Lanka’s political parties committed to abolishing EP
Source Daily News
Sri Lanka’s political parties are united on the need for restoration of democracy in Sri Lanka, removing the executive presidency and national reconciliation, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said in an interview with Thanthi TV.
Excerpts of the interview:
THANTHI TV: There was a perception that the previous regime was largely in tilt towards China. Is the era of Pro-China tilt over today?
Ranil Wickremesinghe: As I told you, we have no Pro China tilt; we have No Pro India tilt.
THANTHI TV: I’m asking about the Previous Govt. There was a perception that the previous regime had a pro-china tilt.
Ranil Wickremesinghe: Because they had a strained relations with the west. They relied on china for all the economic assistance .But in our case, while we welcome Chinese investment & assistance, we will also be getting investment assistance from other countries. There won’t be a tilt as far as UNP is concerned, President Sirisena is concerned & other parties in the National Govt. are concerned… As a result of how they conducted their foreign policy, there is a general feeling that Rajapaksa regime had tilted towards China.
THANTHI TV: Your Position on the Port city project has now triggered some doubts.
Ranil Wickremesinghe: No doubt. I’m the first person to raise the Port city in the Parliament… I asked for the reports. Now we have appointed a committee to go into the port city & to make a report. Depending on the outcome of the report, we will decide what our measures are going to be. But once we get the report, we will also give a copy of it to the Chinese Govt. & then commence discussion
THANTHI TV: You had spoken about the scrapping of the project. , but now….
Ranil Wickramasinghe: I still think if the report is adverse, then the project should be scrapped.
THANTHI TV: If the report is adverse, the port city project should be scrapped?
Ranil Wickremesinghe: if the report is adverse, we have to scrap it. But then, we want to hear all parties. My contention on the report has not been tabled… Hear all the parties & take a decision.
THANTHI TV: I must definitely ask you about the resolution that the Northern Provincial council of Sri Lanka has now passed. The allegation is that the successive Governments of Sri Lanka have been committing genocide against the Tamils. What is your response?
Ranil Wickremesinghe: Very very irresponsible statement by the Chief Minister. I don’t agree with it. Makes it difficult for us to communicate with the Chief Minister when he passes resolutions like this. This will be the same position in India, if a Chief Minister passed resolution accusing Delhi of committing Genocide. I have been dealing with Mr. Sammanthan &the members of the TNA resolving the issue. Yes, there was a war, people were killed but on all sides. Remember just as much as Tamils got killed. There were Muslims & Sinhalese were killed.
THANTHI TV: But the Magnitude was high on the Tamil side
Ranil Wickremesinghe: Yes… Muslims were killed in the east…they were Tamil speakers, not Sinhala speakers.
THANTHI TV: But the Magnitude sir. ! The numbers?
Ranil Wickremesinghe: Magnitude high…Yes… But remember some of the Tamils were killed by the LTTE… LTTE wiped out the Political leadership of Jaffna. All the TULF & other members were killed by the LTTE. No Tamil politicians were killed by the Security forces of Sri Lanka. Many of the Jaffna’s leadership were killed by the LTTE. You ask the people of Jaffna
THANTHI TV: Going by the UN Report, the large number of the killing were done by the Sri Lankan forces.
Ranil Wickremesinghe: UN report talks of the last phase of the war, where large numbers of people were killed. The numbers are in dispute. UN report says 40,000…Some of the official reports say 5000…
THANTHI TV: The diaspora says, it could be closer to a lakh or so.
Ranil Wickremesinghe: No… I would not say… I don’t think it would come even up to 40,000… We are willing to verify it. Sri Lanka had to fight a war…LTTE used the civilians as a shield… Then what happened there, is what we have to inquire into… Was it that they were used as a shield & you couldn’t avoid the casualties or was it that you could avoid some casualties & you dint do so. We are not trying to cover any thing up. We have got the UN; we are dealing with the UN
THANTHI TV: So, You deny the charge that there has been genocide against the Tamils ?
Ranil Wickremesinghe: I would say large number of people of Sri Lanka, including a large number of Tamils have been killed in the conflict. Some of them are casualties of war. Some are killed for no reasons at all. Deaths have been partly due to the operations of the Sri Lankan Army, security forces, partly due to the operations of the IPKF, partly due to the operations of the LTTE…
THANTHI TV: You accuse Rajapaksa of paying money to the LTTE?
