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Monday, August 15, 2022

‘The war is over,we should be together. To India’s Tamils,I will say that their brothers and sisters will be looked after by Mahinda Rajapaksa’

With the war on the <B><font color="#cc000">LTTE</font></B> over,a <B><font color="#cc000">jubilant President Mahinda Rajapaksa</font></B> may decide to hold early elections in Sri Lanka. In this interview with The Indian Express <B><font color="#cc000">Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta on NDTV 24x7’s Walk the Talk</font></B>,Rajapaksa says there will be no anti-Tamil campaign,as he wants Tamils to vote him back to power. He says <B><font color="#cc000">M Karunanidhi</font></B> and <B><font color="#cc000">J Jayalalithaa</font></B> are welcome to visit the island

June 1, 2009 1:03:52 am

Walk the Talk: Mahinda Rajapaksa

&#149;SG: Hello and welcome to Walk the Talk. I am Shekhar Gupta in Colombo’s Presidential Palace and my guest once again President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

MR: My pleasure

Welcome to Walk the Talk and very different circumstances from our last conversation.

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MR: Quite. Yes,because when you came last time,I think it was about two years…two years ago.

&#149;SG: Less than,Less than one-and-a-half years ago.

MR: Less than one-and-a-half years ago.

&#149;SG: and I will tell you why I say one-and-a-half years.

MR: Yes,then of course we were not a,I would say a,united…unitary country now it its because earlier,when you came last time,North was…North and East I think was controlled by the LTTE terrorist. Now,we are free of terrorism.

&#149;SG: You said you are a unitary country,but a federal unitary country I hope.Because last time in fact,when we had a conversation you said that in one-and-a-half years you said there will be peace and there will be no LTTE.

MR: Yes.


&#149;SG: I said in one-and-a-half years,I reminded you,because it is still two months to one-and-a-half years.

MR: Yes

&#149;SG: That situation has come about even faster than you had…even you had imagined.

MR: That’s right. Yes,because of our…armed forces were so committed for the fight.


&#149;SG: Tell us a little bit about the final phases of the battle.

MR: Yes.

&#149;SG: How did it progress? What happened? When did the breakthrough come?

MR: No,from the time after we walked into Madhu ,that is the,North-West of the…

&#149;SG: Right…island.

MR: Island. We were stuck there for about eight to nine months. Then we… it was a,just a,walk-over,I would say. But we knew after we went to Killinochi,I mean,we were,you know,through.

&#149;SG: what is the biggest mistake that Prabhakaran made in this.

MR: Well,to kill Rajiv Gandhi.

&#149;SG: To kill Rajiv Gandhi.

MR: That was…

&#149;SG: Why? Why?


MR: because they antagonised the whole sympathy of India. That was the biggest mistake,I think,he did at that time.

&#149;SG: That is the biggest mistake he did in thirty years.

MR: Thirty years.

&#149;SG: One…

MR: and two…

&#149;SG: One fatal mistake.


MR: Yes,and the second was that he didn’t gauge the powers of the South.

&#149;SG: To my mind there is a third mistake also. I think,and maybe,all mistakes from one mind-set,which is hubris,which is a big ego. You know,no guerilla fighter should try to take on a whole country’s armed forces in a frontal battle.

MR: I agree.

&#149;SG: Or to hold cities. Or territory.


MR: That’s right,and that was another mistake that he made.

&#149;SG: So elaborate a little…

MR: because he wanted not only a area,he wanted the whole country.

&#149;SG: Oh not just the Tamil regions.

MR: No. No. His plan was to take over the country.

&#149;SG: How could he have done that? You know,because…

MR: This is what when…when…

&#149;SG: This country is 85 per cent Sinhala.

MR: Ya,but he might…he thought that everybody can be controlled by terrorism,with a gun.

&#149;SG: And the threat of assassination.

MR: Yes.

&#149;SG: So let’s elaborate a little bit more. I am fascinated by you saying that the biggest mistake he made in his thirty years,thirty year career fighting,was the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi.

MR: Yes.

&#149;SG: And that ultimately led to his downfall.

MR: That’s true.

&#149;SG: Elaborate. Just some details.

MR: You know,who create this problem. If,I mean the…when this man was…when he started this,then we…everybody knew that they were trained in India. And finally they killed an Indian leader who was loved by the Indian people.

&#149;SG: And particularly Tamils.

MR: And particularly Tamils. Not only Tamils,and the whole India.

&#149;SG: Right.

MR: In Tamil Nadu,that was the biggest mistake. I mean,in Tamil Nadu they killed him. A man who gave his jacket,this is what I heard,don’t know whether it is correct,gave his personal bullet-proof jacket to this man.

&#149;SG: To Prabhakaran

MR: To Prabhakaran,and he try to bring a solution by introducing thirteenth Amendment to our constitution.

