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Sunday, 9 January 2011

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Police powers should remain with Central govt.  - Minister Muralitharan

President is genuinely committed to the welfare of Tamils:

Deputy Minister of Resettlement Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan said that police powers need not be vested with the Provincial Councils but remain with the Central Government to ensure national security.

The LTTE's former Military Leader of the Eastern region, Minister Muralitharan also known as Karuna Amman said that the best solution to solve the problems of Tamils was the 13th Amendment and the aspirations of Tamils could only be fulfilled through the UPFA government led by President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

"President Rajapaksa is the only leader who is genuinely committed to the welfare of the Tamils". He called upon all Tamil political parties to unite with the government to develop the North and the East.

According to Minister Muralitharan, Tamils are fed up with the separatist ideology or demanding their rights. They however, need economic and educational development to stand on their own after suffering for 30 years under LTTE terrorism. "Apart from a good economy and educational opportunities, what more do the ordinary Tamils need ? All the so-called demands are political slogans", he said.

He refuted the allegation about the government's attempts for a Sinhala colonisation in the North and said that no Tamil had been discriminated against under the UPFA government.

Here are excerpts from the interview:

Q: Still the displaced people are in welfare centres and how long will it take to reduce the IDPs to zero?

A: The resettlement is progressing rapidly but had a slight delay due to heavy rains and floods retarding the demining process.

But it is now back to normal.

The number of IDPs in welfare centres has been reduced to 18,000 and out of them 10,000 are at liberty to go out and come back at any time to the centres.

We have given them freedom of movement. President Mahinda Rajapaksa has instructed to expedite the resettling process but the problem is about the remaining IDPs from Mullaithivu, where the areas are heavily mined.

There is a delay in resettling people in those areas as the lands need to be de-mined as they formed the battle front for the LTTE during the final battle. Over 2,000 army personnel and NGOs are engaged in de-mining activities in these areas.

At the same time other development and infrastructure improvement projects to upgrade the living standards of the resettled people have been implemented and we are coordinating with the other line Ministries as well.

With the budget allocations for 2011, the construction of roads in the North will be commenced by the end of January. All government institutes are now back to normal and functioning well. I hope within this year there will be rapid development in the North and the East.

Two weeks ago, Minister Gunaratne Weerakoon and I were in Wanni donating dry rations for the flood-affected people. We have distributed dry rations worth over Rs. 45 million to the people affected by floods and they are happy as the government had provided adequate relief. They know the government looks after them well when they are in distress.

Q: It seems that the resettled people are lacking livelihood opportunities. What is the support given by the government to restore their livelihoods?

A: Parallel to the resettlement, the government helps the people to start their own income generation activities. The Ministries such as Livestock, Agriculture and Fisheries- together with local and foreign NGOs are working together to improve their livelihood activities. The Agriculture Ministry has given them some incentives to commence their cultivation.

The housing is the major problem among the resettled people and it will be solved as the new housing schemes with the help of the Indian government and the World Bank (WB) are completed. The project to build 50,000 houses by the Indian government is going on while the WB has pledged to build houses at Kilinochchi.

Q: However much the government claim that it strives for development, some politicians attempted to create a negative image of such development efforts among the Northern people. How does the government plan to avert this situation?

A: After government had enlightened some politicians, they have pledged their support for the development activities. The recent example was when we were distributing relief items recently. Some senior TNA politicians like Mavai Senadiraja joined us. They came with us and witness themselves how people support the government. They have been convinced that the government is looking after the welfare of the people.

Mavai Senadiraja told me that the TNA would help the government in its development activities in the North. They agreed that the immediate need of the Tamils is not a political solution but the development.

I told them that the doors are always open for them to discuss their issues with President Rajapaksa who is ready to listen to their grievances.

Q: The government efforts to restore normalcy in the North have not been successful due to recent incidents in Jaffna. Whom do you think should be blamed?

A: When you take the entire Wanni, the situation is normal. No criminal incident has been reported but the situation particularly in Jaffna is not so. We know that some incidents of killings, kidnappings and robberies took place in Jaffna recently.

I had discussed this issue with the Police in the Peninsula. The President is concerned about these incidents and ordered the Army and the Police to bring the situation under control. The police said that these incidents are done by the robbers.

Q: But According to the media, a certain political party is suspected of being behind such incidents. What is your opinion?

