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Sunday, 12 February 2012

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Bypass TNA, win over Tamils - Dr. Swamy

The Leader of India's Janatha Party Dr. Subramanian Swamy who visited Sri Lanka on a two day religious pilgrimage last week says Sri Lanka should not follow the Indian model in devolving power to theperipheries and finding a political solution to the problems of theNorth East Tamils.

Calling the defeat of LTTE a 'great victory over terrorism', Dr. Swamysays President Rajapaksa deserves the highest honour of India forexterminating a threat on his motherland.

He says the time is opportune to bring in a political solution withina framework of a united Sri Lanka in Parliament. Dr. Swamy is of the viewthat Sri Lanka has to take into account the recent history andtreachery of the LTTE in crafting this home grown solution and the TNAwhich is a LTTE trumphet should be by-passed if they try to scuttlethe process.

Question: What was the purpose of your visit to Sri Lanka? I read it as a private visit but you have held meetings with Tamil politicians.

Aanswer: It was a religious pilgrimage but I had time, so I met a few leaders of the southern Malai Indian Vamsa leaders.

Q: How many days were you in Sri Lanka, and what did you do apart from visiting Kataragama?

A: Two full days. A good part of it was spent driving to and fro the temple.

Q: You have said you are anti-LTTE but in favour of a political solution. Why do you make this proclamation when many of the south Indian politicians take a pro-LTTE stance?

A: That is what I told them. LTTE is anti-Indian and hence President Rajapaksa deserves our highest honour of Bharat Ratna for exterminating them.

Q: The Government has set in motion a process to formulate a framework for devolving power to the peripheries. But there seem to be a tug of war between different stakeholders; the TNA, UNP and some of the coalition partners of the Government. Conflict of interests and petty politics have hampered every attempt in the past to find a lasting solution to the problems of the North East people. Your comments?

A: Yes, that is the history. But two things are clear to me. First, that Tamils have a right to devolution of power within the framework of a united Sri Lanka. Second, the majority community has broken past agreements such as with Chelvanayakam. Now as a hero of Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa must be assertive and within this year's end, should push through the 13+ Amendment or something similar or fail in Parliament trying to do that.

This is the view of Sri Lanka's well-wishers in India, US, Israel, and China. This is our friendly view - and not a diktat - since Sri Lanka is a proud sovereign nation.

Q: Do you think a federal system is an ideal structure for devolving power in Sri Lanka?

A: No. But it can have a unitary Constitution with subsidiary federal principles.

The central government must have overriding powers to dismiss provincial bodies as also a central police that overrides provincial police in national security matters.

Q: Should Sri Lanka follow the Indian model? There are some of the local political parties who voice this proposition.

A: No. Sri Lanka has to take into account the recent history and the treachery of the LTTE. I am also disappointed that Tamils voted en bloc against Mr. Rajapaksa in the Presidential Elections, thereby missing a chance to celebrate a great victory against terrorism. Tamils should regard themselves as Sri Lankans first and Tamils second.

We have in India smashed this sectarian mentality of Tamils to regard themselves as Tamils first when as Union Law Minister in 1991 I got the DMK state government dismissed.

Tamils of Tamil Nadu then overwhelmingly supported the Centre.

Q: Do you think Sri Lanka should look for third party mediation in the devolution process? This is proposed by the TNA.

A: TNA is a pro-LTTE outfit. By-pass them. Then Tamils will also be with you.

Q: The Asian Tribune reported that you said India is indebted to Sri Lanka for eliminating LTTE. But the Government has been battling international wrath over Sri Lanka's 'war on terror'?

A: Nothing to battle. Financial orphans of the LTTE can make some noise but it is of no consequence anywhere in the world except in London's Trafalgar Sq.

Q: Do you think India should help cushion international pressure on Sri Lanka? How do you describe current relations between the two countries in this context?

A: The problem in India has been the covert support to the LTTE by Ms. Sonia Gandhi and her Italian family. But if your President is assertive on a reasonable devolution package with short time line, then even Sonia can do little.

Q: Is LTTE still active in South India?

A: If any LTTE is left in India it is clandestine, covert, burrowed underground and under aliases. Instead of puli [tiger] they have become eli [rat].

Q: You are an Economist of Harvard breed. Do you think Sri Lanka is on the right track economically?

A: You have had a head start in Quality of Life Index and Human Development Index. So anytime you can revive your economy. India will stand by you in the long run.

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