Ranil Wickremesinghe: That is a fact even Rajapaksa has not denied… Prabhakaran took money…
THANTHI TV: You blame Prabhakaran for Genocide?
Ranil Wickremesinghe: I blame him for having destroyed, decimated the Tamil Political leadership.
THANTHI TV: There are allegations on both sides
Ranil Wickremesinghe: We have said, we are willing to have an Inquiry. We have no problem
THANTHI TV: Why not an International enquiry sir?
Ranil Wickremesinghe: Because, Sri Lanka like India is not a party to Statute of Rome, therefore Jurisdiction lies with the Domestic courts. There was problem with the Domestic courts, as to whether the courts are Independent, when the Chief Justice was moved out. We now have the same standards like India. India would say the same stand as us… We are willing to have an Inquiry, if they want to have foreign observers; we have no problems with it at all.
THANTHI TV: Are you and Rajapaksa are not on the same page?
Ranil Wickremesinghe: I’m not on the same page with Rajapaksa
THANTHI TV: On the International enquiry? He also spoke of a Domestic process credible to the International community
Ranil Wickremesinghe: I’m on the same line with the Government of India. As far as Jurisdiction in criminal & legal matters is concerned it lies with the Republic of India & with Republic of Sri Lanka as neither of us has signed the Statute of Rome… I’m the one who refused to sign the statute of Rome. But I’m prepared to have any amount of trials in Sri Lanka. We have to ensure that Judiciary is Independent… If anyone wants to come in, Human Rights Watch or any one, they are completely free to come into Sri Lanka, which was not allowed by Rajapaksa. If there is a request for an enquiry in Sri Lanka, We can talk over it with the Human Rights council. Let’s see what their final report…We are willing to discuss with them… All we are saying is Jurisdiction for trials lies with the Government of Sri Lanka just as much as in India it lies with India, in America it lies with the USA. Remember that these are all Governments that did not sign the Statute of Rome. Therefore, if Human Rights Watch wants to come tomorrow they are free to come. I will say yes. As far as UN is concerned, if they make recommendations, certainly we have to consider & talk to them… We have invited the High Commissioner. If someone else makes a request… No….When we had problems in the South in the 1989 & 90, they asked for International enquiry… I said No; the person who asked for International enquiry was a person by the name of Mahinda Rajapaksa.
THANTHI TV: He was wrong?
Ranil Wickremesinghe: I said No International Enquiry. If the UN Human rights commission wants an inquiry, I’m willing to talk to them. But I invited Human rights watch & others to come to Sri Lanka… (After the uprisings in 1989&90)They all came to Sri Lanka. The Congressional staff came to Sri Lanka… We have nothing to hide. We know terrible incidents have taken place…More than 100 Thousand people have been killed. There were uprisings in the North & in the South… I don’t think any country had gone through that. At one stage our Jurisdiction was limited to a few cities where uprising in the North & South had taken place same time. We just wanted to put it behind us. Any Inquiry that helps us to put it behind us, YES. The Only people who can talk to us about an Inquiry are the UN council on Human rights…
THANTHI TV: That’s right…But the Office of the High commission has recommended an International enquiry… Office of the Human rights commissioner wants it.
Ranil Wickremesinghe: Yes. President Rajapaksa turned it down. But When Ms. Pillay came to Sri Lanka; I met her & I said, make your recommendations… If we are in The Government we will consider it. But again I told her Domestic jurisdiction is different. You’ve got to draw a line between what is domestic jurisdiction & what is the enquiry…In the case the enquiry , It is a body like UN That can ask you for an enquiry & the Govt. can respond by saying ‘No’ we are not going to have an Inquiry or say Yes, we are willing to talk to you on that. If the UN report says so, we are willing to do that.
THANTHI TV: If the High commissioner insists, you would consider?
Ranil Wickremesinghe: We want an Inquiry. As far as Jurisdiction is concerned, Jurisdiction is a matter for Sri Lanka. As far as the Inquiry is concerned, it is not me; it is President Rajapaksa who agreed with the Secretary General of the UN that there shall be an Inquiry that meets the International standards. It is the same resolution which he got the member states to move in the UN Human rights council. Whatever commitments President Rajapaksa gave in writing to the UN secretary General & UN Human rights council, we will honor… I have no problems about that.
