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DateLine Sunday, 18 May 2008





Marriage Proposals
Government Gazette

Powers of the EPC must be used judiciously - PM

While calling for the global support to crush terrorism, Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake was emphatic that India’s interest was not to create a separate Tamil homeland in the North of our country.

“India had too many problems of their own in their hands and they simply cannot bear the extra burden”, he said.

Pix: Priyantha Hettige

Premier Wickremanayake told the ‘Sunday Observer’ that Mahinda Rajapaksa government, which believes that the internal problems should be solved internally, will not change its stance of not entering into any negotiation with the LTTE unless and until the terrorists sincerely lay down their arms.

“We need international pressure to crush terrorism”, he said adding that the LTTE has to decide their own future survival as the Armed Forces have been converging on Wanni fronts.


Q: The Eastern election results have brought about a significant victory to the government conveying the message that the Tamils were not with the LTTE. How do you see the entire political battle and its victory?

A: Yes. It is a victory which cannot be measured. And this is a correct signal not only to Sri Lankans but to the world as well, that democracy has come to play its role in the Eastern Province.

The entire idea of holding election was to allow the people of the Eastern province to elect their own representatives to the provincial council so that they will be able to identify their own problems within their areas to address those issues. They will be able to implement those proposals on whatever they decide upon.

It is true that we have to provide funds to them for development of the East and it is not a problem for the government whatsoever because that can be embodied in the 10-year Eastern development plan which covers the Eastern Province.

People of the East were trapped in that particular area until the Armed Forces liberated them from the LTTE. They are innocent people who could not flee from their areas as the LTTE held them behind forcibly.

Now there is a group of people with whom we can talk and we have a mandate for this dialogue. The bridge has been built and this is what the Mahinda Rajapaksa government wants. Most importantly this is what democracy is all about.

What I can say is, it is a good example for regaining democracy.

Q: Can the government tag this election as a free and fair election which gave the Easterners a free hand to exercise their franchise?

A: We say it was a free and fair election. And our claim has been endorsed by the international monitors who were there. Even the PAFFERAL report says as a whole it was a free and fair election.

Unfortunately, it is very common that whoever loses, that particular party or the group, always throw charges at the other party. It is time those who have such claims to act without uttering and holding various discussions and declaring from roof tops that there had been malpractices.

Doors are open for them under our Constitution. If there is any untoward incident that ought to be reported and action taken there are courts to get redress. The people cannot do that, only designated departments will provide relief.

Q: But according to some political parties people do not have faith in any more in the reports submitted by the PAFFEREL because they think that it is biased.

A: That is why I tell them if there is any doubt they can go to courts and get redress.

Q: But the UNP-SLMC Alliance allege that the election is a ‘day light robbery’. Meanwhile the JVP too claim that the election was a fraud and robbery. What is your comment?

A: If it is not fair by any one or any party or a group to go here and there and make allegations. The law of this country is very clear and if any malpractices have had taken place in and election it is up to the party to go to courts and get assistance of the courts and get redress.

Q: Though the government denied that there were no serious election violations, there are accusations of robbery of polling cards, assault on members and their supporters of the Opposition, stuffing ballot boxes, intimidation and impersonation. How does the government face these accusations?

A: I think I have explained it earlier. They can prove these allegations through law courts.

Q: While the election monitors and the Election Chief have endorsed the election as free and fair, the UNP is to take up these issues with the international community. What move will the government take to convey the truth?

A: I have been repeatedly explaining this and it is not the people of this country who can settle this problem or for that matter, those who live abroad. In this country, there is an institution called Courts which have been given the rights by the Constitution to decide on these issues.

Q: Do you agree that the basic requirement for a free and fair election was not met as the TMVP was armed during the election?

A: There were so many elections which were held in this country when certain groups were armed. The LTTE was always armed. All other elections including the Presidential election were held under these circumstances. But I do maintain that only the Armed Forces and the Police have the right to carry arms.

All other groups do not have the legal right.

We have to accept that there were threats to certain people in the Eastern province from the LTTE. But now those people, who received threats from the LTTE, have been elected to the Council. As they are elected members the state will give them security and they, have to hand over their weapons.