A: There is no evidence of a political party being involved. Those who were arrested by the police are individual robbers. However, the situation in Jaffna is now back to normal. It was brought under control within two weeks.

I had a discussion with Minister Douglas Devananda and the security forces in Jaffna have taken action to restore normalcy.

Q: According to reports, in some areas the rehabilitated cadres have been accused of engaging in illegal activities. How do you view this situation?

A: In the East there is no such issue. I have also read some stories about their involvement in illegal activities. This is mere false propaganda with the ulterior motive of discrediting the good work of the government.

They also claimed that these released cadres are jobless. These are only rumours. They can easily find jobs as all the ex-LTTE cadres released after rehabilitation were given a vocational training.

They can find employment according to their skills. The government cannot find jobs for each and every one but they have to find their own ways of income generating means. If they are qualified they can seek government jobs. In the East most of them are doing farming well.

Immediately after their release, they cannot be employed and they should plan their lives without depending on others.

In the Eastern province we have arranged a loan scheme with the state banks to support the youth to start their own business. Now the state banks - People's Bank and the Bank of Ceylon - have opened their branches in the North and we could arrange a similar system with them for the benefit of the ex-LTTE cadres in the North. The Central Bank Governor Ajith Cabral said he was interested in opening a branch in the North to support these people. The government is doing its best to make their lives better.

Q: The government is preparing to hold Local Government polls. Will there be a victory for the government this time too?

A: Yes, the government will definitely have a similar victory at the forthcoming election. I am confident that the Eastern people are with the government as they have witnessed themselves the development for the first time in life. They enjoy life and freedom afresh.

At the beginning they thought the development would be combined to mere words and all development projects would be limited to mere foundation laying ceremonies! When Minister Basil Rajapaksa was talking about development they thought the government was lying. They did not believe us but they have seen for themselves how the government is striving for development.

The story in the North is different. They are yet to realize the truth. The Northern people need time to realise this.

We have to work hard to support the Northern people to win their hearts and minds. They were under the LTTE for over 30-years and they had suffered. They known what the previous governments did for their compared to the LTTE.

I was in Wanni two weeks ago. The Wanni people like President Mahinda Rajapaksa very much. They told me that they are enjoy freedom today thanks to the President. They lost all development opportunities because of the LTTE and they now realise how their villages are being developed with new roads, electricity and other infrastructure facilities. That they had been misled by the Tamil Diaspora and the TNA, they are convinced now.

I appreciate Mavai for his understanding the truth. Some of them want to join the government but they think if they do so people will reject them. They know that President Rajapaksa is genuine in solving the problems of Tamils. At the recent group meeting the President ordered the Ministers to give priority for the people in the North when filling vacancies. He said the people in their own areas could serve better than the outsiders as they know well about their problems.

Q: Despite all the hard work by the government, do you think the Tamil Diaspora or TNA could still mislead these people?

A: No, they can't do it any more. People know that they are now shouting for their own survival. I call upon the Tamils to support the government and not to listen to the Tamil Diaspora or other political elements. They are misleading the Tamils enough and the Tamil Diaspora has not spent a single penny to uplift the lives of Northern Tamils. So far not a single house has been built by them in Wanni.

They are still clamouring for a separate country while having been well established themselves abroad. They don't know how the Tamils suffered.

Q: But can you always keep the Tamil Diaspora away. How do you think that the government could enlighten them and take them into the government fold?

A: This is very important and it is the responsibility of the Ministry of External Affairs. They are the people who are directly in contact with them. I think the Political Section of each embassy can play a vital role in this regard. How many people are coming to these Embassies, daily? The Political Section can educate people on the positive steps taken by the government to restore normalcy and implement its development process. They are in touch with the Tamils and they could easily convince them. They also can arrange trips to the North to show them the ground realities in the post conflict Sri Lanka. If some Tamil Diaspora groups are interested in meeting the President they could arrange a meeting through the External Affairs Ministry.

They can invite the so-called Tamil Forums who still want a separate State and the LTTE as well to have discussions with the government.

The incidents that took place in the UK during the President's visit is a shame on the Tamils who have organised them. It is a lapse on the part of the UK because as a responsible government it failed to provide security to the President.

The other point is that the Oxford University is 40 percent owned by the UK government and it had a responsibility to stop those demonstrations.

President Rajapaksa would never allow any one to have such protests during a visit by a UK Prime Minister.

