree that devolution of power should be made at grass roots level to give powers even up to the level of Pradeshiya Sabhas and Urban Councils. Whatever shortcomings are there, the approach adopted in the LLRC report is very important to carry out the Government’s reconciliation process.
We don’t have a methodology to satisfy those who stand against us. We only need to strengthen ties with friendly countries who appear on behalf of us and to win the countries that maintain reasonable associations with us.
It is no easy task to win those who hatch conspiracies against us. Therefore we should not think a report such as the LLRC would help us to win over countries that are against us. This report will only help us to strengthen bilateral ties with friendly countries and also to win over countries that have a natural affiliation towards us.
Q: There is an outcry that Sri Lanka should have a viable mechanism to protect human rights.
A: Human rights is not a historical concept. When we look at the history of the world, how many years were taken for the concept of human rights to be enshrined in Constitutions? Society reached this stage after many eras.
There was no human rights during the era of slavery. In our country we did not have an era of slavery. We had our own social structure centered around kings, people, tanks, temples and dagabas.
At that stage we had human rights based on Buddhist culture and Europe was in an era of slavery. What are the Western countries who preach about human rights doing today? The US is going to pass a separate Bill to suppress Wall Street type protests. Wall Street demonstrators were assaulted in the US. If this incident occurred in Sri Lanka the West will rise a big hue and cry .
I think these countries use human rights in a bid to weaken us. If a country always thinks of only human rights, that country can never move forward. That is why Western countries attempt to use human rights as an attacking tool to bring Sri Lanka to that position. They can also use this as a weapon to take various measures against us. We should not be afraid of these allegations as we have already safeguarded human rights. At present grave human rights violations are taking place in some Western countries. If there are shortcomings in our system, we should rectify them of our own accord.
Q: As an independent country is it not our responsibility to put our house in order without outside help or interference?
A: Today we are not dreaming about an isolated State in the world. Every country possesses dignity. We need a world which respects that dignity, human rights and independent existence.
Today there is a section that respects these principles. Except for a few Western and European countries, The majority maintain this stance.
We should move forward with a world that helps to secure a future. This does not mean that we should move forward with enemies who want to divide our country and attempt to raise the issue of separatism. Those who are against us or hatch various conspiracies against us are not the only people in the world. There is a section that respects the rights of every country. Therefore we should move forward with them without being isolated.
Q: Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch appear to have no other business other than to sit in judgement over Sri Lanka. Have you got to say anything about this situation?
A: All these institutions are doing a job. How does money come to these institutions? These institutions are paid by the US or companies in some other powerful countries. Sometimes they also get Government funds through secret votes. This is their living. Some imperialistic henchmen are represented in Amnesty International and other human rights organisations.
However, these organisations don’t see any human rights violations in the US. According to them Saddam Hussein and Gaddafi are dictators and there is nothing wrong to assassinate them. When Libya was air raided by NATO, they called it a humanitarian mission.
But it’s inhuman when the Sri Lankan Government won the war against LTTE terrorists by conducting military operations through the land route. We should not seriously take into consideration comments made by human rights organisations because the entire world is aware of what they are doing.
Q: In the light of the saying, once bitten, twice shy! How do you view the Tamil parties’ demand for devolution of Police and land powers to the North and East?
A: The Eastern province was reconstituted by a Tamil MP who became the Home Affairs Minister of the then J. R. Jayayewardene Government. Today anybody can go to Kalutara from Gampaha. Is it easy to go to Trincomalee from Ampara? What is the distance to go to Trincomalee from Ampara? Ampara is a very large district. The Eastern Province has been created with political interest without considering the geographical or people’s requirements. The need of the hour is to appoint a Delimitation Commission and make recommendations as to whether the delimitation of the country’s districts and provinces are right or wrong.
Otherwise merging the North and East will not bring any productive result to this problem. A new decision has to be taken by considering the geographical, environmental, population and road network in each province. But we are afraid to make these changes. But it has to be done.
Then the topic of merging the North and East will be irrelevant.
The geographical map should be changed in a manner which would not provide any room for separatist political elements to engage in politics based essential on land issues. It can be done and it is strategic importance. This is what has to be done at the moment. The North and the East should not be merged as the TNA says. The TNA requests the North and East to be merged as they want to recreate the North and East according to an Eelam map.
Q: Deployment of security forces for development work has brought criticism from the Opposition. Is there any justification?
A: When the war against terrorists ended, security personnel were not sent back home by the Government. As we have seen, many problems have arisen in other countries regarding security forces, a year or two after the eradication of a war. In most countries, it is difficult for them to integrate security forces into society in a short time after serving in the battle front. That is the trend anywhere in the world but this did not happen in Sri Lanka.
There are no allegations that the Sri Lankan Armed Forces had committed anti disciplinary activities. We have a lot of respect for our Armed Forces. Our Armed Forces is one of the most disciplined Armed Forces in the world. They cannot be isolated. Now with the challenges of development they contribute their effort. This is the responsibility of an Army as they fulfil their duty on behalf of the country. Weapons are there to be handled at the appropriate time.
Otherwise they have the ability to engage in any other development activity. There is nothing wrong in that. Some people want to keep the armed forces in isolation and discredit them. Certain elements want to launch an operation against the Government, using this as a ploy. Those who have this notion think that the deployment of security forces for development as being a grave mistake.