&#149;SG: Which you now honour.

MR: We have one.

&#149;SG: Because you…you were once not happy with it.

MR: Certainly,we were not happy when IPKF came to Sri Lanka.

&#149;SG: Right..Right.

MR: I was also not happy.

&#149;SG: But times change.

MR: I was in the Opposition.

&#149;SG: Yes. Yes. In the Opposition you are never happy.

MR: No,I’ll not…but they were the Government,just I will…

&#149;SG: You had to oppose it.

MR: Yes.

&#149;SG: I call it Oppositionism. It is a strong ideology.

MR: So that was a,at that time,we were opposing. But now we can see,if they,if we allowed the IPKF to stay for another one or two months,they would have finished this.

&#149;SG: Well that was my impression also. I…I came as a reporter here at that point. It looked as if IPF controlled all the cities and it looked like LTTE was on the run. And then,one of your former colleagues Lalit Tatlamodli,told me that Premadasa was supplying arms to LTTE to fight the IPKF,

MR: Quite.

&#149;SG: In TATA trucks given by us,to the Sri Lankan Army.

MR: That’s right. They gave 5000 T56s. When they had only 250 fighting cadres,according to Karuna Amman.

&#149;SG: He gave 5000 T56s rifles to LTTE.


&#149;SG: Premadasa gave.

MR: Ya.

&#149;SG: Yes.

MR: And not only that,money,vehicles. All that.

&#149;SG: To fight…to fight the Indian Army,IPKF.

MR: I think so. I’m….

&#149;SG: Because that’s also what Chandrika kumaratunga once said.

MR: No…That’s right.

&#149;SG: So that was a betrayal. But see how… LTTE also had a special skill in getting in getting out of these tight corners.

MR: Yes because they always use ceasefire,and use the,either they try to use India or try to use Western powers. Excuse me….(speaks in Sinhala check)

&#149;SG: That’s not a problem I think

MR: we…by…we have about 15 fellows here

&#149;SG: I see

MR: They are fighting each other

&#149;SG: Are they…Are they guard dogs

MR: Eh?

&#149;SG: Are they guard dogs?

MR: No,no. Various pet dos.

&#149;SG: Pet. Pet dogs.

MR: I don’t know if they are pets this size.

&#149;SG: But they don’t bother us are microphones are uni-directional.

MR: I see. I see.

&#149;SG: It will not pick up too much.

&#149;SG: We’ll talk a little more on the Rajiv Gandhi issue because that will have a very good impact in India. So let’s start.

MR: Any English mistakes?

&#149;SG: No. No. You’re doing fine. Even you’re English has got better since last time.

&#149;SG: So did you tell the Sri Lankan people that in the past LTTE was helped by some of their own leaders?

MR: In election campaigns everybody knew about this and everybody was talking about it.

&#149;SG: And yet,they killed Premadasa?

MR: That’s right. They killed not only,now see,they killed Premadasa,whoever…who helped them,they killed.

&#149;SG: They killed Rajiv Gandhi.

MR: They killed Rajiv Gandhi. They killed Gamini Dissanayake,who tried to give them a political solution and they killed our own people.

&#149;SG: Right.

MR: Amuth Lingam.

&#149;SG: Neelam Treselvan.

MR: Neelam Treselvan. Laxman Kadragaman. I mean they’re own leaders were killed.

&#149;SG: Joseph.

MR: Joseph. Yup.

&#149;SG: Sam

MR: And Mahatmayage. Some…

&#149;SG: Yogeswaran.

MR: Yogeswaran.

&#149;SG: His wife.

MR: That’s right. Everybody was killed.

&#149;SG: I,you know,one got the impression that there was nothing the LTTE hated more than a Tamil trying to make peace.

MR: I think so.

&#149;SG: First of all,anybody who was tring to make peace,second a Tamil…

MR: Second Tamil.

&#149;SG: who was trying to male peace.

MR: Now,that’s why even they tried to kill…they killed…Jayraj Fernandkule,the minister.

&#149;SG: That’s right.

MR: He was a Tamil. He was…who had,you know,a peace…in peace talks he was…

&#149;SG: Instrumental.

MR: Instrumental. They just killed him.

&#149;SG: so,someone that clever,Prabhakaran,he had a talent of getting out of every tight spot.

MR: Yes.

&#149;SG: He was cornered by the IPKF he got out of it. He was cornered by your Army’s military…your means,many Sri Lankan Army many times

MR: Many,Many Sri Lankan Armies.

&#149;SG: And then he would bargain for a ceasefire,and then he’ll build up his strength and suddenly we’ll hear a story,LTTE attack 500 soldiers killed.

MR: That’s right.

