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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2862

Establishing, trust and friendship within the ethnic groups, the urgent need of the hour - Minister Keheliya Rambukwella

By K.T.Rajasingham

Colombo, 05 January, ( It is time that a friendly and conducive climate established in the midst of the ethno-religious groups in Sri Lanka. A Tamil and a Tamil speaking Muslim should have trust in their heart and mind that "there is always a Sinhalese friend out there to help me in my time of despair." Trust and confidence are two important things that has to be seriously cultivated in the midst of the Sri Lankan Minister Keheliya Rambukwella :  A   Tamil should feel that the  terrorists may  threaten and intimidate them, but he must always remember,  "I have a Sinhala friend next door to me,  if I need him".Minister Keheliya Rambukwella : A Tamil should feel that the terrorists may threaten and intimidate them, but he must always remember, "I have a Sinhala friend next door to me, if I need him".communities, emphasized Minister Keheliya Rambukwella.

A Tamil should feel and must always remember, "I have a Sinhala friend next door to me, if I need him", pointed out, Keheliya Rambukwella, Minister of Foreign Employment Promotion and Welfare & Government Spokesman for Defence and National Security.

Minister Keheliya Rambukwella. In an interview with Asian Tribune said that it is high time that friendly relationship between the communities nurtured and developed. He added that a Tamil should not feel isolated. He must always remember that he has a Sinhelese friend out there to help him in his time of need.

Similarly, Sinhalese should bear in mind that Tamils are also our friends and work together to build a strong and united Sri Lanka.

Given below the full text of the Interview Asian Tribune had with Minister Keheliya Rambukwella:

Asian Tribune: What are you proposing to do now? You have captured Killinochi. Now what next?

Minister Keheliya Rambukwella : To continue with the military campaign till the LTTE is routed in Vanni.

Asian Tribune: That means, you want to keep on capturing back the Vanni region under the control of the Tigers. OK after capturing those areas, what are you going to do next? How are you going to win the minds and hearts of Tamils? How are you going to make the Tamils secure?

Minister Keheliya Rambukwella : First of all let us get rid of this terrorist menace.

Asian Tribune: Yes, you have to get rid of terrorism from the country. No second word about it. But are you going to wait till you get rid of Tigers completely? Or in the meantime, you are going to do something?

Minister Keheliya Rambukwella : I mean there is nothing much you can do now because they will be scattered and there are lot of obstacles.

It is very important that the Tamil people should feel that they can in fact exercise their will without fear. As of now, as long as they have Prabakaran and his men operating in some areas, they will not be able to exercise their will. They will not feel safe.

They will run away from their villages to safer places. For example 500,000 to 600,000 people fled from Jaffna and now they are settled down in the South, because earlier they do not have adequate security in that area. They are being constantly threatened and intimidated. These people now feel very secure in the midst of the Sinhalese. But the Tigers continuously use to disturb them even they are in the midst of the Sinhalese.

This is unfortunate. When you look at Kilinochchi and other areas in the Vanni, then you will understand that you need to basically subdue the LTTE completely. Once the Tamils are safe then we will come up with the development and other proposals. Once those areas under the Tiger controls are taken control by the Government, then Government would come up with proposals for the Tamils to actively participate in the day to day administration of their regions.

Asian Tribune: Though whatever you say is correct, but a section of the Tamils – in fact majority of them feel that they are jumping from the frying pan into the fire.

Minister Keheliya Rambukwella : I don’t dispute that Rajah

Asian Tribune: Our surveys on the Tamils, clearly points to the fact that at present Tamils are between the deep sea and the devil. They are faced with uncertainties and in a dilemma, unable to make up their minds.

On one side you have the LTTE – in the name of Tamil nationalism, they subjugated the Tamils, forcefully recruited their children. They deprived them of their freedom and many of their rights. But on the other hand the Government too has so far not done anything that would goes to prove that the Government is better than the Tigers. Government must do something to prove that it is trustworthy.

That is why I am asking you, what are you going to do? In Tamil Nadu do you know what the pro LTTE leaders are saying. They say that the capture of Kilinochchi and the other areas are just temporary things. The Tamil Tigers withdrew from those places for tactical purposes. The Government has taken over areas without the people. They say that the Sinhalese will not be able to hold on to whatever they have captured and the Tigers will get it back. All these propaganda are going on. Tamils are in a state of confusion.

Already Army commander and many others in responsible positions have made conflicting statements about Tamils. A picture has been drawn that the Tamils are living in Sri Lanka at the mercy of the Sinhalese. These are not something acceptable. A conducive climate has to be created. So Government must openly declare what they are going to do?

Minister Keheliya Rambukwella: I know and read what Vaiko has said, but according to our reports, majority of thepeople in Tamil Nadu are not endorsing those views of Vaikos and Nedumarans.

Asian Tribune: I wish to keep on reiterating that the Government has to take measures to win the hearts and minds of the Tamil and Tamil speaking Muslim people.

Minister Keheliya Rambukwella : I know.