THANTHI TV: Do you think he has not honoured the promise?
Ranil Wickremesinghe: He did not allow an inquiry.
THANTHI TV: Chief Minister CV Wigneswaran largely blames you for decision to retain the army in the North. He says you are playing obsolete political tactics for electoral reasons … Do you deny the charge?
Ranil Wickremesinghe: Army is in all parts of Sri Lanka. I don’t find any reason why the army should go out of any district in Sri Lanka, there are district head quarters in every part of Sri Lanka, and actually their structure is based on the India one.
THANTHI TV: But the army civilian ratio in the North is appalling
Ranil Wickremesinghe: I know that…what we have said is – as far as we are concerned we are not pulling the security forces out of any place unless we see improvements ..But at the same time there is lots of land that can be released to the people in different parts of the country. We have started with the thousand acres now the TNA said there has been an agreement in court over another two thousand acres, I just handed over to the attorney general .They have raised the issue of people in Mannar, we will go into it and Killinochi. We said lot of land has been utilized for other purposes. In Sampur we have handed the re-settlement to the people in Sampur…then in Panama we have resettled that issue that’s for Sinhala farmers whose lands were taken away so that they could build VIP chalets e. We are starting the process but remember this cannot be done overnight…it will take some time
THANTHI TV: But he blames the slow pace.
Ranil Wickremesinghe: I told you that I disagree with him. He is irresponsible and he will have to explain himself for the Tamil speaking people. Lots of Tamils are today criticizing him. I am dealing here with the TNA members of parliament, if it is at slow pace they need not come weekly
THANTHI TV: This is not the TNA’s demand alone the UN high commissioner has also been demanding this… international community has been demanding this.
Ranil Wickremesinghe: UN high commissioner wants the lands restored .They say immediately and I have asked him to come, it has to be gradual. First we have to be satisfied with the security situation secondly we have to decide what happens in the rest of the country, but it was not a question, we never said in the 100 days manifesto which everyone voted for about pulling troops out .It was a security decision, we said about restoring lands to the people in all parts of Si Lanka.
THANTHI TV: But what stops you from doing that
Ranil Wickremesinghe: Nothing to prevent us. All the land that is not required will be done
THANTHI TV: But the ratio? Army civilian ratio in the North is not proportionate to the other parts of the country.
Ranil Wickremesinghe: Army civilian ratio will be adjusted as time goes on. No one has said it is going to be that high all the time. Isn’t Vigneshwaran playing politics? It is utter irresponsible statement of a Chief Minister.
THANTHI TV: He has a line of two in praise of the president why do you think he blames you.
Ranil Wickremesinghe: He never even spoke to me on anything. Today you ask him again to repeat it. I’ll be going to Jaffna
THANTHI TV: He said you had told him that you had told the (Mahanayakas) Buddhist monks that you are not going to demilitarize the North.
Ranil Wickremesinghe: I never told him anything. Wigneshwaran never dealt with me. He has never dealt with me.
THANTHI TV: He gives minute details, you smiled and said…
Ranil Wickremesinghe: He came only once when I was in the opposition. I have not dealt with him. I have no dealings with Wigneshwaran. He is a liar!
THANTHI TV: There was no meeting between you and Wigneshwaran recently?
Ranil Wickremesinghe: Wigneswaran sent me a letter
THANTHI TV: The content of his speech was….
Ranil Wickremesinghe: I have not spoken to Wigneshwaran. I don’t discuss Jaffna with Wigneshwaran. I discuss it with TNA in the parliament.
THANTHI TV: You did not smile?
Ranil Wickremesinghe: I would have smiled at him. He was a man who went and grabbed Rajapaksa here; he was willing to do a deal with Rajapaksa. I have not dealt with him. I have never had dealings with him.
THANTHI TV: As chief Minister he has to deal with the president.
Ranil Wickremesinghe: No he has never come even otherwise as Chief Minister he never dealt with me as opposition. Wigneswaran has had no dealing. If he said so he is a liar. Next time I go to Jaffna, I will not meet him… I am going in the March.
THANTHI TV: You are not going to meet him.
Ranil Wickremesinghe: I will not meet him unless he withdraws that …I will not meet himTHANTHI TV: On the autonomy issue & the full implementation of the 13th amendment, how do you propose to go about it further?
