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Sunday, 11 July 2010

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World should honour those who ushered in peace - Weerawansa

National Freedom Front (NFF) Leader and Construction, Engineering Services, Housing and Common Amenities Minister Wimal Weerawansa said as patriotic citizens who love the Motherland, “we should vehemently oppose the move taken by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to appoint an expert panel with the intention of bringing our President, Defence Secretary and war heroes to the International War Crimes Tribunal. Many of our war heroes made the supreme sacrifice to defeat three-decades of terrorism and bring lasting peace to the country”.

Minister Weerawansa, in an exclusive interview with the Sunday Observer before he commenced his fast-unto-death on Thursday, said he would continue his fast until the UN Secretary General withdraws his expert panel. He said what the world should do is to honour and present awards to our leaders who brought this historic victory to the nation, setting a perfect example to the entire world on how to defeat terrorism.

Q: How do you view the appointment by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon of an expert panel to advise him on the alleged war crimes during the last stages of the war against LTTE terrorism?

A: The United Nations has been formed with the help of its member countries.

The UN Secretary General is also appointed from these member countries. If the UN Secretary General has any problem with a member country, he can present a motion to the UN Security Council or submit a petition to the UN Human Rights Council.

Except that he has no ability whatsoever to act on a member country according to his will. The UN Secretary General has no legal powers to appoint an expert panel to look into internal problems in a member country.

But Ban Ki-moon has made that grave mistake by appointing this expert panel. If he thinks he has such power to appoint an expert panel, we should not accept it.

The UN Secretary General did not appoint this expert panel haphazardly. The advice he has given to this panel is that these alleged war crime charges are serious and to find out whether there is evidence to conduct an investigation.

After that their plan is to appoint an investigative board. When that investigative board completes their investigations, they would say the situation is very serious and there is evidence to prove it. Then they would bring this issue to the International War Crimes Tribunal.

This is the proposed plan of the UN Secretary General. The appointment of this expert panel is only the beginning of this process.

This expert panel was appointed to bring the President, Defence Secretary, Commanders of the three Armed Forces, all Brigade Commanders and war heroes to the International War Crimes Tribunal by branding them as those who had committed war crimes.

As patriotic people who love this country, we should vehemently oppose this move by Ki-moon. We should protect all who risked their lives , to bring lasting peace to this country.

Q: The NFF conducted a protest march to the UN headquarters and commenced a ‘Satyagraha’ opposite the UN office at Bauddhaloka Mawatha to protest the UN Secretary General’s move. What led the NFF to conduct this protest campaign?

A: The NFF is a political party which has policies for the future benefit of the country. In our agenda, we have given priority to our Motherland. When various comments were made that the war cannot be won, we, as a political party, categorically said that the war can be won. We were the political party which maintained the firm view that LTTE terrorism should be defeated through military means. After the war against LTTE terrorism successfully ended, certain elements who claimed that it cannot be ended are now attempting to bring the country’s leader and other war heroes to the International War Crimes Tribunal. As patriotic citizens of this country, can we remain silent?

What the world should do is to honour and present awards to our leaders who brought this historic victory to the nation by setting a perfect example to the entire world on how to defeat terrorism.

But the UN Secretary General attempts to bring our leaders and war heroes before the International War Crimes Tribunal. As a political party and citizens who love this country, we have commenced this fast-unto-death campaign to force the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to immediately withdraw this expert panel. We will give a strong message to Ki-moon that we will not provide any room to this expert panel to come to Sri Lanka.

Main objective

Q: What is the main objective of conducting this fast unto death?

A: My key demand is to immediately withdraw this expert panel appointed by the UN Secretary General. I would continue my fast unto death until the UN Secretary General responds to my demand.

Q: The UNP in Parliament on Wednesday complained that the demonstrators had attacked and damaged the UN Headquarters. Is there any truth in these allegations?

A: I categorically deny it. They have not done any damage to the UN office. All members of the UN staff who were inside the office could leave the premises. They could return to work without any hindrance. When a demonstration is held, some minor difficulties may occur. That is common to any demonstration conducted anywhere in the world. We have a democratic right to conduct a demonstration or fast-unto-death campaign. We should conduct our protest campaign or fast-unto-death in front of the office of that particular international organisation which has levelled allegations against us. It is a democratic right of the citizens of this country. For example, students converge in front of the University Grants Commission, Education Ministry and Temple Trees to conduct various demonstrations. Like that we also have a right to go before the UN Headquarters in Colombo and conduct a demonstration. I would continue my fast-unto-death until the UN Secretary General withdraws his expert panel. But we have not done any damage to any property of the UN office as the UNP claims.

Q: The Opposition points out that the UN is an international organisation and we should not have problems with it due to an individual decision taken by its Secretary General. Your comments?

A: We also criticise the move of the UN Secretary General, not the entire United Nations organisation. But they can’t prevent us from talking about the UN owing to the decision taken by its Secretary General. We criticise Ban Ki-moon, not the UN.

Q: However, certain elements complain that as a result of the NFF move, if the UN withdraws their mission in Sri Lanka that would pave the way for the EU to further exert pressure on the Government without extending the GSP Plus facility to Sri Lanka? How do you view this?

A: Certain foreign elements are of the view that President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s Government should be toppled. They may try their level best and commit to any sordid act to achieve their goal.

This is the Government which eradicated LTTE terrorism nurtured by these foreign elements.

All their plans to divide this country into several pieces were completely shattered due to the defeat of terrorism.

Therefore, they attempt to take revenge from this Government. If we do not conduct these demonstrations, these vicious elements would resort to traitorous acts against this country. We won’t be able to prevent it. To successfully face these acts, there is an urgent need for unity among all patriotic forces in this country.

Government view

Q: How should the Government respond to this move taken by the UN Secretary General?

A: The Government has already expressed the view that they would not accept this expert panel and that visas won’t be issued for this expert panel to come to Sri Lanka.

This is the stance maintained by the Government. We highly appreciate this stand maintained by the Government. As a political party, we have gone beyond this stand and we demand the UN Secretary General to immediately withdraw his expert panel.

Q: You are a Cabinet Minister in the Government. The UNP criticised the move taken by you to organise such a protest march and conduct a fast-unto-death.

They say this kind of act would cause a serious impact on the collective responsibility of the Cabinet. Your comments?

A: Being a Cabinet Minister, don’t we have a right to act when some particular international organisation attempts to cause damage or pose a threat to our country? Cabinet Minister or not, I will fulfil my duty on behalf of my country. It’s a duty that we would definitely fulfil whether we are a part of this Government or not.

We have launched this struggle not for any personal benefits. We have entered the struggle with the sole purpose of protecting the war heroes who risked their lives to safeguard our motherland from the clutches of LTTE terrorism. Merely because I hold a Cabinet Ministerial portfolio, how can I get rid of that responsibility? I would say whether I have a ministerial portfolio or not, I would fulfil my responsibility on behalf of the country at any time.

If somebody thinks these things cannot be done while holding a ministerial portfolio, I have no problem with resigning and fulfilling my responsibilities on behalf of my country.

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