West wants to maintain political hegemony – Minister DEW Gunasekara
Senior Minister for Human Resources D.E.W. GunasekAra said the
decision taken by the US to support the proposed move against Sri Lanka
at the forthcoming UN Human Rights sessions in Geneva was not a
surprise. The Minister told the Sunday Observer that the US was not
concerned about the plight of the Tamil people here. They are only
concerned about geopolitics and global strategies. So in pursuance of
those strategies and geopolitical interests, they take a stand. Probably
they may not be happy with President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s foreign policy.
Because we have formulated our foreign policy based on national interest
and world realities.
The Minister said the strategy of the US to defeat President Mahinda
Rajapaksa at the last Presidential Election was a total failure. Because
they failed they are now trying to take other options and carry out a
human rights campaign against us. This is nothing new. From the time of
the Monroe Doctrine, they were keeping Latin America and all the other
33 countries under them for 200 years. Now all these 33 countries are
not under their control.
Minister Gunasekara said in the 21st century, the balance of power
has changed. The US attempts to maintain global hegemony, is being
challenged by a number of emerging countries. After 500 years, Asia is
leading the world economy. At present the US and Western Europe is in
utter chaos and they have not been able to recover from economic
They know China is mighty and it has become the world’s second
biggest economic power. So they are thinking of probably using our
country against China for their geopolitical interests and global
strategies. Otherwise they don’t have any particular love for the Tamil
people or the diaspora.
Q: Would you believe devolution of power is the only solution to the
minority question? If so what kind of devolution would you propose as a
A: I am one of the few Parliamentarians in the Government group who
voted in favour of the 13th Amendment as early as 1987 when the bill was
presented in Parliament. I am confident because being a Member of the
Opposition, I voted in support of the bill during J.R. Jayewardene’s
tenure. This is a continuing problem remains unsolved. There have been
bilateral talks between the S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike Government and
Chelvanagayam, the Dudley Senanayake Government and Chelvanagayam. After
July 1983, when the issue got internalized, about 700,000 people left
our country. Then the Indian factor come into play and the Indian
Government also got involved.
There were bilateral talks between the Prime Minister of India and
the President of Sri Lanka. That is how the 13th Amendment came into
being. There were All Party Conferences held by President J.R.
Jayewardene and political party conferences by the late President R.
Premadasa. There were bilateral talks between the People’s Alliance and
the UNP Government under former President Chandrika Bandaranaike
Kumaratunga’s Government. There was another All Party Conference led by
President Mahinda Rajapaksa. So at one level, we had bilateral talks at
another level All Party Conferences and various other consultations.
The only solution which has been presented to Parliament and brought
into legislation was the 13th Amendment. But the 13th Amendment has also
not been fully implemented. This is the question which is now agitating
the minds of the people. Now the 13th Amendment issue has come up. If it
had been implemented, this question would not have arisen.
On the other hand, as far as Tamil parties are concerned, excepting
the pro-left political group in the North, the others did not accept the
13th Amendment. The EPRLF, PLOTE, EPDP and EROS, are left-oriented
groups which accept the 13th Amendment.
The right wing groups and political parties do not accept the 13th
Amendment including the TNA as well as the LTTE earlier. Now the demand
comes from the Right Wing. As far as the Left Wing is concerned, they
say they are satisfied with the 13th Amendment and their problem is that
it has not been implemented fully. Two main areas where the 13th
Amendment has not been implemented with regard to police power and
There are other grievances where power has been taken back by the
Central Government, hospitals and national schools. But police and land
powers are the two main issues that have come up.
As far as the land question is concerned, the people have imaginary
fears about this land question due to lack of understanding on the
nature of the problem. I can remember, I was a member of the All Party
Conference conducted by former Presidents J.R.Jayawardene, R.Premadasa,
Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga. As the Minister in charge I also
represented the All Party Conference called by President Mahinda
Rajapaksa. This land question is really related to state land. We have
about 200,000 acres of state lands in the Northern and Eastern
Provinces. In other provinces, there are no state lands and all have
been alienated. Only some small areas are there. The problem is in view
of the war against terrorists, these lands were not distributed. Now
there is a feeling among the Tamil people that these lands will be
colonized and that Sinhalese people will be brought or the land will be
given to foreign companies, investors or Sinhala businessmen.