&#149;SG: Right. How did he make such a big blunder like killing Rajiv Gandhi? Have you analysed it? Have you got information?

MR: No. I think he hated Rajiv Gandhi for one thing,that he tried to patch up this whole thing. They were political…trying to give a political solution and he had to accept it. And he didn’t like it. He didn’t want any solutions to it. Even by anybody because he thought he was the king. When that mentality comes,then of course…

&#149;SG: And he never realised the consequences this will have in India and in Tamil Nadu?

MR: I don’t think he is bothered…he was bothered about it because there was some leaders in Tamil Nadu who was communicating with him and sympathising with him.

&#149;SG: So…

MR: I don’t want to mention it…their names as you know…

&#149;SG: One got defeated the other day.

MR: I think all of them were defeated.

&#149;SG: Yes

MR: By the people.

&#149;SG: Yes.

MR: All of them who were sympathising with him. Was killed …

&#149;SG: Right.

MR: I mean,I am sorry,I mean,they were defeated by them. Indian

&#149;SG: Right.

MR: South Indian voters. So they are intelligent voters.

&#149;SG: so you think these people kept on massaging his ego?

MR: That’s right. And when you are in an isolated place,in a jungle,without getting information,then you always live in your own world.

&#149;SG: World.

MR: This happens to some politicians too. So,I mean,this…this had happened to him and he though that everything was running smoothly.

&#149;SG: But you’ve talked now of his followers. You’ve arrested many,interrogated many. Did you get…did anybody throw any light on his killing Rajiv or did he have genuine regrets after that?

MR: I don’t think he had…he never regret. Any action he had done,he never regret. I don’t think he did that.

&#149;SG: But dot they tell you of discussions over the killing of Rajiv?

MR: No. They were not discussing it. I don’t think he discussed with his colleagues.

&#149;SG: Right.

MR: About what he was going to do. He gives orders and he was not bothered about the repercussions.

&#149;SG: Tell us about the last days? How did you finally find him and the other key leadership?

MR: No. I mean,they were trying tom I think they were trying to escape. They were,in the last moment,they were cornered into a very a very small area. According to the Army,they,I mean the cadres,had divided into three groups.

&#149;SG: Groups.

MR: And one went to South,others went to North through the…the…not…(speaks Sinhala)

&#149;SG: Through a lagoon…a lagoon.

MR: Lagoon…through they lagoon. They were walking towards the North and they attacked our,one of the defence positions.

&#149;SG: Right.

MR: And break into the…into the land. Meanwhile Prabhakaran and others were just moving forward. When they were confronted by the Army.

&#149;SG: Right. So…

MR: They were surrounded when they…

&#149;SG: because we…we hear that you were told of Prabhakaran’s death when you were in Qatar.

MR: No. No. No. No. Never I got it…I got the news on the 19th.

&#149;SG: Because it looked to pat that you arrived from the Gulf and you announce his death just a day after the Indian election results are announced. Its almost as if you were waiting.

MR: No. No. No. No. I did that

&#149;SG: I am …I mean…I am a hard-earned… hard-earned,hard-nosed,cynical,skeptical journalist.

MR: When I…

&#149;SG: I don’t accept perfect timing stories so easily.

MR: No,I think it’s not timing. We would have…we never timed it. For we have to do that after the elections…

&#149;SG: Can you imagine…can you imagine if you had announced his death

MR: Yes.

&#149;SG: a day before the voting in Tamil Nadu?

MR: Yes.

&#149;SG: The impact it would have had?

MR: Nothing it would have had. Nothing. No impact at all. It would have been better for the Congress I would say.

&#149;SG: Well I don’t know,but …but,I would say…I would say…that is don’t quite buy this..this happened with such perfect timing.

MR: No. No. It’s not timed like that. I will…I mean…believe me.

&#149;SG: Yes.

MR: If I knew earlier,I would have come out with it.

&#149;SG: I know my politicians.

MR: But,you know,I’m a different type of a politician.

&#149;SG: In some matters they are all the same.

MR: No,I don’t think so. I…I…why should we…why should we bothered by the election?

&#149;SG: Did you get a lot of reaction from India the…for example,hospital bombing took place?

MR: It was just a lit. I mean completely,it was not happened. They just a…that was a campaign. Now you can…we have the doctors with us. They said it was told to them to announce it like that.

&#149;SG: I see. So they were no deaths in the hospital? ….They were no deaths in that hospital?

MR: Nothing. It was not bombed.

&#149;SG: It was not bombed?

MR: It was not bombed?

&#149;SG: It was complete propaganda?

MR: Yes,It was a complete propaganda.

&#149;SG: I mean,you are saying it on total authority.

MR: Total authority because they showed me after that.

&#149;SG: I see.

MR: The pictures of the hospital.

