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DateLine Sunday, 13 January 2008

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Sri Lanka needs no foreign blessings - JHU

To manage our home affairs:

The Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) now a strong ally of the government says that their 'marriage' with the government will not be shaken for the next ten years as President Rajapaksa is leading the country in the right direction.


Pic: Vipula Amarasinghe

JHU Parliamentary Group Leader Ven. Athuraliye Ratana Thera told the 'Sunday Observer' that the JHU never demanded the government to abolish the Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) but requested to ignore the agreement in launching humanitarian operations in the North and East, as it is a dead document.

"The JHU believes that President Rajapaksa is the only leader who told the international community that Sri Lanka can stand on its own to solve internal problems", he said.

Following are the excerpts of the interview:

Q: It is claimed that the government has decided to scrap the CFA to please the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) and JHU. How do you see it?

A: The JHU never demanded to abolish the CFA. Our request was to ignore the CFA and by abolishing it are relieved of pressure from the international community. There is no question about abolishing the CFA as it was an agreement with no use.

However, it was already a dead document and it was actually abolished on June 20 in 2006 when the military recaptured Mavil Aru. We held a demonstration, where over 5,000 people took part and where we urged the government to capture Mavil Aru.

At that point the government embarked on a humanitarian mission and as a result several military operations were begun to free the people from the clutches of terrorism. Our opinion was the government should ignore the CFA when advancing humanitarian operations to liberate people from the LTTE controlled areas in the Eastern Province. We thought by ignoring the CFA and going ahead with these operations would not cause unnecessary international pressure on the government.

Therefore this claim is not applicable to the JHU as we never requested to abolish the CFA.

Q: Are there any other demands by the JHU?

A: We did not have any other demand. What we wanted to do was strategically ignore the CFA. We know that the CFA is illegal but JHU was of the opinion that the government should not react and simply ignore the agreement and continue with its humanitarian operations.

Our main demand, and even the people expect from the President Rajapaksa is to bring an end to the era where the country is drowned in blood, sorrow and sufferings. Therefore, the JHU wants the government to give priority to crush terrorism.

The other fact is the country's development needs to be looked in parallel with solving all these problems.

However, the JHU believes that within next six months the government has to sweep terrorism clean from this country. We should defeat the LTTE. This is the responsibility of the government, which is mandated to ensure the security and the sovereignty of the country under the Constitution.

This responsibility lies with the President and no other organisation can rule this country. We strongly believe that the President Rajapaksa can do that.

Q: The JVP had warned that some foreign powers are planning to interfere into the internal affairs of our country under the guise of a UN peace keeping force. Do you have any information about such attempts?

A: We have to identify who this international communities, first of all. When you were asked what is an University it is everything from students to lecturers to university staff to buildings to library and so on. But the international community is different from that.

The international community doesn't mean all the countries in the world. China does not think the same way that Japan thinks. Likewise no country thinks equally. The politics in these countries differ when they get new leaders. So the international community is not the same. There are different tendencies in US, EU, Australia, and the Middle East.

For example there are different tendencies among the Co-Chairs. I do not think that the US and Japan are thinking the same way about the Sri Lanka's problem. Later we felt that there were some who were positive about our problem. I think the international community is not a single person but several with different ways of thinking.

The JHU feels that there should not be any unnecessary fear among the international community. This means that we should not take the side of those who oppose the US or no need at all to be in their bags. Sri Lanka needs to be independent within our political frame. We should not take sides of any country.

Q: Once you have said that if Prabhakaran can give the due recognition to Buddhism while recognising the rights of the Sinhalese, the JHU would help him to rule the country. what's your comment now ?

A: We have a history, which spans over 2500 years. That is why the JHU wants the Sinhala nationality to be recognised. We have minority nationals. We do not dominate them and they can exercise their rights and rituals freely.

Therefore the JHU will not oppose anyone who can guarantee those rights. Even in our history there are instances where there were Tamil Kings who guaranteed these rights.

They ruled the country well and still we honour them as some of the great Kings we have had. Likewise if Prabhakaran can rule the country in the same manner the JHU would help him.

It is unfortunate to say that after independence the country did not have leaders who knew our rich culture and ruled the country with a knowledge of the country's situation.

They had done several good things to the country but as a whole we did not have a strong leadership which had the commitment to solve the problems of the people of this country.

I think leaders who lack patriotism came to power after 1977. Former Presidents Chandrika Kumaratunga and J.R. Jayewardene were the leaders who sold the country's assets. Main culprit for introducing the present constitution and also for creating a national problem of this nature J. R. Jayewardene who should take to the blame.

