By Methmalie Dissanayake
On 6 September, a new civil society group was formed under the leadership of former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa. According to members of Eliya, the sole purpose of forming the group is defeating the new Constitution.
Ceylon Today contacted a member of Eliya, Rear Admiral Dr. Sarath Weerasekra VSV RWP USP to ascertain his views on the new Constitution and the current status of the war crimes allegations levelled against Sri Lanka.
Followings are excerpts of the interview:
We are seeing you these days as a member of Eliya which is a group that has the support of former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Why did you extend your support to ‘Eliya‘?
A: The main objective of Eliya is to apprise the public of the detrimental effects of the proposed new Constitution/Constitutional Amendments. If the new Constitution is approved the country would definitely become Federal with nine independent provinces. I have spent my entire adult life – 39 years: 35 yrs in the Navy and 4 yrs in the Civil Defence Force, to protect the territorial integrity of the country. I will commit the rest of my life to retain that unitary structure. That’s why I support Eliya.
You always speak against the new Constitution, while the Government assures the proposed Constitution will not divide the country. Is this your way to topple the Government?
A: This Government is cheating the people. Ours is a unitary country and for thousands of years our ancestors, and recently our forces have made the supreme sacrifice to keep it unitary. Now this Government is trying to give it on a platter via a Constitution, what the LTTE couldn’t achieve through terror. Isn’t it treacherous? In the Supreme Court Judgment on the 13 Amendment it is stated as a Unitary State, the central Government is supreme over all other levels and her powers are unrestricted. There are no subsidiary sovereign bodies. In a Federal Constitution each provincial government is legally independent within its own sphere.
As at present, the unitary nature is being retained mainly through the Governor exercising the executive powers of the President, and the concurrent list. The two main recommendations of the proposed new Constitution are to abolish the powers of the Governor and the concurrent list; that would result in nine legally independent provinces. Basically that’s how the country would become federal. Then how can this Government say that the country would not be divided? Only the label unitary will be there for the public.
With regard to toppling the Government, yes, I would very much like to see this Government toppled. The country is in a mess.
All our resources are being sold to outsiders for a pittance. The economy is in shambles. The war winning heroes are remanded and the murderous terrorists are being released from prisons. The Geneva 30/1 Resolution was co-sponsored accepting that our forces have committed war crimes. The precious environment is being destroyed. There is scant respect for the dignity of our Motherland and the nation has become a puppet of the West and the separatist Tamil Diaspora and Tamil politicians. Not only me but all the patriotic citizens in the country want this Government toppled and that too very soon.
NPC CM Wigneswaran recently claimed that king Devanampiyatissa was actually a Tamil king. Also He insists that the French speaking Quebec preferred to stay with rest of Canada which is English speaking and is a federal country. What are your opinions on this?
A: Before talking about king Devanampiyatissa let me talk about Wigneswaran first. He is a Tamil who has had his education at Royal College and entered Law College. He then became a Magistrate, a High Court Judge, a Judge in the Court of Appeal and a Supreme Court Judge. He worked and lived among Sinhalese for 65 years and after taking up appointment as the Chief Minister of the Northern Provincial Council, had the audacity to announce that the country should be federated and Sinhalese and Muslims have no right to live in Jaffna! He advises the Tamil youth not to marry Sinhalese but both his sons are married to Sinhalese women!
Lakshman Kadirgamar was also a Tamil, a true patriot who always respected his Motherland. He was totally against the LTTE which waged war against the Government to separate the country. Here we see the stark difference between two Tamils who have been nurtured by our Motherland. One revered Mother Lanka and tried to keep it unitary whilst the other is trying to separate the country by demanding Federalism.
Wigneswaran must learn the true history of the country without creating one to justify separatism. It is too late to teach him the history of this great country. To justify federalism he cites Canada and Quebec. Canada was first colonized by the French and later by the British. These colonies were originally ruled by France and Britain. Prior to independence, colonies joined together to form the Dominion of Canada. Waves of settlers acquired territories and provinces which finally federated under a central Government, with Quebec Province being almost totally French where original French migrants settled. Sri Lanka has historically been one country and hence Wigneswaran’s comparison of Canada and Quebec with Sri Lanka is absolutely irrelevant and baseless.
His demand for federalism is to meet the aspirations of the Tamils. If the federal powers are given to the North to meet that requirement, what about the aspirations of the 58 per cent of the Tamils living in the South among the Sinhalese? Does that mean their aspirations are already met or Wigneswaran is not concerned about them at all?
During the last regime a lot of development took place in the North. Chavakachcheri Hospital became the best district hospital in the country, 200 new schools were built, eight new operating theatres were built at the Jaffna Hospital, at a cost of Rs1,800 million, almost all the roads are carpeted, to name a few. The Northern Provincial Council receives 1 billion rupees (1000 million) every year for development work in the North.
I ask Wigneswaran to declare how much from that allocation he has spent on his people and how much he has returned to the Government, unused? As per Douglas Devananda, most of the funds received have been returned. The reasons can be either inefficiency or a deliberate attempt to retard the development in the North in order to imply the Sinhalese Government’s indifferent attitude towards Tamils. In both cases, in my opinion, Wigneswaran either has failed or conspired against the State and hence not fit enough to hold the position of Chief Minister any longer.
He says Devanampiyatissa was a Tamil king. Tissa was the Sinhala name of the king and Devanampiya was an honoured title given to him. In India at Lumbini, in a Rummindei inscription on the Ashok Pillar it states Devena Piyena Priyadarshana Ashoka, which was an honoured title given to king Ashoka. I request the CM to visit India and using his ‘theesan’ theory, tell the Indians that Maurya Vanshika King Ashoka was also a Tamil!
Chief Minister Wigneswaran also says that this is not a Sinhala Buddhist country. What have you got to say to that?
A: The original name of this country is ‘Sinhale.’ The 1815 Kandyan Convention was signed by the leaders of Great Britain and ‘Sinhale’. If we had retained that name after independence everyone in our country would have been ‘Sinhalese’. All the countries in the world are multi ethnic but generally countries are identified with the majority community and its religion. Hence no one should get offended if this country is called a Sinhalese Buddhist country because 74 per cent are Sinhalese and of them 85 per cent are Buddhists. This is the reality.
CM Wigneswaran does not want to allow Sinhalese in the North, demands of removal of Buddha statues in Jaffna, but lives happily among Sinhalese in Colombo because this is a Sinhala Buddhist country. If he insults the Mullas in a Muslim country he’d be beheaded. He claims such things because he knows that this is a Sinhala Buddhist country. Buddhists respect other religions and that’s why there are thousands of kovils, churches and mosques everywhere.
It is Lakshman Kadirgamar who proposed in Geneva that the Vesak Poya day be declared an international holiday. That was true reconciliation and people like Wigneswaran try to destroy it, now.
Several experts say that both the former Government and the current Government did not do sufficient work to defeat war crime allegations in the international arena. Why didn‘t you raise your voice during the former regime about this?
A: The former Government didn’t remand war heroes and release hardcore terrorists from prisons. It stood in the international arena, protecting our dignity. Hence, there was no need to raise our voices. This Government accepted the UN Investigative Report on Sri Lanka (OISL Report) which is full of contradictions and treacherously co-sponsored the Geneva resolution 30/1 proposed by the USA against Sri Lanka. They are making way for the war heroes to be taken to the International Criminal Court.
Can we see Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekara as a Member of Parliament, again, in the future?
A: When I was in Parliament, I worked according to my conscience and that is why I voted against the 19th Amendment. My going to Parliament again will depend on the proposed Constitution. If it is approved what is the point in going to Parliament which is subservient to provincial governments?