&#149;SG: I see. But…

MR: They showed me.

&#149;SG: But did you have a sense about how many civilians actually got killed in this?

MR: You know,I’m…because LTTE Shot some of them when they tried to escape. Other than that I don’t think any civilians were killed.

&#149;SG: Say about how many?

MR: I would say less than 100.

&#149;SG: Less than 100?

MR: yes.

&#149;SG: But in whole campaign,in this war?

MR: Because earlier,they… we were…we…we have given a clear instruction they cannot be any civil casualties.

&#149;SG: But when you use heavy artillery…in

MR: No,but we never fired like how they do in bombing Afghanistan. We never did that.

&#149;SG: Right. I see. You say it with a certain delight because you are not particularly in love with the Americans these days.

MR: No,No,No,No…my…we are friendly with everybody.

&#149;SG: Right. But…But they have given you some trouble?

MR: Eh…

&#149;SG: Over your arm supplies,I know…

MR: I must tell you. I must tell you. I must tell you,the Americans banned …

&#149;SG: LTTE.

MR: LTTE and they got some of the people and prosecute them.

&#149;SG: Did they ever share information with you? About the LTTE?

MR: Yes.

&#149;SG: Movements? Their syndicates overseas.

MR: I think so.

&#149;SG: Drug syndicates? Money lending?

MR: I think they have their agencies who worked with our agencies.

&#149;SG: Did India’s agencies work with you also?

MR: Yes. Certainly,because we have that…we have that inderstanding.

&#149;SG: Counter-terror

MR: Counter-terror

&#149;SG: Counter-terrorism. But did you get more help from others,say tactical help by way of pictures,by way of satellite imagery?

MR: No,satellite imagery we didn’t get any help…from anywhere.

&#149;SG: I see.

MR: Because we had our own,what you call,pictures..UAVs. We were using UAVs.

&#149;SG: These are Israeli…Israeli UAVs.

MR: Israel UAV. We bought it. We’ve all bought it. We gave money for them. We didn’t get anything for free.

&#149;SG: Well,you’ve got inflation running at God-Knows 25 per cent?

MR: One time,Yes,it was 25

&#149;SG: 25 per cent.

MR: but it has come down now…

&#149;SG: Yes

MR: to about two per cent.

&#149;SG: Two per cent?

MR: I think so. Either two or six I can’t remember.

&#149;SG: Because you know,I ….I. see your newspapers now…I can still see one year fixed deposits being offered at 21 per cent coupon rate.

MR: Ya,but inflation is…

&#149;SG: It used to be higher than 21 per cent earlier…

MR: No,inflation is out.

&#149;SG: Inflation is out.

MR: If you take…

&#149;SG: But interest rates are still there. So…but that’s the cost of this war?

MR: Ya.

&#149;SG: no let’s go back to the war. What kind of communication did you have with India in this six weeks in the run-up to the elections until Prabhakaran’s death?

MR: I mean we had discussions and they were,from the beginning they were worried about the civilian casualties. They were giving. I mean. Other than that we didn’t have any discussions.

&#149;SG: Did they put any pressure on you?

MR: No,I don’t think I got any pressure…

&#149;SG: Little bit?

MG: I won’t say there was pressure. Among friends there can’t be pressures.

&#149;SG: Persuasion?

MR: Oersuasion.

&#149;SG: did…did they sat to you President Rajapaksa,we don’t want Prabhakaran dead or alive on the 13th of May.

MR: No,They never said that.

&#149;SG: They never said that.

MR: they never said that.

&#149;SG: They said do what you want?

MR: No…

&#149;SG: because…

MR: They did not,I mean,they knew that I am fighting their war.

&#149;SG: did they ever say it to you?

MR: No,they never…they didn’t say that. I mean,private conversation they might have. But …but…I was fighting their war. Why should they today come and tell me not to fight. But they were cautious about the civilian casualties. So we said yes…

&#149;SG: But were you worried by the way this was playing in Tamil Nadu politics,that it may become intolerable for India.

MR: No,from the beginning,the NDTV,I was watching some television programs ad in that the young girls and boys reacted,I knew that there were no impact at all.

&#149;SG: NDTV,I heard,is very popular in Sri Lanka

MR: Yes. Yes. And The Hindu…The Hindu…editor’s editorials and the…

&#149;SG: In fact ,N Ram

MR: Ram

&#149;SG: N Ram took the lead in calling the LTTE a Pol Potist organisation. Very very strongly.

MR: Very Strong and with that I knew that there was no impact at all.

&#149;SG: Where do you go from here? Now,LTTE is over,finished decisively barring some remnants or sleeper cells as you call the…

MR: Beg you pardon?

&#149;SG: Sleeper cells I think you call them?

MR: Yes. There might be few.

