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Sunday, 17 April 2011

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No civilians were killed - Dy. Minister Muralitharan

Former bodyguard of the late Vellupillai Prabhakaran, the leader of the defunct LTTE, and the present Deputy Minister of Resettlement Vinayagamoothi Muralitharan has vehemently refuted allegations that the military had killed civilians during the final stages of the victory, two years ago.

"The government adopted more measures, such as zero civilian casualty policy in keeping with international humanitarian laws to protect civilians in a warring situation," he said adding the United Nation's report to be released is "fundamentally flawed in many respects" and as being based on "patently biased" and unverified material.

In an interview with the Sunday Observer Minister Muralitharan said that the UN or those such as Robert O Blake, the U.S. Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs, don't have any right to interfere in Sri Lankan issues as the government could resolve them in a democratic manner.

"The government fought not against the civilians but ruthless terrorists. What is happening now in Libya, where civilians are being killed did not happen in Sri Lanka two years ago, Muralitharan alias Karuna Amman, who was with the LTTE for over 15 years said.

Minister, Muralitharan who visited his 82-year-old mother, Puwaneshwari in Batticaloa to present her new year gifts, said that the, entire country celebrated the Sinhala and Tamil New year without fear. "I never had time to be with my children during those days. We were always ordered to attack military targets rather than celebrating the traditional new year of similar cultural events", he said.

He said the LTTE, never respected Tamil traditions, and did not allow the people to celebrate any events but put them on alert to tight even at auspicious times.

Muralitharan said the entire nation should be grateful to President Mahinda Rajapaksa for restoring peace in the country and ensuring a better future for Sri Lanka.

Excerpts of the interview:

Q: The UN Secretary General Ban-Ki-moon panel has released its report on alleged human rights violations during the final stages of the victory in May 2009. What is your comment?

A: I wish to say clearly that the government troops did not kill any civilians during those days. While the LTTE was killing the civilians who were fleeing, it was the military which rescued them and saved them. We maintained a zero casualty policy throughout the battle and the world has forgotten that it was a battle against ruthless terrorists. The military had never harmed civilians. All those who surrendered have been rehabilitated. Nearly 7,000 of them who have been reintegrated into the mainstream society are leading normal lives today.

Q: Prime Minister D.M. Jayaratne had said recently that some of the rehabilitated ex-LTTE cadres were involved in violence. Does this mean that they are not rehabilitated well?

A: The government's rehabilitation process has been commended by the local and international experts. It is a success story. They are well rehabilitated and doing well to earn a living to rebuild their lives.

The vocational training given to them is very useful for them to find jobs. Some are working in the private sector. In some areas they have started their own businesses as they are given loans by the State banks. There are no such complaints reported from the East.

A very few incidents have keen reported from the North, where some people had committed thefts. What I would say is that there is no possibility at all for the LTTE to raise its head again as the government is fully alerted.

Especially the people of the North and the East don't want LTTE to reappear. They want nothing else but peace and a bright future for their children.

The problem is with the Tamil Diaspora, which is still engaged in a failed mission to show that the LTTE still exists. They try to project some pro-LTTE activity to get international exposure.

Q: Two years have almost elapsed after the complete defeat of the LTTE. Can we continue to blame the Tamil Diaspora for propagating the LTTE ideology?

A: No, all Sri Lankan Tamils in the Diaspora should not be blamed. They have a right to have their own agendas but they should not harm the image of the country and also fuel the attempts to bring the defunct LTTE back to life.

Except for those in pro-LTTE groups, many Tamils have been enlightened and would like to share President Rajapaksa's efforts to rebuild Sri Lanka.

It is sad that the LTTEers such as Rudrakumar and Nadiyawaran are still misleading the Tamils abroad. They are not still convinced that there is a failed mission as the Tamils do not recognize them.

However, the government will not leave room for the LTTE to make a come back. That is why the emergency is being extended every month to maintain law and order. That does not mean that the North and the East is militarized but I think emergency is needed to maintain peace and to give maximum protection to the Tamils. People have now realized that the government has extended the emergency for their own safety.

Q: The government has been talking about getting the support of Tamil Diaspora for the country's development and has allowed it to visit the North and the East to explore opportunities to invest. What is the progress?

A: Yes, it is a successful endeavourer and there is more room to bring more people to government fold. I think our foreign missions should get in touch with Tamils in their respective countries.