That is a genuine fear. As far as the other side is concerned, they
say the lands should be handled by the Central Government. But this
issue has been recommended by the LLRC report. If there is a land policy
and land commission, all these fears entertained by the people in the
North and East can be easily erased. The question here is that this is
not related to private property and it is applicable only to state
lands, barren land and uncultivated land.
When policies are formulated, if a decision is made that the lands
should be distributed to landless people in the area, first priority
should be given to the landless people in Kilinochchi district and
second should be given to the people in adjoining districts. If we
expect such a policy, the people on both sides, the North and the South
and all interested parties will be finally agree. So this is not a
complicated problem as far as land is concerned.
Police powers are already in the 13th Amendment. But it was not
implemented by late President J.R. Jayewardene. Police powers to the
people in the North and East areas could not be given during the
security situation. That is impossible. There is a genuine fear about
police powers being given to elected people the politicians either in
the North, South or East. I am slightly disturbed if Police powers are
given to some of our Chief Ministers because they will abuse it.
At the moment Police powers are with the President and they can be
operated through Governors. When the time comes in another five or ten
years, the people will come to an understanding without fear, distrust
or suspicion and they will understand each other. Then at that point of
time, it would be possible even to grant police powers through the
Governors of those areas. But these are matters which can be solved
amicably as far as the 13th Amendment is concerned.
Q: Certain political parties argue that there is no ethnic problem in
Sri Lanka, because the majority of the Tamil people live in peace
outside the North and East, and it is only a handful of politicians who
are protecting this claim. Would you comment on this?
A: I reject that position. If there is no ethnic problem, there would
not have been a conflict, conflagration or a war against terrorists for
30 odd years.
Why did we sacrifice so many precious lives if there is no problem? I
mean the conflict did not come for nothing. It originates from
something. Only a microscopic minority in our community take up that
Q: The US says it would support the proposed move against Sri Lanka
at the forthcoming UN Human Rights sessions in Geneva. Is there any
justification for this?
A: Actually this is nothing new and nothing to be surprised about.
Because we know what happened immediately after we won the war against
terrorists. This issue came up at the UN Security Council and the Geneva
based human rights organisations and we won the vote. So it will come
back again. But we are not surprised at all. In my view, the US is not
concerned about the plight of the Tamil people here.
They are only concerned about their geopolitics and global
strategies. So in pursuance of those strategies and geopolitical
interest, they take up positions. Probably they may not be happy with
President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s foreign policy. Our foreign policy is
based on ground realities and world realities. In the 21st century, the
world order has changed. The balance of forces has completely changed.
After 500 years, Asia is leading the world economy.
Latin America with other 33 countries formed one economic
organisation called CELAK in December last year. Russia is going to set
up a Euro Asia Economic Organization with ex-Soviet States. The US and
Western Europe is in utter chaos and they have not been able to recover
from the economic recession. Today one thirds of the Dollar is in the
hands of the Chinese Government and three fourth of the Dollar are in
the hands of the developing countries.
At present the IMF and the World Bank have become ineffective. So the
world’s balance of powerhas changed. Therefore we have formulated our
foreign policy based on national interest and world realities.
They know China is mighty and it has become the world’s second
biggest economic power. So they are thinking of probably using our
country against China. Otherwise they don’t have any particular love for
the Tamil people or the diaspora.
Q: The oil price hike has an adverse effect on the country. Is there
no way out of this scenario?
A: There is no way out. In 2007, we had to face the global energy
crisis. The price of a barrel of oil went up to $ 147. Still a barrel of
oil is at the rate of $ 120 or less than that. Really we are facing a
potentially dangerous situation.
We had to carry out the war against terrorists when the price of a
barrel of oil was $ 147. We explained this matter to the people and they
are not prepared to bear the consequences.
This is beyond our control. If the situation in the Middle East and
the Asia Pacific area escalates, then the prices will go up. Unless some
country comes to our assistance and gives us oil to lower price and if
we don’t have sufficient foreign resources to buy oil, we will have to
make some adjustment. There is no question about it.
