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Govt will defeat UNHRC resolution against SL - Minister Maithripala Sirisena

SLFP General Secretary and Health Minister Maithripala Sirisena called upon everybody to rally round regardless of political affiliations to thwart attempts being made by certain countries to bring a resolution against Sri Lanka at the UNHRC sessions to be held in Geneva. The Minister in an interview with the Sunday Observer said the Government is confident that it would be able to defeat this resolution to be moved against Sri Lanka at the UNHRC sessions. At present the Government has confidence and is determined to overcome the challenge.

The Minister said massive public demonstrations will be conducted throughout the country on February 27 to show the people’s solidarity to thwart the attempt made by certain countries to move a resolution against Sri Lanka at the UNHRC Sessions. It is very evident that pro-LTTE elements and its friendly international forces are behind this move. During the past few months, President Mahinda Rajapaksa has made a series of state visits and held bilateral talks with World Leaders to educate them about on this attempt. The Government through the External Affairs Ministry, diplomatic missions, embassies and other special representatives has already educated our friendly countries and the international community about the situation.

Referring to the increasing trend of demonstrations and other public agitation campaigns, the Minister said there is an ulterior motive behind these demonstrations and they are not motivated to seek economic redress. This is an attempt made by certain elements in collaboration with international organisations to topple the Government. Instead of engaging in trade union activities, some Trade Union Leaders have also resorted to act according to a political agenda to topple the Government.

Q: The UN Human Rights Session will be held in Geneva next week. A strong anti Sri Lankan lobby is in the offing. Don’t these human rights crusaders have a hidden agenda behind any attempts to protect human rights?

A: There is no hidden agenda because it has been exposed to the entire world that pro-LTTE elements are behind this UNHRC attempt against Sri Lanka. Though LTTE Leader Prabhakaran and his armed gang was destroyed militarily, hardcore pro-LTTE elements who still operate in Western countries like the US, UK, Canada, France, Germany and Norway have rallied round and raised funds through various rackets conducted.

These pro-LTTE elements are behind some of the world powers. That is why when the armed forces launched military operations against the LTTE, the US categorically requested us not to attack the LTTE. But we continued military operations against the LTTE as that was the biggest problem faced by the country.

To take revenge from us, the US says they would vote in favour of the resolution to be moved against Sri Lanka at the UNHRC Sessions as we refused what they asked us to do.

Amidst pressure exerted by some Western countries, President Mahinda Rajapaksa took the bold decision to defeat terrorism.

If that decision was not taken at that time, today the country would have been divided into several parts. We were able to safeguard the unitary status of the country due to bold moves taken by the President. However, some Western countries have a hatred due to the decision taken by the Government to defeat terrorism. Pro-LTTE elements are behind some of these Western countries.

We have to realise this problem. Everybody should be united to defeat this conspiracy. We should join hands to safeguard the country first, not the Government. To safeguard the Government first the country should be safeguarded. If the only the country is safeguarded, the Opposition can also engage in politics. Everybody should rally round to defeat these forces in Geneva regardless of their political affiliations.

There should be genuine unity among the people to defeat these conspiracies. Massive public demonstrations will be conducted throughout the country on February 27 to show the people’s solidarity to thwart the attempts by certain countries to bring a resolution against Sri Lanka at the UNHRC Sessions. Instead of safeguarding the Government, now we have engaged in the task of protecting the motherland.

Q:The Government has to think of the international dimension as well with the UNHRC sessions coming up next week. Are you confident that the Government will be able to thwart attempts by certain countries to bring a resolution against Sri Lanka?

A: Definitely. At present we are organising ourselves to thwart this attempt. During the past few months the President made a series of state visits to foreign countries and held bilateral talks with their Leaders to educate them on the attempt to be made against Sri Lanka during the forthcoming UNHRC sessions.

The Government through the External Affairs Ministry, diplomatic missions, embassies and other special representatives has already educated our friendly countries and the international community on this situation. We are confident that we would be able to defeat this resolution to be moved against Sri Lanka at the UNHRC sessions. We are confident and determined to succeed this challenge.

Q: When invisible hands are at work to discredit Sri Lanka at the UNHRC sessions, shouldn’t the Opposition extend its fullest support to the Government rather than create an unpleasant situation in the country?

A: That the approach adopted by the Opposition regarding this issuers evident. Opposition Leader, Ranil Wickremesinghe in a special statement in Parliament on Wednesday requested to table all documents in Parliament which are to be taken by the Government for the UNHRC sessions to be held in Geneva.

This is like keeping the chicken in the custody of the jackal. The Opposition Leader wants to table these documents because they contain the answers to be given to the charges levelled against us at the UNHRC sessions.