I would like to ask why the UK government allowed them to carry the LTTE flag when over 40 organizations including the LTTE, are banned in UK.

Will they allow anybody to display the pictures of Osama Bin Laden or Al-quida flags in this manner? This indicated to the world that the UK government showed that they depend on Tamils for their votes.

I must tell that the pro-LTTE groups intend to show the world that the LTTE is still alive. They cannot have a trans-national government and they want to create issues for their own survival abroad.

Since they are well established and had escaped the war and suffering, they create some issues to justify their stay abroad.

I challenge the Tamil Diaspora, if they are genuine to help the Tamils and join the development process. They can invest here in new ventures to give employment to ex-cadres, schools to educate the children and new income generation opportunities for the people.

Their help to educate the Tamils is vital in the post conflict era as the Tamil children were denied opportunities for education since the LTTE never wanted the Tamil youth to be educated. They wanted them to become their cadres and hated the educated people.

Q: How best the Tamil Political parties could help the Tamil Diaspora to join the process?

A: The main problem is the lack of unity among the political parties.

They met the President and left it at that. There is no consensus among them as they are not united. They just get together and talk and go. Yes, we can expect a positive outcome if they are united and lobbying together.

Q: There are claims that still the Tamil aspirations have not been met. What do you think are the grievances of Tamils and how best they can be met?

A: The so-called leaders who clamour for the rights of the Tamils change their stance from time to time.

The development and education is the most important demands of the Tamils. A good solution is the provincial councils, which will solve the problems not only of the Tamils but also the Sinhalese as well.

How efficiently the Western and Southern Provincial councils are functioning?

I think the 13th Amendment is the best solution to solve the problems of Tamils. Earlier we didn't have a strong leadership and the international and local elements spoilt the situation. I read the 13th Amendment from A to Z. It has all the powers to administer a province.

I don't believe in police powers being given to provinces and it should remain with the central government. It is ideal for countries like India which has large states but being a very small country with small provinces police powers need to be with the central government to maintain national security.

The best example is the Eastern province which is administered successfully. It proves they don't need additional powers. They have powers to make appointments and they look after their own affairs well.

The security forces in the province are doing well with the people.

The Army is engaged in charity work, run medical camps, school projects while the police is maintaining the law and order. Their rapport with the people is excellent and there are no complaints from the people.

Q: Do you think that there is no discrimination against Tamils?

A: President Rajapaksa very clearly said that there are no different segments in Sri Lanka, but there are only Sri Lankans.

The interested parties are creating issues from time to time. The UNP is now very sympathetic to the Tamils, but during their regime lots of Tamils suffered and were killed.

What I can say is that there is no discrimination against Tamils now. This is opportunity for Tamils to stand on their own. As I said before, the two things we should look into is the economy and education of Tamils. I am happy to say the economy in the Eastern province is developing. An acre of land in Passikuda is Rs. 35,000 earlier, but today it is Rs. 3.5 million. The tourism is booming and the economy of the Eastern people is improving after decades.

Last year when I went to Jaffna the language was the main problem among the Tamils and the Sinhalese, but when I went to Jaffna recently they are communicating with each other without much difficulty. I think within five years, there will be a very good rapport among all the communities.

Q: The government is being accused of Sinhala colonisation in the North with some Sinhala families seeking land ownership! What do you have to say about this allegation?

A: This is totally a rumour and false allegation. If the so-called colonization is taking place, I will be the first to oppose such a move. There is no intention on the part of the government to have Sinhala colonisation in the East or the North. Everyone knows that there were some Buddhist temples in the North and some sinhala families doing business were living there.

The LTTE chased them away and now they have come back to claim their ownership. What is wrong in it as they have a right to take back their own lands in the North? This is something similar to the Tamils who abandoned their lands in the North due to war and claiming them back. I have asked the former Sinhala families in Batticaloa to come back and settle in their original lands. We have lists to prove. How many Tamils who fled the country during the war, have returned and bought land in Colombo.

Q: Once you have said that the Tamils still have doubts that Sinhala political parties will neglect them. Being the Vice President of the SLFP how do you view this claim?

A: Yes, I know how the SLFP is concerned about solving problems of the Tamils.

We are committed to look into the betterment of the Tamils and to give them a secure future. The government is committed to solve the problems of Tamils through the 13th Amendment.

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