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Sunday, 31 March 2013





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Minister Ranawaka calls for new Asian brotherhood

Clad in his immaculate white banian and cloth, Technology, Research and Atomic Energy Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka made his debut in the Jathika Hela Urumaya to rediscover a lost heritage. Fully convinced of his convictions, he would tear the arguments of his rivals in debate to shreds or debunk its myth. The Minister in an interview with the Sunday Observer said, “As a country, we should not be worried about the US sponsored resolution passed at the UNHRC sessions in Geneva recently. We have to look forward positively and do whatever possible for the sake of the country and the reconciliation process by disregarding this kind of external pressure.

At the same time, we have to be forearmed and deploy competent people to represent the country at the international fora”.

The Minister stressed the need to build a new Asian brotherhood since Asia would be a great power to reshape the world order. We have to accept this and move forward. We have to refocus on our foreign policy and ensure economic solidarity with Mesoamerica , Africa and the Asian region.

Sri Lanka should refocus on its diplomatic ties with Indosnesia and Malaysia as well. Indonesia would be the biggest economy in the region and also the energy hub in time to come. Indonesia would also be among the ten biggest economies by 2020. We have also to focus on countries such as Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar. Our diplomatic ties should also be extended to the Pacific region.

Excerpts of the interview:

Q: How is it that Sri Lanka lost at the recent UNHRC sessions? What has gone wrong?

A: I think it was something inevitable. The USA, EU and India ganged up and no diplomacy could stop that kind of combination. We should not worry about this kind of resolution. We have to look forward positively and do whatever possible for the country and reconciliation process disregarding this kind of external pressure. At the same time, we have to be forearmed and also deploy competent people to represent the country, so that a consistent policy could be maintained.

Different statistics had been presented about those who were rescued. Some people said 289,000 people had been rescued while others said that it was as much as 326,000. So we should maintain consistent figures and policies to counter various allegations. We should not bother about such things.

Q: Chile and Argentina being socialist countries where no Tamil diaspora activities are reported, have voted against Sri Lanka while Angola, Kenya and Malaysia abstained from voting. Could you explain why these countries adopted such a policy?

A: It is very sad that Korea, Brazil and Argentina are going against us. At present Korea is under serious pressure from North Korean aggression. South Korea has recently signed a military agreement with the USA. Both Korea and Japan have military and trade agreements with the USA on the Pacific region security. So enormous pressure is exerted on Korea and Japan. We appreciate the manner Japan is handling things. They support our reconciliation process and development priorities.

They have supported us immensely. It is very sad that Korea is going against us. We understand what happened during the past two or three weeks in the Korean peninsula. There is a serious war climate due to USA pressure. We can’t understand Brazil’s and Argentina’s stance though they are socialists and somewhat anti-USA. I think there is some kind of diplomatic loophole there, which we have to address. We should refocus on our entire diplomatic and economic ties.

We are only focusing on North America and Europe. Latin America and the Central America which we call Mesoamerica are changing rapidly. Brazil is having a serious economic amity with Argentina. They have also a kind of anti-American stance like Cuba and Venezuela as far as their foreign policy is concerned. There is a huge market there for us to focus on. There is a problem in Malaysia due to elections.

The ruling party in Malaysia UMNO is under enormous pressure from Indian-origin Tamils and as such they are trying to avoid this situation. Nearly 10 to 14 percent voters in Malaysia are Tamils of Indian-origin. But they were not going to vote against us. It is a serious problem to be concerned with. I think we have to refocus on our diplomatic ties with Indonesia and Malaysia. Indonesia would be the biggest economy in this region and also the energy hub in the near future. Its economic growth was enormous specially in the last decade.

I think Indonesia would be among the ten big economies. We have to re-focus on the Indonesian archipelago and countries such as Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar in addition to the Pacific region. These countries are important as far as the economy, trade and other areas are concerned in a rapidly changing world.

The economic centre of gravity is now moving from Europe and North America to Asia, specially the Pacific-Indian Ocean. So we have to revisit our foreign policy and focus on these countries specially India and the Malaysian archipelago. It would be the energy hub. We have also to focus on Libya and Sierra Leone. They are all Islamic countries, but they voted against us. What is the reason? We have to revisit these countries.

They are moving away from USA’s sphere of influence. My view is that we have to build a new Asian brotherhood because Asia would be a great region in this century to re-shape a new world order. We have to ensure economic solidarity with Mesoamerica, Africa and the Asian region.

We have to refocus our economic ties with various States such as Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat separately, because India is a kind of federal State where the State actors are thinking in an independent way. We also have to keep in mind the Buddhist community there. It has become a large community because of Dr. Ambedkhar’s influence. According to the Indian Constitution, over 22.5 percent are low caste people called, Harijans the untouchables. Most of them are Buddhists. Mayawati became the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. Maharashtra is the biggest political bloc. Still Mumbai and Delhi are the centres of the Indian political arena. So we have to foster close relations with these two political centres.

