The Sunday Leader

North Needs Freedom And Democracy – Deputy Speaker Chandima Weerakkody

By Rasika Jayakody

In response to the statement on Sri Lanka made by Indian Minister P. Chidambaram, Deputy Speaker Chandima Weerakkody said that every external party should respect Sri Lanka’s independence and sovereignty. Crystallizing the Sri Lankan government’s position on the matter, the Deputy Speaker said, the government is committed to address the grievances of every community, not because external parties are mounting pressure on Sri Lanka, but also because the government truly understands the needs and aspirations of the people on the ground.

He also said any outside interference might hinder the process which the government has already embarked upon.

When asked whether the government does not consider India as an important stakeholder of the problem, he said the government understands the importance of India, geo-politically. “India is an important stakeholder of the problem. It is our closest neighbour and the biggest country in the South Asian region.

But we should also understand the fact that Indian politicians have their own interests. Their elections are around the corner and the Indian government has come under immense pressure from certain Tamil Nadu parties who pander to chauvinistic sentiments. So, some statements made by Indian politicians come out as a result of that pressure. Sometimes such statements do not truly represent the aspirations of India or the Indian government,” the Deputy Speaker said.

Speaking of the multi-coloured nature of the government, the Deputy Speaker said the government had the perfect set-up to formulate a formidable solution. He said almost all schools of thought are represented in the ruling coalition. “Any solution that will come from our government will be acceptable to every community of this country. That is exactly the secret behind our success,” the Deputy Speaker added.

Following are the excerpts of the interview;

Q: Indian Minister P. Chidambaram reiterated that the Indian government is pushing for the full implementation of the 13th Amendment and the Indian Prime Minister might visit Jaffna as per the invitation extended by the Chief Minister of the North. What is your response to this statement?
A: Mr. Chidambaram can certainly voice his opinion and we have no issue about that. But everyone who waxes eloquent about Sri Lanka has to understand that Sri Lanka is a sovereign and independent country. Sri Lanka is capable of solving its internal issues and the government has already embarked upon that process. We, as a government, are committed to address the problem in Sri Lanka’s context and we are of the belief that outside interference might hinder our attempts towards a formidable solution.

If any Indian politician wants to form a separate Tamil state, Tamil Nadu is a better place for that than Sri Lanka. There is no room for separate states in Sri Lanka, and our country is the homeland of every ethnicity that resides in this country. Therefore, any solution to the problem should meet the aspirations of every community – including the Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims. That is what I have to say in response to Mr. Chidambaram’s statement.

Q: Don’t you consider India as an important stakeholder of this problem?
A: Of course India is an important stakeholder of the problem. It is our closest neighbor and the biggest country in the South Asian region. But we should also understand the fact that Indian politicians have their own interests. Their elections are around the corner and the Indian government has come under immense pressure from certain Tamil Nadu parties who pander to chauvinistic sentiments. So, some statements made by Indian politicians come out as a result of that pressure. Sometimes such statements do not truly represent the aspirations of India or the Indian government. And I must add another thing. As much as we understand India as an important stakeholder, we also understand that there are several other important stakeholders too.

Q: Are you saying that Minister Chidambaram is pandering to chauvinistic sentiments ahead of the election?
A: I am a politician and I can understand the expectations. Any Minister or any government for that matter would want to stay in power, and for that they need the support of various elements in the political domain. So Chidambaram is no exception. While we respect his freedom of speech and his perspective on the matter, we also know that Mr. Chidambaram is politicking. Therefore, we have a serious doubt about his bona fides.

Q: Is the government serious about a political solution to the North?
A: Yes, the government is serious about a political solution and that is why we have already embarked on the process. But that does not come as an outcome of any external pressure mounted by another country. We have started that process because the government perfectly understands that the wounds of three decade long war have to be healed. But, when formulating this solution, we have to take many factors into consideration. Also, we need to understand what the Tamils in the North – the people on the ground – need.

Q: As you perceive, what do the people in the North want?
A: Above all they need development and economic prosperity. They need better living standards. At the same time they need freedom and democracy. It is important to realise that they are in the aftermath of a three decade long war and every problem cannot be sorted out overnight. But the government is in the process of resolving their problems. When they were under the grip of the LTTE, there had no freedom nor did they have any democracy. Uncertainly loomed large over the entire province and the economic development was just a dream. Today, after four and a half years, the province has made significant progress on the economic development front and the people are experiencing freedom and democracy. Shackles of terrorism have now been removed and that is the greatest freedom one could ever have.