The environment for the CFA was created by Chandrika Kumaratunga though the Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe had signed the agreement. She laid the foundation and brought the Norwegians into the scene.

This fight can not be categorized as a fight between Tamils and the Sinhalese, or a UNP/SLFP fight. But it is a fight with Prabhakaran so as to eradicate terrorism. Prabhakaran is a leader who controls an area where the law of the jungle prevails.

We need a leader who can protect the people, who can protect the environment, who can drive the country to development and who can bring about peace to this country. But it is sad to see that Tamils and Sinhalese are fighting today.

We have roots in the Hindu culture and we have taken so many good things from their culture. Apart from this we venerate their Gods as well as. This is the only country for the Sinhala people.

We agree that Tamils also need a separate land but they have to initiate that fight from Tamil Nadu which has over 60 million Tamil population. One nationality can claim for only one country. Tamils are living around the world. So they also need a separate country and they should win that from Tamil Nadu but not from Sri Lanka. Tamil Nadu is their country.

But we can live still in this country together as we had lived for centuries as long as their grievances are met.

Q: You have said that there is no patriotic leader since independence. Are you saying that the President Mahinda Rajapaksa too belong to that category?

A: I think lots of leaders in this country thought everything with a western outlook. Even they see their dreams too in English. But President Rajapaksa sees his dreams in Sinhala. So he has a vision where he can lead this country into the proper channel and bring about peace. But this does not mean that he is the one and only leader who can do so it.

He has his own vision and personality. He couldn't care about the international community. He did not fear to call our country as unitary state and named the LTTE as terrorists.

These things are good enough to realise the work and the responsibility of the President Rajapaksa. He has shown his ability to take decisions to solve our internal problems independently. The JHU believes that he could defeat terrorism and this is the only chance we have to do so.

Q: Is there a demand called by the JHU to ban the LTTE?

A: Still we have not demanded to ban the LTTE. The JHU believes that the LTTE can be defeated without banning the outfit. It is easy to ban the LTTE rather than abolishing the CFA.

What should government do was to ban the LTTE before it abolishing the CFA. The government could easily make use of the incidents - Kebithigollewa massacre or the attempt to assassinate Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa - to ban the LTTE.

The JHU is the party which came out on the roads demanding a ban on the LTTE after they attacked the Dalada Maligawa. Banning the LTTE is very practical as there are so many reasons to do that.

If the government has abolish the CFA now, we believe it is time to ban the LTTE as well.

Q: Do you think that there is evidence to prove that the North and East is a Tamil homeland?

A: No. There are only four stone inscriptions in Tamil which were written by the Sinhala kings which were written to inform the Tamils who came from Tamil Nadu as traders and about the decisions taken by the kings.

There are over 200 inscriptions in the North and East. Ven. Ellawala Medhananda Thera has discovered lots of such inscriptions from the North and East which are yet to be proved archaeological.

Out of all these inscriptions, over 90 percent of these inscriptions states that these regions were under the control of Sinhala Kings. Thoppigala has large number of Buddhist monasteries and it was similar to Anuradhapura.

Q: Norway is blamed for supporting the LTTE militarily and financially. What is your comment?

A: There are so many allegations against Norway for helping the LTTE and being biased towards LTTE terrorists. One is that they have given arms training. They have carried a wide propaganda among international community giving the advantage to the LTTE. Once I wrote a letter to the Norwegian Embassy regarding a telephone conversation they have had with the LTTE but I never got a reply.

Q: Do you think that the government should re-start peace talks or should they find a solution through the APRC first?

A: First an environment to start negotiations should be created. The JHU strongly believe that Prabhakaran should come for talks after he stops the killings and lay down arms.

But, earlier we took part in peace talks without any conditions and that was the main reason the peace negotiations failed. We need to have a good dialogue with the Tamil democratic forces now. We believe that the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) MPs will come for negotiations after government liberates the Wanni.

Though the TNA represents the LTTE and their mouthpiece, when talk privately their views are totally different from the LTTE. The best example is T. Maheswaran. He showed a different face due to the fear of LTTE but in real life he was against the LTTE.

Majority of them need to live peacefully with all communities and they have a feeling that the national problem should be solved democratically.

Q: If the government goes for 'Peace Talks' what do you think will be the conditions?

A: In this respect the conditions mentioned in the Mahinda Chinthanaya about negotiations with the LTTE are very important. It states the need of a certain period to lay down arms and a specific time frame to hold negotiations.

And it also states that the political solutions should be brought with the consensus of the people. No political solution can be implemented out of unitary status. We have defeated the Ranil Wickremesinghe's Federal system and therefore no solution can be brought out of the this system.

Q: So do you think that there is no use of the proposals bring through the APRC?

