Three years after liberation of country from LTTE:
Peace, stability and freedom pave the way for development
*Only 7,000 to be resettled
*Most High Security Zones released to the
*Skills of Forces’ personnel used for
Sri Lanka yesterday celebrated the third anniversary of the
liberation of the entire country from the LTTE terrorism that gripped
this country for three decades.
The LTTE - the most ruthless terrorist organisation was destroyed by
Sri Lanka’s valiant Security Forces under the guidance and direction of
Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa and the political leadership of
President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
As we enjoy the peace, stability and freedom, which provided the
enabling environment for economic development, many have forgotten the
years of conflict that created fear and insecurity among us. Defence
Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa reminds us of the dividends of peace, the
great progress achieved during the last three years and the importance
for the people to recognise their responsibility in ensuring that this
hard-won peace is not jeopardised for any reason. It is his plea that
the people are not misled...it is a plea because he knows the
devastation of war.
Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa believes that with commitment
and dedication, achievement is not impossible... He would know.
Q:It has been three years since the end of the conflict and
the elimination of the LTTE, the most ruthless terrorist organisation in
the world. Can you tell us about the progress made so far in conflict
A:We have made significant progress after the end of
terrorism. The main aim of the Government and the Ministry of Defence is
to bring normalcy to this country. That is, not only to Colombo or the
South, but also to the North and the East. We want people to feel that
after 30 years of terrorism there is peace and freedom in this country
for them to lead normal lives. Therefore, to ensure this we have
implemented many activities.
During the period immediately after the conclusion of terrorism, the
biggest issue that we had to address was the approximately 300,000
displaced people. Our first priority was to ensure the well-being of
Therefore, we first provided them with accommodation in welfare camps
and we had a special organisation to take care of them.
Resettling the displaced
However, we were very keen to send the displaced back to their
original homes. The main obstacle to this process was the mines that had
been planted by the LTTE to prevent the advancement of the Armed Forces.
In the North and in the entire Vanni there was a massive number of
anti-personnel mines, anti-tank mines and various types of IEDs.
Therefore, it was paramount that all of the mines are cleared before any
civilians could be settled in these areas.
We first identified areas that could be immediately de-mined so that
the maximum number of people could be resettled. Presently except for
approximately 7,000 IDPs all others have been resettled in their
original homes. This is a great achievement. We were able to do this
because our de-mining service was very successful. The most important
aspect is that even though INGOs and NGOs were involved in this process
the majority of the work was carried out by the Engineering Corps of the
Sri Lanka Army. It is very important to recognise this fact.
Furthermore, another important factor to remember is that during the
Humanitarian Operations when the Military was successfully advancing to
LTTE-controlled areas, the LTTE forced the civilians to leave their
homes and directed them to dismantle the roofs, doors and windows of
their houses. These people were forced to withdraw with the LTTE. Now,
when the civilians return to their homes they have to rebuild the whole
structure. It needs to be stressed that these houses were not damaged by
the fighting . The LTTE ordered the civilians to dismantle their homes.
With the end of the battle and with the people returning to their homes
the Government has to assist them to rebuild their homes. As such all
this work is done by the Government.
As we celebrate the third year anniversary of the end of terrorism, ,
we are proud of the progress we have made in resettlement. It is a
success story; there is no country in the world that has been able to
resettle its displaced due to natural disasters or conflict in this
timeframe. They have taken many years especially where de-mining is
concerned. In Sri Lanka, within a very short period, we have resettled
nearly 95 percent of the people in their houses. That is a success
Q: What can you tell us about the rehabilitation of
A: At the end of the battle 11,600 combatants surrendered to
the Armed Forces. The Government made the decision to rehabilitate these
individuals rather than send them to detention camps and interrogate
them. The rehabilitation programs were very successful and today many of
the combatants have been released and re-integrated into society. This
is another very successful story that the world must recognise. We
invited many people including those from abroad to visit these centres
and see for themselves the work we are doing. Many of them recognised
that the rehabilitation program was a success and they appreciated the
efforts we had made.
Various levels in LTTE
Today, those who had been fighting at various levels in the LTTE -
they may have been leaders engaged in attacks or they may have been
forcefully recruited or been in the LTTE for a very short time - are
part of society. As part of the rehabilitation program these people were
given training in various skills such as masonry, carpentry and heavy
vehicle operating. Now they have a means to seek employment and live
their lives normally because they had only been trained for combat and
nothing else before. They are no longer combatants but members of our
Another very important aspect is the detainees. At the time of the
end of terrorism nearly 4,000 LTTE combatants were in detention.
