Maithri-Ranil Govt. saved war heroes from facing international tribunal

27 October 2016 12:01 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) stalwart, Megapolis and Western  Province Development Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka says, in an  interview with Daily Mirror, that his party is happy about the two major  parties getting together for governance. He says the Sinhala Buddhist  identity should be there not to suppress non-Buddhists or the  minorities, but to ensure the stability and prosperity of the country.  He shared the following with us:   

 


Q Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) was formed in 2004 as a  National Movement of Buddhist Monks. Has there been a change in its  original objectives? Were recent changes in Party’s high ranks appointed  at the 13th Convention, a reflection of changes in the original  objectives and policies of the party? 
JHU is not a mere traditional political party. The  political history of our active members goes back to 1980s as student  activists. The first ever public movement based on sustainable  development and Green Economics – Janatha Mithuro – was formed by  these activists in 1991. When terrorist activities were escalating, we  put before the public, a strategic plan to face terrorism, by forming  National Movement Against Terrorism (NMAT) in 1998. Our members were  actively taking part in different organizations, including Sinhala Weerawidahana,Jathika Sangha Sabha (National Bhikkhu Council) and the National Joint Committee  to defeat efforts of destabilize this country back in 1995, when the  then SLFP and UNP entered into a pact with Liam Fox in making this  country a Federal State. It was the same groups that came together to  form the Sihala Urumaya Party after our forces lost Wanni and Elephant  Pass in 2000. We then handed over the movement or the party to bhikkus  in 2004 under the banner Jathika Hela Urumaya when there was a grave  need to protect the Sangha Sasana. After that, we became the decisive factor  in two elections, 2005 and 2010 once in 2010 where we became a party to  the United People’s Freedom Alliance, and again in 2015, where we  contested with the United National Front. In the past decade, we proved that  we were a pragmatic political movement rather than a political party  that was glued to a set of ideals which cannot be realized.   

 

The war our soldiers fought against terrorism was legal and  ethical. Therefore, we are bound to protect them and be responsible for  what they did in fighting against LTTE terrorists. Actually, it was  thanks to the Maithri-Ranil Government that we could prevent our war heroes  being tested before an international war crimes court

 


We were the movement that believed in defeating terrorism  completely. With the belief that you could defeat terrorism, we  introduced a strategic plan and stuck to it until we saw an end to  terrorism. The Europe and Northern American countries who have now been victimized by terrorism have adopted the same policies by giving it  more racial and extremist twist. We strongly believe that  national security is fundamental to the Nation’s stability.   


Nigeria and Somalia have proven that countries which  embraced Federal status in recent times failed miserably, and since we  foresaw this back then we protested against any move to introduce  federalism to this country jeopardizing the stability of the State.   


It is only with us, the JHU that could bring both SLFP  (2005) and the UNP (2015) to sign a pact accepting unitary status of  this country.   


It was the JHU that brought forward the most practical  solutions to change the Executive Presidency of the country. As we  believe the need of an executive President to secure the stability of  the country, we suggested that it should be amended only to take away  absolute and excessive powers enjoyed by the person in office. Now these  suggestions were realized and have democratized the Presidency.   

 

If there are people who were taken into  custody on suspicion of aiding or abetting the LTTE, they must be freed if there  are no charges. The law should be equal to all. One cannot be set free  just because he is a Sinhalese or similarly one should not be kept  imprisoned merely because he is a Tamil. 

 


If we are to go for a complete abolition of Executive  Presidency, we must also go for a complete change in our electoral  system as well, where we could elect a stable government that would  ensure stability of the country too. We will not leave space for any  Constitutional amendment that would jeopardize the stability of this  country as we do not want to fall in the same trap Nepal got into.   
The JHU is happy that two major parties could come together  in forming a national government. Sri Lanka could have faced an  international foray and would have become another Venezuela had this  change not taken place.   


What we said about conserving the environment and  sustainable development back in 1990, have later become international  treaties, thus proving that no one was able to see as far as we could.  Today, even Sri Lanka is taking the same path by changing its  development strategies.