The Sri Lankan High Commissioner in Canada is doing a good job.

Doors are open for anyone to meet her. She holds discussions with Tamils in Canada and solves their problems. I have lots of contacts there and they appreciate her work. Tamils in Canada are happy and they are gradually getting convinced of the ground realities.

We cannot change everything overnight but will take time. As the pro-LTTE Tamil Diaspora is still active I think foreign missions have a greater responsibility to enlighten them.

The LTTE had appointed remaining LTTE cadres as leaders to revive its ideology in the respective countries. They are issuing Eelam identity cards among pro-LTTE Tamils under the Trans National government led by Rudrakumar. I don't think their attempts would be successful as the Tamils don't accept them.

It is a joke for many Tamils.

But as a responsible government we cannot neglect them as they are also Sri Lankans. We will continue to talk to them and explain to them that the so-called pro-LTTE groups which cry for the Tamils, have never invested at least a cent to build a house for a Tamil or to educate a child in Wanni. They are shedding crocodile tears only for their survival and also to make their pockets fat. It is time for the Tamils to experience the change and come forward to create a better future.

Q: But Rudrakumar has met Robert O Blake to explain about their Trans National Government. Will this kind of meetings have an impact globally to recognize pro-LTTE attempts?

A: It is their freedom to meet any person or group. But the question is will these meetings help the pro-LTTE groups. No, I don't think it is too late to convince the Tamils. On the other hand Blake is getting too much involved in Sri Lankan affairs. I think these are

unnecessary interferences.

These people cannot do anything to bring back LTTE or get the support of the Tamils. UN agencies are closely working with the government and they have commended the progress made in the post-conflict era.

No human rights violations have been reported since the defeat of terrorism. We have a good record on improving human rights. The UN agencies are the best to judge our human rights but not those such as Blake. I think he is trying too much to involve in Sri Lankan affairs.

Q: However, the human rights groups still accuse the government for the alleged human rights violations during the last days of the battle.

What do you have to say?

A: The LTTE had become more ruthless and continued to kill thousands of innocent people. They failed to reach a peaceful settlement.

The war against LTTE terrorism reached a stage where even the UN wanted the government to conclude the fighting to save lives. The UPFA government brought an end to the 30-year-old war against terrorism. After the defeats of terrorism, the NGO based HR groups were making allegations about human rights violations. Take Libya, where civilians are getting killed. But in Sri Lanka there was no such situation and the government saved over 300,000 lives.

I personally think even the UN is getting too much involved in Sri Lanka's internal issues, which we can solve ourselves. We cannot allow this trend to continue as we are a sovereign nation.

We refute all these false allegations made against us in keeping with the pro-LTTE interests.

Q: Sonia Gandhi wants the government to amend the Sri Lanka Constitution to guarantee the rights of Tamils. Do you think it should be done soon?

A: I too personally appreciate her views. But remember the Indian politicians always talk about the rights of Sri Lankan Tamils during their election time. Once the polls are over the issues will not surface until the next election. Now their elections are nearing and they want to talk more about Tamils to grab the Tamil votes. They will become more concerned with our Tamils in the coming days to attract more votes. I think people are well aware of these tactics and also the progress achieved by Sri Lanka to secure a better future for Sri Lankan Tamils.

I think we are very much more concerned about our Tamils than them.

Q: You said your personal view is that you favour amendments to the Constitution.

A: Yes, we need to amend the 13th Amendment and even President Rajapaksa wants to do so. But at the same time I believe problems of Tamils can be solved through the consent of the Sinhalese, who are the majority of this country. We are only 18 percent and the majority Sinhalese play a vital role in solving our problems. We have to be a part of the government to achieve our goals- development, economic stability and education.

Q: The talks between the government and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) are going on. How do you see the progress of these discussions?

A: Yes, it is progressing and is a good sign that the TNA has realised the truth. It is democracy. The two parties in two different folds are discussing how to work on the same platform to develop the country. They have gradually understood the views of President Rajapaksa, who always listen to their plight and resolve the problems immediately. Whatever the TNA asked, the President showed his concern and did his best to provide them redress.

Some have asked for police powers for the two provinces. This is not practical for a country like Sri Lanka. And the TNA needs to have a practical approach in their demands.

Q: Indian fishermen, who have intruded into Sri Lankan waters, have created unrest among the fishermen. How do you think the government can stop this?