Q: You spoke of freedom. But, last week, there were complaints that the people in the North did not even have the basic freedom to commemorate their loved ones who were killed in the war. What is your reply to that?
A: One needs to understand the dynamics. We all know that there was an attempt to resurrect the LTTE and glorify Prabhakaran. As a responsible government, we cannot allow such moves. Why don’t you look at the flip side? When one glorifies the LTTE, what will happen to the sentiments of the hundreds of thousands of people who were at the receiving end of the LTTE violence? Do we have a right to hurt their sentiments? That’s why I earlier said there are many factors that should be taken into consideration. So, no one is allowed to glorify or lionize Prabhakaran or the LTTE under any circumstance and that is the unwavering position of the government.

Q: But TNA MPs said even mothers were prevented from commemorating their children who killed in the war. Do you agree with this statement?
A: Any commemoration is allowed as long as it remains personal. But no one can glorify terrorists in public. Also, no one can convert personal commemorations into political celebrations.

Q: If you look at the present government, there are various political parties who represent various viewpoints on the Tamil problem and some argue that with the current set-up the government is not in a position to formulate a strong solution. What is your take on this argument?
A: I think this is the best set-up any government could ever have. Every ethnicity, every community and every group is represented in the present government and they actively contribute to the decision making process. For instance, political parties who represent various streams of thought – such as JHU, JNP, EPDP, SLMC, LSSP, Communist Party – are stakeholders of the present government. At the same time, some politicians who hold key responsibilities in the present government actually came from the UNP. So their line of thinking is also represented in the decision making process of the government. This is a great platform. Any solution that will come from our government will be acceptable to every community of this country. That is exactly the secret behind our success.

Q: While LLRC proposals are yet to be implemented, the government is now trying to appoint a Truth and Reconciliation Commission following the South African model. What is the purpose behind appointing another commission before fully implementing the LLRC recommendations?

A: The government is implementing LLRC recommendations and no one can say we have neglected that. At the same time, we believe there should be an opportunity for people from all walks of life to voice their opinions with regard to the problem. Truth Commission, in my view, will help us unveil the truth and understand the core reasons behind the problem. It will be an independent process that will be carried out without anyone’s interference. Such measures are necessary when finding solutions to a three decade long problem.

Q: Will the Truth Commission be a parallel process to the Parliament Select Committee which has already been proposed by the government?

A: To be honest, I am still not aware of the framework of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. So I can’t say whether it is a parallel process or not. But the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has a huge role to play, as far as representing everyone’s viewpoints is concerned. But this does not in any way mean that the government is turning a blind eye to the LLRC recommendations.

3 Comments for “North Needs Freedom And Democracy – Deputy Speaker Chandima Weerakkody”

  1. S. Makenthiran

    Singhalese should not treat Tamils as second class citizens. A Cypriot type of soltion is the best way to end the problem. Tamils have suffered enough at the hands of Singhalese mobs and armed forces in 1956, 1958, 1971, 1977 1983 and 2009 and is still continuing. India should take the big stick and
    put Rajapakse in his place to stop the genocude.
    Killing of surrendered fighters and civilians, white van abductions, rape, torture, bombing no fire zones, hospitals, schools, temples and refugee camps, forcing 300,000 Tamils into concentration camps, are war crimes for which the Rajapakse brothers, Sarath Fonseka, Shavendra, Chandrasri, Jagath Dia et al should be treid inn international war crimes tribunal.

  2. Sangaralingham

    North is a word to represent the location. They are entitled to do what people inthe country enjoy doing without any restrictions.lighting the lamps for religious reasons is going on for centuries it is hoped southerners know something about. It is absolutely essential the provincial council members send memorandum for all the provincial councils the religious cultural festivals in the. Norths as well as the Tamils Muslims celebrate in the nation. Education of the people is vital. Many does not anything about the country

  3. Sangaralingham

    Talk talk talk let us do and place action in place.it is not political it is social culture all religion property security jobs health all lumped together.

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