Ranil Wickremesinghe: We are implementing it, we are looking at how it is going to function in regard to independent commission and a concern which has been raised by a lot of people about the politicization of the police and whether the independent police commission is sufficient to depoliticize the police and whether we should take other steps to depoliticize the police. The fear is that the police will become private armies with the chief ministers. We haven’t got the precedent of India. Politicization of the police at the center by president Rajapaksa has given that fear.
THANTHI TV: The other concern is about the merger…Would you consider the merger of the north and the east?
Ranil Wickremesinghe: The constitution of Sri Lanka provided for 9 provinces and that any mergers requires a referendum in both those provinces
THANTHI TV: But it is an integral part of the accord
Ranil Wickremesinghe: It is not a part of the accord. It only acknowledged merger for 1 year… temporary merger for 1 year and in 2005 Rajapaksa said I will not have a merger and Prabakaran supported him.
THANTHI TV: That is a conspiracy theory.
Ranil Wickremesinghe: Whatever it is… it prevented the Tamils from voting. If you want a merger of any two provinces or more 13th amendment provides the way. You can have a merger. That is the provincial councils must vote in favor of the merger and must be supported by the majority of the people.
THANTHI TV: You talk about the full implementation of 13th amendment without the merger, without the police powers….
Ranil Wickremesinghe: Merger is not a part of the 13th amendment as the way you say. No one said North and east are going to be one province; it was a temporary merger for 1 year under the Indo-Lanka accord and any merger there-after will have to be by a referendum. President Jayewardene said I am going to hold a referendum and I will campaign against it. The day he was with Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi he said it…
THANTHI TV: Are you for referendum now?
Ranil Wickremesinghe: If the two provincial councils want a referendum, then we will hold a referendum
THANTHI TV: you are okay?
Ranil Wickremesinghe: If the two provincial councils… Not only there, if two provinces anywhere want to merge and the pass it then we have to agree.
THANTHI TV: If there is a resolution passed by North and Eastern provincial council pass a resolution in demand of a referendum, the central government is okay?
Ranil Wickremesinghe: Then the central government must hold a referendum. If the western and the North western province want to merge, we will have to hold the referendum. You can’t pass constitution amendments. There are supreme court judgments so if they have the majority, let them get the majority and do that and I didn’t say no police powers I said relationship of the head of the government to the police and the chief Minister to the police have to be reconsidered in the light of the need to depoliticize the police. I didn’t say it is only Chief Minister I said the head of government also.
THANTHI TV: On the fishermen issue…This is a long standing issue between India & Sri Lanka…How do you propose to solve this issue.
Ranil Wickremesinghe: It’s an issue between Tamil Nadu fishermen & Sri Lankan fishermen… They have got to sit down & we have to work this out. There can be No bottom trawling. There can be no solution that permits the Indian fishermen to do bottom trawling. This is basically Sri Lanka Waters… What would you have done if all our fishermen went into the Indian waters & started fishing there…? Now what you are claiming is, we want to come there, we want to fish in your water & we want to bottom trawl in your waters.
THANTHI TV: They say it is their traditional fishing right.
Ranil Wickremesinghe: We are ready to consider the boats of the type that were used when Katchatheevu issue was resolved, you use the boats of that type…we will consider.
THANTHI TV: Our fishermen are on record saying that they are ready to give up bottom trawling.
Ranil Wickremesinghe: Tell them to give up bottom trawling. Look, between you & me, these are relations…They are intermarried… They have to sit down & sort it out. As far as the Northern fishermen of Sri Lanka are concerned, it is their Track grounds. If you have the type of boats that were used when Katchatheevu has handed over, If you are using same number of boats that were there when the agreement was done, we are willing to talk on that.
THANTHI TV: You are willing to give them their traditional fishing right?
Ranil Wickremesinghe:We are willing to talk on that if it is restricted to the type of boats that were used when the Katchatheevu accord was done & the number of boats is equal to the number of boats that were there during the Katchatheevu accord.
THANTHI TV: You raised the Katchatheevu issue… Tamil Nadu largely believes the retrieval of Katchatheevu is the only solution for this issue… Would you consider ceding the island?
