process Govt. optimistic
viable solution could be found
Minister Mahinda Rajapakse says 'haste' does not pay when it comes to
solving a huge national crisis like the ethnic issue. He says though
there are hiccups in the current peace process, the President and the
UPFA governmentare optimistic that a viable solution could be found
within the unitary character of the country.
also said that the ISGA and core issues must be discussed together,
adding it would not be sensible to split burning issues and try to
further prolong the issue. He also came down hard on police officers
torturing victims according to their whims and fancies. He said the cops
had no right to do this and strict action would be instituted against
those who treated civilians like animals
What is it to be the Prime Minister of a minority government?
Today we are the minority but tomorrow nobody could say what our status
would be. This is not the first time Sri Lanka has witnessed a minority
government. Once before also we have faced this situation, which lasted
only a month. So this time it is far better. We are still governing and
we will continue to do so. Some important political parties have
promised to extend their support to us at the correct time. So we will
not be a minority always.
The peace process has once again hit rock bottom with even the Norwegian
Deputy Foreign Minister Vidar Helgessen casting doubtson the resumption
of peace talks given thatboth warring factions are not willing to reach
a consensus and come together to sit and hold talks? What exactly is the
government planning to do?
The peace process has been in limbo for the past one year or so. Even
during the past regime the situation was more or less the same except
for a few rounds of talks held between both the government and the LTTE.
The Norwegians are working on it and we appreciate their services. Well,
on the part of the LTTE, they have laid down some conditions and some
have been met while some are not yet met.
think with more mediation by the Norwegians we could settle these
outstanding matters too. You see any peace process between either two
nations or parties takes similar form and shape. No country has achieved
ultimate peace without going through a series of setbacks. In that sense
I would say Sri Lanka is lucky because still the peace process is on
without a breakdown though there are some hiccups here and there. These
types of setbacks are good in my view because they become future lessons
for all of us.
Lanka needs to learn more lessons through its own experiences. The
ethnic conflict and the subsequent attempt to find a solution are good
lessons. I am very optimistic that we could come over it sooner or
later. But commitment is absolutely necessary. The LTTE must cooperate
with the government to achieve a lasting peace.
While some within your party accept the LTTE's ISGA proposals the others
reject it. President Chandrika Kumaratunga has accepted to discuss with
the LTTE based on the ISGA proposals. How do you think the differences
within your own party could be ironed out?
Practically thinking, divergent opinions on any given subject becomes
healthy later on because different people air different opinions and
each opinion could be taken once again as a lesson. Finally from what is
said by different people, we could arrive at a solid proposal or
programme that could be a base for anything. So we are not really
worried whether two or three people or parties do not think with us.
Besides, I must say that the UPFA has given the freedom to any
constituent partner to think independently and these partners are
exercising their rights.
The JVP and some others strongly oppose the ISGA proposals of the LTTE.
What is your opinion?
During the Oslo talks both parties agreed to settle down for a federal
system. But subsequently the LTTE put forward the ISGA proposals. As
these proposals were introduced, the proposed federal system that was
discussed at Oslo was forgotten.
what I say is this. Both parties must talk at length and arrive at a
final solution that should not be subjected to changes. Now what if the
LTTE puts forward another agreement and demand that it be considered as
the basis for talks? Can we go on and on like this? I do not believe in
this. If both parties have agreed to a particular system of governance,
then both parties must stick to it under any circumstances. Otherwise
how can you find peace in the country?
The LTTE is also demanding that both the ISGA and the core issues must
not be put into one basket during the discussions, instead they must be
discussed separately. Do you think discussing these two issues
separately at separate forums could dilute the peace process and lead to
What harm in discussing both issues at one shot? What is wrong? At the
end of the day we all need a solution and the country needs peace.
Already the issue has been dragging on for too long and could we expect
it to go further? I think once we sit to talk, we must be able to
discuss and iron out all the matters clearly. By trying to touch on
issues here and there and in bits and pieces you are not going to
achieve anything. We might have to come back to square one. I think both
the ISGA and the core issues must be discussed at once.
When is the government planning to abolish the executive presidency?
We will do it soon. The problem is the support we have in parliament.
But we are very optimistic that we will get the required support to do
this at the correct time. Some parties have already pledged their
support to us at the correct time. So wait and see.
By the end of next year, President Chandrika Kumaratunga will have to
step down, as she would be completing her term of office as the
executive president of Sri Lanka. But strangely the UPFA has still not
nominated or even identified the next suitable presidential candidate.
It requires at least one year for the next potential candidate to build
a character for himself to go before the people. But so far this has not
been done. Why?
You are correct. But the problem we have is the issue about the
abolition of the executive presidency. Since 1994, our party has been
strongly canvassing against the executive presidency and still we
continue to maintain that. So it may be this reason that our leader has
not considered about nominating some one else to contestfor this post.
Anyway ultimately the party has to take a decision on who should be the
next candidate. So far the party has not taken any decision in this
regard. So we have to wait and see. It is the President who will decide
To abolish the executive presidency the government does not have even a
simple majority. Then how is this exercise going to become a reality?
This is why I said we have to wait and see. We are optimistic that we
will get the necessary majority at the correct time.
There has been a rumour that the CWC will join the government. But so
far the Congress has not sent out any positive signal with regard to
this. Are you counting on any other parties for survival?
You wait and see, we will get our support and become the majority in
parliament soon. The government though a minority in parliament, has
been able to spearhead a lot of programmes within the short period of
time. And the parties have established confidence in the UPFA and I
believe more parties would cross over tothe UPFA shortly.
CWC Leader Arumugam Thondaman has already shown his strength by refusing
to support the government in trying to move a no faith motion against
the Speaker. Then how do you intend wooing him to extend his support to
CWC has the right to exercise its own independence. Even if a party
is with the government it is entitled to exercise its independence and
freedom. But you wait and see the majority we will get soon in
The government has not so far given any serious thinking to the ongoing
strikes. For instance the health sector is constantly striking putting
the lives of patients in jeopardy?
I have already told the relevant authorities to take serious note of the
health sector strikes. I understand this reflects badly on the
government and more than this the patients are suffering for no fault of
their own. I think this is unfair. I have told the health authority that
by end of September if they cannot find a reasonable solution, that they
should meet the demands of the strikers in order to prevent patients
the strikers must keep in mind the suffering the patients undergo. There
must be some understanding on all sides, otherwise it is useless.
Strangely police torture is increasing in Sri Lanka and nobody seems to
be taking action to curb this. The newly appointed Police Commission
blames the IGP while the IGP passes the buck to somebody else. No proper
action is taken against cops who behave in an inhuman manner. Why?
I am very concerned about this particular issue. I have read in
newspapers that some police officers are acting according to their own
whims and fancies. This nonsense must stop. I have been strongly
advocating for the protection of human rights from the time I started
politics. The problem is that the present Police Commission has
loopholes and its weaknesses are clearly exhibited through such inhuman
behaviour of the policemen.
strongly believe that the police force must be in the hands of the IGP.
IGP is the final authority and if something goes wrong then the Police
Commission can be informed for necessary action or probing. The Police
Commission should not hold responsibility for promotions or for that
matter anything. This is conflicting. I don't think it is a good idea to
have two bosses for one force. This is why I say that the 17th amendment
was rushed and as a result there are many loopholes.
But even during the election period the IGP recommended some unfair
transfers. So how can the public expect fair treatment if the IGP
himself is going to act partially?
Well, this is why I say that if this happens then the commission should
come in. It is not for the commission to make transfers. The duty of the
commission must be to come into action once something goes wrong with
the police force or the IGP.