By Dilanka Gunatillaka
Minister of National Coexistence, Dialogue and Official Languages Mano Ganesan says some people want the Tiger Leader Prabakharan because the politics of those people are based on the Tiger mentality.
? Some are saying that the tigers’ stripes are reappearing. Is that story true?
A: Those who are scare-mongering have a need for the tiger. They want separatism. They want terrorism. In short, some want the Tiger Leader Prabakharan. It is because the politics of those people are based on Tiger actions.
?However, by the recent adoption of a federal proposal at the Northern Provincial Council, haven’t their statements been confirmed?
A: A proposal has been adopted at the Northern Provincial Council that a Federal System is required. But that is nothing to get excited about. It is not illegal to request a Federal System. What is illegal is, if they request a separate country. If someone speaks about creating a separate Eelam State, then it will be an illegal thing to do.
?It is not illegal to talk about a Federal System. However, Parliamentarians swear to protect the unitary State. If so, how can it be correct to adopt a proposal on a Federal system?
A: Although it is said that unitary State is to be protected, there is the thirteenth Amendment as well. We have to work towards preventing the country being divided. A proposal to divide the country has not been adopted. If such a proposal to divide the country into two had been adopted, then they have to be taken into custody and the Provincial Councils dissolved. When some individuals in the North speak of a Federal system, some in the South say that this country should be a completely Sinhala Buddhist country. This is like two sides of the same coin. I believe, now is the time to reject both these types of extremism and take the moderate path.
?What is your ministry doing towards taking the moderate path?
A: We are launching a big programme to end the language problem that exists in this country. This ominous issue which is called a national problem in this country, 75 per cent of it is the language problem – a lack of understanding. No-one attempted in the past to minimize this. Now, it is a Minister who can speak both languages who has taken over the responsibility. I believe that those who call themselves the Joint Opposition are also of the view that the language problem has to be solved. I believe that persons such as Vasudeva Nanayakkara, Udaya Gammanpila, Wimal Weerawansa and Dinesh Gunawardena will assist me in bringing the Language Policy.
?A problem has arisen because the Opposition Leader R. Sampanthan tried to enter an Army Camp in the North by force?
A: I saw in the media that he had made such an entrance. I will inquire from the Opposition Leader about this. The Sampanthan I know will not do such an irresponsible thing. Anyhow, if he has done such a thing it is wrong. At the same time I condemn it, because I am against doing such a wrong thing and conveying a wrong opinion to the South. It is similar to providing extremist monkeys with ladders, as the saying goes. Then those extremists will engage in another destructive programme. Therefore I request politicians in the North as well as in the South not to behave in such a manner.
?There were media reports that a bus that went from the South had been stoned in the North?
A: Don’t get excited about stoning incidents. Stoning incidents take place everyday. Sometimes it may have been some small children who might have thrown the stones. They are minor incidents. I request politicians not to misuse such things and behave like small children to achieve their political agendas.
?Do you believe that the economic vision of this government is correct?
A: Most definitely. We are doing what we can. At present we are in a bit of a fix, it is nothing to hide. Loans that were obtained by those who ruled before, without any control at excessive interest rates, have to be paid back by us. Maithri cannot just wash his hands off, saying he did not obtain any loans. As a government we have a responsibility. The per capita debt when Mahinda took over the country had increased fourfold by the time he left office. No other debates or arguments are necessary. Somehow those problems will end in another few months. Prior to that, we have established freedom and democracy in this country.
?This government which said they would increase the basic salary of a government employees by Rs 10,000 has not done so. They have not granted the guaranteed prices to the farmers for paddy, rubber or tea?
A: Today we have established freedom for all citizens in this country including the tea, rubber and coconut farmers, the workers and the fishing community. As a government we have done something on behalf of the people of the country. Do not calculate numbers for this government from January 2015. It is only eight months since our new Parliament was established. Give us a little time. I tell Mahinda Rajapaksa who talks about a common opposition, to give the opportunity for the chairman of his party to develop the country. Not to try to pull his leg and upset everything. We request the joint opposition not to pin the President against the wall and create chaos.
? Although it is said, that the Cabinet of the Mahinda Rajapaksa Government had excessive numbers, aren’t there more than 90 Ministers in this government?
A: I express my regret regarding the excessive Cabinet. We are, of course, not greedy about ministerial posts. However, due to the political environment that exists at this juncture, we have had to agree to these things even if we dislike them. Anyway, once the country reaches a certain stability, all of this will change.
? Certain Ministers from the SLFP are strongly critical the actions of the Prime Minister. Is it possible to move forward as a government in this manner?
A: We saw there were problems in the Cabinets of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party as well as the United People’s Freedom Alliance. Not only that, those who were Cabinet members then berated key government officials. All of that happens. Anyhow, now, some are scolding the Prime Minister in order to establish the identity of their own parties.
? Now, farmers have again taken to the streets against the government. Isn’t this inauspicious for the government?
A: We have already provided the farmers with whatever relief measures we can grant. It is possible that at times, due to weaknesses in the government mechanism some have not received them as yet. We are doing whatever we promised to do. Once the finance problems in the country are solved we will reply to all of these.
? Why did this government which was criticizing China, suddenly go to China and request assistance?
A: We did not criticize China. China has always been a friendly country. What we criticized were the mistakes of the then government’s engagements with China.
?When do you say the local government elections should be held?
A: We take a strong stand that the local government election should be held as soon as delimitation work is completed. If the election is held with all the mistakes in delimitation that exist now, it will be we who will suffer. If delimitation is not done properly, we will not be able to obtain our correct representations.