Programmes we introduced earlier, such as Green  Lanka (2010), Programme to Invest in Inventions (2013), Sustainable  Energy Plan (2015) have now been adopted as national policies. What we  achieved through struggles for public to ensure food without poisons,  clean water, air and soil could not be achieved by so-called Bolshevik  revolutionaries after sacrificing thousands of lives in Sri Lanka. We will continue our struggle for social justice and a  country sans corruption, frauds and unnecessary political interferences.  Not many like to admit that the novel economic concepts were based on  our policies. It is us who first lobbied to make Sri Lanka the Financial  and Trading Hub of the Indian Ocean. (2010)  

 

 President  Sirisena received people’s mandate on January 8, 2015, because he  pledged not to go for any Constitutional Reform that would require a  referendum. Therefore, the name of the State, National Anthem, National  Flag, status given to Buddhism, right to practise all religions and  people’s supremacy cannot be changed

 


At a time where political parties could not think beyond  liberal economic strategies and out-dated soviet policies we spoke about  innovative economic strategies and knowledge based economy and  introduced such plans with inputs from experts back in 2013. Today, it  has become the official economic policy of the Country.   


Therefore, our Sinhala Buddhist identity is not to destroy  or suppress non-Buddhist or non-Sinhalese, but to build a stable,  prosperous, great country. Our three founding stones in this regard are  stability, justice and prosperity.   

 


QThere is an accusation that current regime is  sending war heroes behind the bars while setting LTTE members free. What  is your take on this accusation? 
Military forces of this country completely crushed a  terrorist organisation which possessed state of art weapons and who had  the blessings of international conspirators, without obtaining any  support from any foreign military force. We believe this was not only a  victory of Sri Lankans but any peace lover out there in the world.   


Today, even developed countries with modern technology  struggle to defeat small terrorist outfits that are much weaker than the  LTTE. What we fought at Nandikadal in 2009, these western super powers  now face at Aleppo and Mosul. Even when Sinhalese were subjected to  genocide in North after 1984, no Sinhalese or member of security forces  targeted Tamil civilians. When in danger Tamils and Muslims in the North  and East had access to South whenever they wished to leave war-torn  areas. We would like to point it to the so-called developed countries  like Britain, Norway and USA who build massive walls to prevent refugees  from entering their territories and to those who are engaged in closing  down mosques and call for a hate campaign against entire the Muslim  population. But we never waged a war against Tamil civilians.   


The war our soldiers fought against terrorism was legal and  ethical. Therefore, we are bound to protect them and be responsible for  what they did in fighting against LTTE terrorists. Actually, it was  thanks to the Maithri-Ranil Government that we could prevent our war heroes  being tested before an international war crimes court. It was because of  the President and Prime Minister that the international community did not  impose sanctions on our country or did not summon the former President or  Defence Secretary for any alleged war crime trial. Now our army is being  invited to fight terrorists in countries like Mali, which gives us an  idea that our military forces have gained international recognition.   


However, those who engaged in taking ransom, killed  personal opponents or engaged in frauds amounting to millions of rupees  under the guise of war, should be brought to book individually.  What police and other law enforcing authorities must keep in mind is  that they should not jeopardize national security or disgrace war heroes  when carrying out such investigations.   


On the other hand, if there are people who were taken into  custody on suspicion of aiding or abetting the LTTE, they must be freed if there  are no charges. The law should be equal to all. One cannot be set free  just because he is a Sinhalese or similarly one should not be kept  imprisoned merely because he is a Tamil. No one is against bailing out  LTTE suspects if not convicted and in reality there are only less than  100 who were bailed out in that manner. However, Mahinda Rajapaksa let  more than 12,000 terrorists like Ram, Nagulan and KP scot free, and the  government must take legal actions against these hard-core  terrorists.What we emphasize is that we can do it within local legal  framework and there is no need to bring in foreign Judges or send them  to international courts.   


QRecently, there was a movement called ‘Ezhagu Thamil’ where they called Tamils to rise. How do you see these developments? 
 First of all, I must insist that MR administration should  held be responsible for this ‘Wigneswaran process’. He (MR) promised  India that Northern Provincial Council polls would be held before March  2013 as a strategy to face forces building up in Geneva. Then, when the  Indian delegates arrived here, MR and Basil Rajapaksa announced that  elections would held be in September 2013 without consulting the Cabinet  or anyone in the government.   


We told him to remove five powers vested in the PCs since  the government had already had two thirds majority in Parliament and to  build a solid alternative political movement before going for an  elections in North. MR as usual appointed a committee to decide on  provincial powers and used Minister Vasudeva Nanayakkara and Prof. Tissa  Vitharana to sabotage the process. Even though the government spent  billions of rupees to develop the North under ‘Uthuru Vasanthaya’  Wigneswaran gained an easy win due to the absence of a strong political  alternate.   


