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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2589

Sri Lanka President on his commitment to end terrorism and bringing Tamils into the political mainstream of the country

Stockholm, 18 October, (Asiantribune.com): President Mahinda Rajapaksa has told Mr. N. Ram, Chief Editor of "The Hindu," that he is "firmly committed to a just and enduring political solution” to the Tamil question in Sri Lanka and that "there are no military solutions to political questions."

In a telephonic interview with Mr. Ram, Sri Lanka President reiterated the government's commitment to sending essential food supplies to the displaced in the Vanni. The interview which appeared in The Hindu of 17 October. The newspaper quoted Sri Lanka President saying "We are sending them food. We are feeding the LTTE, in fact, we know that 70 per cent of the food sent by the government goes to them."

The Sri Lankan President will be sending a special envoy to New Delhi in the near future to explain the overall situation and meet the concerns expressed by India , said the news report.

Given below the full text of the interview with Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapakse that appeared in The Hindu of 17 October 2008:

I am committed to political solution and ending Tamil civilian hardships’

Chennai, 17 October: "I am firmly committed to a just and enduring political solution" to the Tamil question in Sri Lanka and “am clear that there are no military solutions to political questions,” President Mahinda Rajapaksa told me in a telephonic conversation from Colombo on Thursday morning.

Addressing the humanitarian situation of displaced people and civilians affected by the military conflict in the Wanni, he reiterated that his government was doing its utmost to meet their essential needs: “We are sending them food. We are feeding the LTTE, in fact, we know that 70 per cent of the food sent by the government goes to them." Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa: "All hardships faced temporarily by our brothers and sisters in the North will be brought to an end in a short time." Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa: "All hardships faced temporarily by our brothers and sisters in the North will be brought to an end in a short time."

Going into some detail on the complexities of the situation, and certain problems that had cropped up in coordinating the relief work with United Nations agencies and international NGOs, Mr. Rajapaksa reiterated the assurance he recently gave to the All Party Conference that "all hardships faced temporarily by our brothers and sisters in the North will be brought to an end in a short time."

The Sri Lankan President, who has had discussions with High Commissioner Alok Prasad and adopted a conciliatory attitude, will be sending a special envoy to New Delhi in the near future to explain the overall situation and meet the concerns expressed by India in an October 6 demarche.

As for the relationship between the ongoing successful military operations and the political solution, Mr. Rajapaksa made the point that the solution had to be given to the Tamil people, not to the LTTE: "What is the use of giving a solution to terrorists? They are not giving up terrorism." As recently as October 11, in his address to the All Party Conference, the Sri Lankan President called on the LTTE "to lay down their arms and surrender and enter the democratic political process."

By all credible independent assessments, the LTTE has taken a battering as never before, faces a crisis of morale, and is confined to its strongholds in Mullaithivu and Kilinochchi districts. "As soon as we clear this territory," Mr. Rajapaksa explained, "let the people [of the Northern Province] decide [in an election]."

Mr. Rajapaksa pointed out that he had entrusted the All Party Representative Conference (APRC) with the task of evolving a consensus among political parties and democratic stakeholders in order to find an acceptable solution to the ethnic conflict. Such a solution could go beyond the 13th Amendment provided the parties could ensure a two-thirds majority in Parliament for the required changes to the Constitution.

The 13th Amendment, the Sri Lankan President reminded political India, was what "India introduced to our Constitution." It was not implemented earlier on account of "opposition in the South" but in the Eastern Province "we have shown we are interested in implementing it." Elections were successfully held after all parts of the Province had been cleared of the LTTE’s military presence without any civilian casualties; he had appointed Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan alias Pillayan as Chief Minister despite his being in a minority; and the new Chief Minister (a former LTTE child soldier) was "doing very well." More than 1000 Tamil police officers had been recruited for the Eastern Province and some of them had been trained in India.

President Rajapaksa expressed cautious optimism that once the LTTE-held areas in the North were cleared by the Sri Lankan security forces and the APRC came up with its final set of recommendations, "I will sell that to the South and implement it."

If it meant changes to the Constitution, he would need cooperation from the Opposition so that a two-thirds majority could be ensured.

- Asian Tribune -

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