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Certain Western countries target Sri Lanka due to hidden agenda - Minister Dinesh Gunawardena

Chief Government Whip and Water Supply and Drainage Minister Dinesh Gunawardena said that it was only a few Western countries which have embarked on an anti-Sri Lanka conspiracy as they are housing sections of runaway LTTEers. Sri Lanka's situation is being targeted obviously because of a hidden agenda. The Minister in an interview with the Sunday Observer said we have been able to bring new life and prosperity to the people of the North which they didn't enjoy under the suppression of the LTTE.

Minister Gunawardena said the Government has accepted the right of the Opposition even if they are elected in the North to work with the Government. We are ready to explain all these forward steps taken since the last UNHRC sessions.

We have made tremendous progress which most countries understand and compliment Sri Lanka. The TNA has wavering political positions because they don't have a vision like veteran Tamil politicians of the calibre of S.J.V. Chelvanayagam. In any crisis situation these politicians always stood for the country. They never put their problems before the country or against the country. Today that Tamil leadership has collapsed.

Excerpts of the interview.

Q: US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Nisha Biswal at the end of her recent

visit to Sri Lanka has said that US will definitely call for a resolution against Sri Lanka at the UNHRC sessions next month. Is the US having a hidden agenda under the pretext of addressing human rights issues in Sri Lanka?

A: Of course. Biswal's statement is very clear that the US does not consider the significant progress made by a country. 9-11 was the most tragic terrorist attack on New York and key places in the USA. Thereafter the US agreed to the UN

resolution to defeat terrorism around the world. They also declared LTTE as a terrorist organisation. One can say Sri Lanka is one of the earliest countries to defeat terrorism through a home-grown strategy.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa gave refuge to 305,000 people who crossed over from LTTE areas and joined hands with the people. The Government also provided necessary protection and facilities for t6herm to get on with their lives. The US is well aware of all these developments and the big step forward that Sri Lanka has made.

We had elections in the Northern Province after a lapse of 25 years. But they ignore all this and keep pressurize Sri Lanka which is attempting to get every citizen's right to live, travel and enjoy democratic rights anywhere in the country. When you consider this, it is clear that there is a hidden agenda.

Q: the Northern Provincial Council's resolution for an international inquiry into alleged human rights violations and US representatives Biswal and Rapp's recent visits are well-timed to create adverse international opinion against Sri Lanka at the UNHRC sessions. How do you visualise this situation ?

A: President Mahinda Rajapaksa was elected as the Chairman of the Commonwealth community. Sri Lanka had

a positive and exemplary period of political and economic stability which is essential feature that any country would see in relation to another country.. But here it is opposite what they are trying to do and the progress made in the North. Those who have been elected today have been elected after the LTTE annihilated all democratic leaders of the Tamil people. But we have held elections and give the new leadership a chance to emerge. But they seems to be taking on very minor issues and hankering after that.

Q: Is the Government adequately armed to face the challenges by human rights crusaders at the forthcoming UNHRC sessions?

A: The so-called human rights groups cannot make judgements only in relation to Sri Lanka.

The reports of Iraq in relation to events by the British maybe such examples which can be brought to the limelight.

But it seems that all that is suppressed and only Sri Lanka's situation is being targeted obviously because of a hidden agenda. We have brought a new life and prosperity to the people of North which they didn't enjoy under the suppression and threat of the LTTE. We have accepted the right of the Opposition even if they are elected in the North to work with the Government. So we are ready to explain all these forward steps taken since the last UNHRC sessions. We have made a tremendous progress which most of the countries understand when they are briefed and they compliment Sri Lanka for this progress made.

It is only very few Western countries which are now embarked upon this issue because they are housing sections of the runway LTTEers.

Q: When there is a democratically elected Government in the country what made the TNA to seek help to resolve their "problems" from India, the international community, UNHRC and Western politicians who visit Sri Lanka time and again?

A: The TNA has been continuously having wavering political positions. Because they don't have a vision like veteran Tamil politicians such as S.J.V. Chelvanayagam. In any crisis situation, they stood by the country. They never put their problems

before the country or against the country. Today that Tamil leadership has collapsed.

One cannot forget however much the TNA tries to say and some Indian politicians attempt to show , it was the LTTE which assassinated Rajiv Gandhi, the young leader of India. This is a fact which everyone tries to forget. But it is a fact which will always come up every moment.