Ranil Wickremesinghe: Look…Look. Katchatheevu is a Part of Sri Lanka… Delhi thinks it is a part of Sri Lanka, I know it is a part of Tamil Nadu Politics…I know all of them… On the issue of fishing, this is what we say…These are traditional waters… People who fish in it are the Fishermen in the North, even in the Fishermen in the south find some of the Indian trawlers coming to the southern areas also, like near Puttalam. It is a big issue for us… It is their livelihood. We prevented these (Sri Lankan) fishermen from fishing earlier because of the war, Otherwise they would have been fishing… At one stage LTTE armed some of the fishermen to shoot the fishermen coming from India. We are not doing that
THANTHI TV: But there are allegations of Sri Lankan Navy shooting fishermen…Around 600 Indian fishermen were killed in the last many years.
Ranil Wickremesinghe: No …Not recently.
THANTHI TV: Until 2011.The last was in 2011.
Ranil Wickremesinghe: yeah. In 2011.Part of that earlier was during the time of war they felt some of them actually were involved in supplying of arms. Remember this, that as far as we are concerned, even today The Northern Fishermen are shouting why the Navy isn’t defending us… There were fishermen who have written letters why aren’t you using the Navy to shoot them. It is from the fishermen of the North… We have a job explaining to them, Look these are territorial waters, but we still have to go & talk to India & sort it out.
THANTHI TV: May be there are such requests… But do you deny the allegation that the Sri Lankan Navy has carried out Human right violations against Indian fishermen.
Ranil Wickremesinghe: Sri Lankan Navy had to patrol it and at some stages there were shooting of Fishermen at the height when we asked fishermen to stop to prevent flow of arms between India & Sri Lanka.
THANTHI TV: Is that justified sir? Shooting fishermen of the neighboring country, a friendly neighbour.
Ranil Wickremesinghe: It’s not a question of that. At that time, LTTE was running arms. Whether Sri Lankan Fishermen or Indian fishermen, they had to stop, when the Navy asks them to stop. There also have been instances of the Sri Lankan Navy shooting innocent fishermen. We have not said No to it.
THANTHI TV: So, that has happened?
Ranil Wickremesinghe: Yeah… The fact that they have been running arms… In some instance they have to shoot because they were poaching on Sri Lankan Waters.
THANTHI TV: Poaching waters? Can this be punished with shooting…? Human rights violations?
Ranil Wickremesinghe: Why are you coming into our waters? Why are you fishing in our waters…? Stay on the Indian side… There will be no issue…No one will shoot anyone else…You stay on the Indian side, Let our fishermen stay on the Sri Lankan side… Otherwise don’t make accusations of Human rights violation by the Navy. You came in there.
THANTHI TV: Lot of friendly neighbors have fishing agreements.
Ranil Wickremesinghe: You be on to that side, we be on that side. Why do you all pick up the Italian sailors…? You say you are friendly with Italy, show that same magnanimity to Italy that you want us to show.
THANTHI TV: They killed our fishermen…We are still following the course of law
Ranil Wickremesinghe: Look… If you want us to show that magnanimity to your fishermen. India should show the same magnanimity to Italian sailors.
THANTHI TV: Attack was on the Indian fishermen… Italian marines shot our Indian fishermen.
Ranil Wickremesinghe: Look, you are taking away the livelihood for our Northern fishermen.
THANTHI TV: That can’t justify taking away lives sir.
Ranil Wickremesinghe: if someone tries to break into my house, I can shoot. If he gets killed…Law allows me to do that… On the fishermen issue, As far as I’m concerned, I have very very strong lines. This is our waters…Fishermen of Jaffna should be allowed to fish. We stopped them from fishing , That’s Why the Indian fishermen came in, They are willing to have a deal…Let’s have a reasonable deal..But not at the expense of the income of the Northern Fishermen…No…
THANTHI TV: There were proposals of Fishermen fishing on both sides without having any territorial restrictions.
Ranil Wickremesinghe: you have no fish… it’s not worth fishing there… Fishes are here…
THANTHI TV: On Retrieval of Katchatheevu, If India raises this issue… Would you consider ceding, if not ceding, leasing the Island in perpetuity?
Ranil Wickremesinghe: Look…We are not ceding, we are not leasing, India is not raising it… Let’s be quite firm about that… India is not going to raise it… These are hypothetical issues.