However, we felt that even these people should be given the opportunity
to lead a normal life. We investigated the various allegations against
them and except for about 200 detainees, the remainders have been
rehabilitated and released. Today there is only one detention camp in
Sri Lanka and that is in Boossa. We do not treat them as detainees or
prisoners, but we give them spiritual guidance, we encourage them to
participate in cultural activities and also provide rehabilitation
instead of punishing them.
Q: Many speak about the Military presence in the North and the
East, what can you tell us about this?
A: If we take the Vanni region in particular, the LTTE was
controlling this area and the Armed Forces had to liberate it. As I
emphasised before, the Government wants to bring normalcy to these
This is an area that has been misunderstood with various complaints
about Military presence. We have gradually reduced their numbers in
civilian populated areas; we have withdrawn them from their day-to-day
involvement and are now in their camps. The maintenance of law and order
has been handed over to the Police. We have opened new Police stations
in Mankulam, Kilinochchi, Pooneryn and such other areas.
A key feature at these police stations is that we have recruited
Tamil speaking individuals who are from Jaffna and other Northern areas.
We have trained them and they are now stationed at their respective
police stations so that it is ensured that the Police can effectively
communicate with the Tamil speaking people in these areas.
Q: What about development work in these areas?
A: Immediately after the end of terrorism we initiated
development work so that the people can engage in their livelihoods such
as farming, paddy cultivation and fishing. There is major development
work in progress such as the construction of road networks, including
the A-9, railway lines, rehabilitation of irrigation canals and the
renovation of tanks.
Furthermore, if you take the northern coastal belt from Silavathurai
in the west all the way to Jaffna and Point Pedro up to Mullaitivu, the
main livelihood is fishing. During the conflict the fishing industry in
this area was completely destroyed, the reason being that the Sea Tigers
were dominating there.
For that reason during the conflict there were many restrictions.
Fishermen were not allowed to go out to sea freely because there were
many restrictions on boats such as the size of the boat and the extent
of horsepower of the out-boat motors used. Fishermen were only allowed
to fish in certain areas due to security reasons. Three years after the
completion of battle we have removed all restrictions.
We are encouraging the fishing community to engage in fishing and
develop the industry. The Government is providing all the facilities
such as the provision of loans, assistance to purchase boats and
equipment and also establishing ancillary infrastructure such as ice
factories. It is very important to recognise that all of these
activities are being done to develop the fishing industry.
Q: What about High Security Zones?
A: The demarcation of High Security Zones (HSZ) during the
conflict was a great topic of discussion. Today you will find that we
have completely removed all HSZs. Of course in Palaly, as you know, the
original camp was very small and today there is the requirement for a
larger camp. We have acquired certain land for this purpose and what is
important is that we are paying rent to the owners of that land, and
when we are able to purchase the property we will do so.
The people have been given compensation for their land. They will
also be given alternate land. If there are any kovils or other religious
or culturally significant sites within the camp premises, the public is
given the freedom to visit these places.
What needs to be stressed is that there are no longer any large areas
demarcated as HSZ. Many areas have been released for the public to
utilise especially in Palaly, which was a massive HSZ; that is from KKS,
Keeramalai to Thondamannar. This has been reduced significantly and only
the most essential areas have been kept. Over the past three years we
have provided whatever assistance possible to bring normalcy to the
people in the North and the East.
Q: How about the rest of the country?
A: During the 30-year long conflict it was not only that the
LTTE was dominating the North and controlling the majority parts of the
East. They were also creating fear and insecurity in the rest of the
country with killings and bombings.
As a result we lost the lives of many innocent civilians, Military
personnel and property, which curtailed our freedom. With the end of
terrorism we have completely put a stop to such destruction. For the
last three years we have not heard of bomb attacks on buses, cars or
economic targets, we are not seeing dead bodies or Armed Forces
personnel being killed. The LTTE has bombed the Central Bank and the
surroundings; they have bombed hotels, the international airport and the
Kolonnawa oil storage.
Every single economic institution was a target. There were so many
bus, car and three-wheeler bombs, and we have put a complete stop to all
This I feel, certain people have forgotten. I will not say everyone,
but there are a few who have forgotten the fear and the terror caused by
the LTTE and they want the people to forget this too. They are talking
about the security situation today.
Compared to the time of the battle, the security situation in the
country has improved significantly. There are no killings. All of this
has been stopped.