Asian Tribune: What are you going to do? Do you have any programme?

Minister Keheliya Rambukwella : Let me be very frank with you. I was in Kandy last two days and I will be discussing these issues with our leaders. Today, I will be discussing some of these things I witnessed and some of the things that was conveyed by my friends in Colombo. I know that these things demand our immediate attention? We intend to form a Committee, in short an organization – voluntary in nature to deal with these people to people matters. There are top class people who have volunteered to serve in this proposed committee.

Day before yesterday, after the news of the capture of Kilinochchi was anounced, large number of people came out in the streets and expressed their joy and happiness. This was in Kandy. But some unscrupulous elements behaved in unruly manner. Tamil shopkeepers put up their shutters and also they shouted in front of the houses belonging to Tamils which amounts to intimidating.

Immediately I contacted the Inspector General of Police, and told him to take precautionary measures. Also I spoke with few guys who are very balanced minded and explained to them my thinking and they agreed to form a committee and I want the Tamils and Muslim people also to join with us. We are obliged to make the Tamils and the Muslims feel secure that they will in no affected by Prabhakaran.

I am meeting some people today and tomorrow and I am interested in organizing the moderates to make everyone, Tamils, Muslims as well as even the Sinhalese secure in this country. I was the one who names the Committee for National Security. Similarly I wanted to name our proposed committee also.

Asian Tribune: I will tell you a name "A committee for National Integration"

Minister Keheliya Rambukwella : But that is very official. What we want to do is a people’s voluntary organization to build up goodwill and friendly relationship amongst the various ethno-religious groups in our country.

Asian Tribune: Committee for National Integration, government can have it or anyone else can have it.

Minister Keheliya Rambukwella : It must be simple as possible.

Asian Tribune: Yes, I think The Committee for National integration - CNI would serve the purpose.

Minister Keheliya Rambukwella : I was thinking that it should be something which make the people secure and comfortable. 'You & and me', something to make them feel that we are there for them.

Asian Tribune: I think that it is important to make the Sinhalese to think that they are Sri Lankans, we want to make the Tamils to think they are Sri Lankans, and the Muslims to think that they are Sri Lankans.

Minister Keheliya Rambukwella : Not only that, a Tamil should feel that eventhough terrorists may threaten and intimidate them, but he must always remember, "I have a Sinhala friend next door to me, if I need him, he is always there for me".

Asian Tribune: If a Tamil thinks that he is a Sri Lanka then the whole country belongs to him.

Minister Keheliya Rambukwella: Theoretically it is right, but practically it is not possible. In 1983 in my home in Kandy, I kept 80 Tamil people that time. At that time I was not in politics and the police came to investigate what I was doing with all those Tamils in my home. I had an old lady and her one leg was broken by some cronies. She owned 80 acres of land where she had pepper plants and some people looted and assaulted this old lady and broke her leg. I took her to my home and looked after her as my own mother.

When things settled down, she does not leave me and my family. She began to love us so much; she wanted to stay with us. She stayed with us for more than three months period, even after the communal tension cooled down in Kandy.

What I am trying to say is these official kinds of things are good only theoretically. But realistically they must feel that though there existed earlier hatred between the Tamils and Sinhalese, but now we have to create a social and political environment that they must feel that the already the old hatred that prevailed has gone, and now they have friends in the midst of Sinhalese. We must try our best to build confidence and they must have confidence in others.

In the meantime feeling of right, it is official - such as devolution of power, but feeling of friendship is a different thing and that can be cultivated. I am going to discuss this tomorrow with those who are interested in these ideas and ideals.

Asian Tribune: What are you going to do? Ok, you are going to set up a committee to cultivate better relationship between the ethnic groups, but how is the government going to address this problem?

Minister Keheliya Rambukwella: Government is trying to work out something and they are quiet mindful of this situation.

Asian Tribune: Do you know that LTTE depends largely on the Tamil diaspora. What are you going to do to win the hearts and minds of those Tamil diaspora?

Minister Keheliya Rambukwella: Mmm… We are at present working out through our missions abroad and also through some organizations in the West. I think we will soon work out acceptable programme and address their grievances.

Asian Trbune: We have some Sri Lankan professors and academics working with us in Sweden. One of such academic is from Kandy, Dr. Nazeem Seyed-Mohamed - Professor at Uppsala University's Department of Business Studies.

In the course of a discussion, he told me that it is the ideal time to do something for the Tamils and Muslims in Sri Lanka. He said that we must talk with the Sinhalese leaders and make the minorities secure. I think that what the learned professor said was correct.

Minister Keheliya Rambukwella : Yes, I understand this, I discussed these things with some of my friends and we believe in people to people friendly contacts as the best way to establish trust, confidence and friendliness. This will help in big way to build lasting friendship between the communities.

Sri Lankan academics in the midst of Sri Lankan expatriates should come forward to work towards establishing friendly relationship in the midst of our communities. We must all jointly try to build a new Sri Lanka, said Minister Keheliya Rambukwella.

- Asian Tribune -

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