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Sunday, 26 June 2011





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Home-grown political agenda vital to counter foreign interference – Ven Rathana Thera

JHU parliamentarian Ven. Athuraliye Rathana Thera said we should have home-grawn political agenda to counter various interferences made on Sri Lanka by some Western countries. If our political agenda is transparent, there won’t be room for any external force to interfere into the internal affairs of our country.

Ven. Rathana Thera in an interview with the Sunday Observer stressed the need for providing a political reply to the TNA at the next Provincial Council Election by giving them a strong signal that the Government is with the people. People are not interested in what the TNA says. They only want their basic needs to be addressed and to achieve economic sufficiency. If these needs are fulfilled, the people in the North and East will always be with the Government.

He said as long as the people in the North and East are with the Government, whatever foreign interference is made on Sri Lanka it will not be successful. The most important fact is to dedicate ourselves to create ethnic harmony between Sinhala and Tamil communities which would help us to successfully counter the LTTE propaganda machinery.

Q: There is an attempt to take the President into custody by certain countries and organisations over war crime charges. Will this ever happen and can other countries do something like that?

A: This is another trend developing in the world which some Western countries attempt to exert pressure on Asian nations, specially countries like Sri Lanka. According to their development criteria, we are still below their targets. Though we show figures of economic growth, according to them we are not a fully independent country. Because we are not in an economic position to do our mega development projects without any foreign assistance. In this situation, Western countries attempt to exert pressure on countries like us. There are two sides to this. One is that they have their military, political agenda. There are a doubts whether we have also caught by a section of this military agenda of Western countries. The Second fact is that some of our political weaknesses have become an advantage to these Western countries. They are using these shortcomings to gain undue advantage.

After terrorism was defeated, instead of building our country as an independent country, these Western countries are attempting to use our country according to their whims and fancies. As a part of it, they exert undue pressure on us. We should have home-grawn political agenda to counter these acts. If that political agenda is transparent, there won’t be room for any external force to interfere into the internal affairs of our country for example, we should stop development activities and give priority to the North-East issue. By doing so, we should provide a political reply to the TNA at the next Provincial Council election by giving them a strong signal that the Government is with the people.

At present the TNA has become the Opposition. The people in the North and East tend to extend their support to the Opposition because they have lost confidence in the Government and not because they are racists. The people in the North and East support the TNA not because of what the TNA says is true. According to our experience working with the Tamil community, most of the Tamil people are not racists. They don’t care what the TNA says. They never comment on any remarks made by the TNA in Parliament. They want their basic needs to be addressed such as housing, electricity, sanitary facilities, roads, education and to achieve economic self sufficiency. If these needs are fulfilled, they will always be with the Government.

What we should immediately do is to formulate a program to fulfil these urgent needs of the Tamil people. If we can’t fulfil it, their socio-economic needs and other urgent problems relating to their basic needs will reflect in the form of racism, because the racist model and mechanism is there. Finally these innocent people will become the victims of this racist mechanism. They turn to that position not because they are racists by birth. What happens ultimately is that these people, will be inclined to express their grievances via racism. Therefore our prime responsibility is to give utmost priority to provide infrastructure facilities and ensure economic safety to these people. Then this problem will be solved. But unfortunately, we are waiting until the roofing sheets coming from India and they construct our houses. As a nation, we should not stoop down to that level.

Under the Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the Security Forces have gained good public response. If we can formulate a plan under the directions of the Defence Secretary in collaboration with civic organisations and other foreign organisations, we would be able to construct a large number of houses for the benefit of deserving people in the North and the East. The Jathika Hela Urumaya constructed 1,000 houses for the tsunami affected people under the guidance of Ven. Omalpe Sobitha Thera. If the Government requests us, we have the ability to get the assistance to construct 1,000 houses with the help of various foreign organisations and Bhikkus in the world.

We did it easily after the tsunami so it won’t be a problem for us to construct 1,000 houses. This will also be a good move to strengthen the good-will among the people as well. It is our responsibility to construct houses on behalf of these people in the North and the East. We have to honestly admit the fact that the people in the North and the East do not have proper shelter or sanitary facilities. If we can fulfil these urgent requirements, the people in the North and the East will be fully with us. As long as the people are with us, whatever foreign interference is made they will not be successful. These foreign forces use innocent Tamil people as their trump card. Unfortunately the Opposition is finding various reasons for it. If our vision and program are stable, the Opposition will also have to accept it to some extent. At present the Opposition is very weak. As a Government, we should not provide trump cards to such weak Opposition.

