Sri Lanka Brief
FeaturesNewsPresident has a bigger mandate against devolution

President has a bigger mandate against devolution


The TNA demands

Q:    The Tamil National Alliance(TNA) which secured 18 local councils yesterday insists on the devolution of police and land powers without which they claim a political solution could not be reached, emphasizing that ‘lasting peace, justice and democracy’ in the North depends on such devolution.

Then the President has a bigger mandate not to give these powers.

They’re talking of their mandate- how about ours- one accepted by a larger majority by the whole country? The President also has the mandate of the minority communities. And this is a so-called mandate coming from a local government election which will really decide fixing street lamps or community taps etc. Under the Constitution a mandate has to be obtained in a referendum or a Presidential or Parliamentary election.

Q:    TNA spokesman Suresh Premachandra maintains that the TNA was in a ‘stronger position’ to negotiate with the government at the ongoing talks following the mandate received. Are you concerned that this would affect the progress of the talks between the government and the TNA?

Whether they’re strong or not is not a factor here.

Then we are far stronger to hold on to these policies (they demand). This is the mistake the LTTE did when they thought they were strong militarily. The LTTE also used violence to make demands from a stronger hold, and at one time it worked. This is that same thinking that has not changed. For negotiations strength or weakness is not relevant- what is required is to come to a solution.

The Local Govt. polls.

‘We are very satisfied with  the result.’

Q:The government ensured a healthy political trend by holding elections in the districts like Kilinochchi after two decades, to a renewed voter interest especially in these areas. How is the government interpreting the message received?

In one way it’s a victory for the govt. From independence no national party has won in the North.

 So it’s a not new that a regional party won or to say that TNA got a mandate for more rights. We have however, as a national party established ourselves there, when even UNP got only one percent.

Actually there is a 10,000 vote increase for us from the last election. The most important thing is the high turnout despite a huge SMS campaign trying to prevent people from voting. They were setting the stage for excuses they could use thinking the govt will win- so that the credit wouldn’t come to us. We are very satisfied with the result.

The govt has several messages from the result. One is the negative thing that happened with hatred and nationalism brought by TNA, by showing Channel 4 and July 83, to create a division in the people. This was similar to the Vadukoddai resolution and the seed of separation planted then. What they need to understand is the suffering they will put their own people through.

We also found that if the govt has a wider leadership on the ground like Devananda then the delivery is better. At present we see that most govt. servants are against the govt. which makes t difficult for the work of the govt to reach the people. They have done things to harass the people to create a bad feeling towards the govt. We have to ensure that the delivery is well monitored.

Q: Reports also indicate however that over 10,000 people in Jaffna and Kilinochchi could not vote because they couldn’t prove their identity as those in temporary shelters weren’t able to locate Grama Niladaris on time.

Even in the South this happens. Even the PM couldn’t vote once. There are laws governing this land.

They have to be adhered to. As a policy we agreed the use of the IDP card when it was mooted- something that was not allowed the Muslim IDPs for 23 years- even their names have been removed. But because we knew this allegation will come-for no fault of ours, we allowed. Like the JVP took the cards in the South the LTTE took in the North. Who is the LTTE? LTTE is the TNA as explicitly maintained by the TNA in their manifesto of 2004. The people should ask TNA for their IDs because they are the representatives of the LTTE.

The Indian factor

‘One has to worry if you are in
 a geographically strategic point.’

Q: With the BJP, Indian main Opposition opting to take up the cause of the Tamil issue in the Parliament, the likelihood of the Indian Centre being pressured in to exerting pressure on us in return can not be avoided. How concerned are you of this development?

Any country has to be concerned especially when there is economic prosperity, and peace has been achieved.

There is more concern when issues are being created in the political side. One has to worry if you are in a geographically strategic point or have  resource like oil for instance. If any country is our friend all we can say is please leave us alone and let us solve our problems. President Rajapaksa is more concerned about his citizens than anybody else. He is very sensitive to people’s difficulties. He wants to ensure that everybody enjoys the benefits of development.

Q: The IDPs are certainly a way through which such outside pressures are likely to be imposed on Sri Lanka; an area under your supervision. What is the percentage of IDPs still remaining in the camps and what is their present status?

There are two AGA divisions Pudikudiruppu and Meringtanpaththu where de-mining work continues.

Ours was the fastest resettlement plans carried out anywhere in the world. We initially calculated for 75000 families but it has exceeded to 104,000 families without us even knowing how it multiplied! Some of these IDPs were not really IDPs because they  would be returning from Wellawatte after the war and ask for housing or returning from India. If the situation in Tamil Nadu is so much better for the Tamil people how come they are coming back?

It is the economic refugees in the West not returning. The two remaining areas are those where the final battle was on.  It’s not our certification alone but the moment the UN certifies the area de-mined and ready for habitation, resettlement can happen. Now even the IDPs in East like Muttur don’t remember they were IDPs. No one even talks of that situation now. There were 300,000 in the East today there isn’t a single one! Don’t forget the Sinhalese and the Muslims there as well. We have already exceeded the percentage planned for.

On the US front.

‘Any concern must not be one that disrupts our reconciliation process and force us in to anything that we don’t want.’

Q: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meeting Chief Minister Jayalalitha last week voiced concern over the situation of the internally displaced in the North and the East, adding that the US was looking at ‘innovative and creative ideas.’ What they termed was the ‘impasse’ taking place in the country. How much a concern is this interest of the US to you?

If she thinks as a friend and expresses concern we welcome that.

But before that the US has many hurricane-hit IDPs in the US and the displaced in Afghanistan and Iraq whose issues they must resolve first. I can guarantee that the poverty level in Tamil Nadu is far higher than us, so Jayalalitha must concentrate on those before she starts talking about our IDPs. Any concern must not be one that disrupts our reconciliation process and force us in to anything that our people don’t want and create another problem. Recently the British PM said in Pakistan that 50 percent of the problems in the world were created by the British empire- I guess they need to go before a mirror to see who created the rest!

Q:  A US Congressional committee voted a ban on aid to the country till it can show accountability to the allegations around the end of war.

My concern is not the economic value- but the message they’re giving doesn’t make me happy.

 I don’t think they should have done this. Look at the GST- if that was there they had greater room to put pressure on us but now there is no pressure for us. The US knows how much they are giving us compared to the other development partners, and even in the categories they are giving already, they are continuing. So I don’t understand what will not come.

My point is that giving a message like this will work negatively as did GST. If the point of stopping this is to exert pressure on us, it won’t, because the numbers are not worth so much for us. Just think if GST was still there we have to ensure that we retain it by pleasing them. Now we don’t care! So the things we tried to do we have stopped and they can’t talk about it either. If they want something done please talk to us not put pressure. Are they now going to get angry with us- see us as enemies? Is this how a friend treats another? If they think that this will help anyone in Sri Lanka it will not work.

Q: How comfortable are you with our economic indicators after two years of peace?

If you compare countries like Vietnam who are only getting investors and tourists after decades of the war ending we are far exceeding our indicators. 

Growth rates are highest after independence and unemployment is down- this is without the backing of a big economic plan of support like the Marshall plan. We banked entirely on our support and went to the grassroots. With programmes like Divi Neguma we successfully resolved the vegetable prices through a special fertilizer subsidy scheme. We were self sufficient by 117 percent for the first time.

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