Trust me, and together we can find a solution to the problems faced by all our people, President Mahinda Rajapaksa told representatives of the Tamil political parties when they met him at his office in the Presidential Secretariat last evening (June 07). The President had meetings with members of the EPDP led by Minister Douglas Devananda and the TNA led by R. Sampanthan, MP.
A ten-member delegation of the Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP) praised the President’s leadership given to eradicate terrorism in its totality in Sri Lanka and lauded the Government’s efforts to bring about normality and livelihood support for the displaced people in the North.
President Rajapaksa told the TNA that they were discussing matters with him today because the proposals and solutions offered to and by all others who preceded him in office, had failed. He said that in any political solution to the issues affecting the communities in the country, the people must get the feeling that they are also participating in the solution.
Emphasizing the need for a lasting solution to prevailing issues, President Rajapaksa said, I want a permanent solution. But, I will not bow down to terrorism, and what the terrorists wanted I will never give.
R. Sampanthan MP, who led the TNA delegation, said they were prepared to participate in finding a solution, and stressed: We are not demanding the solution that Prabhakaran wanted.
Minister Douglas Devananda raised the subject of effective housing and the need to find a cost effective and long lasting housing for the displaced and requested that the Government expand its activities on current efforts in this regard. The distribution of food was also discussed and certain anomalies that exists under the World Food Program were highlighted with the request that the Government intervenes to solve these issues.
The TNA delegation made representations to the President on several matters pertaining to the people of the North. Among the immediate concerns mentioned were those of food distribution, housing, occupations and livelihoods, education, land, and assistance for agriculture for the displaced persons and those who are being resettled.
President Rajapaksa explained that the Government was taking all measures possible to resolve these issues as soon as possible.
I am equally interested ensuring that these matters are resolved with speed.
But there are limitations faced by the Government. You can’t expect the Government to do in a few months what has not been done for thirty years, the President said.
The EPDP delegates mentioned the need to increase assistance for livelihood development of the affected people, requesting that the Government provide assistance required to enable the affected people to commence cultivation activities and thereby improve their livelihood capabilities, with the expectation of becoming self sufficient by the next harvest.
Devananda also requested that the Government look at the possibility of increasing the number of agricultural implements, bicycles and other amenities already provided.
Sampanthan said he and the TNA appreciated the Government’s problems, and were keen to find ways and means of assisting the Government to resolve these, through assistance from other sources.
The President said they were welcome to participate with the Government in this task.
Minister Basil Rajapaksa explained in detail the progress made with regard to resettlement of IDPs, their housing, land allocation, agricultural assistance and difficulties in resolving all issues raised by the EPDP and TNA.
In response to a TNA request that more NGOs be allowed to work in the Vanni area than those it named, who were doing very good work, Minister Basil Rajapaksa said that in all at least 20 NGOs were working there with government approval.
President Rajapaksa recalled the unfavourable record of more than 3,000 NGOs and INGOs who came to work in the country after the tsunami, and said the Government was not ready to allow a repeat of that.
The EPDP requested that the Government formulate a proper political solution so that the benefits of such solution will be enjoyed by the totality of the Tamil polity in Sri Lanka.
The EPDP extended their support to the Government to work tirelessly together to evolve a suitable solution.
On the question of detainees raised by both parties, President Rajapaksa said he had already authorized the release of 4,000 detainees, especially those under 18 years, bringing the figure down to less than 8,000. We don’t want to keep them for longer than is necessary, and we want them to return to society.
But we must also ensure that there are no threats to society, he said.
President Rajapaksa thanked the EPDP for their unstinted support during the difficult times the country faced and also in the rehabilitation process.
He agreed to look into all matters that was discussed towards increasing the development aid that is being provided currently.
On the political solution the President welcomed the stand taken by the EPDP and confirmed that their support in arriving at a proper solution is essential and looked forward to the support of the EPDP in this respect.
The meetings concluded with agreement to meet again to pursue these matters further, in a spirit of cooperation.
Ministers Nimal Siripala de Silva, Prof.
GL Peiris, Maithreepala Sirisena, Dullas Alahapperuma, MPs Prof Rajiva Wijesinha, Sajin Vaas Gunewardena and the Chief of Staff of the President’s Office Gamini Senarath were associated with the President and Minister Basil Rajapaksa.