A: I think this illegal poaching should be stopped as the Indian fishermen are taking away our fish resources using their big trawlers. The government has strongly protested to the Indian government over this issue and discussions are going on. Tamils have realized that the government had taken strong action against the Indian fishermen for the benefit of the Tamils in the North and the East. People have appreciated it. The TNA never talked about this issue. During the LTTE period also the Indian fishermen encroached on Lankan waters and the majority of them helped the LTTE in arms smuggling.

Q: Although you said that the people of the North have been convinced they have still voted for the TNA, which you claim has done nothing for the Tamil people.

How do you plan to get more people into the government fold?

A: Yes, though the TNA boasted that they had received the highest number of votes in the North, more people have voted for the UPFA this time. This is the first time after 30 years that the people in the North have voted for the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP). During late Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike's regime the SLFP had a vote-base but later we lost it due to LTTE's influence. We are happy that we have regained it under the leadership of President Rajapaksa.

If you go through the final results you can see the TNA has topped the LG polls in the North but more than half of the people have not cast their votes. LG bodies play a very crucial role in village development and the TNA cannot spearhead development. The LG polls did not bestow much power to the TNA.

The TNA still wants to propagate racism in the North and they called the SLFP, a Sinhala dominated political party. If so how could Minister Alavi Mowlana and I be Vice Presidents of that party. SLFP is a multi-national party and the people of the North have gradually understood that the TNA propaganda is false and revengeful. They can't mislead the Northern people any more.

People know that the TNA could not deliver anything for the benefit of the Tamils during the past so many years and they will fail to do so even in the future. They together with the LTTE pushed people back to the stone age and destroyed the future of the Tamils. Now they don't want anything other than development and a secure future for their children.

They will not allow the TNA or any other movement to destroy these hard-earned achievements. They have reposed their trust in President Rajapaksa as he has a clear vision and a strong commitment to develop the North.

The UPFA has won three seats in Manthai East Pradeshiya Sabha, which was a totally LTTE dominated area. Is not this itself is enough to show that people have begun reposing their trust in the government within a short period of two years?

Q: When will the polls for the remaining areas be held and how do you plan to win them?

A: Though an definite date is not fixed as yet, I think the polls will be held by end of June. We are confident the UPFA will win more seats as the UPFA is getting popular among the Wanni people. The Muslims in the East who had been completely convinced of the development and freedom heralded by the government had voted for the UPFA while the UNP had lost their strongholds in the East. My appeal to the Tamils is to support the UPFA to develop their areas. This is an important election as the development starts from Pradeshiya Sabbhas. People have realized this now.

Q: One defect observed in the recent polls was that the UPFA did not have the experienced politicians as organisers. The other fact is that they are from outside Mullaithivu and Kilinochchi. Do you have plans to re-organize the system?

A: Yes. I agree these two factors had also contributed to the recent polls. We are in the process of re-organizing the entire campaign by appointing experienced Tamil politicians as SLFP organizers. We will open more SLFP offices in Kilinochchi and Mullaithivu. What we have noticed was that the people in these areas want politicians from within to represent them. We have enough experienced SLFP politicians to lead the forthcoming polls campaign to get more votes. We will discuss these matters with the President soon.

Q: What is the progress of resettling IDPs and also restoring the livelihoods of the resettled families?

A: Resettlement is going on very well and only 16,000 IDPs including those who are living in Jaffna welfare camps are remaining in the camps at the moment. Over 52,000 people who were living in the high security zone areas will be resettled and the government is gradually releasing these lands to the people. This can be done depending on the security situation. The other factor is de-mining and at the moment the de-mining in the former battle fields in Mullathivu is progressing.

People are rebuilding their lives with the support of the government.

The State banks have come forward to offer loans. Livelihood projects are on to restore the people's earning capacity. The government is doing its maximum to help these people to rebuild their lives but I want to tell them that the government can give them bananas but they have to remove the shell to eat the fruit. The government cannot do that for them.

With the annihilation of the LTTE, not only the North and the East but the entire country has been progressing towards development during the last two years. Every sector is in progress. Children in the North and the East are doing well in their education and over 80 percent have passed the Ordinary Level and Advanced Level examinations. For example, there is a school in Batticoloa where out of 128 children, 120 have passed the Advanced Level examination. This itself is a record after 30 years. Children are not in a war mentality and free of stress. This has influenced them to be mainly concerned with their education.

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