President Mahinda Rajapaksa has reiterated his long-held view that police powers and land “were not subjects for the Provincial Council.
He has told ‘The Hindu’ in an interview that he had seen “what has happened in India, in the recent Mumbai bomb attacks.
“How slow it [the police and security response] was, you know, with all the restrictions, going to the Centre and coming back with orders from there. So security matters [must be] with the Government [of Sri Lanka],” Mr. Rajapaksa has noted.
President Rajapaksa has also invited all the Indian Parliamentarians, not only the Central government but also other areas including the Tamil Nadu to visit Sri Lanka’s north to see the ground reality.
He has said, “I asked our High Commissioner and he has conveyed my invitation to Chief Minister Jayalalithaa [to visit Sri Lanka]. If she is not ready or is busy, she can send a parliamentary team.”
“She can speak to the central government and I am ready to accept that. Parliamentarians, not only from Tamil Nadu but also from other areas, the whole of India, can visit the North and see for themselves.”
Last week, Sri Lankan High Commissioner Prasad Kariyawasam held talks with Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa in Chennai.
The full interview
President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s roadmap for finding a 13th Amendment-plus political solution will take the Tamil question in Sri Lanka to a Parliamentary Select Committee, which will look into it and propose suitable constitutional amendments, and then on to Parliament.
Asked about the absence of an enduring political solution 26 months after the war with the LTTE ended, the Sri Lankan President told me over a breakfast meeting at Temple Trees in Colombo: “I have asked my party and others to propose a Parliamentary Select Committee to look into a political solution, any amendments to the Constitution. Whatever the Parliamentary Committee recommends to me, I will accept – and ultimately it has to go to Parliament.”
He reiterated his long-held view that police powers and land “were not subjects for the Provincial Council.” He added that he had seen “what has happened in India, in the recent Mumbai bomb attacks. How slow it [the police and security response] was, you know, with all the restrictions, going to the Centre and coming back with orders from there. So security matters [must be] with the Government [of Sri Lanka].”
Asked about complaints that the armed forces were expanding their footprint in Jaffna and other Northern districts and apprehensions of a permanent militarisation of the North, Mr. Rajapaksa responded: “I don’t think so. But what was going on in Iraq? How many years have passed; they have not settled any problem there. How many military people are there? A commission was appointed to look into this after five years. I appointed the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) as soon as this [the war] was over. But the army – even in the South we have army camps. We have our camps in Hambanthotta, in Colombo, in every Province, in every district. In that way, we will have camps in the North and East.” [Lalith Weeratunga, Secretary to the President, supplemented this with the comment, “it is not an occupation army, that is important.”]
Asked about the allegations of human rights violations, and especially about Channel 4’s Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields, which showed gruesome and distressing footage and charged that the Sri Lankan army and government had committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in the final stage of the war against the LTTE, President Rajapaksa responded: “It’s a film.” Referring to the footage showing close-range executions of naked men with their hands tied behind their backs, he asserted that “it has been filmed in Tamil” and that if the footage was true, “it was not the LTTE cadres, it must be the army boys” who were shot. “The man who is shooting,” he explained, “his belt is not the army belt, it is the LTTE belt. If it is true, the LTTE cadre is shooting an army man. If it is not true, it’s a film. It’s not a true document. We are looking into the matter.”
He said allegations supported by evidence would be enquired into. “The LLRC has already requested the original of this [footage]. We said if anybody had any evidence against any police officer or army officer, at any time, we are ready to look into it. This can be from top to bottom.”