Q: Loss of lives are inevitable in a war situation. Channel 4 has cobbled up some isolated incidents to prove war crimes. Is this not an attempt to add fuel to the fire and to frustrate harmony in the country?

A: Definitely there is a well-organised conspiracy behind these incidents in Channel 4. There may have been certain incidents during a war situation. When we consider incidents took place in Afghanistan and Iraq, there are so many incidents to prove war crime charges. Of the total population in Iraq, nearly six percent has been killed, and nothing was proved. Al Qaeda Leader Osama Bin Laden was killed, but the problem in Afghanistan still exists. It is very clear that this doctored video documentary is another attempt made to bring undue pressure on our country.

Q: A lot of allegations are made against our security forces in the Channel 4 documentary. What should be our response to this type of programs?

A: First we should complete our welfare activities to enable the people in the North and the East to live. In order to turn society into disciplined one, we should bring forward our Socio- democratic program. Then we can win the confidence of the people. If we want to win the people, steps should be taken to prevent the room created for various external forces to interfere into the internal affairs of our country.

Q: There are allegations against the integrity of the so-called experts of the Darusman committee. Is it advisable to act on its report against Sri Lanka, which suffered for 30 years under LTTE terrorism?

A: We should play our role internationally regarding certain issues mentioned in this report without talking about the Darusman pannel. We have to fulfil our responsibility to explain to the world with details how we conducted our humanitarian mission. The Government has already fulfilled this to some extent. The Government also organised an international defence seminar in Colombo to brief the world how it successfully conducted military operations to defeat terrorism in Sri Lanka. We have lot of sympathetic and sensitive incidents within the war. I do not say these incidents are at zero level. But comparatively these incidents are low. We have lot of evidences to prove that we conducted a humanitarian operation. Therefore we should try to educate and show this part of our humanitarian mission to the world.

Q: Human rights violations, war crimes and ill-treatment of Tamils are all allegations made at the instance of the LTTE rump and expatriate Tamils on whose votes European legislators largely depend. Is it not a hired job that they have undertaken to bludgeon emerging countries?

A: I think we should move towards a balanced approach. As an example, there are lot of Sinhalese people in the UK similar to the number of Tamils there. The situation in the Italy is also same. Most of the Tamils in Europe are also not highly educated or not intellectuals. Therefore we are in a position to launch a campaign similar to the one launched by the Tamil diaspora in those countries. The efficiency of our embassies and diplomatic missions in those countries are very important regarding this. There are over 70,000 well-educated Sinhalese in UK and this number exceeds over 100,000 in Italy.

It is our responsibility to handle them and get their assistance to launch a campaign to counter the campaign launched by the pro-LTTE Tamil diaspora in those countries. Depending on the extent expedite our program to win the Tamil people, interference into our country by some Western countries will be minimal. The best answer is if the Government conducts an election and Tamil people vote for the Government, then the problem will be over. If the people in the North and the East are with the Government, interference or attempt made on Sri Lanka by any foreign country will not be successful.

The persons who represent the Government in the North and the East are very important where this is concerned. If some of those people were useful for the Government at the time of defeating the LTTE, some of them have now become trouble makers to the Tamil people like the LTTE. But I don’t like to disclose their names.

Q: Russia and China have come to Sri Lanka’s help at this critical moment. Should not all developing countries express their concern over the interference in international matters of a sovereign country?

A: In international politics, if we can go beyond our limits and address international issues, we would be able to create our own international network. As a simple example, if we can address issues such as global warming and climate change in a more intelligent manner, we would be able to attract a large number of people in the European countries. We should also play a leadership role regarding common tendencies in the region. Below the President, there should be a good secretariat to build the image of the President as an intellectual and philosophical leader in the region who can successfully address modern social problems in the world. We should also promote the President as the leader of the Buddhist world. We should counter the international network through such a network which expands upto the highest level.

Q: Is it not the duty of our Opposition to stand by the Government at this critical hour of foreign interference? Why do they shift positions every now and then?

A: I think this is due to the fact that we have also some shortcomings. At present our Opposition has become weak. Sometimes the Opposition gets the advantage as the Government also behaves in a weak manner. If the Government is based on a firm program and if the mindset of the people is built in a manner with the thought that the Opposition are traitors, then Opposition would not be able to realise their goal. As long as the blessings of the people are with the Government and they are with the mentality of safeguarding the Government, the Opposition would not be able to do anything.

Q: How can we counter LTTE propaganda machinery and sections of the Tamil diaspora abroad?