&#149;SG: So you won the war,but how do you now construct the peace?

MR: Now,we must allow them to… first we have to re-settle them. People cannot be,you know,they can’t think about politics when they are inside those camps.

&#149;SG: Right.

MR: So immediately the first thing we must do id,we must demand the area,rebuild it,give them the infrastructure and then re-settle them.

&#149;SG: How long will that take?

MR: We have a program for 180 days,program.

&#149;SG: Right.

MR: So we are on that track.

&#149;SG: And do you have the money for that?

MR: We have to find money?

&#149;SG: What kind of money will this need?

MR: I would say about one or two billiob.

&#149;SG: Right. Have you requested India for any help in that?

MR: India should help us. I mean,they must come and help us and they will I think.

&#149;SG: What kind pf help do you want from India.

MR: Rebuild,What I want is to build…build…help us build the nation. We have to build roads,we have to build a….we have to build…we have to build electricity,water.

&#149;SG: So what kind of help would you want from India in the re-habilitation rebuilding effort?

MR: Certainly to build houses and roads and railways. These are the things that are wanted.

&#149;SG: And you are quite happy if Indians themselves come and do it or…

MR: Doesn’t matter. But we have our own labour force here.

&#149;SG: Right.

MR: You must not forget about that.

&#149;SG: Sure. Sure. In fact some of this should also be used to provide jobs to Tamils.

MR: Yes you have to recruit people from that area. Naturally.

&#149;SG: Otherwise you don’t mind Indian companies coming and doing this work?

MR: see how many Indian companies are there in Sri Lanka?

&#149;SG: Well,I use my Airtel signal in Colombo. Which is …which is very nice.

MR: That’s right. Airtle is here. They are more…Indian businessman are controlling the economy in this country.

&#149;SG: If Government of India…Government of India funds a lot of the reconstruction effort you don’t mind if they use it…if they use those funds through Indian companies?

MR: Doesn’t matter

&#149;SG: Doesn’t matter. Because…

MR: Because India …

&#149;SG: because India is carrying out a lot of development in Afghanistan

MR: The only thing is they must also remember that we have our own companies but if they can…they can…naturally now they want to give money they always send through their companies

&#149;SG: Right.

MR: So let them come here.

&#149;SG: But but you….

MR: But they must take the manpower from Sri Lanka.

&#149;SG: But you…you now seek Indian financial support and logistical support?

MR: Logistical support.

&#149;SG: In participation in reconstruction.

MR: Ya

&#149;SG: India is doing a very good job in Afghanistan for example.

MR: Ya. They should give us that support and we have already invited them.

&#149;SG: Now I know that you get irritated when people tell you this but,will you take catre of the Tamils? Will you treat them as equal citizens?

MR: I…

&#149;SG: Is there equality in your system? Because they now feel defeated in a way…

MR: Yes,now if you listen…if you go through my speech in Parliament I have said there are no minorities hereafter. They are only two…

&#149;SG: ethnicities.

MR: Ethnicities. People who love Sri Lanka and people who are not love Sri Lanka. That is the only criteria that we will divide the country in. I mean,the division of the people. So all people are my people whether they are Tamils,Sinhala or Muslims or Malaya or

&#149;SG: So in your eyes …because

MR: I will treat everybody…everybody equal.

&#149;SG: Because there is a history to this 1983.

MR: We have to forget about the history.

&#149;SG: History.

MR: We must start..start a new life here.

&#149;SG: You in your eyes make no distinction between Tamils and Sinhala.

MR: No. I can’t do that because my own relation are Tamils…some of them are Tamils. My niece is married to a Tamil…who…She is a member of parliament.

&#149;SG: Well,your greatest cricketing hero is a Tamil.

MR: Hmmm

&#149;Sg: Your greatest cricketing hero is a Tamil… Muttiah Muralitharan.

Mr: how can I do that? In my own house I cannot do it.

&#149;SG: But,Sinhala chauvinism…sinhala chauvinism was a reality too.

MR: I won’t say that too. I won’t say that. Because this all politicians have started.

&#149;SG: Right

MR: I don’t think normal…if you go to a village and speak to a Tamil,I don’t think he had all this problem. But for politicians yes. For politicians they are the people who wants power.

&#149;SG: Right.

MR: This is the only way that they can come to power.

&#149;SG: By dividing people.

MR: By dividing people.

&#149;SG: You are a politician too?

MR: Yes.

&#149;SG: You have no intention of doing that?

MR: I don’t want to because I want the whole country to vote for me.

&#149;SG: because this election over there you will sweep? Are you holding an early election?

MR: I might.

&#149;SG: You might. I fI read your smile…if I read your smile correctly it means why shouldn’t I?

MR: Why shouldn’t I? Why?

