Senior Minister for Scientific Affairs Prof. Tissa Vitarana said many of Sri Lanka’s friends in the international community have spoken against the US-sponsored resolution. The Minister in an interview with the Sunday Observer said more and more World Leaders as well as the public realise that the West has an ulterior motive and this is not a friendly or conducive agenda with regard to our people or our economy.
Therefore they are making use of any opportunity to turn it to their advantage.
The Minister was confident that more countries will support Sri Lanka, despite dropping the Darusman Report and acting on the LLRC report, because this is something that many countries look on favourably.
Prof. Vitharana said many countries have appreciated the LLRC report that addresses nearly all questions regarding the war against terrorists.
An attempt has been made by the West to use that opening to put their finger into our pie to gain access to Sri Lanka. This is dangerous. They make use of even the smallest opening to put pressure to achieve the ends that they have in mind.
The West is acting in an extremely callous manner as recent examples in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq targeting civilians. They have violated human rights norms and international laws without any regard to civilian casualties. While this is being ignored, the perpetrators of those violations are pointing a finger at us. This is a part of the agenda with its ultimate objective of a regime change in Sri Lanka.
Q: Why is the West trying to impose a human rights resolution on Sri Lanka?
A: They are responding to pressure arising from the pro LTTE Tamil diaspora and I think they also have their own agenda. The West is facing an economic down turn. To retain their economic supremacy in the world, they have either a situation which they can directly exploit our country to their advantage using neoliberal policies so they have to have a Government which is prepared to support these policies.
On the other hand, they have a problem in increasing their economic potential by mainly promoting armament production which is a major industry.
If you look at the economic crises in the past like 1929 and 1933, the West really got out of that crises with the Second World War. The third World War is no longer on the cards because of neuclear weapons.
Therefore the strategy of having localised conflicts is being promoted. In this context, the West has provided an opportunity to the West to exploit our situation to their advantage.
They have gone ahead with raising the issue of minority rights and linking it with human rights. The West has found favourable ground to raise that issue and exert pressure on the Government.
The intention is to achieve a regime change so that they can have a government which would follow their agenda. They are using Human Rights issues not only to embarrass the government. In the future there is a possibility that charges can be framed through the ICC against the Head of State and military chiefs.
There is also a possibility that officially through the UN they will endeavour to place an embargo, failing that they can even have individual embargos which will have a serious consequence on our economy. So these are all interlinked measures which have prompted this action.
Q: On the face of it, the West is calling for the implementation of the LLRC recommendations. Nothing seems to be wrong with that. But why do you think that this is an attack on our sovereignty and independence?
A: The implementation of the LLRC recommendations is the responsibility of our Government. As you know, our party the LSSP has been pressing for complete and speedy implementation of the LLRC proposals. So long as this is not done or seems to be done, the West has an opportunity to say we will also participate and support you to implement that, implying that we are not capable of implementing it. The resolution has been very cleverly worded. Because the LLRC report has acquired credibility. Many countries have appreciated it as a good report which would address nearly all the questions that has been raised regarding the war, its origins as well as the outcome.
An attempt has been made to use that opening to put their finger into our pie to gain access to Sri Lanka and what it is doing. This is dangerous. Once they start the meddling process as we have seen in the Middle East, they have no boundaries and they don’t confine themselves. They make use of even the smallest opening to maximize their pressure to achieve the ends that they have in mind.
Q: Many of Sri Lanka’s friends in the international community have spoken against the US-sponsored resolution. How do you see this action by our friendly nations?
A: We welcome that. Because I think more and more people and Leaders worldwide realise that the West has an agenda. They are making use of any opportunity to misuse it to their advantage. So I think more and more countries realise the ulterior objective. I hope more countries will support us despite the clever manner by which they are dropping the Darusman Report and accepting the LLRC report as many countries approve of it.
Q: Despite the collapse of the Socialist block, Russia and emerging economic giant China can play a bigger role against the gimmicks of the West including the USA. How do you view this situation?
A: I think they have a very important role to play. Firstly they are emerging and powerful economies as a counterweight to the West so that we can have a fair distribution of the economy without it being one sided and favouring the West. Then it would be fair not only to those countries that you mentioned but even to smaller countries like Sri Lanka. So they have a very big role to play in changing the world economy.
They also have a very important role to ensure that justice is done to smaller countries like ours and bullying of the big powers can be checked to some extent.
Q: What is this hullabaloo about war crimes and human rights violations against Sri Lanka by the Western World?
A: As I mentioned earlier, you look at the history of the war against terrorists, there haven’t been serious human rights allegations until the very last stages of the war. The West has been violating human rights norms and international laws.
But what has been done when they were on the attack without any regard to the possibilities of civilian casualties. While that is being ignored, here the perpetrators of those violations are pointing a finger at us. As I mentioned this is being done as a part of the agenda for a regime change in Sri Lanka. Their intention is to get a regime which will act in the interest of the West.
Q: There are allegations that some INGOs and local politicians are behind “dislodging small countries”. Is there any truth in this?
A: This has been occurring world over for sometime. Various NGOs as well as some INGOs have been used as a means of extending the policies of the West in our countries.