All defeated pro-LTTE Tamil political parties and leaders  like EPRFF, EPDP (Thavarasa), TULF (Ananda Sangaree) have flocked around  Wigneswaran and his ‘Rise Tamil’ movement. Their main objective was to  be completely racial in order to make Opposition Leader R. Sampanthan  unpopular amongst Tamil community by projecting him as a traitor. This  was the same strategy adopted by Amirthalingam against Ponnambalam in  1970s. Secondly he wanted to project himself locally and internationally  as the only Tamil leader. Thirdly, to build a racial platform for him  to be re-elected in 2018, as that is the only option left for  Wigneswaran, who for the last three years, has failed to enact a single  development project in the North.   


With this ‘Rise Tamils’ movement and frequent harthals they  have once again breathed oxygen to Prabhakaran’s separatism under which the Northern Tamil community will get sidelined by Tamil community as well  as by the entire country. Not a single investor or professional would  step into troubled Jaffna, and on the other hand, the prolonged slogan  of discrimination and provocation of Sinhalese which led to Tamil rising would  lose its hold. Lastly, a fair platform would be created for the entire  society to fight for the lost lands of Sinhalese and Muslims in the  past. Finally, all of these would only bring embarrassment to the Tamil  community. So I believe this ‘Rise Tamil’ movement only marginalises the  Tamils.   

 


QThere are some fears that the new Constitution  will lay foundation to make Sri Lanka a secular country and a Federal  State. Is there any truth behind this? 
Drafting a new Constitution is an open process which each  Member of Parliament is part of. There is a 21-member Steering Committee  with representations from each political party in Parliament including  MR.   


There are six subcommittees which look into identified  areas and prepared their reports and once these six subcommittees  present their respective reports before parliament or steering committee  MPs would discuss those.   


There was an attempt to draft a Constitution during the MR  regime where an All Party Committee was appointed and during that period an  expert panel (majority) presented a report suggesting to make Sri  Lanka, a federal secular State. MR in his 2015 election campaign pledged  to resolve problems of Tamils within six months. In 2010, he even  presented a power sharing proposal in Geneva. None of those took the  democratic route at the time. But today the process is transparent.   
On the other hand, I must emphasize the fact that President  Sirisena received people’s mandate on January 8, 2015, because he  pledged not to go for any Constitutional Reform that would require a  referendum. Therefore, the name of the State, National Anthem, National  Flag, status given to Buddhism, right to practise all religions and  people’s supremacy cannot be changed. Since no political party was able  to gain a clear majority after January 2015, it is the responsibility of  all to respect the people’s mandate that had already been received.  However, it is the people of Sri Lanka that finally ratify the new  Constitution exercising their sovereign franchise.   


The danger of making the State secular was proved in  European countries while risks of federalism were made clear in Arabic and  North African countries. Thus, we will not allow any attempts that would  weaken the State.   


After all, we must give priority to enact the 20th Amendment  and abolish the preferential voting system and introduce electoral reforms  as it is the biggest expectation of our people.   
We will give a complete analysis once the draft  Constitution is tabled and would do everything to defeat reforms that  would destabilize the country.   

 


QAre you satisfied with the progress the government  has so far made in combating corruption? Also, what are your thoughts  on recent remarks by President Sirisena? 
President Sirisena received the mandate of two camps in  January 2015. One was of those from traditional political parties  including the UNP, TNA, SLMC and the JVP and the other was from the  educated and professional middlemen. Since it was clear that MR couldn’t  be defeated with votes of the opposition, the mandate of this second  category was decisive. They expected that the new government would take stern  actions against those who are corrupt and will make strong laws to end  corruption. We, just like these forces, have displeasure over the manner  in which government made progress in this regard. We see three reasons  that delayed this process and also lead to criticism.   
Firstly, it was due to weaknesses inherited by our judicial  system. Not having adequate experts, delay in prosecution and suspects  not being convicted (only 4% of criminals are convicted in Sri Lanka  while in Japan the percentage is 100%) are some of the reasons.   


Secondly, even though the law is made independent it is not  impartial and efficient That is why suspects in same case are being  treated differently. Sometimes, even though there is criticism about  certain rulings by court in some cases, people are afraid to voice  against them due to the fear of being charged for contempt of court.  Therefore, we need to introduce new laws defining what is contempt of  court and to ensure impartiality and efficiency of courts.   


Thirdly, certain cases are weakened or delayed due to  political reasons. The infamous Avant Garde floating armoury case not  being charged as a criminal case, the delay in RADA and Thajudeen murder  cases are some of the instances. Also, while Kumar Gunaratnam is being  imprisoned over charges of possessing a fake passport. Wimal Weerawansa  who faced the same charges was bailed out.   


Therefore, we, as proposed to the Cabinet on January 21,  must take action against them through a special court against those who  engaged in mega scale corruption and frauds. This should also be applied  to corruption took that place under the present government over the Treasury  Bond scam.   

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