Q: US Assistant Secretary of State Robert O. Blake in an interview to BBC has said that the US has stressed the need for reconciliation and to deal with human rights violators to bring lasting peace to Sri Lanka. Your comments?

A: At the very outset, I have to say Blake, the entire American bureaucracy and politicians should go before the international criminal court. According to their own war logs, they have killed 109,000 people in Iraq alone. According to their so called ten year progress report on Iraq, they have already accepted that at least 138,000 people have been killed in Iraq. It is about 132,000 to 600,000 people. Is Blake going to punish those responsible? Are they not war criminals? In Afghanistan, they have killed over one million people. In drone attacks alone, they killed 46,000 innocent people in Pakistan and destabilized the entire region.

The economic impact for the USA is now about US$ 1.4 trillion. The public debt crisis and fiscal cliff which the USA is facing now is due to this so-called intervention under the pretext of human rights and R2P concept. Blake and others don’t have any right to intervene in the internal affairs of other countries.

We should have our own mechanism. We had formulated an action plan and we are now in the process of implementing it. What would have happened if Prabhakaran was still living? If Prabhakaran had been there from 2009 to date there would have been 3000 to 5,000 killings a year in this country. Now we have completely stopped this killing spree. At least the US has to commend it. Robert O. Blake should realise two things.

One is that he has no moral right to talk about Sri Lanka’s accountability issues, since they have committed serious human rights violations as far as the humanity and the human history is concerned.

The other is that we had been fighting a terrorist war on behalf of the USA, because we defeated the LTTE and as such the LTTE’s technological know-how and other expertise could not be provided to other countries or international terrorist organisations. Blake should not forget that the Al Qaeda used the same technology to attack the USA. All Generals in USA say that the war in Afghanistan, Iraq and Yemen is unwinnable. Talibans don’t have fighter planes, submarines or armoured vehicles. We gave them a serious moral boost. They should take us as an example to defeat terrorism. They can learn from us. That is what Blake should actually do.

Q: Tamil Nadu authorities seem to be at an “undeclared war” with Sri Lanka specially after the recent US resolution in Geneva. Even cricket is not spared from politics. Is there a way out of this deadlock?

A: As a responsible nation we should deal with Jayalalithaa and Karunanidhi appropriately. We should not resort to attacks on Tamil people here, Tamil Nadu people or Indian businessmen. We are a civilised country not like Tamil Nadu. It is not only our cricketers, but they also protested against President Mahinda Rajapaksa when he visited India. Our Bhikkhus had been attacked. It should not be against individuals. It is the dignity of this country. They disregard our sovereignty, self-respect and existence. So we should act in a very non-violent manner.

I would say it should be a kind of economic and social noncooperation with Tamil Nadu. From 2011 to date, Sri Lankans were attacked and harassed every day.

Sri Lankan businessmen have been chased away. These are not random incidents. I would say the Indian politicians mollycoddled and armed the LTTE which in turn killed Rajiv Gandhi. This Tamil racism which both BJP and Congress are now promoting will bite BJP’s and Congress’ hands. They are going to form an armed struggle to carve out Tamil Nadu from the Indian continent.

Q: The British Government has instructed its nationals visiting Sri Lanka to be cautious in view of the “nationalistic sentiments” active at present. Your comments?

A: Actually nothing will happen against the British people. They invaded and caused serious damage to our country. They killed over 100,000 people in 1880 and 1818. They destroyed our environment and ecological system. They forcefully imposed their economic and social system on us. I am not going to comment further on this issue. They have to secure themselves from Al Qaeda and other terrorist organisations. I think the British people who know about Sri Lanka will visit the country without regard to the so-called travel adversaries.

Q: According to Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe one reason for anti-Sri Lanka crusade in Geneva is that LLRC recommendations have not been implemented. Is not the Opposition Leader fishing in troubled waters?

A: Actually this Opposition Leader is not the Government’s Opposition Leader. He is anti-Sri Lankan. This is the UPFA Government. But he is anti-state and not anti-Government. So he is the anti-State Opposition Leader. He is representing TNA, LTTE, Muslim fundamentalists, Western powers and Tamil Nadu as well. He is not the Opposition Leader so long as this Government is in power.

Q: Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa’s resolution to take back Kachchativu island had been unanimously passed. Kachchativu issue was settled long ago on Sri Lanka’s claim-being proved on historical evidence. Could you elaborate on this?

A: When Kachchativu issue was raised in the 1950s, Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru gave a very good answer to it. This is not big brother’s or small brother’s problem, but he gave over Kachchativu to Sri Lanka. Actually its a kind of brotherhood.

There would be small or big issues coming up as far the brotherhood is concerned. If they are trying to instigate things, I think we should not hesitate to reciprocate. Tamil Nadu should know that this country has been in existence for centuries. We are not under their influence.

