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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2554

Ask LTTE not obstruct food convoys, Douglas appeals to religious leaders

By M Rama Rao in New Delhi

New Delhi, 01 December, (Asiantribune.com): Sri Lanka Minister for Social Services Douglas Devananda has appealed to religious leaders to urge the LTTE not to obstruct the transportation and distribution of food in the Jaffna peninsula.

He is the lone Tamil representative in the Rajapakse government, with a grassroots organizational structure in tact in Jaffna, Vavunia, Batticaloa and other places in the Tamil belt to the envy of his political rivals.

In an exclusive interview here, "Asian Tribune" asked him why he would not make an appeal to local Bishop, Saundranayagam to lead the food convoys.

Douglas replied: I appeal to leaders of Hindu, Muslim and Christian religions to advice the LTTE to let the food lorries to bring the badly needed supplies.

He said aid destined for people cut in the Eastern Sri Lanka has begun to arrive.

Already eighty-one Lorries reached Vaharai town with the supplies which had to be turned back on Tuesday because of shelling. Vaharai was cut off after fighting escalated in the eastern district of Batticaloa last month.

Answering a wide range of questions, the visiting Minister, said the political leadership must take the initiative to break the devolution log jam. "The world doesn’t remain a hostage to Hitlers and Pol Pots. They terrorised people and made them fall inline but they were never liked," he said when asked about Prabhakaran and his hold over areas where LTTE writ runs. He added: "people have lost hope. They don’t like him (Tigers boss). They (people) will come out once political initiative is in place."

President Mahinda Rajapakse met the Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee in New Delhi, today (28-11-06).  The President is seen introducing EPDP Secretary General and Minister Douglas Devananda to Mr. Mukherjee during the meeting.President Mahinda Rajapakse met the Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee in New Delhi, today (28-11-06). The President is seen introducing EPDP Secretary General and Minister Douglas Devananda to Mr. Mukherjee during the meeting.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa with Opposition Leader of the Lok Sabha L.K. Advani Wednesday. Ministers Mangala Samaraweera and Douglas Devananda are also in the picture.President Mahinda Rajapaksa with Opposition Leader of the Lok Sabha L.K. Advani Wednesday. Ministers Mangala Samaraweera and Douglas Devananda are also in the picture.

‘My view’, he said, 'LTTE is not genuine (on peace). The only way (to solve the ethnic issue) is political initiative. People, who are terrorized, will come forward once the initiative is taken. And will say accept or leave it (to LTTE).'

Take on Councils

Douglas case is that the provincial councils in the Tamil area should be revived. These Councils are already in place in other provinces. We had them also but have become defunct. Bureaucrats are running these councils. We should revive them."

He doesn’t see any hitch in the revival of provincial councils.

"Everyone accepts them (councils). It (councils) is in our constitution. Other provinces have them. There are three lists – provincial council list, state list and federal list in the constitution clearly demarcating the council powers," he said and added that he did not visualise any hiccups in the matter. The President, he said, is working on a southern consensus.

Answering a question, Douglas Devananda said, I think that the provincial council be revived even as the All Party Committee (APC) is grappling with what kind of devolution suits Sri Lanka. Once the APC gives its report, and is accepted, then more powers could be given to these councils.

Will it be possible to hold elections in the prevailing atmosphere, the Minister was asked. Why not, he shot back. When we could have parliament and presidential elections, why we cannot have provincial council elections, he asked.

Asian Tribune pointed out that the last Parliament/Presidential election witnessed a low voter turn out in Tamil areas. The Minister agreed but did not like to attribute the poor vote response to the LTTE’s boycott call. The then Chandrika government, according to him, did not take effective steps to facilitate voter turn out. "It (boycott call) suited them. In the past also elections were held. Elections cannot be rigged any more because of identity cards are issued to all voters."

Douglas opines that elections to provincial councils should start functioning with an interim setup. Elections could be held in about six months and by then people would have had effective political process in place.

Rajapakse Sincerity

How confident is are you that President Rajapakse will deliver on his promise, Asian Tribune asked Douglas drawing attention to the skepticism in a section of Indian leadership that President like his predecessors is buying his time and that he is not very sincere.

The criticism is unfair; the Minister said and added the President knows the pulse of the people. "I am saying this because I meet him daily, often on one-to- one basis. He (Rajapakse) has experience. He is not elitist (like Chandrika Kumaratunga, his predecessor). Every leader does things on the basis of his or her experience. Rajapakse has come up from amongst the masses."

President Rajapakse, he said, may be able to deliver. He understands that LTTE terrorism and Tamils urge for genuine political rights are two different issues. "He understands these two issues clearly. Any one who understands the ground reality can clearly solve (the ethnic issue). He may be able to deliver. At the same time, you cannot keep quiet. We have to do our bit."

Turning to India- Sri Lanka relations, Minister Douglas said, "We (Sri Lanka) need India. In his view, India is getting involved in Lanka matters though not physically. "It is guiding us. Helping us. Even LTTE wants India to help us."

He recalled that he was criticized in the past for his bold stand, but he has not wavered in his commitment and convictions. "Several golden opportunities were lost. We cannot squander the present opportunity as well."

- Asian Tribune -

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