Home-grown political agenda vital to counter foreign interference – Ven Rathana Thera
JHU parliamentarian Ven. Athuraliye Rathana Thera said we should have
home-grawn political agenda to counter various interferences made on Sri
Lanka by some Western countries. If our political agenda is transparent,
there won’t be room for any external force to interfere into the
internal affairs of our country.
Ven. Rathana Thera in an interview with the Sunday Observer stressed
the need for providing a political reply to the TNA at the next
Provincial Council Election by giving them a strong signal that the
Government is with the people. People are not interested in what the TNA
says. They only want their basic needs to be addressed and to achieve
economic sufficiency. If these needs are fulfilled, the people in the
North and East will always be with the Government.
He said as long as the people in the North and East are with the
Government, whatever foreign interference is made on Sri Lanka it will
not be successful. The most important fact is to dedicate ourselves to
create ethnic harmony between Sinhala and Tamil communities which would
help us to successfully counter the LTTE propaganda machinery.
Q: There is an attempt to take the President into custody by
certain countries and organisations over war crime charges. Will this
ever happen and can other countries do something like that?
A: This is another trend developing in the world which some
Western countries attempt to exert pressure on Asian nations, specially
countries like Sri Lanka. According to their development criteria, we
are still below their targets. Though we show figures of economic
growth, according to them we are not a fully independent country.
Because we are not in an economic position to do our mega development
projects without any foreign assistance. In this situation, Western
countries attempt to exert pressure on countries like us. There are two
sides to this. One is that they have their military, political agenda.
There are a doubts whether we have also caught by a section of this
military agenda of Western countries. The Second fact is that some of
our political weaknesses have become an advantage to these Western
countries. They are using these shortcomings to gain undue advantage.
After terrorism was defeated, instead of building our country as an
independent country, these Western countries are attempting to use our
country according to their whims and fancies. As a part of it, they
exert undue pressure on us. We should have home-grawn political agenda
to counter these acts. If that political agenda is transparent, there
won’t be room for any external force to interfere into the internal
affairs of our country for example, we should stop development
activities and give priority to the North-East issue. By doing so, we
should provide a political reply to the TNA at the next Provincial
Council election by giving them a strong signal that the Government is
with the people.
At present the TNA has become the Opposition. The people in the North
and East tend to extend their support to the Opposition because they
have lost confidence in the Government and not because they are racists.
The people in the North and East support the TNA not because of what the
TNA says is true. According to our experience working with the Tamil
community, most of the Tamil people are not racists. They don’t care
what the TNA says. They never comment on any remarks made by the TNA in
Parliament. They want their basic needs to be addressed such as housing,
electricity, sanitary facilities, roads, education and to achieve
economic self sufficiency. If these needs are fulfilled, they will
always be with the Government.
What we should immediately do is to formulate a program to fulfil
these urgent needs of the Tamil people. If we can’t fulfil it, their
socio-economic needs and other urgent problems relating to their basic
needs will reflect in the form of racism, because the racist model and
mechanism is there. Finally these innocent people will become the
victims of this racist mechanism. They turn to that position not because
they are racists by birth. What happens ultimately is that these people,
will be inclined to express their grievances via racism. Therefore our
prime responsibility is to give utmost priority to provide
infrastructure facilities and ensure economic safety to these people.
Then this problem will be solved. But unfortunately, we are waiting
until the roofing sheets coming from India and they construct our
houses. As a nation, we should not stoop down to that level.
Under the Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the Security Forces
have gained good public response. If we can formulate a plan under the
directions of the Defence Secretary in collaboration with civic
organisations and other foreign organisations, we would be able to
construct a large number of houses for the benefit of deserving people
in the North and the East. The Jathika Hela Urumaya constructed 1,000
houses for the tsunami affected people under the guidance of Ven. Omalpe
Sobitha Thera. If the Government requests us, we have the ability to get
the assistance to construct 1,000 houses with the help of various
foreign organisations and Bhikkus in the world.
We did it easily after the tsunami so it won’t be a problem for us to
construct 1,000 houses. This will also be a good move to strengthen the
good-will among the people as well. It is our responsibility to
construct houses on behalf of these people in the North and the East. We
have to honestly admit the fact that the people in the North and the
East do not have proper shelter or sanitary facilities. If we can fulfil
these urgent requirements, the people in the North and the East will be
fully with us. As long as the people are with us, whatever foreign
interference is made they will not be successful. These foreign forces
use innocent Tamil people as their trump card. Unfortunately the
Opposition is finding various reasons for it. If our vision and program
are stable, the Opposition will also have to accept it to some extent.
At present the Opposition is very weak. As a Government, we should not
provide trump cards to such weak Opposition.