We have our own language, civilisation and identity. We have to further improve our relations with Pakistan, Bangladesh, China and other emerging countries. I red in an article that direct investments in Tamil Nadu have dropped due to this so-called agitation.

There was a serious demand in India for technically-educated Tamil students. Now it has dropped because of these agitations. A self-destructive phenomena is being promoted by Jayalalithaa and Karunanidhi. Sonia Gandhi, Jayalalitha and Karunanidhi are talking about an independent and credible investigation.

Yes, we are for that. But these things should be investigated from as early as 1983 to ascertain how Tamil Nadu supported the LTTE. We call upon to initiate this move from Jain Commission itself which was appointed to investigate Rajiv Gandhi’s killing. People like Karunanidhi and Ramdas also gave evidence before this commission. So please investigate how the Indian people’s tax money was used to harbour the world’s ruthless terrorist group, the LTTE. They should go before a mirror and identify themselves as culprits of the carnage in Sri Lanka.

Q: Halal has been interpreted differently by people including parliamentarians. Could you explain how the JHU’s stand differs from others?

A: As a party, we are for cultural diversity. We are not going to attack other people’s cultural identities. Some people try to portray that the JHU is going to attack Islamic cultural identities.

But every religious organisation should know that its identity is a relative concept. On September 6, 2007, the Consumer Affairs Authority had banned the issue of Halal certificates by Jamiyyathul Ulama.

So after September 06, 2007, it is illegal to issue Halal certificate to industries and other products by Jamiyyathul Ulama. Halal is a kind of standardization process and it is not a logo. It is not separated from swine-related food items. Transportation, buildings and clothes should be Halal. It’s not only confined to foods, but it is a complete way of living. In the modern world, we can’t simply think like that.

For example, take fossil fuel, oil, gas or coal. These are actually fossils of biotic forms specially the pigs’ and the swine. Are we not going to use these things because swine fossils are there? We can’t segregate things in this way.

We should have some pragmatic approach to this. Some extremist elements among the Muslims are trying to impose these things on the society. Moderate Islam should come up with a solution to have its desired food but should not impose such things on others, because 91 percent of the country’s consumers are not Muslims. We can’t buy only non-Halal items in the market because of this.

The SLS certification has been issued only for 453 products while the Halal certification has been given for 4,600 products. There is a huge pressure from the market to convert products into Halal. Now it’s turning the other way about and people are not going to buy these products because of Halal. This is not a hate campaign. This is a very liberal country and they can’t segregate this country on religious lines. No one should be allowed to issue religious symbols on consumer goods.

No one should be allowed to divide this society using religious laws. People should respect each others’ religions and realise that there is no absolute diversity or identity. These are relative things. So they have to accept the rights of others. The issue of Halal certificate to consumer goods by Jamiyyathul Ulama is against Quran, legal system and social harmony in this country. They should withdraw it. The learned Muslims should devise a new mechanism to get their dietary requirements as provided in the Quran.

Q: Some outsiders insist that an environment conducive to Tamils to live in dignity be created in Sri Lanka. What does this mean? Are there any rights or privileges enjoyed by Sinhalese and Muslims but denied to Tamils?

A: This is actually a stereotype propaganda. They are talking about Black July. In 1981, before the Black July, the Tamil population in Colombo was about 23 percent. After the Black July and all those so-called activities against Tamils, the Tamil population in Colombo is 33 percent today. So they are enjoying themselves living with the Sinhalese.

Actually Tamil people themselves have rejected that norm. On the other hand, the Sinhalese and the Muslims could not live in Jaffna. They were ethnically cleansed. So what is the problem in Sri Lanka? In all other parts of the country, all the communities can live in harmony. In the Colombo district alone, 240,000 Tamils live. How could it be, if there was any kind of discrimination or hate campaign against the Tamils? Tamil people themselves have proved that specially the Sinhala majority areas are more conducive places for them to live in than their so-called homelands.

Q: In the context of national development, what is the role of your Ministry’s technology and research component? Are there any programs launched under this?

A: There are hurdles in the country’s development history. It was a serious challenge for many countries to achieve a per capita income of US$ 1000. Technically-aided products should be made and the manufacturing process should be automated.

If we are going for a per capita income of US$ 4000, we should have a high-tech economy. Economic and technological trends should be converged to form a new economy called innovation economy.

There are four tools for this innovation economy, namely nano technology, biotechnology, information technology and neuro-science technology. Since 2006 we have initiated nano technology and we have to do a great deal to achieve our targets.

Actually we missed the bus on biotechnology and information technology. We have to reinvent and recharge our direction towards them. We have not done anything in the field of neuro-science. Our focus is to create a conducive environment for an innovation economy. To do that, we have to use these four tools to improve and enhance our economic products.

Q: You are well known as an outspoken politician who sticks to the policies, despite being unpalatable rather than compromising your policies and long-held convictions. What are your comments?

A: I am a professional. I wanted to change the tide. At times, I go against the existing current. We are trying to change this society and the world through our actions.


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