It is true that we lost lives, property and economically important
installations were destroyed, but most importantly we should not forget
that in terms of development we went backwards, because in a conflict
situation no serious investor will engage whether they are local or
foreign. While no foreign investors came to the country, Sri Lankan
businesses too went overseas.
As we have created a conducive environment for investments, there is
a huge demand and many investors are coming to the country. If we look
at the tourism sector, during the conflict the industry was in very bad
shape. Today if you ask the hoteliers, they will all say that during the
year they have done very good business. The number of tourists coming to
the country has increased significantly and investment is taking place
in a large scale. Presently there is a huge demand for condominiums,
houses, office spaces and IT services.
Through investment, business and employment opportunities are
created. During the past three years, living standards have improved and
income per capita has increased. This is the biggest achievement during
the last three years - after the end of terrorism we have created a
safe, peaceful and stable environment in this country and that has
improved our economy significantly. In each and every way, we have moved
forward in this country because we ended terrorism .
Everyone in this country must remember the past and take this
opportunity, we must not go back to the time after defeating the LTTE,
we must not go back to the 80s or the 90s. We must move forward from
2009. It is very important to remember what we went through as a
country. We should preserve this hard-won peace without destroying this
opportunity for the sake of petty politics and personal gain. We have to
There are certain people who are trying to destroy this freedom; we
must not get involved in this. We are a democratic country; use this
freedom to move forward.
Today, anyone can engage in politics. Many members of the TNA are
able to speak freely and visit the North and the East without any fear,
but when the LTTE was there, were they able to do that? They had to do
what Prabhakaran said.
During the conflict most of the TNA members lived abroad. They were
not free to say anything, but today they are free to do anything. The
TNA has forgotten the past. They must not forget.
Today, if we consider only the people in the North and the East,
especially in the Northern area - they were the people who suffered the
most. They now have this opportunity to move forward, to develop the
area, to educate their children, to seek investment, to do business, to
sell their products, engage in agriculture and cultivation and sell
their produce. That is what is necessary.
Even when the battle escalated after 2005, there was no communal
violence, it is only today that certain people are trying to instigate
divisions among the communities. Such actions are not necessary. These
are very sensitive issues that people can avoid; we must insist on this.
Whichever race or religion we belong to, we must remember what we
went through with the conflict for 30 years. We should not give the
slightest opportunity for something similar to happen again. That is
very important. People should not believe in rumors. Today, rumors are
being spread by people who want to create a situation in this country.
We must not believe such rumors and the public should not allow such
things to happen.
In this country, whether you are a Muslim, Tamil, Burgher or Sinhala,
you are a Sri Lankan. That is the most important thing. You must not get
involved in unnecessary issues: ethnicity and religion are not
important, what is important is that you are a Sri Lankan.
We now have the opportunity and it is there for everyone. No one can
say that this is not true. Take Colombo or anywhere in the country -
there are many Tamil leading businessmen in many sectors. There are also
the Tamil professionals such as surgeons, doctors, engineers, lawyers
and architects. Who can say there is no opportunity for them? They can
buy land everywhere, whether it is in Colombo, the South or the North.
There are no restrictions for a Tamil to buy land. They live in all
areas of the country.
Even if you look at the Muslim community, they are free to do
business and the fact that we have so many leading Muslim businessmen in
this country is proof of that. Who obstructs? No one.
This is what the people want, but it is the politicians who create
unnecessary problems. We must move away from petty politics. We must not
get entangled in religious or ethnic disputes.
Why should we engage in such activities when we have ample
opportunities to move forward? We have to be cautious of those who try
to create a situation by projecting false issues. When people are
educated and they are able to earn and engage in business activities
their interest is in improving their lives.
We have achieved stability in this country after a long time. We must
consolidate this stability to attract more investment. We can encourage
tourists to visit the country. That is how we can solve our problems.
The solution for all problems is development; not fighting. We want the
people to improve their lives and live comfortably. The most important
thing is that we must preserve this freedom and stability. We must not
go back, we must move forward.
Q: Why do you think that certain elements and even politicians
are trying to cause problems among the communities?
A: This is being done for their own advantage. It is not for
the people. Let the people live in peace. Everyone, especially in the
North, want to educate their children, they want to build their houses,
they want to do their farming or fishing or cultivation. We have to
bring investment, factories and training facilities to these areas. At
times investors are reluctant because there are issues such as finding
trained people, therefore we have to provide those facilities to the
people. It is development that we need; not fighting on baseless issues
and living in the past.