A: No. The APRC can not do anything to solve this problem and it is just a forum for political parties to discuss the issue.

The final outcome should come from the people and it is with the people, who will decide it through a referendum. Only thing is that the APRC represents majority of the political parties and that facilitate us to come to a common understanding to solve the national problem.

Q: The JHU said that it had joined the government to eradicate terrorism and bring honourable peace to the country. It is apparent that this government is engaged in defeating terrorism. Do you hope to remain in the government and support the government further?

A: I don't think that there are other leaders can take steps similar to those taken by President Rajapaksa to crush terrorism and address the national issue. Think a person from our JHU came to power.

He does not have anything new and he will do the same thing that President Rajapaksa is doing to defeat terrorism and inviting the LTTE for peace talks. He has done his responsibility and we are happy and commend what he did to solve these two main issues to bring peace.

To answer the question about whether we are remaining with the government in the future, the JHU believes that we should join hands with the government at least for another 10 years to develop this country. Sri Lanka is not a poor nation anymore.

Compared to some indices like the latest 'Happy Index', the environmental pollution rates, efforts to curb climate change, Sri Lanka has topped even the developed nations like US and Japan. But the country need a change in attitudes.

Therefore the JHU intends to remain with the government to make these changes and we hope we can achieve them jointly.

Q: You have just mentioned that Sri Lankans are happy people more than the US citizens. Is it fair to come to a conclusion depending on an index to say our people are happy? How can they be happy while the Cost of Living (CoL) is high and the people are struggling to survive?

A: Yes, we know that CoL is high but it is the trend and Sri Lanka do not have an alternative. The CoL is high all over the world country. What I want to say is that this index is not indicating that the whole nation is happy. It says that on average Sri Lankans are happy.

There is no question about CoL. It is high. But our major problem is the attitude. If someone wants to have a luxury lifestyle then the CoL is high.

Q: I am not talking about the rich but the ordinary people are suffering with the price escalations of necessary food items.

A: No. Here we have a mental problem. The CoL is high, it is true. But we need a change in attitude. It is time for Sri Lankans to think new. We talk about the price hikes about bread and milk powder. We should eat more rice.

Over 50 percent of the population of the total population and over 20 percent of the child population are suffering from diabetes due to heavy consumption of bread and other fatty food. So people can make the price hike as an advantage to have better health to eat more rice based food which gives good health.

Q: The JHU has said that the party would end supporting the government if it avoids the measures mentioned in the Mahinda Chinthanaya. What is your comment?

A: No, we believe it will be there for the next 10 years. We want to have a national consensus about how to face the future challenges like development of the country, global warming and its effects to the country. Remember the LTTE is not the only problem that the country faces.

There are other problems which needs attention. Our plan is to have that kind of plan jointly with the President Rajapaksa to address all these issues.

We know that the JHU will be a good forces for that and needs to be a patriotic front. Then we believe that the JHU can go forward with the President for at least 10 years.

Q: Do not you think that the JHU lack that force now?

A: I think that the JHU needs to do more to come to that point. Our slogans will be changed in future. We need to get the support of everyone including those who love the country and environment. We are not a big force yet but a minor party. We need to become a main force.

Q: Do you think that you are heading to the Dharmarajya concept, which was one of the JHU's political pledges?

A: Yes, it is the ultimate goal of everyone. We need a country where the law and order prevails and a country where all the people live in harmony. That is why the JHU wants to be with the President Rajapaksa for the next ten years.

Q: Do you think that the country is internationally isolated?

A: President Rajapaksa came to power without any blessing from the US, India or the EU and many hope to defeat him. But he came a long way with out considering their support and is able to have lots of friends now.

When we were feeble they tried to dictate us but as we are strong without their support and stood on our feet, they have changed and are giving their support more now.

Therefore now we are not internationally isolated but have become more strong. we are able to built a powerful image among the international community under the President Rajapaksa.

Q: What is the fate of the JHU if there is a General election?

A: The JHU got considerable number of votes and we came forward when the country was in misery without a proper leadership. We are happy that the JHU was able to support to build a strong leadership. Remember the JHU is not a political party which will be there permanently.

When there the country is in dilemma we will become a strong force to help the country to become strong. we will help whatever the good leadership to become more strong.

We do not want to be in politics and we like to give up politics soon if there is a good leadership. But the JHU will remain in politics for some more years to strengthen that leadership.

Q: But the JHU's fate will be decided by the people of this country?

A: Yes. definitely they will decide our future. But what we know for sure is that even we lost majority of votes the JHU will not fell to zero. With all loses the JHU will stand up on its own again to strengthen the leadership.

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