A: First we should commence our program within the country. A program should be formulated to further strengthen the amity and friendship between the Sinhala and Tamil community. We should be dedicated to do some work which would pave the way to create an ethnic harmony between Sinhala and Tamil people. That is the most important fact which would help us to counter the LTTE propaganda machinery. The Sinhala people should also contribute towards North-East development. Through our foreign embassies various cultural programs should be launched internationally to build the friendship between the Sinhala and Tamil people.

At present a large number of Tamil people in foreign countries are with the mentality of wanting to come back to Sri Lanka due to the peaceful atmosphere created within the country. Therefore we should have a program to win these Tamil people. Only a small section of the Tamil people are in the diaspora. A considerable number of Tamil people are silent at the moment. At present pro-LTTE Tamil diaspora has no ability to collect funds from the Tamils by force as there is no war. We have a good opportunity to talk to the Tamil people.

Q: Is the JHU supporting the appointment of another Parliamentary Select Committee on the national question? In your opinion, what should be the final aim of such a process?

A: I think it is a very good move. Then it will also be represented by us as well. Anybody can express their views on this question. As a result, the responsibility will be entrusted to Parliament. I think the President should not take that responsibility. Because parliament is the supreme democratic body in the country.

The President should only focus his attention on the views expressed by Parliament on this matter. Therefore the final objective will come through Parliament.

Q: Are you satisfied with the progress being made by the LLRC? Will it lay a firm foundation for reconciliation?

A: I think the LLRC should be activated. More emphasis should be made to commence things which would lead to promote cultural and national integration among communities.

Q: Various allegations are being made that the Government is militarizing the North and setting up Sinhala colonies in the North. What is your comment?

A: This is a very wrong impression given. Of the country’s total land area, one third belongs to the Northern and the Eastern provinces. Though one third of land area is in the North and East, it cannot be declared as a separate right of 12 percent of the people living there. The Sinhala people should also go and settle in these areas. In 1985, there were 25,000 Sinhala people in Jaffna.

Today there is not a single Sinhala person in Jaffna. So the Sinhala people have also been displaced. This indicates, that LTTE Leader Velupillai Prabhakaran has implemented the theory of ethnic cleansing to the letter without allowing even a single Sinhala person to live in Jaffna. In addition, there were about 15,000 Sinhala people in Batticaloa and 5,000 Sinhala people in Kilinochchi. At present there is no Sinhala person living in these areas. Therefore the opportunity should also be provided to these Sinhala people to resettle in these areas as well. When lands are distributed in the North and East, priority should only be given to those who don’t have lands. Otherwise any ethnic group can take priority when lands are being distributed. This should be our principle.

Lands should be given to the most deserving people without considering whether they are Sinhalese, Tamils or Muslims.

Q: There are allegations that certain JHU activists are inciting hatred against other religions. Is there any truth in this?

A: I categorically deny it. The JHU has commenced a Hindu and Buddhist resurgence program. A large number Hindu priests of the North participated in this program. We have conducted several rounds of discussions as well.

The JHU in collaboration with foreign countries has formulated a program to assist the Tamil people. The Hindu people in the North and East have faced a problem where poor Hindus have been forced to convert to people into various religions. Therefore Buddhists and Hindus should be united to settle this problem.

Q: The JHU said when contesting elections that it wants to achieve certain objectives by taking to politics and Parliament. What have you achieved so far in terms of uplifting the Buddha Sasana and other objectives?

A: Our key objectives were to safeguard the unitary status of the country and to defeat terrorism. Terrorism was the key problem which affected the entire nation. But we could eradicate terrorism from our country. Now we have to rebuild the country. Steps have to be taken to safeguard the peaceful atmosphere and environment of the country by turning it to a country which adheres to Buddhist principles. At present we are in the process of creating the necessary background for it. At the 2600 Sambuddhatwa Jayanthi, we introduced the concept of “Panchaseela policy” to the people. Even some of our politicians were temporarily ordained by to some program with Buddhist principles. Emphasis should be laid on the spiritual development of the people. It would provide a very good response. After defeating terrorism, we have entered the stage of rebuilding the country.

We have already completed two years of that stage. Amidst these various foreign interferences, we have to continue our program. I think the Government and the JHU should commence discussions with a broad vision regarding this.

Q: Why is the UNP and JVP being constantly rejected by the people at various elections?

A: When the war on terrorism was going on, both these political parties obstructed. As a result, a negative mentality was created in the people and they were rejected by the people. In future, we would not be able to win elections based on the military victory, we should have a good economic program to take the country forward.

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