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Saturday, June 22, 2024

Sri Lanka:Ramposha’s Visit Only For Discussions – Minister Wimal Weerawansa

The National Freedom Front (NFF) is opposing any kind of foreign mediation on the national issue. However, the NFF did not consider the visit of the Deputy President of South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa as’ interference’ as the government has assured them that the visit is confined to mere discussions.

Despite the claims of the government, Cyril Ramaphosa has had discussions with the Chief Minister of the Northern Province related to Tamil national issue during his visit. Speaking to The Sunday Leader, the President of the NFF, Wimal Weerawansa said that the NFF will only be concerned if the government changes its position by letting foreign countries to play the role of a mediator or a facilitator for negotiations on the Tamil national issue.
Excerpts of the interview:

By Waruni Karunarathne

Q:Your party National Freedom Front (NFF) is opposing any foreign mediation in Sri Lanka but the government has sought the assistance of South Africa. The South African special envoy the Deputy President of South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa has had discussions with the government as well as the Tamil National Alliance (TNA). How could you be so sure that the discussions were not on the Tamil political issue in the country?

A: We have submitted 12 proposals to the government. In the fourth proposal, we clearly indicate that any foreign country should not be allowed to mediate or facilitate talks on devolution of power or on related issues between the government and the TNA. We put such conditions as a precaution before the visit of Cyril Ramaphosa as we suspected the possibility of such mediation by the South African government.

The SL government including the Cabinet Spokesperson and the Deputy Minister of External Affairs has assured that there is no connection between Cyril Ramaphosa’s visit and the national issue of the country. Earlier also several delegates came and visited the Northern Province and had talks with the Chief Minister of the Northern Province. There is no problem in delegates coming and meeting Tamil politicians. We only have problems if they come to play a role as a mediator or a facilitator on the national issue.

Q:There have been concerns over the meetings between the Tamil Diaspora and the South African government ahead of Cyril Ramaphosa’s visit to Sri Lanka. Do you share these concerns?
A: We know for a fact that they have had talks with the Tamil Diaspora prior to the visit. We are only concerned about how the Sri Lankan government welcomes these visits. South Africa may have had talks with the Diaspora but the government has assured that the South African Vice President will not play any role in the national issue of the country. If the visit is to strengthen the relationship between the two countries that’s alright – but if they go beyond that to interfere with the national issues and hold discussions on the 13th Amendment and beyond, then it will become a problem. Our concerns abated as the government agreed with the NFF proposals and conditions. We accept the government’s position now. If the government allows South Africa to play such a role, we will then take stern actions.

Q:Will the NFF agree to direct talks between the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and the SL government?
A: There is nothing wrong with the government holding discussions with the local political parties. The government can hold talks with any local political party including TNA. The government has had talks with TNA before.

 We have issues only if those discussions lead to negative impacts on Sri Lanka. We are not against talks between the government and the TNA. If the TNA has issues as a local political party they can have talks with the President of the country in order to find solutions for their issues. For that, we do not need mediators from South Africa or any other country.

Q:Cyril Ramaphosa has said that the South Africa would help Sri Lanka towards constitutional changes. In your opinion is there a need for constitutional reforms with the help of South Africa?
A: In the first proposal of the 12 proposals submitted to the president, we have requested that the government should place a new draft constitution before the people. For such constitutional reforms, there is nothing wrong with taking good examples from South Africa or other countries. But any representative from South African or any other country should not teach us or order us how to do the changes or what changes are to be done. It is alright to give their ideas but we should have the independence to decide the changes we need. We will not let them do the constitutional reforms the way they want.

Q:With the Presidential election coming up lot is being said on who will support who. Has your meeting with Maduluwawe Sobitha Thero led to discussions on selecting a common candidate?
A: In the discussion with Sobitha Thero, we did not talk anything about the Presidential election or a common candidate. The discussion was only on three reforms namely cancelling executive presidency, changing the election system and establishing independent commissions again. He only raised the need to pressure the government on these reforms. Accordingly, our ideas were also presented. We agreed on certain things such as the need for constitutional reforms and shared ideas on how it should be done. He did not mention anything about a common candidate. Therefore there is no need to bring this matter up.

Q:Is your party in anyway unhappy with the government’s policies?

A: We are happy with some policies but we have issues with certain policies. The proposals submitted by the NFF to the government have raised the areas that we are unhappy about.

 The government has said that they are willing to hear them out. We are making an action plan for these proposals and it will be revealed to the public soon. The government has shown some flexibility in the process. They have said that they are willing to rectify these lapses. Therefore, we look forward for a fruitful coalition.


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