Q: Loss of lives are inevitable in a war situation. Channel 4
has cobbled up some isolated incidents to prove war crimes. Is this not
an attempt to add fuel to the fire and to frustrate harmony in the
A: Definitely there is a well-organised conspiracy behind
these incidents in Channel 4. There may have been certain incidents
during a war situation. When we consider incidents took place in
Afghanistan and Iraq, there are so many incidents to prove war crime
charges. Of the total population in Iraq, nearly six percent has been
killed, and nothing was proved. Al Qaeda Leader Osama Bin Laden was
killed, but the problem in Afghanistan still exists. It is very clear
that this doctored video documentary is another attempt made to bring
undue pressure on our country.
Q: A lot of allegations are made against our security forces
in the Channel 4 documentary. What should be our response to this type
A: First we should complete our welfare activities to enable
the people in the North and the East to live. In order to turn society
into disciplined one, we should bring forward our Socio- democratic
program. Then we can win the confidence of the people. If we want to win
the people, steps should be taken to prevent the room created for
various external forces to interfere into the internal affairs of our
Q: There are allegations against the integrity of the
so-called experts of the Darusman committee. Is it advisable to act on
its report against Sri Lanka, which suffered for 30 years under LTTE
A: We should play our role internationally regarding certain
issues mentioned in this report without talking about the Darusman
pannel. We have to fulfil our responsibility to explain to the world
with details how we conducted our humanitarian mission. The Government
has already fulfilled this to some extent. The Government also organised
an international defence seminar in Colombo to brief the world how it
successfully conducted military operations to defeat terrorism in Sri
Lanka. We have lot of sympathetic and sensitive incidents within the
war. I do not say these incidents are at zero level. But comparatively
these incidents are low. We have lot of evidences to prove that we
conducted a humanitarian operation. Therefore we should try to educate
and show this part of our humanitarian mission to the world.
Q: Human rights violations, war crimes and ill-treatment of
Tamils are all allegations made at the instance of the LTTE rump and
expatriate Tamils on whose votes European legislators largely depend. Is
it not a hired job that they have undertaken to bludgeon emerging
A: I think we should move towards a balanced approach. As an
example, there are lot of Sinhalese people in the UK similar to the
number of Tamils there. The situation in the Italy is also same. Most of
the Tamils in Europe are also not highly educated or not intellectuals.
Therefore we are in a position to launch a campaign similar to the one
launched by the Tamil diaspora in those countries. The efficiency of our
embassies and diplomatic missions in those countries are very important
regarding this. There are over 70,000 well-educated Sinhalese in UK and
this number exceeds over 100,000 in Italy.
It is our responsibility to handle them and get their assistance to
launch a campaign to counter the campaign launched by the pro-LTTE Tamil
diaspora in those countries. Depending on the extent expedite our
program to win the Tamil people, interference into our country by some
Western countries will be minimal. The best answer is if the Government
conducts an election and Tamil people vote for the Government, then the
problem will be over. If the people in the North and the East are with
the Government, interference or attempt made on Sri Lanka by any foreign
country will not be successful.
The persons who represent the Government in the North and the East
are very important where this is concerned. If some of those people were
useful for the Government at the time of defeating the LTTE, some of
them have now become trouble makers to the Tamil people like the LTTE.
But I don’t like to disclose their names.
Q: Russia and China have come to Sri Lanka’s help at this
critical moment. Should not all developing countries express their
concern over the interference in international matters of a sovereign
A: In international politics, if we can go beyond our limits
and address international issues, we would be able to create our own
international network. As a simple example, if we can address issues
such as global warming and climate change in a more intelligent manner,
we would be able to attract a large number of people in the European
countries. We should also play a leadership role regarding common
tendencies in the region. Below the President, there should be a good
secretariat to build the image of the President as an intellectual and
philosophical leader in the region who can successfully address modern
social problems in the world. We should also promote the President as
the leader of the Buddhist world. We should counter the international
network through such a network which expands upto the highest level.
Q: Is it not the duty of our Opposition to stand by the
Government at this critical hour of foreign interference? Why do they
shift positions every now and then?
A: I think this is due to the fact that we have also some
shortcomings. At present our Opposition has become weak. Sometimes the
Opposition gets the advantage as the Government also behaves in a weak
manner. If the Government is based on a firm program and if the mindset
of the people is built in a manner with the thought that the Opposition
are traitors, then Opposition would not be able to realise their goal.
As long as the blessings of the people are with the Government and they
are with the mentality of safeguarding the Government, the Opposition
would not be able to do anything.
Q: How can we counter LTTE propaganda machinery and sections
of the Tamil diaspora abroad?
