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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2707

Genuine Tamil grievances have to be addressed within a unitary state – President Rajapakase

By Walter Jayawardhana

Colombo 04 September, ( President Mahinda Rajapaksa accepted that there were genuine Tamil grievances and those have got to be addressed but refused what is called “a federal solution” due to the mandate he has received from the nation constrained him to be within a unitary state.President Mahinda Rajapaksa :“'Federalism is a negative word in Sri Lanka because people think it (is) synonymous with dividing the country. Also, I prefer the phrase 'power sharing' to 'devolution.” President Mahinda Rajapaksa :“'Federalism is a negative word in Sri Lanka because people think it (is) synonymous with dividing the country. Also, I prefer the phrase 'power sharing' to 'devolution.”

“I cannot change history or my own political circumstances overnight... You must remember my political legacy and constraints. During my election I received few Tamil votes because of the LTTE-enforced boycott. I was elected primarily by a Sinhala constituency on an election manifesto which made it clear that an ultimate solution to the ethnic crisis could be evolved only on the basis of a unitary state,” he told a New Delhi based reporter Inderjit Badhwar when he met him at his official residence, “Temple Trees” for an interview.

“Federalism is a negative word in Sri Lanka, because people think it (is) synonymous with dividing the country. Also, I prefer the phrase 'power sharing' to 'devolution,” he added. The interview was published in the News Post India, September 2.

The news website said he accepted there were “genuine Tamil grievances” and “genuine Tamil aspirations” which have got to be addressed but he vowed to fight back Tamil Tigers’ terrorism.

During the interview Rajapaksa also warned the Western nations: “'But it is not like making instant coffee. Ultimately, it would be a mistake for Western governments to allow their frustrations with the slow pace of (political) reform in Sri Lanka to be interpreted as empathy with a terrorist cause.”

He said during the process he had to carry the Sinhala people with him for any solution to be successful: “In any peace settlement I have to carry the Sinhala voters with me. I cannot unilaterally impose a settlement - it has to be the outcome of a political process - an outcome that must be long-lasting and acceptable to the people.”

President Mahinda Rajapaksa said, “'I recognize the legitimate historic grievances of our Tamil people. They are Sri Lankans; proud Sri Lankans. And any organized repression of the rights of any Sri Lankan is a blot on all Sri Lankans.”

Rajapaksa said he had no hidden agenda. But he urged Tamil groups to “present a united agenda and concrete proposals for peace. Prabhakaran does not speak for all Tamils. The vast majority of Tamil people want peace above everything and to them Eelam is just an illusion.”

The reporter met the President immediately after his physical exercises in the morning and described him as a tall handsome man: “A tall, muscular figure who exudes the earthy exuberance and macho good looks of a South Indian film star, he had just finished his morning workout at the gym followed by a swim. He wore a T-shirt and jeans and his hair was still wet.”

President Mahinda Rajapaksa charged the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) for treating the Norway sponsored peace accord as a joke and said LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran was the main obstacle to peace. He added, “With or without Prabhakaran, genuine Tamil grievances, the compulsions of their ethnic honor and linguistic identity need to be respected and addressed or the problems will not be solved.”

He completely denied the Mangala Samaraweera group and UNP allegations that he had secretly funded the Tamil Tigers to boycott the 2005 elections which Rajapaksa won narrowly which otherwise have been won by his opponent Ranil Wickremesinghe who would have easily received more of the Tamil votes.

The President said: “'This is completely laughable as well as logically absurd. Is it possible in any country for a person who is not even in power to make a deal of this sort? And how does this allegation co-exist with the earlier description of me as a 'hawk' who seeks only a military victory? I can't be both things at the same time.

“If I'm a hawk, I cannot be making secret deals (with the LTTE) for a political solution. If I'm for a negotiated settlement, then I cannot possibly be accused of seeking a military solution! ...

“History shows that secret deals backfire. President Ranasinghe Premadasa made such a deal with LTTE chief Velupillai Prabhakaran and the LTTE assassinated him.

“If you really believe that we gave him (Prabhakaran) 700 million (rupees) and got him to organize a boycott of Tamil votes at the presidential election, then we invite you, please, to take the initiative on our behalf and offer him even a much bigger sum of money in return for getting him to the negotiating table so that we may have peace in our country and save so many precious lives.”
Rajapaksa said he would bring democracy to the Eastern Province s and was quoted having said, he hoped to hold elections by the end of 2007 in the eastern province, which the military has seized from the Tamil Tigers.

Attacking critics that he was not doing enough to further a political solution the President called them “text book analysts” and “instant experts” and said, those people were “'giving their text book analyses and solutions for decades with the aim of influencing donors ... to pressure my country into imposing their theoretical solutions rather than letting us negotiate a settlement based on a Sri Lankan consensus and Sri Lankan realities...

He also added, “I differ from my opponents who say peace at any price. I say peace, yes, but peace with honor and dignity. And the only question that is non-negotiable is a divided Sri Lanka.”

- Asian Tribune -

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