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Sunday, 18 March 2012

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A country's sovereignty is sacrosanct – Minister Vasudeva Nanayakkara

National Languages and Social Integration Minister Vasudeva Nanayakkara said he is confident that there will be a larger number on our side while some of those who should have supported the US-sponsored resolution might abstain. That will work to our advantage.

The Minister in an interview with the Sunday Observer said any sane person who looks at the fabric of international relations will know that one cannot impose on any country his will or the will of a group of countries. The sovereignty of each country is sacrosanct and everything must begin at that point. Country-specific resolutions are not welcome as India says. Most resolutions in the past were means to pursue mechanisms or recommendations, not imposition or dictates like in this US sponsored resolution. This has the obvious appearance of vengeance.

Minister Nanayakkara said the powerful empire builders ruthlessly attack and invade countries with some excuse for their own purposes. That is not to deny their tyrants in those countries as rulers. We all would like to see the end of every tyrant whether it is in Libya or in Syria. But at the same time, we would not want to see it being taken over by puppet rulers who will be subservient to Western powers. That is what we are seeing in Egypt now.

Q: There is controversy of human rights in our country today. What is the Western World’s curious obsession with human rights?

A: Because there are violations of human rights by the majority of the States in the world. Each one uses human rights as a weapon to attack the other country whom they consider as their competitors or rivals in trade and investment.

Q: Do you think that the US wants to reassert its fading role in international affairs, because countries such as China, Russia and India are becoming more powerful politically and militarily?

A: Certainly. The Western World is perturbed. The Western World would not want to give space to any one of these countries in the region where they dominated once upon a time. Even a part of their vast empire where the sun never set and there were countries under them in the East as well as in the West.

The change of time has brought about the reduction of their influence in the world. They have to recapture or reintegrate areas as their zones of influence at least for the beginning. They are very jealous about any of their rivals like China or India coming in between them and the Western powers. India has a curious role to play. It is being played very well at the moment. India does not want the Western World to come here and set foot on our land. But if they are prepared to come to an agreement regarding other matters where India will take the lead in initiating any particular cause, they would support not otherwise.

Q:National independence, sovereignty, and democracy have become conditional on your being in the good books of the Western World. Is it not the reality today?

A: What you mean is the big powers decide on human rights, democracy, good governance, rule of law and a whole chain of things. So it depends on which block you belong to. The world is now moving in blocks. But today what happens on the basis of what you called the subservience of countries to the powerful and the loyalty of countries to the main powers and a block is formed. There were two blocks in the past. Therefore we had the non-aligned movement.

Then Unipolar system arose. Now it is being challenged by multipolar countries, for instance Russia, China, India and Brazil by forming themselves into a powerful block. Then the Latin American block of some 30 countries and similarly the Asian Block existed for a long time. So there is a multipolar feature beginning to arrive. But the powerful empire builders ruthlessly attack and invade countries with some excuse for their own purpose.

That is not to deny their tyrants in those countries as rulers. We would like to see the end of every tyrant whether it is in Libya or in Syria. But at the same time, we would not want to see it being taken over by puppet rulers who will be subservient to the Western powers. That is what we are seeing Egypt now.

The mass forces that rose against Mubarak are moving against the Military Council. Those who have been placed in positions of power at the behest of imperialists, are not given any rest. Mass movement is on until they democratically elect their own representatives as rulers of the country.

Q: Indiscriminate killings of civilians by drone attacks, sectarian violence by foreign-inspired anarchists, and killing sprees of civilians by disoriented soldiers of invading forces have become a commonplace matters today. Your comments?

A: This is what they are accountable. The empire led by the US is accountable for the criminal activities of these mercenaries who have no reason why they should be fighting in some of those countries. They become mentally disturbed and they are under pressure and they don’t identify themselves with the war. Therefore there are situations arising which are frightening as you see in Afghanistan. It also happens in Iran, and it happened in Vietnam sometime ago. An ‘invader’ must know that the force that he uses can turn into mental imbalance – a frightening frankenstein force which we are witnessing. I saw one US soldier found guilty of having committed to killings. He has been found guilty by the court. Taking into consideration that he has a family and children, he has been given six months suspension. That is another way of respecting human rights. Find the man guilty and let him go away. They have seen that the killers go free.

Q: Are you confident that Sri Lanka would be able to succeed the US sponsored resolution at the UNHRC?

A: I am confident that there will be a large number on our side while some of those who should have supported the resolution might abstain. That will work to our advantage. I am not saying this because I am a Sri Lankan or a Minister in the Government.

Any sane person who looks at the fabric of international relations will know that one cannot impose on any country his will or the will of group of countries.

The sovereignty of each country is sacrosanct and everything must begin at that point, not in violation. Therefore country-specific resolutions are not welcome as India says. Most resolutions in the past were means to pursue mechanisms or recommendations, not imposition or not dictates had been embedded in this US sponsored resolution. It has the obvious appearance of vengeance.

Q: All citizens enjoy equal rights under the present constitution of Sri Lanka. No preferential treatment. How is it that allegations are made that some communities are treated as second class citizens or denied equal rights?

A: The Government intentionally does not want to treat any community as a second level community. The Government does not want to discriminate against any community. If we don’t have Tamil-speaking policemen at Police Stations, we cannot treat the Tamils equally. Because only Sinhala speaking Policemen are available. This is the existing structure. If the structure is not changed to suit the equality concept, then our concept will become invalidated in practice. Ultimately the Government will be held responsible for discrimination and treating different group of citizens differently. Particularly in the post-conflict period in the areas where they suffered most and even Sinhalese who suffered in the villages adjacent to the conflict battle areas, they need to be looked after with special care. Houses are being built and people are being relocated. But there are many problems about finding land for them. The lands that they occupied are not available. So ultimately the Government is answerable to them. Then on the other hand, they feel that they are being watched by the Army. If a person perceives that he is under watch then he naturally perceives that he is being discriminated against while the other in the country are not.