Q: The Tamil diaspora and other Tamil politicians have their secret agenda for "Eelam", perhaps by recourse to violence again. In this context how do you view the demand for the withdrawal of military camps in the North and the East?

A: The defence authorities have withdrawn from most of the areas and have given back lands which had been taken over years ago to protect Tamil villages and for security reasons. Figures prove that military camps are reduced since the end of the conflict. Even in India, the defence establishments are considered as the highest national priority. In India wherever they want to establish a defence base, they give priority to national defence irrespective of the state. Sri Lanka also considers national defence to protect our sovereignty, independence and freedom of our country.

Q: Compared to the magnitude of the development projects launched by the Central Government, the role of the Provincial Councils appear to be minimal. Many have shared the view that the Provincial Councils is a white elephant and a strain on the national coffers. Your views?

A: Provincial Councils cannot play the role of the Central Government. The Central Government has played an important role in economic development and faster growth with the high-tech and IT that is available. Small boundaries have no meaning. Because email, fax, IT or SMS can cut across all provincial boundaries before they realise it .

So the centre can take any decision, collect any data or results and make decisions in most of these areas. But there has to be a participation at different levels which is important. Participation of citizens in development and decision making has to be strengthened. This is one aspect which will make people to share in a democratic state.

Q: Water is going to be a precious commodity in the near future due to the population explosion and its uneconomical use by the people. What is your Ministry's strategy to meet such a crisis situation in the future?

A: At the moment Sri Lanka's water is collected by rainfall and our ground water depletion is standing high. Our surface water collected by rain has to be collected so that we have continuous water reserves in rivers as well as in the tanks.

That will also give ground water a better reserve. Now there is climate change. One cannot ignore that fact. Sri Lanka should focus and take necessary measures..Secondly such things can decrease rainfall which has happened now.

If we don't get rain within the next 30 days, it is going to be challenging specially for drinking water. Even for drinking water, we need water that is released from hydro stations such as Kotmale, Victoria and Laxapana.

If that water is not released in that manner, the drinking water issue will become a problem which means it will affect people. Water for agriculture also flows from the same rivers and reservoirs and bring down from hills to agricultural areas including Northern and the Eastern provinces as well.

These areas also get water from rain and the hill country. I have always advocated for a policy of having all key stations involved in water management, water supply, production should have a close and a systematic plan to overcome any situation.

There are 10 and 15 year cycles and we may have severe droughts this year. But we also must pay attention to soil protection and to forest reserves in the long run. Otherwise even if we get rain, it will not be conserved. Because it is the soil system which would finally collect and preserve water. President Mahinda Rajapaksa has already advised that these sectors should work closely and have a national plan.

Q: NSSP Leader Dr.Wickramabahu Karunaratne has been summoned by Gampaha Police to be questioned on fraudulent nominations submitted for the Gampaha district for the upcoming Western Provincial Council Election. What has gone wrong with the NSSP?

A: I really don't know what has gone wrong. I can't comment. In a way, it is good to realise that the nominations lists under the PR and preferences system can become a farce. Appropriate Legislation is necessary to have a better system.

Q: Principled politics has given way to politicking and demagogues in most of the third world developing countries. Don't you think the much cherished representative democracy is in jeopardy?

A: In a way I would say yes. Because the world has been going behind another era of unlimited consumerism. The survival of the world is reducing. World leaders are accepting this reality. But they are unable to find solutions. We can see the collapse of the Western economy. They are unable to keep their economy growing in this manner. So much more deep philosophy or politics will emerge and represent democratic representation. This is what is most important in today's era.

Q: South Asia is famous for political dynasties. Do you think family politics has served any useful purpose?

A: Family politics is present all over the world, even in the Western capitals. Even today we hear about Kennedys. Even in the

present British Parliament, there is quite a number of politicians coming down from earlier generations. It should not be the sole criteria. But it can serve the country if they could deliver and are qualified to deliver. Because the challenge is that societies are demanding for educated and professional people who can deliver.

This is the criteria. Even in India after 64 years of independence, the Gandhi family and Nehru family are still in force although they have allowed others to emerge. Because some of their families have made an unprecedented sacrifice.

I think that is the sole factor. Sacrifice will always be remembered by generations to come.

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