HSZs must stay, give back other lands – Ranawak

Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) General Secretary Champika Ranawaka says that essential High Security Zones in the North and East must be maintained and lands used for other businesses such as entertainment, tourist hotels and golf courses etc. should be returned to people.

Q: What have you to say about the results of the presidential election?
A: This is clearly a people’s victory. State power was used in an unprecedented corrupt manner at this election. Mahinda Rajapaksa spent about Rs. 250 billion for his victory. They allocated Rs. 140 billion from the budget and spent about Rs. 100 billion, additionally. Those who depended on State contracts amassed massive wealth. The cost for the propaganda of this election was more than the expenses of the all previous elections in history. It was more than the cost for the propaganda of all five previous presidential elections.
Also, the Rajapaksa regime used media in a very unethical manner. We are very happy about the bold decision of the people to make Maithripala Sirisena the President. Rajapaksa would have lost by two million votes if the election was held in a fair manner.

Q

: Maithripala Sirisena won the election due to massive number of votes he gained from North and East. That depicts they have a lot of problems which the President have to resolve.
A: It is true that he received about 800,000 votes from the North and East. The people of the Northern Province have made use of this democratic space to merge with the people of the other regions without thinking of separatism. It is very good to join with the other educated strata of the southern polity to negotiate peace and reconciliation. They have proven that we have a common platform on which we all can gather.

Q
: High Security Zones are one of the major problems for the people of the North and East. They have been established on their land. In addition, the armed forces interfere in civilian life as well. Will he have conflict with JHU when he tries to resolve this problem?
A: Our problem is this. The people must be given back their land. But the essential High Security Zones must be maintained. Lots of land have been taken over for security but they are used it for other businesses like entertainment, tourist hotels and golf courses etc. Our stand is that those lands must definitely be given back. I reiterate that the High Security Zones must stand. But the plunder of people’s land in the guise of security for businesses must be stopped. This has happened not only to Tamils, but also to the Sinhalese and Muslims.

Q
: Will the JHU become a barrier in the path of finding solutions to the problems of the people of the Northern and Eastern Provinces?
A: Various people look at the political settlement in numerous perspectives. We think of the solutions that must be found for the country. The country needs democracy and peace. We do not oppose a people’s council system that will facilitate taking decision at village level.
But, structures like Provincial Councils nurture separatism. The country will not see a forward march in them. I think all these must be changed in this situation. In 1962, the DMK Party of Tamil Nadu decided to go with Common India. There is golden opportunity for the TNA to also march forward merging with the other societies in Sri Lanka by forgetting the LTTE.
Also, It is good if the UNP, JVP and SLMC change their hard stands and come to take a common stand.

Q
: As the JHU, are
you ready to
change?
A: Yes, definitely. If change is relevant to us also, then we too must change.

Q
: How will that
change
take place?
A: History will decide it. We changed for this Presidential election. We joined this common process with the aim of restoring democracy. We understood, with this election result, that the country needs more than what it expected from the JHU initially. That means the people expect giant democratic and economic decisions from the JHU. We are ready to grant them.

Q
: The former President won the electorates like Avissawella, Kesbewa, Homagama and Maharagama in which the JHU previously had power. Isn’t it a blow to the JHU?
A: I don’t think so. We alleviated the terror spread in the minds of the Sinhala Buddhist people by Rajapaksa, that they would be finished and the country would be divided.
In 2010, when Rajapaksa gained 85,000 votes from Kesbewa, the opposition got 40,000 votes. This time the Opposition has polled 65,000 votes. At this election, Rajapaksa lost the excessive power he wielded in the Sinhala Buddhist belt. In fact, Rajapaksa would have completely lost if there was democracy in State media. Not only in these areas, but also in Gampaha, Kelaniya and Panadura people trusted us and voted. We have gained a massive vote which we did not gain at the 2010 election.

Q
: Do you mean
the vote base of the JHU has not been challenged?
A: No. We have shifted 900,000 votes.

Q
: During the election, you said that Mahinda Rajapaksa was addressing Sinhala Buddhist votes. Was he successful in this election?
A: No. He has failed. He gained this number of votes manipulating State powers. And rumors were spread that country will be divided. If we were not with Maithripala, Rajapaksa would have gained six million votes.

Q
: The joint Opposition has a lot of differences. Can it move forward with those differences?
A: History would decide that. The joint Opposition has removed the Rajapaksa family from the platform. They were the biggest barrier against the forward march of the country. It is historic. We must remove the other barriers too.

Q
: How do you see
the task of the JVP in this election?
A: We must thank the JVP. They did a massive democratic struggle during this presidential election. If they directly supported the Opposition, they could have increased the votes by several lakhs. I think the JVP must join the government directly and hold Ministerial portfolios without remaining as an outside pressure group. That is the path the JVP must take.