Q: Your Ministry could play a vital role in bridging the gaps if any, between majority and minority communities. Has your Ministry drafted a blueprint to give effect to it?

A: We are drawing up a Plan of Action for 2012. One is the Action Plan for the implementation of the Language Policy. The other plan is to teaching Sinhala and Tamil to every citizen. Teaching the public servants other languages and encourage them to transact matters with those who come to their offices is the language that they have learnt.

Then the Social Integration Unit of our Ministry which looks after the people who have been excluded from the society on account of difficult circumstances that arose during the time of war against terrorists left out birth certificates, we get them their basic documents which they need. Still they have no confidence or are living in fear without the security of the households.

They are not sure of how the Army will ultimately act in relation to grievances. So they are excluding themselves from the main stream of the society. We have to find them out and get them the documents and see that their children go to schools. We should give them the confidence and bring them back to the main stream of society by socially integrating them.

We have also initiated the Language Society Movement which is a public initiative. We are getting a good response from all parts of the country. Now we are in a race to train sufficient teachers through those Language Societies and teach them languages. There are also some kind of bridging points among the communities. These Language Societies will also function as some kind of a bridge to bring cultural activities of the communities in the areas together and to watch over the situations where conflicts arise and quickly intervene to quell them. So the Ministry is doing lot of things to address these issues. But we need time and it’s a big challenge.

We need resources and the Government has made available resources. But our structures are not yet well-tuned and expanded to meet this challenge. So this is social engineering and social infrastructure building. But political decisions must come from the President and the Cabinet or the Government. That is to decide on how the areas should be governed, who should be the governing bodies and how public representatives would be able handle matters.

It should also be decided on what powers will be available whether the Army or the Police or some other representative should be allowed to overpower them irrespective of matters which are their entitlements.

These are matters for the Central Government to decide. Now we are having a Parliamentary Select Committee and the President is having discussions with community representatives. We hope all these initiatives will work towards some arrangement where we can have all areas democratically governed with the representatives of the people.

All other impediments like the presence of the Armed Forces and arbitrary actions of the bureaucracy, all these must be put in line with what we want to do.

Q: What are your personal views on achieving lasting peace and reconciliation?

A: It depends on the political settlement.

Q: The UNP alleges that the Government has shelved all burning public issues under the pretext of the current human rights controversy. Are they justified in launching such criticisms?

A: The UNP is hardly the qualified party to talk about this. Leaving that aside, when they say what is going on Geneva has been engineered by us to divert the attention, people will certainly think that they have lost their sanity. When such a battle is being fought in that arena diplomatically and we have very big challenge from the biggest powers in the world. Naturally this has taken the attention of the public in general. If the UNP or JVP says these all are purposely arranged, the people will think they are going crazy.

Q: Compared to many other districts or electorates, Ratnapura is a backward area which you represent today. Are there any development programs launched or in the pipeline at present? Are there no natural resources to be tapped?

A: Ratnapura is a poor district compared with other districts. But we are the district where gems are found. You see the country that has oil is also one of the poorest countries such as Nigeria. Such is the contradiction of capitalism. As we go alone to initiate more social democratic measures, we should be getting across this barrier.

Q: Today the socialist politicians are a fast diminishing species all over the world. How would you assess this scenario?

A: The world’s socialist forces are growing. If you take Latin America, most of the countries which are left and centre Governments, about 13 of them have a socialist outlook. They may not traditional Marxists but socialist in outlook. Socialist meaning that you don’t allow the market to play without intervention and regulator.

The market is allowed to behave or misbehave as it likes and you just watch and gather the fruits of the labour of the people as your huge profit and impoverishment takes place while the polarization of wealth on the other corner. If that kind of structure what prevails in any country, those are committed capitalist countries which have been even taken over by neo-liberalism which is savaged capitalism. But neo-liberalism is a dead ideology in the world by now. So they are looking for a new ideology that does not exist. Therefore socialism will become the national out-tray where the markets are not given the free play where the fittest survive but social democratic reforms will meet the orientation towards the social means about the market needs.

This is the way towards socialism. Therefore I believe the numbers are growing in favour of society over the market. Then we also should have ideal social well-being of the people as the purpose of governance, not profit and growth. For the neo-liberalism of course who are now a dying species, their temple was the market. Their god was the Dollar. But they are now losing their value.

I believe soon there will be new international currencies or currency where the transactions would take place among the certain countries. So where we are moving towards is socialism undoubtedly and irreversibly.

Q: Your critics say that you have ultimately aligned with the UPFA Government. Do you agree?

A: Yes, we have aligned with the UPFA as an alliance. We have also aligned with the Government hoping that we can get social democratic reforms in the constitution and democratic reforms in relation to the national question where we can bring about unification to the nation by agreeing on certain matters among communities on a common footing. President Mahinda Rajapaksa alone can deliver it because of the goodwill he enjoys among the vast majority of the Sinhalese.

Q: On your analysis what has contributed to the decline of the Samasamaja and Communist parties from their glorious past to the present day virtual eclipse?

A: Party entities have declined due to splits primarily. The splits are due to debates.

The debates are due to problems arising how to practise in relation to theory. So these debates have produced number of splits such as the Soviet-China split.

All these are ideological splits. I see that some of these old parties like the Communist Party and the LSSP did not entertain sufficient democracy within the party. That is for a person to hold a dissenting view and even to say, “I cannot go alone with your decisions and I must stay out of it”. That is essential for democracy.

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