A: First we should commence our program within the country. A
program should be formulated to further strengthen the amity and
friendship between the Sinhala and Tamil community. We should be
dedicated to do some work which would pave the way to create an ethnic
harmony between Sinhala and Tamil people. That is the most important
fact which would help us to counter the LTTE propaganda machinery. The
Sinhala people should also contribute towards North-East development.
Through our foreign embassies various cultural programs should be
launched internationally to build the friendship between the Sinhala and
At present a large number of Tamil people in foreign countries are
with the mentality of wanting to come back to Sri Lanka due to the
peaceful atmosphere created within the country. Therefore we should have
a program to win these Tamil people. Only a small section of the Tamil
people are in the diaspora. A considerable number of Tamil people are
silent at the moment. At present pro-LTTE Tamil diaspora has no ability
to collect funds from the Tamils by force as there is no war. We have a
good opportunity to talk to the Tamil people.
Q: Is the JHU supporting the appointment of another
Parliamentary Select Committee on the national question? In your
opinion, what should be the final aim of such a process?
A: I think it is a very good move. Then it will also be
represented by us as well. Anybody can express their views on this
question. As a result, the responsibility will be entrusted to
Parliament. I think the President should not take that responsibility.
Because parliament is the supreme democratic body in the country.
The President should only focus his attention on the views expressed
by Parliament on this matter. Therefore the final objective will come
Q: Are you satisfied with the progress being made by the LLRC?
Will it lay a firm foundation for reconciliation?
A: I think the LLRC should be activated. More emphasis should
be made to commence things which would lead to promote cultural and
national integration among communities.
Q: Various allegations are being made that the Government is
militarizing the North and setting up Sinhala colonies in the North.
What is your comment?
A: This is a very wrong impression given. Of the country’s
total land area, one third belongs to the Northern and the Eastern
provinces. Though one third of land area is in the North and East, it
cannot be declared as a separate right of 12 percent of the people
living there. The Sinhala people should also go and settle in these
areas. In 1985, there were 25,000 Sinhala people in Jaffna.
Today there is not a single Sinhala person in Jaffna. So the Sinhala
people have also been displaced. This indicates, that LTTE Leader
Velupillai Prabhakaran has implemented the theory of ethnic cleansing to
the letter without allowing even a single Sinhala person to live in
Jaffna. In addition, there were about 15,000 Sinhala people in
Batticaloa and 5,000 Sinhala people in Kilinochchi. At present there is
no Sinhala person living in these areas. Therefore the opportunity
should also be provided to these Sinhala people to resettle in these
areas as well. When lands are distributed in the North and East,
priority should only be given to those who don’t have lands. Otherwise
any ethnic group can take priority when lands are being distributed.
This should be our principle.
Lands should be given to the most deserving people without
considering whether they are Sinhalese, Tamils or Muslims.
Q: There are allegations that certain JHU activists are
inciting hatred against other religions. Is there any truth in this?
A: I categorically deny it. The JHU has commenced a Hindu and
Buddhist resurgence program. A large number Hindu priests of the North
participated in this program. We have conducted several rounds of
discussions as well.
The JHU in collaboration with foreign countries has formulated a
program to assist the Tamil people. The Hindu people in the North and
East have faced a problem where poor Hindus have been forced to convert
to people into various religions. Therefore Buddhists and Hindus should
be united to settle this problem.
Q: The JHU said when contesting elections that it wants to
achieve certain objectives by taking to politics and Parliament. What
have you achieved so far in terms of uplifting the Buddha Sasana and
A: Our key objectives were to safeguard the unitary status of
the country and to defeat terrorism. Terrorism was the key problem which
affected the entire nation. But we could eradicate terrorism from our
country. Now we have to rebuild the country. Steps have to be taken to
safeguard the peaceful atmosphere and environment of the country by
turning it to a country which adheres to Buddhist principles. At present
we are in the process of creating the necessary background for it. At
the 2600 Sambuddhatwa Jayanthi, we introduced the concept of
“Panchaseela policy” to the people. Even some of our politicians were
temporarily ordained by to some program with Buddhist principles.
Emphasis should be laid on the spiritual development of the people. It
would provide a very good response. After defeating terrorism, we have
entered the stage of rebuilding the country.
We have already completed two years of that stage. Amidst these
various foreign interferences, we have to continue our program. I think
the Government and the JHU should commence discussions with a broad
vision regarding this.
Q: Why is the UNP and JVP being constantly rejected by the
people at various elections?
A: When the war on terrorism was going on, both these
political parties obstructed. As a result, a negative mentality was
created in the people and they were rejected by the people. In future,
we would not be able to win elections based on the military victory, we
should have a good economic program to take the country forward.