Q: So, is there any time frame given to the TMVP to hand over their weapons?

A: No, there is no such a time frame but the moment their names are gazetted they will be given security by the Police or the Army. When the State security is provided they will have to hand over their weapons. They cannot have their own weapons on one hand while having State security on the other.

Q: The Opposition has also claimed that the government has misused public funds as more than half of the Cabinet Ministers, their officials and other resources including vehicles were used at the election campaign. What is your comment?

A: All those allegations can only be decided by the courts of law.

Q: Now the dust has settled in the East, how will the government go about fulfilling the pre-election promises which has now created in a tussle between Hisbullah and Pillaiyan who were instrumental in the victory?

A: That is very clear. The person who is going to be the CM must be the person who could command the confidence of the majority of the group. That is what I can say at this moment.

Q: Is the government ready to face the repercussions if one of them is not satisfied with the outcome?

A: At first I am not accepting the fact that the government had made pre-election promises. Various people can say various things. But that is not the official position of the government.

Q: People in the South do not have faith in PCs as some of the CMs keep silent without exercising their powers given to them in fear of antagonising their political leadership. On the other hand powers in some PCs have been suppressed. How do you devolve powers meaningfully to the Eastern PC under the 13th Amendment?

A: This concept of the Provincial Councils came into existence as a result of an alliance between India and Sri Lanka. It was meant to serve the problems of the North and East but not the South. The entire operation was meant to solve the problems which were prevailing in the two provinces.

Unfortunately this could not be implemented. This system was introduced to other provinces and they may have not wanted it as the problems of those people were not similar to these two provinces. The remedy that was applied to those two provinces had to apply here and it came ‘watered down’ in which powers were not properly devolved.

Now powers have been given to the Eastern province and certainly they should be used judiciously. This process of giving powers to the Eastern province will be given gradually and not immediately. But powers will be devolved meaningfully.

Q: But five schools of the Eastern province were taken over by the Central government just three days prior to the election. So what will be the future of the development projects initiated by the Central government? Does the PC has the powers to carry them forward?

A: No. Under the Provincial Council Act there are some aspects that come under the Central government. Those will remain under the preview of the Central government but those which come under the purview of the Provincial councils will be given to them.

Q: It is said that the former Chief Minister of the merged Eastern PC Varadharaja Perumal was a puppet Chief Minister remote controlled by India. Is there any such influence from India to make Pillaiyan a puppet Chief Minister?

A: How can I answer this question. You are asking me whether the India is going to control this man. Certainly people who get elected will have to manage their own affairs in that province.

Q: Will the relationship between the TMVP and government change once Karuna returns to the country?

A: That is a matter to the TMVP to decide whether they would be with us or not.

Q: Will Minister Douglas Devananda, who is the new Task Force Committee Chairman of the North be the unofficial Chief Minister of the North?

A: What do you mean by the firm unofficial. No, we cannot have people in unofficial capacities. The Chief Minister for the North should be official. This is not like carrying on with a girl and living together. But this, will end up with a marriage, I am certain.

Q: Why do you think India is for the PC system and what are the benefits that they can derive from implementing PCs here?

A: India does not want to have this problem on their hands because they have so many provinces and they have to look after their problems in those provinces. They do not want a separate state in the North because that will create more problems for them. They do not want to see a separate state in their neighbourhood.

Q: Now the government has overcome the first hurdle. What is the progress of overcoming the most priced hurdle - liberating the North?

A: North, is only a question of time. The Armed Forces are quit confident that they can round off liberating the North fast. As you are aware their strategy is very simple. It is squeezing the strength off LTTE little by little. That is happening right now.

For the first, the forces are approaching Wanni from four directions. The LTTE has to face from four fronts now. This is not so easy for them to fight with an army of 90,000. At the rate of their cadres are getting reduced, I think they will be left with no one to fight very soon.

Q: Recently you have announced that there will not be any CFA with the LTTE in the future at all. Will the government after this stance may be under international pressure?

A: No. The government position is that this problem is within our country and that we should settle it. No other country should interfere in our internal affairs. Certainly they can be our friends but cannot involve themselves in our internal matters. The government will not enter into any peace agreement with the LTTE. It is definite.