Q: There seems to be an embarrassing situation for the Government over the G.C.E. A/L fiasco and vegetable crate issue. Do you think there are elements who are creating these situations to make things difficult for the Government?
A: A dialogue with political leaders of the UPFA is essential. After the President assumed his second term, nearly two years have lapsed. The private sector pension scheme was introduced in good faith but it led to displeasure due to some shortcomings. It is only the enemies of this Government who want to tarnish its image.
There are some local and international forces who attempt to fulfil this goal. The Revival of Underperforming Enterprises and Underutilised Assets Bill was discussed at Cabinet level and with the Parliamentary group. However, there is a need for political dialogue which goes far beyond the Bill.
It is true a certain percentage of vegetables are wasted. Instead of taking measures to minimise this waste, there is no ability to stop this waste hundred percent. Steps should be taken to promote the use of plastic crates rather than forcing it through a law. Public opinion should be created to encourage consumers to purchase vegetables transported in plastic crates. It is essential to conduct a political dialogue regarding these issues.
Q: You seem to have reservations on the proposed Private Universities Act. Can you elaborate?
A: In a letter sent by me to President Mahinda Rajapaksa, I requested a political dialogue before this proposed Act is presented in Parliament.
We don’t want to destabilise the Government or incite foreign enemies. We cannot stand haphazardly like lamp posts without having a proper dialogue. The conduct of a political dialogue is essential for the favourable existence of the Government. That is why we have submitted facts to the President regarding this issue.
Q: You were a JVPer. What is your opinion on the present state of the JVP which is divided into at least two factions? Can it ever win public confidence again?
A: I worked for the JVP for 20 years. Since the latter part of 1994, I was in the JVP politburo till 2008.
I also worked as the Propaganda Secretary of the JVP. According to my personal analysis there are two spies in the JVP who are handled by external forces. One spy is on the side of Somawansa Amarasinghe while the other is in the other JVP faction. When military operations were going on, the JVP was dragged into a position of not extending its support to the Government due to the JVP’s breakaway group.
This group brought the JVP into a position to obstruct the winning of the war and created a mentality in the JVP that it should win over the LTTE. Because most of the JVP cadres had rallied round this group. Somawansa Amarasinghe did not accept the fact that we were opposed to the latter thinking and they were dependent on them. When that faction attacked us through their magazines, Amarasinghe accepted it.
They also wanted to turn the JVP into a party that will speak about the Tamil people’s freedom struggle and devolution of power.
They attempted to create a JVP which disagreed with the book titled “our solutions for the national question” written by JVP founder Rohana Wijeweera. They could not form a revolutionary JVP and grab power. As a result, there is a breakway group. Apart from slogans, the faction does not have any political role.
Therefore one side of the JVP which favours separatism has been dragged in one direction while the other faction which does not have any strategic vision remains idle. This is what has happened to the JVP today. Sometime in the future, there is a possibility that this breakway group may even contribute towards the attempts made to rebuild the LTTE.
The West also wants to create a situation in Sri Lanka similar to the Central African Region. They want to create a situation to have street demonstrations and hurl stones for every issue. Once they build their strength, this breakway group may enter to fulfil that task, while the other faction may also to respond.
Q: Many JVPers are now disillusioned with both factions of the JVP. Do you believe the NFF will be an ideal alternative for these JVP members?
A: At present most of the JVPers are disappointed with the present plight of the JVP. Of these two factions some JVPers are on one side while the others are joining hands with the NFF. This can be seen even at grass roots level today.
Q: The UNP is facing an internal struggle and divisions. Under such circumstances can it ever present a serious challenge to the Government?
A: There is no sign even of creating a viable Opposition in the near future. At present everybody in the UNP want to be leaders by defeating others. Even a UNP Pradeshiya Sabha member must be thinking that he can be the UNP Leader. Instead of expressing its opposition against the Government within the democratic process, this maybe an advantage to certain forces to express their opposition against the Government in a different form.
It is evident that UNP leaders have no understanding about this situation. I don’t think a party like the UNP which has entered into this kind of struggle will be able to give any political leadership to the country.
Q: The President in his Budget speech reiterated the importance of a vibrant Opposition in Parliament as a democratic ideal. Why cannot the Opposition at least support the Government’s progressive steps?
A: The Opposition should have a strategic vision against the Government. The Opposition should have their own alternative program. If the Opposition says the present path adopted by the Government is not good, what is the alternative program presented by the Opposition? The present Opposition does not have that kind of vision. They just play the traditional role by opposing everything.
Our people are politically intelligent. This has been proved. The lack of a strong Opposition has become an advantage to the Government. If there is a vibrant Opposition the Government will be cautious over certain matters. If there is no such challenge, an opportunity is created for the Government to act without seriously considering some of those issues.
Q: It is now two years since the conflict ended. What do you think are the issues the Government should focus on?
A: We have completed the first phase of the second freedom struggle. That was the defeating of the LTTE. The LTTE was mercenaries formed by imperialists. Now the second phase of the freedom struggle is before us. The second phase is to rebuild the nation.
It is a process which should be carried out with the entire participation of the nation. Such an approach is still lacking.
An extensive dialogue should be conducted in which direction this country will move forward within the next ten years and the revolutionary changes which should be made. The contribution of the nation should be made towards this dialogue by creating a favourable attitude with the people.
Courtesy: Sunday Observer