&#149;SG: Yes. Yes. Because you’ve got the country on your side.

MR: The only thing is I can’t have elections for four years,from the time I was elected. So…

&#149;SG: Right.

MR: So in November only I can take a decision.

&#149;SG: Yes. But you would have love to do itn now.

MR: Yes.

&#149;SG: But November…I can say reasonably that we can expect an early election.

MR: either parliamentary or Presidential.

&#149;SG: or Presidential. So in that election will you make permanent peace? You won the war,will you make permanent peace?

MR: certainly.

&#149;SG: And making up to the Tamil people an election plank?

MR: Yes. Quite right. We have already done it.

&#149;SG: You will not run an anti-Tamil campaign?

MR: There can’t be an anti-Tamil campaign because I need Tamil vote. Whether its Tamils or Muslims or…

&#149;SG: But you will also not run a militaristic campaign?

MR: That was against terrorism?

&#149;SG: because…I know these are very ugly days,as you drive onto the city you see wherever these hoardings and posters President Rajapakse with generals and soldiers.

Mr: Yes

&#149;SG: It happens in democracies in war times. You don’t see this militarism playing into your election campaign…later this year?

MR: No,not necessarily.

&#149;SG: I think I can now safely predict that there will be an election later this year or later next year. Yes.

MR: because I don’t want to do that. In need everybody’s vote.

&#149;SG: You’re…

MR: I don’t want to divide the country again.

&#149;SG: So you are not going to run a jingoistic campaign.

MR: No. Never. I’ll never do that. You must remember…in my cabinet…take my cabinet…how many Muslims are there…how many Tamils. I mean,the up-country Tamils,they are called u-county Tamils by us,and some calls them Indian Tamils,and the have leader Thondaman.

&#149;SG: Like Mr Thondaman

MR: They are in my cabinet and from North we have a cabinet minister…from east.

&#149;SG: Sir,many democracies have this problem. When they are engaged in a big war,a big military effort,military generals become heroes. Military becomes very powerful. They become very popular. People think they can do nothing wrong because they are seen as very honourable. People who sacrifice their own lives while politicians get other people to sacrifice their lives.

MR: Yes.

&#149;SG: But when the war is over,democracies have the challenge to bring this down a notch. To dismantle this. Do you have plans for that?

MR: No in this country people…people are educated they know what is going on.

&#149;SG: You don’t worry about the Generals become to powerful.

MR: No I am not bothered. I know they are very loyal to the cause. So I don’t think they have any political ambitions. And in this country no one can…

&#149;SG: because you know let me give you just one set of figures. We are a country of 1.1 billion people eleven hundred million people. Have an army of,all armed forces of say 1.3 million. You as a country of 20 million people have an army of 200,000 people.

MR: We had to increase it. We had to increase it.

SG: On a per capita basis your army is a hundred times the size of our army. You don’t need it now.

MR: Don’t say that.

&#149;SG: You don’t need so much of it.

MR: Ni,I don’t think we can use them for development work.

&#149;SG: For reconstruction.

MR: For construction and we are usiong them. We can use them.

&#149;SG: but do you need to maintain an Army opf that size in the long run?

MR: If we…if we…want to get them engaged in other development work. They why not? I mean can I just phase them out of the army? No

&#149;SG: But will you downsize it over time.

MR: I have no plans yet.

&#149;SG: Right. But an army of 200,000 will be very expensive to maintain.

MR: The people most of them are in various other…not the fighting…

&#149;SG: I know I know. But Armies are always like that. Armies are called teeth-to-tail ration. See armies have a long tail. But a peaceful Sri Lanka is too small for an Army of 20,000. You have no borders to defend. You have no external enemies.

MR: Yes,but stii we have our own…we have to safeguard our own security. Look after our own security. So let them…

&#149;SG: So 200,000….

Mr: 200,000 is not much for Sri lanka.

&#149;SG: So you are going to maintain this.

MR: We will maintain it. But we will…we will. Not recruit more.

&#149;SG : right. So so so maybe over time as people retire…you will….

MR: then of course yes. We will reduce.

&#149;SG: or you can contribute to UN peacekeeping at some point.

MR: so we can send them abroad with UN peacekeeping.

&#149;SG: Yes.

Mr: They will earn some money and come.

&#149;SG: because you have not built a very efficient army. Now tell me during the war apart form India,what other pressures came. We saw some unpleasantness when miliben came here. Some with Norwegians.

MR: Unfortunately some of their mentalities are that we are a colony. Sri lanka is not a colony of anybody. What can we do of their mentality?

&#149;SG: Yes. But some of them talk like that?

MR: No,sometimes they express the way,i mean ,now tell me,when somebody …India appoint a special envoy without my knowledge or without my consensus. Then what will I do? What can I do? The first thing I’ll reject it.