This has been reported practically in every third world country. So what is being done elsewhere is also being done in Sri Lanka. This does not mean that every NGO can be accused of that. But there are certain NGOs which are being used in this way and we have to identify them and expose them.
Q: Do you agree with the LLRC recommendations? As a Socialist don’t you have your own proposals for national reconciliation and human rights apart from the LLRC?
A: We have our own solutions. But by and large we accept the LLRC proposals and we feel that by speedily implementing them, we would be moving towards a situation in which we can create an environment for national reconciliation. The LLRC report is a positive document which would help to unite and bring our people together once again.
Q: Many have criticised the Parliamentary Select Committee(PSC) as just another exercise that would produce no tangible results. What is your opinion?
A: You see there have been PSCs who either delayed with recommendations or even if they had recommendations, they have not been implemented. Therefore there is criticism about the PSC. But it is only through such discussions and dialogues that we can finally reach a stand which will be accepted by the majority and lead to a resolution of the national question and to a lasting peace in our country. Now I was hoping the process that I was involved in the APRC would be continued as pledged in the “Mahinda Chintana Vision for the Future”. But that has not materialised.Talks between the SLFP delegation representating the Government and the TNA have also not borne fruit. The remaining option is the PSC. When the President accepted this solution, I made the point that we need to have a definite time frame and make that time frame as short as possible. Then the people will not see the select committee process as another delaying tactic and they will have confidence in that process. I made it clear that when different political issues.
Q: Democracy has been sustained by a strong Opposition. What do you have to say about the sorry State of the Opposition?
A: The Opposition is divided and there is a lot of infighting within Opposition ranks and are not providing an effective opposition to the Government. It would have been good if they were able to give constructive criticism which would take the Government forward in its efforts to solve the variety of problems that confront the country. The fact is that they are not doing that. Instead of resorting to negative criticism rather than helping to take the process forward is a big disadvantage. An Opposition which is more united and act in broader interests of the country would be greatly appreciated.
Q: Having regard to the past LTTE terror, separatist tendencies, size of the country, and equal constitutional rights to all, could one justify the demand for Police and land powers?
A: Certainly. The 13th Amendment has given police and land powers to the provinces though they are not being implemented. They are written down as a part of the Constitution.
I am of the view that those are very important issues when it comes to devolution of power. We cannot have a serious discussion on devolution of power without considering those questions. If any of the stakeholders or parties participating in the discussions want to raise the issues or any other issues, they should be free to do that.
The degree of power sharing is vital. With regard to Police powers, we can have minimal Police powers being given such as community police or we can have police powers which covers all the criminal activities as well. But these are various degrees of power which we need to sit down and work out a methodology for sharing. In doing that we don’t need to give all the powers that the provinces are demanding at once.
We can give certain initial powers and then gradually when the people gain mutual confidence and the provincial governments act responsibly, we can consider devolving more powers. These are things which need to be worked out through over the conference table. I am very much oppose to the people who are arbitrary say you can’t discuss this or discuss that power as a part the negotiations.
Q: The Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP) and the Communist Party (CP) which once straddled the country have faced to a set back today. Apart from their ideological differences, is not the absence of a second rung leadership the prime cause for this set back?
A: The situation that the LSSP and the CP faced arises from the fact that starting from the 1950s when the national question arose purely as a language problem. In a situation in which there were very heighten racism and racial consensus, we took a principle stand to say both Sinhala and Tamil should be made official languages.
The racists from the Sinhala community as well as Tamil community attacked us on the ground that Sinhalese said we were betraying the Sinhala people to Tamils. Tamils said that we were not judging them in their protest and their fight for federalism.
So we were really caught between two stools and major portion of our Sinhala support left us and joined the SLFP and a major portion of our Tamil support joined the Federal Party at that time. So we lost out of both sides by the fact that we stood for the correct policies which now the history has born out.
Our Leaders at that time said this will lead to disaster and the country will get divided and there will be a river of blood flowing through the country as Dr. N.M. Perera and Dr. Colvin R. de Silva in particular form the LSSP mentioned. We have suffered as a nation because of that. Now more and more people are realizing that what we said was correct.
I am happy to say that our party is gathering strength once again. Because the people are beginning to realize that we spoke the truth and we are prepared even to suffer the loss of our strength and also fought by standing up to our principles. Once the people realize this, as you mentioned we need to have second level leadership.
Any political party needs to have that and that is imagine in our party and that is coming up. For instance our party, two of our party members are elected to the Parliament and five were elected to the Provincial Councils. We have also 48 people who have been elected to at the level of Local Government. So we are moving ahead and I am sure the second level leadership will emerge as we do this.
Q: What made a highly qualified professional to plunge into the turbulence of politics? Is it because of your kinsman Dr. N.M. Perera’s benign influence?
A: Well his benign influence was a factor. But I think I realised very early in my medical career that most of the health problems arose for economic and social reasons such as lack of proper housing, food, unemployment, lack of opportunity for fulfilling the potential of specially young people. All these problems which ultimately led to ill health and the real solution was finding economic and political solutions I thank more than any other factor this is what brought me into politics.