There is no immediate solution to this. That is why when the new UPFA
Government came into power in 2006 we took measures to construct
Norochcholai, Upper Kothmale and Kerawalapitiya projects by taking a
long-term view. However, the alternative energy sources is a long-term
process and that is impossible. This is not going to be a permanent
issue. Because the US President said they are not going to allow Iran to
start nuclear production. Then Iran reacted saying that they will not
allow ships to go through the State of Hormuz. Naturally the reaction
was the price hike. It may come down when the situation is turns to
normalcy. So this is a temporary phase.
Q: The US-European Union backed “sanctions” against developing
countries where their raw materials power their industries, have become
a political weapon to punish countries. How would you look at this?
A: That is their policy. Still the USA is the biggest economic,
political and military power. So they want to maintain their global
hegemony. But its being challenged by a number of emerging countries
now. During the past 10 years, China, Russia, India, South Africa and
Brazil have come up.
That is why under the Bush regime both father and son, they had a
policy of unilateralism in foreign affairs and pre-emptive-hit and run
like they did in Iraq and Afghanistan.
However, President Obama has embarked on a new regime change
strategy. That is the difference between the Bush and Obama
administrations. Obama tried his first extortion in Libya and provoked
some people in the Benghazi area and then got the US forces and NATO by
changing the Government there in a devious way. When it comes to
Bangladesh, they staged a coup. But it failed. In the case of Pakistan,
they set the Army and the judiciary against the President and
A new type of thing is developing in the Maldives. All these regime
changes are through different phases with the help of sophisticated
As far as Sri Lanka is concerned, they have a number of options. They
tried their tricks at the last Presidential Election by nominating
Sarath Fonseka. That was a Washington consensus nomination. I said this
at the first press briefing held immediately after the nominations.
They prevailed and put pressure on Ranil Wickremesinghe to stay back
and they miscalculated and thought a war hero will be able to beat the
This is a combination of hostile groups which got together. We have
to understand the UNP, JVP, TNA and the SLMC, all four parties got
together for a common purpose of defeating President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
It backfired and President Mahinda Rajapaksa won the Presidential
Election with an overwhelming majority of 1.8 million votes. If the
strategy of the United States was to defeat the President, it failed
That was not a UNP strategy. When their strategy failed they are
trying other options.
They are carrying a human rights campaign against us, threat of
sanctions and various other things. This is nothing new. From the time
of the Monroe Doctrine, they were keeping Latin America and 33 countries
under them for 200 years.
Now all of those 33 countries have gone out of their control. Now
they are penetrating the Asia Pacific area in search of mineral
resources mainly oil.
That is why they came to Afghanistan, Iraq and are also threatening
to Iran as well.
They are also attempting to get into all the ex-Soviet States. That
is why Russia is trying to set up a separate organisation as a reaction
to it. So this is part of the game and it has been going on. It is
Q: The neoliberalists argue that in many countries old Marxist
parties have been relegated to the political wilderness, as they have
outlived their usefulness. Your observations?
A: History has proved them incorrect. Today neoliberalism is in
crisis. Neoliberalism was born, nurtured and brought up in the US. Its
first experiment was Chile. They toppled the Marxist Government in Chile
and tried that experiment.
Finally the people revolted and chased away the dictator. They
imposed neoliberalism having staged a coup by killing the President and
all the Heads of the three forces.
If the economy in Chile has improved, the disparity between the rich
and the poor is high. The inequality and insecurity was so much, the
people revolted and threw away that dictator.
The people democratically elected another Government. Today all 33
countries in Latin America have rejected neoliberalism. Here we have not
completely removed neoliberalism because it is a global trend today. But
we have been able to distance ourselves from neoliberalism by stopping
privatisation and expanding our public sector and the economy. State
intervention is there for various trade liberalization and other things.
So we have contained it to some extent. That is why we survive the
crisis. If Ranil Wickremesinghe had been in power during that year with
neoliberalism, we would have been in the same position as Greece.
Q: If one says communism or socialism is no longer valid in the
dynamics of the day, how would you react to this?
A: These are good theoretical academic exercises in universities. It
is no doubt the Soviet Union collapsed. But Socialism takes its
formation in various other ways. For instance, we can take China as an
example. Because we also made mistakes.
After the October Revolution, the Soviet Union became the world’s
second biggest power. But in the international market , they have no
access to two third of the world.
