By Hasitha Ayeshmantha and Ashanthi Warunasuriya
Following are excerpts of the interview:
Q. The official visit of the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights came to a conclusion recently and one of the main purposes of his visit was to get an understanding about the reconciliation process in Sri Lanka. What is Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna’s stance on this issue?
A: As a country, we should be ashamed that a third party such as the United Nations Human Rights Commission had to intervene in a local issue. The former government and the one to follow should have had a clear understanding on how to tackle the reconciliation issue. Their inability to handle the situation properly has compelled a third party to intervene in the matter.
It is the responsibility of the government to make sure that there are no human rights violations in the country. If by any chance the government is not able to resolve the human rights issues inside the country, the intervention of third parties, in this case international bodies, become inevitable. Therefore, providing a clear example for the inability of the government to resolve these issues, the United Nations Human Rights Commissioner himself had to pay a visit to Sri Lanka for observations.
One government ended the war and the other came to power, but both parties have evidently failed to resolve the real issues. The immediate step after completion of a civil war would be to startup on restoring order and reconciliation. The present pathetic situation exists because the two governments which came to power have failed to fall in line with the correct procedure.
A: We can clearly see that even though many discussions were held between several parties, even with the intervention of an international entity, the government has failed to find solid footing on the matter. We cannot rely on just discussing the matter; they should take strong decisions to put the outcomes of the discussions to test.
Many are talking ‘reconciliation’, but we sadly do not see anyone going with a particular action plan to resolve the situation. When addressing such, it is vital for the relevant parties to have a proper action plan to execute the process. We have seen some positive instances such as reciting the National Anthem in Tamil and other such two or three instances where the government has put their foot down and acted, but there still is a need for a proper action plan.
Also, having an action plan would not be enough since it should be further categorized into long and short term action plans. With this, the path would be open to conduct a proper dialogue on reconciliation.
Q. The Tamil National Alliance claims that they see no point of going ahead with a reconciliation process without removing army camps and army personnel from the North. Is the JVP on the same view?
A: No, under any circumstances, we cannot agree to withdraw the army camps or army personnel from the Northern Province. We can see army camps not only in the North, but also in other provinces around the country. Having army camps in any part of the country signifies that the national security of the country stays secure.
Therefore, if any party claims that the army camps of the Northern Province should be removed, the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna is totally against that claim. But, on the other hand, we believe that the civil administration of the Northern Province should be improved. Many high security zones were implemented within the region and the ones that are unnecessary should be removed; then the land liberated from civilians should be handed over to the rightful owners.
Q. The new government after coming into power stated that they will change the Constitution and introduce a new one. To date, they have not been able to do so. Isn’t the JVP going to take any action regarding this issue?
A: We are all in for changing the Constitution and Jantha Vimukthi Peramuna is prepared to chip in with our ideas and criticism. However, we should first determine whether the mechanism used to form the new Constitution is viable. We have had many doubts about the methodology put to form the new Constitution; the government first proposed a method which we declined and protested because of the fact that it was not brought in with the right mindset.
Not even the opposition, but also several members of the government did not agree with the initial proposal because it failed to distribute equal rights to all the members of the parliament. Because of this scenario, the government seems to have put this off for the time being because of the uncertainties the members within the government themselves put forward.
Q. The attention has now been shifted to the Indu-Lanka Economic and Technology Cooperation Agreement (ETCA) from the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA). What is the JVP’s stance on this issue?
A: When closely observing the Indu-Lanka ETCA proposal, same conditions which appeared under the CEPA agreement could be observed within the ETCA proposal as well. Certain things were changed, but we highly doubt that this is what the country needs at the moment.
In fact, we believe that going ahead with the ETCA will directly affect the country’s economy in a very drastic way, and as the opposition, we will strongly protest against this proposal. As an example, the local manufacturing sector will not be able to compete with the diverse Indian market. This will create many concerns for the country’s manufacturing sector and in the end, it will result in financial chaos. Sri Lanka is already facing many challenges because of unemployment and lack of employments. So with this mechanism coming into place, the situation will be further deteriorated as the Indian workforce will enter the local market.
The function of the local trade will be jeopardized and the end result would definitely be a negative one.