Mahinda Rajapakse’s interview to NDTVMaya Mirchandani
Addu: Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse told NDTV that if the reconciliation commission report endorses any human rights violation in the war against the Tamil Tigers, the government will take action without shielding anyone. He also says the Lankan navy has been stopped from taking Indian fishermen into custody anymore.
Excerpts from his interview to NDTV’s Maya Mirchandani:
Mahinda Rajapakse: I explained to your PM (Prime Minister) about the fishermen issue. For the last one year, we have fought more than 40000 boats that have come to Lanka shores and fishing in Lanka. So it’s a problem for us but we have never taken them into custody because of the PM’s request. We allow them. Earlier navy was handling it, but now we have said even the navy has been stopped from doing so. Now we allow them.
NDTV: Because this is a huge political issue in India.
Mahinda Rajapakse: Yes, because they are asking me weather ‘Jaffna Tamils’ have been resettled and whether their living conditions are good or bad and whether we are helping them. So why not help the fishermen? They are deprived of their own rights. So this is an unfortunate thing. So they must understand that too.
NDTV: So you are saying this for Sri Lankan Tamil fishermen to fish in?
Mahinda Rajapakse: No, we are saying give and take policy. So we are discussing it. Then I said the best thing is to meet the Tamil fishermen. Get the Tamil fishermen from Sri Lanka and the Indian side and they can discuss and settle this problem. I don’t want the government to come in.
NDTV: Sir, what about the reconciliation process. Things are moving very slowly?
Mahinda Rajapakse: No, it’s moving very fast for the last two years we have resettled about 95 per cent.
NDTV: I am talking about political reconciliation.
Mahinda Rajapakse: Politically we have already started dialogue with the TNA. For the last 1.5 months they have been busy, traveling to USA, UK etc and canvassing themselves. I don’t know what they are canvassing for because these are internal matters they must discuss with us, the Lankan government, because finally it’s the government that matters, because we have appointed the committee and they have not sent the names yet. We have 23 political parties in Parliament. So we want to appoint a Parliament select committee. The best place to settle this. Let the government and opposition get together and give me a solution. Then certainly.
NDTV: Since the war ended in 2009 there have been many allegations of human rights violations.
Mahinda Rajapakse: Have you seen the response?
NDTV: Yes we have. But the lessons learnt and reconciliation commission is meant to give you its report any time now. Will you make it public?
Mahinda Rajapakse: Yes on the 19th. But I will have to get it, study it. It’s not a public document. To make it (public) I want to table it in Parliament. Then only it becomes a public document.
NDTV: Are you afraid it might endorse some of those charges of human rights violations?
Mahinda Rajapakse: If they endorse it, we will have to take action. I am not going to shield anyone. I don’t want to shield anyone.
NDTV: So it’s a long process?
Mahinda Rajapakse: Yes, everyone talks of the last 10 days, but last 30 years no one talks. How many people have died? How many Tamil political leaders have died? Even your PM (Prime Minister) was killed. So these things cannot be just … you know.