If we table these answers in Parliament before the UNHRC sessions, then Ranil Wickremesinghe will be able to send these answers to the pro-LTTE elements in Geneva to prepare their counter replies to these answers. To defeat the Government’s resolution at the UNHRC sessions, the Opposition Leader wants the Government’s answers to be send it to pro-LTTE elements and some international forces to create an anti Sri Lankan lobby. We call upon the Opposition Leader and other reactionary forces not to resort to such a treacherous and opportunistic approach to gain narrow political objectives.

When Ranil Wickremesinghe as prime minister signed the Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) with LTTE Leader Prabhakaran, even his party or the Cabinet were not aware.

That CFA was not submitted to Parliament. Wickremesinghe who secretly signed this agreement with Prabhakaran now requests the Government to table documents to be presented at the UNHRC sessions in Geneva.

This shows how opportunistic and narrow minded, the Opposition Leader is. That is why the UNP has not been able to come to power, as the majority of the people are aware of this childish approach adopted by the UNP.

Q: The Oil price hike has hit the masses badly. The Government says it is beyond its control. The Opposition rebuts that the increases are not proportionate to actual price hikes in the international market. Would you like to explain this situation?

A: The Opposition always attempts to take political mileage and attack the Government. But when attention is focused on oil prices in the international market, you find war clouds gathering all over the world and there is a virtual collapse in world economies. The economies in certain Western countries like the US and the UK have collapsed.

The US should be held responsible for creating this fuel crisis as they have paved the way for war clouds in the world. Today Iraq or Libya are not producing the quantity of oil they produced during the regime of Sadam Hussein or Gadaffi.

The oil production in Nigeria has also drastically reduced. Now the US is targeting Iran. As a result there is a severe crisis between Iran and the European countries. We are victims of the international fuel market. I reject the claim made by the Opposition that there is no increase in fuel prices in the international market. This is a false statement.

The price of a barrel of crude oil had gone up to $ 127 on February 23. This is the actual situation. Earlier the Government had given a large amount of subsidies for fuel. Subsidies were also granted for electricity. We have to realise the Government is not in a position to continue these subsidies any more.

Three years ago, Sri Lanka was recognised as a poor and third world country by the UN, IMF, World Bank and the ADB. But all these international monetary organisations and other international institutions have now accepted Sri Lanka as a country which has recorded significant economic growth. Sri Lanka has been able to achieve 8 percent economic growth last year.

In this situation, subsidies given on fuel were removed. Even today an electricity subsidy has been given to those who use below 150 units.

No subsidy has been granted for those who exceed these limits. We should be alert about the crisis situation in Iran.

If we took the decision to increase fuel prices six months later, we would have faced severe economic hardship.

As politicians who have come to this position with the help of the ordinary people and always live with them, we have understood the economic hardship faced by them. That is why steps were taken by the Government to grant subsidies to several sectors.

The Government has already decided to give fuel subsidies to Samurdhi beneficiaries, fishermen, school vans and three wheelers. We should face the political reality and the true picture of the economy without considering opportunistic politics of the Opposition.

If the Opposition was in power, what would have been the decision taken by them? At present the Opposition and anti-Government elements criticise the fuel hike. But they do not submit any solution to overcome this situation.

It was the UNP Government which destroyed the assets of the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC).

The CPC had engaged in the production of a series of by products and agro chemicals which are required for farmers.

After 1977, all these CPC-owned business ventures and a large number of its properties were vested to the private sector by the UNP Government. It is necessary to understand this situation.

We have realised the difficulties faced by the people and every possible measure will be taken to grant relief. However, it is essential to maintain an economic balance. Otherwise the economy will collapse. We cannot be isolated.

We live in a universal society which is connected with international economy, politics and other social factors.

Therefore we have to face these problems and succeed. We will defeat false propaganda campaigns carried out by the Opposition. We would not allow the Opposition to destabilise the country through their various demonstrations.

The Government through subsidies and other welfare measures will minimise the burden faced by the people.

Q:About the recent killing of a fisherman in Chilaw, you had said that the Police should have been more circumspect in handling public protests. Can you elaborate on this?

A: There are two sides to this issue. In a democratic country, there is a legal right to engage in demonstrations and protest marches. Before we came to this position, we have also resorted to similar activities. But today the Opposition and some NGOs specially operate in Sri Lanka as sole representatives of international forces which act against Sri Lanka and have invested money here to topple the Government.

Their intention is to form a Western-oriented Government which dances according to their whims and fancies. It was not the genuine fishermen who were behind the demonstration held in Chilaw. An NGO was behind this scene and it was handled by a priest who is also connected to the Katunayaka Free Trade Zone incident.

The NGO groups controlled by Western forces have resorted to these demonstrations and other public agitation campaigns.

They want to provoke those who participate in these demonstrations. That is why they attempt to create unnecessary panic. The Police was unable to control that demonstration.

Under these circumstances, we have to think of both sides. On the one hand, the people’s right to protest should be ensured.

But if the demonstrators resort to violence and exceed the limit of an ordinary demonstration, then the Police or the Security Forces have to be deployed to control them. This is the situation of any country.