Q: But if the LTTE is genuinely willing to enter peace process will the government open its doors for them?

A: Yes. If they are so genuine, the LTTE must lay down their arms first and prove their bona-fides. Then we can consider getting into discussions. But the government is not ready to hold talks abroad but the discussions should take place in Sri Lanka.

Q: President Mahinda Rajapaksa during his recent visit to Oxford welcomed the global support to crush terrorism.

A: Yes. We need international pressure to bring the LTTE back to the negotiation table. And especially if there is international support to solve this problem, that means if there is support to destroy terrorism for ever, the government will accommodate that support.

Q: The LTTE has attacked some villages in the eastern region before the election. What are the measures taken to safeguard these villages from massacres?

A: People should realise that in any country terrorism cannot be wiped out completely. Small groups operate in small pockets. Take Ireland as an example, where minor incidents do take place even today. It is impossible to have a total eradication within just few months. It will take about a year or two.

Who is Baddage Dhanu Ratnasiri Wickremanayake

Until his brother’s death in 1959, the young Law student at the Lincoln’s Inn, London did not ever dream of becoming a politician. It was then just three months to go for the Barister’s final examination, when he ‘burnt his boats’ and returned to Sri Lanka.

On a request made by the people of Horana, Ratnasiri contested the Horana electorate in March 1960 elections on the Mahajana Eksath Peramuna ticket and that became his gateway to his decade long political career.

Entered Parliament again in July 1960 he held numerous portfolios and finally became Prime Minister after the retirement of the world’s first woman Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike on August 10, 2000.

“My biggest achievement in my life was the day I was elected as a member of Parliament. I always have my gratitude for my people who had elected me. If not for their vote I would not be here today”, Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake believes that he is in the present position not only because of his strength but also because of the ‘power’ of his people who have implicit trust on him.

“Are you satisfied with the work you done to them ?”

“Yes, but I want to do more not only for my people but also to the people of this country”, that is what Prime Minister Wickremanayake wants to do in future.

Some people want him to celebrate the ‘golden jubilee’ of his political career but the Premier always wants to make that to pay tribute to his people, whom he thinks that pushed him up the ladder hold the mantle of Premiership.

The second most senior politician now in the Parliament Prime Minister Wickremanayake will never utter a word to say ‘What sort of a character he is’. “One can never assess himself. You are the best person to judge me”, that would be his way of telling.

To Premier Wickremanayake the office life and family life are two ‘worlds’. “I never take a file from the office and never brought along a ‘domestic’ problem to office”, he says.

Learned his ‘ABC’ from Millewa Primary School, studied at Dharmapala Vidyalaya, Pannipitiya and later at Ananda College Colombo. The Prime Minister Wickremanayake prefers to walk bare-footed even at ‘gala events’ and is famous for his bold utterance against LTTE terrorism.

“I never craved or pleaded for office. I did my best in whatever work that I was entrusted with.

So I feel I am confident today that I have done my duties well”, he says.

But this strong senior politician who could rattle any audience with his sharp and vibrating voice always wants to be a humble villager. Using a very simple mobile phone and leaving it in his car most of the time, the Prime Minister dials this phone only to call the President Mahinda Rajapaksa or in an emergency.

Dial his residence number. No ‘telephone operators’ at home, the Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake himself will answer the phone, just after four rings. He is a believer of speaking only in syllables while on the phone.

When he is relaxing after his official duties, Prime Minister Wickramenayake is noted to be an avid reader.

The biggest lesson that he had learnt in his political life... guess what ? “Be humble”.

* Eastern victory is priceless.

* Democracy has come to play its role in the Eastern Province.

* Eastern elections were free and fair.

* Those who claim the Eastern polls were manipulated, can certainly get redress from courts.

* Only the Armed Forces and the Police have the right to carry arms.

* TMVP has to hand over their weapons.

* No pre-election promises were made by the government with regard to the chief ministerial post.

* Powers to the Eastern Provincial Council will be devolved gradually.

* Armed Forces attacking the LTTE from four fronts.

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