&#149;SG: You’ll refuse to meet him?

MR: I’ll refuse to meet him.

&#149;SG: who did that in this case?

MR: you want me to tell these things.

&#149;SG: yes.

MR: because now the war is over

&#149;SG: (check) any you are reconstructing history.

MR: unfortunately,but in think now they have realized the mistake that they did.

&#149;SG: RIGHT

MR: I mean we have a very close relationship with the UK and we want to continue with that and we are a member of the commonwealth and I think sometimes this happens when politicians get

&#149;SG: so some of this matter of fact colonial mind-set that people think Sri Lanka is tsill a tiny colony. And Srl Lanka could be talked down to.

MR: no one can keep us like that we are an independent sovereign country.

&#149;SG: There are concerns in India [particularly about your relations with China,Pakistan. Tell us a bit more about that.

MR: India should not have any concerns about Sri Lanka. And its relations with China or Pakistan or America. We must have better understanding. India should have a large-hearted approach to us. We have friends relations. India is our neighbour. So from the start ,from day one,…

&#149;SG: one is the depth of your engagement with China…particularly on the military side?

MR: on the military side we bought weapons from them. We had to.

&#149;SG: from them and from Israel?

MR: from Isreal also we got some weapons.

&#149;SG: and from Pakistan?

MR: Some from Pakistan. Some from Russia,some from Ukraine…

&#149;SG: from Ukraine you got pilots also for some time.

MR: no I don’t think so. We never got pilots from Ukraine but we got planes from them for the Airforce,helicopters.

SG: what is one weapon system that made a decisive difference in this war?

MR: I won’t be able to tell you that.

&#149;SG: but was it air power? Was sit tanks? Was it artillery guns?

MR: I think the manpower and the air.

&#149;SG: the manpower and the air?

Mr: and the navy.Not allowing them weapons to come into Sri Lanka within that period. So I think all these three forces helped.

&#149;SG: so coming back to China. Why should India not have any concerns about the military relationship because we keep hearing about China’ interests in Hamantota

MR: they are helping us to develop a port. That doesn’t mean they are going to stay there. That doesn’t mean they are going to put their base…their naval base there. So I have told them…I will tell you now that I will not allow Sri Lanka’s soil to be used by anybody to…against India.

&#149;SG: In anyway.

MR: In anyway.

&#149;SG: and if the Chinese are only developing a port in Hamantota for you,then you are open that India can come and develop a port in Sri Lanka?

MR: Ya,Why not? They should I mean. I gave them two KKs. The KKs…kantasngurau near Jaffna.

&#149;Sg: Near Jaffna.

MR: when I got some money fro outside,. It was either Denmark….denmark. It was 40 million but I cancelled that contract and gave it to India.

&#149;SG: Right. So they are welcome to…you welcome them to come into it.

MR; to build a port.

&#149;SG: to build a port. Or any of the others I am sure you have to reconstruct trincomali

MR: trincomali is a naval base. So I don’t think India will,but we have given them some,what you call,oil tanks,…oil…farm…tank farm.

&#149;SG: For storage.Like a cargo

Mr: But anybody whether it is China or India or Pakistan or…wants to build a road or a harbour or a airport. Its welcome.

&#149;SG: but we just noticed the other day that India and Pakistan got together the other day and voted in favour of you resolution at the UN Human rights Commission in Geneva

MR: that is because we are non-allied.

&#149;SG: and Cuba blocked a western resolution. Isn’t it?

MR: that’s right.

&#149;SG: you should suspect they’ve all got together.

MR: we managed to get India and Pakistan together.

&#149;SG: right. So do you have a hierarchy in your relationships in your neighborhood,in the world? Do you have a hierarchy or a level of importance you give to your relationship with India,China Pakistan?

MR: India is our neighbour,you must remember that. A powerful neighbor. So when you have a relationship…you must have a good understanding relationship with India.

&#149;SG: so woul;d you put a relationship with India on a higher plane that others?

MR: I would say.

&#149;SG: certainly.

MR: certainly. We have to have a good relationship with them because they are our neighbours. For anything they have to look after us.

&#149;SG: Big neighbors have a way of sort of….

MR: bullying…bullying others….

&#149;SG: not bullying. Just beginning to look to big. Even if they don’t bully because when I was here there were posters saying calling IPKF innocent people’s killing force. And I used to wonder Indian soldiers are coming and sacrificing their live without a word of gratitude. Just curses and abuse.

MR: ya. You must remember always when an outside force come here there is always a reaction from the society.

&#149;SG: unless the political forces convince them.

MR: convince them. If the political forces can’t convince the people then of course.

&#149;SG: you’ve now built a memorial for the IPKF?