The organisations that act against the Government want to create a serious incident by even sacrificing the life of a person.

We should not get caught to these traps. It is necessary that Police officers act intelligently and tactfully to deal with such situations.

Q:Foreign interference in our internal affairs appears to have become a new development when it was reported that a recent foreign delegation wanted the Government to remove the military camps in the North and the East. How do you look at this situation?

A: At present most of the people have forgotten war against the terrorism which prevailed in the country. LTTE now that has ended, pro-LTTE elements and the diaspora who live in foreign countries hatch political conspiracies to topple the Government.

Their intention is to create violence in the country to disrupt peace and national security.

The Security Forces have to curb these LTTE spy services and other activists. We could not arrest all the LTTE activists. Some of them were killed at the battlefront and some have been rehabilitated. But there is another group of LTTE activists who are outside the country.

The hardcore LTTEers who live in various foreign countries are still conducting various organizational activities. We cannot give room for these activities within the country. That is why the Security Forces are still maintaining military camps in the North and the East.

We have just completed only two years after the terrible war against terrorism. We have to seriously consider this. Still some LTTE remnants may remain in the country. It takes certain time frame for complete freedom.

Q: There are allegations that the Government is cracking down on the people’s right to protest. At the same time some Government Ministers have said that unseen political hands and NGOs are behind the protests, which they say are a start of a conspiracy to topple the Government. What are your comments on this?

A: The UNP or the JVP has no right whatsoever to oppose to the moves taken by the Government to control demonstrations which go beyond accepted limits of democratic norms. We know the moves taken by J.R.Jayewardene and R.Premadasa Governments during their 17 years rule to suppress the Opposition.

How many people were assaulted and killed by former UNP Governments who participated in Opposition demonstrations? As a political party the JVP has a notorious political history of unleashing violence, killing thousands of innocent people and destruction of public property.

Therefore the JVP is the political party which is held responsible to introduce this cult of violence. During their regime, the UNP introduced stern rules and regulations and deployed the Armed Forces to suppress the working class and their political opponents.

Ranil Wickremesinghe was also a Minister and was a Prime Minister. But most of the new UNP Parliamentarians don’t have any understanding how the country was ruled by former UNP Governments.

These newly elected UNP MPs have not held any ministerial portfolios or they don’t have any experience of ruling the country under the UNP. But they pretend to be clever critics in Parliament, political stage and even before the media. The people could see the true nature of the UNP when it was in power.

It is ironic that the UNPers posed themselves as mere “upasakas” when they are in the Opposition. In our history, there is no any other political party like UNP which has unleashed violence and suppress the democratic rights of the people.

Q: Are these protests, demonstrations, rallies and other public agitation campaigns really motivated to seek economic redress or do they have an ulterior motive injurious to the country?

A: Definitely, there is an ulterior motive behind this. This is an attempt made by certain elements in collaboration with international organisations to topple the Government. Instead of doing trade union activities, some Trade Union Leaders have also resorted to political activities to topple the Government. It is clear that a large number of NGOs and other international organisations are behind them.

Q: What is the delay in the parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) to begin its sessions? What is the TNA’s difficulty in participating in the PSC?

A: Actually there is no delay on the part of the Government. So far the TNA has not made its representation to the PSC. We have appointed the PSC and proposed the TNA to participate. Instead of participation the TNA and the UNP have engaged in various treacherous activities against the country with the intention of weakening the Government.

Q: It is said that the Government has already taken steps to implement the LLRC recommendations. What is the progress?

A: Some of the recommendations made by the LLRC have already been implemented. Recommendations and activities of the LLRC will be implement through the PSC. That is why the Government requests the Opposition to participate in this PSC.

However, the UNP and the TNA are not prepared to participate in the PSC. This is the true situation. Therefore the UNP and the TNA should be sincere to sit together and discuss to find a solution to this problem.

Q:There was media speculation about a Cabinet reshuffle. Is there any truth in this?

A:I deny those media reports.

Q: Today the health sector is free of strikes, work-to-rule campaigns and similar protests. What is the secret? Have you waved a magic wand?

A: When we take the health sector trade unions, their situation has completely changed. They are not in the same position they were two years ago. I allocate time to hold discussions with trade unions. I am always ready to listen to the voice of trade unions and consider them as friends.

I am there for genuine grievances and try to give possible relief and privileges. I have been able to create a close rapport with trade unions. But there are some trade unions which are directly connected to some political parties.

For example there are some trade unions which are affiliated to the JVP and its breakaway group called “Jana Aragala Movement”. Under cover of the trade union banner, these politically motivated trade unions in association with some NGOs have engaged to topple the Government. They have misled some trade union members as well. We are a Government which is committed to safeguard the rights of trade unions. As the Health Minister and the SLFP General Secretary, I have a huge responsibility on all these sectors. Therefore we are dealing with trade unions in a friendly manner.

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