That is why it is called iron curtained areas. That was the reason
why that system did not work. Because they are unable to penetrate into
That is why by taking that as an example, Chinese very cleverly
penetrated these area. Today they have economically expanded throughout
the world. Today the Chinese Government has bought $ 900 million worth
US Treasury bills. At present one third of the US Dollars are in their
The Dollar is no longer a mighty weapon because it is being
controlled by the Chinese. As long as there is poverty, insecurity and
the disparity between the rich and poor, the situation will get worse.
Finally it is the people who decide, not the system.
Q: As COPE Chairman you had issued a comprehensive report on the
performance of public corporations. What is the present position of
implementing your recommendations?
A: In the first instance that is not my job. As the Chairman of COPE,
my role is a parliamentary role. As a Minister I have nothing to do with
It is not an executive role. Parliament gave me the power and I did
it and gave the report back to Parliament. Now it is the duty of the
stakeholders to implement it.
The Stakeholders are Ministry Secretaries because according to the
constitution, they are the Chief Accounting Officers. So they must
implement it. Then politically the Ministers in charge are responsible
Then the Cabinet and the President are also responsible.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa forwarded the report to Cabinet and they
decided to implement it.
For the first time in the history of our legislature that a
recommendation of COPE was accepted by the Cabinet and is being
implemented by the Head of the State.
You can’t find any instance where a COPE recommendation has been
implemented in the past. All previous COPE reports have been relegated
to the dustbin. Only my report is being implemented.
Q: What are your independent views on the proposed Parliamentary
Select Committee(PSC)? Would it not be the proper platform to address
any alleged grievances and produce a co-ordinated program to resolve the
A: As I said earlier, we have the experience of bilateral talks
between Governments and various other political parties. We have the
experience of All Party Conferences and other consultations. But they
Therefore President Mahinda Rajapaksa has decided that the best thing
is to have a PSC where all political parties represented in Parliament
will be the members of that Select Committee and let them to sort out
the question and find a solution. It’s not difficult for us to find a
homegrown solution to this problem.
If political parties are sincere and committed to seek a solution,
then they must be prepared not stick on to their party policies.
They must be flexible and try to accommodate views of others and
collectively seek a consensus on the issue. That is the only way. If we
can’t do that, there is no other solution. We have failed all other
The LTTE and the TNA has failed in their attempt to have a separate
State through the war. That is why now they are coming back for talks.
That is a positive sign. All Party Conferences and bilateral talks
The 13th Amendment which was accepted also remained without
implementation. Now there is the PSC. Actually this is also nothing new
as earlier we had a Select Committee and we had good proposals and there
was also a consensus.
If all political parties in Parliament can get together, there are
very few issues to discuss and bring about. Otherwise what the LLRC
reports says “politicians are either not willing or incapable of finding
If we failed or if we are not willing, then LLRC Commissioner’s
report will be proved correct.
I think this is a golden and historic opportunity given by the end of
the war against terrorists and we must cease the opportunity without
passing the whole burden and the responsibility on the next generation.
During the last 50 years, two generations have failed to solve this
problem starting from 1957 up to 2011.
If we fail, we will be passing the problem to the next generation.
Therefore taking the overall situation, I think it is nothing but
fair in the interest of all Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim people who
suffered during the last 30 odd years.
Our economy, moral, culture, properties and lives were destroyed by
the terrorists. So we must try to seek out a consensus. That is the only
way to sort out this problem.
Q: The rising cost of living, price hikes, declining living standards
are grist to the Opposition mill. Is the Opposition genuinely interested
in these or is it to gain political mileage?
A: That is the part of the job of the Opposition. Let them to do that
and there is nothing to be worried.
Q: Public transport is vital. In a matter of days, private bus
operators can bring the country to a standstill. Why can’t the
Government improve the CTB and the CGR fleet to meet such contingencies?
A: Being inside the Government, we had to carry out a big campaign
outside Parliament and outside Government demanding that the CTB should
That is why former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga
decided to establish the CTB.
Today the CTB has about 5,000 odd buses. By this time the private
sector has over 18,000 buses. That is the reality as it is. These two
sectors have to co-exist.
There is no other question. My personal view is unfortunately, except
Anil Moonasinghe, all the chairmen of the CTB have not been to
successfully fulfil their task to develop the CTB.