Mr: Yes. On the SAARC metting…on the days of the SAARC meeting we have opened it.

&#149;SG: We don’t have one in India and you’re palnning one in Sri Lanka.

MR: That shows the friendship that we have and how much we…

&#149;SG: and gratitude.

MR: and gratitude

&#149;SG: and belated gratitude.

MR: not belated gratitude. I will not say belated gratitude.

&#149;SG: in the sense that there was a period when there was no gratitude.

MJ: ah yes.

&#149;SG: but why haven’t you opened it yet?

MR: we are waiting for someone to come from India.

&#149;SG: some prominent person. Have you tried for anybody have you got a response yet?

MR: we have not got anybody as yet. We want to get down the people who fought that time

&#149;SG: right

MR: generals. IPKF generals. And some of the relations of the soldiers who died.

&#149;SG: and when do you plan that?

MR: I will be going…I want to visit India and I want to discuss about it.

&#149;SG: when will you be visiting India?

MR: Next month. When I get the green light from your side.

&#149;SG: so you might be one of the first foreign heads of state to visit India from this government.

MR: I’m not sure about it.

&#149;SG: Probabaly. One legacy of Rajiv-jayawardhane accord besides the IPKF and besides the tragedy is also the 13th amendment and the devolution package that has been offered to the Tamils. What happens to that now? And are you willing to take it forward,take it beyond that?

MR: I said 13 plus one. No more.

&#149;SG: so what will be the plus one?

MR: we must get together with the Tamil parties and decide on that. I must not force them to have something. It must come from eh people. It must come from the leaders.

&#149;SG: but that one will not be some little bit. It must be some real step forward.

MR: yes I would say. 13 plus is something everybody must agree to implement.

&#149;SG: and you realise that unless you do that you will not be able to reconstruct the peace?

MR: I mean not that I believe that without that we can’t. The people must get together. You give them any political rights or you give them a separate state…that’s out separate state…but any political must be the people to people context and they must accept it. If the Sinhala is majority or the Tamil majority or say the muslim majority…if a group of people do not want to accept it. It will never happen.

&#149;SG: so what is your message to Sri Lanka’s Tamils now that the war is over?

MR: The war is over. We should be together and be this country.

&#149;SG: and I will treat you as absolutely equal citizens?

MR: oh yes. Certainly. As equal citizens. In this country there are no…people who are…

&#149;SG: but in sinhala politics there was…There still are forces.

MR: they are forces…in Tamil politics you have.

&#149;SG: right. In India you have that.

&#149;SG: its because sinhalas are dominant. Politically dominat.

MR: NO,in any country there are groups. You know that they are…in your country…

&#149;SG: you are saying you have also made a break fromt hat past?

MR: yes this is a new era and this is a new country.

&#149;SG: and what will you tell India’s Tamils?

MR”: India tamils….India tamils …they have given a good message. They don’t believe in terrorism and I must tell them that their brother ans sister will be looked agter by Mahinda Rajapakse.

&#149;SG: that’s a very good message and what will you tell Mr Karunanidhi and Jayalalithaa?

MR: Jayalalithaa of course I can’t say anything because she has been answered by the people,not to be pitty-minded.

&#149;SG: and karunanidhi?

MR: even Karunanidhi to trust us.

&#149;Sg: Will you invite him to come to Sri Lanka?

MR: yes anytime he is invited t come…any leader even jayalalthaa is invited.

&#149;SG: If they come here will you let them go to Jaffna.

MR: certainly. Why not?

&#149;SG: to meet their fellow Tamils here?

MR: if Vaiko comes of course…he will have to give a statement…how he came without visas to Sri Lanka?

&#149;SG: you think you might arrest him under the passport act?

MR: no. I will not do that.

&#149;SG: since all of us have inherited that law from the British….

MR: I might not do that but he must give some answers to us.

&#149;SG: he’s he’s…

MR: He’s defeated no? then forget about it. Forget and forgive. Forgive and forget.

&#149;SG: you are what we might call a pucca politician. Election is a way of settling every problem.So I think we are looking forward to seeing elections and democracy nabk in your North and the East.

&#149;SG: east has a little bit of it but…

MR: north we have jaffna and local elections.

&#149;SG: wishing you all the very best in constructing the peace.

MR: thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

&#149;SG: its always tougher than winning a war. Winning a war is tough but constructing peace is politics and very complicated. And needs a

MR: no,only a commitment..

&#149;SG: Winning a war needs a lot of muscle and a lot of motivation but constructing peace requires a big heart.

MR: yes

&#149;SG: you think you have it?

MR: I think I have a big heart.

&#149;Sg: and you are willing to give?

MR: certainly.

&#149;SG: then good luck to you.

MR: thank you. Thank you.

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First published on: 01-06-2009 at 01:03:52 am

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