Q: What is the role of the Military today, after three years?
A: There is no emergency in the country. As many may have
noticed there are no road blocks or checkpoints. We do not conduct
‘cordon and search’ operations. We want to bring normalcy to the
country. But, we must remember - and this is very important - that the
primary role of the Armed Forces is to protect the country from internal
and external threats. They have to be ready. They cannot relax though we
have defeated the LTTE; we need to be cautious. The LTTE was in this
country for 30 years, therefore there could be certain aspects that we
need to be careful about.
We have rehabilitated and released all those who surrendered. They
were all combatants. Some did not surrender. They could be leaders, we
do not know who they are. We are still finding hidden weapons. Not one
or two but a massive quantity. We know that the LTTE had a large
armoury. We are recovering these weapons almost every day. Those who did
not surrender could still be among the people because it is only three
There is a huge threat from outside the country; that is the people
who were able to escape and also the international network. Even during
Prabhakaran’s time there was a massive international network in the UK,
Canada, Norway and other European countries, Australia and US.
The LTTE fronts have formed different organisations in these
countries and while living overseas they are trying to destabilise Sri
Lanka. They are bringing immense pressure on us. In such a situation
there is a possibility that the LTTE can regroup and do something. But
this is not what we want.
The Armed Forces have to be very careful. However, the way they
achieve this - that is ensuring security - is different. They do not
want to disturb civilian life. We do not want to place roadblocks or
conduct search operations. We do this through surveillance, gathering
information and other different methods to ensure that the country is
not in danger. That is the main task of the Military - to ensure the
security of the country.
We have withdrawn the Military from civilian life and we have handed
over the day-to-day law and order to the Police. But of course, one
might ask “why are you still keeping the military in the North?”
Obviously, the North is a part of Sri Lanka. Therefore, we have to
position the military in different parts of the country. It is not only
in the North, but also in Hambantota that we have stationed troops. In
every district we have troops. But yes, in the North we have more. Why?
That is because you position your military in strategically important
places. There is always a possibility that some terrorist group can
reorganise themselves. That possibility is always there.
In that case, to counter such threats you have to position the
Military in strategically important locations. The Military decides on
the strategic locations where the camps should be placed and we have
positioned them accordingly. Though the camps have been positioned in
these locations, the Military personnel are confined to their camps
where they continue with their daily training, intelligence gathering
and other such activities.
At the same time today the Military is engaged in development work.
They are a disciplined force and our Military consists of very young
people. They are young, trained and disciplined and with many skills. We
can use that in our country’s development. It is nothing, but right to
give them the opportunity as they are also part of the society.
In many countries they do this, where while they engage in their
military work they can also utilise their skills in other areas. Now, in
Colombo, the canal system is maintained by the Navy. If you take some of
the tasks done by the Urban Development Authority, we use certain
Military officers because of their commitment and skills for various
When you take the Military, you must understand that there are
various divisions in the Military and it does not consist of only
fighting soldiers. There are engineers, who are very capable. Even
during the battle , they were engaged in similar activities such as
building bridges and roads when the troops were moving and also clearing
obstacles. That was their task even during the battle.
In a conflict, engineers are trained and also equipped to do that.
Additionally, the engineers did the mammoth task of de-mining. We have
civil engineers and engineering services, trained carpenters, masons and
plumbers whose duty is the construction of buildings for the Military.
Now, if you take the Dutch Hospital, which we have renovated in
Colombo, it was completely done by the Army engineers. The Race Course,
again is done by the Army engineering services. There are some other
buildings renovated like this by the Navy. They are constructing
children’s playgrounds as well.
Therefore, we utilise the skills of the Forces for development work
and they are quite happy to contribute to these projects. At the same
time, within the Military they are being utilised to build houses for
soldiers and disabled soldiers.
The Military is building the houses, hospitals and places for the
disabled soldiers, such as Mihindhu Seth Medura and Abimansala. The most
important thing is that they are very keen to do this work, because they
are motivated. They are trained and disciplined and as such can be
utilised for development.
Q: If we look at the general stability and security, how do
you feel as the person who has been able to disassemble the underworld
networks, crime, robberies and extortion, thereby creating a safe
environment for everyone all over the country?
A: While a 30-year-long conflict was raging with the LTTE,
other illegal networks were also developing. There was a thriving
underworld and drug network, I will not say that we were able to
completely eradicate the drug problem, but we have been able to control
it very effectively.
Of course, we all know that such networks are prevalent not only in
Sri Lanka, however we have to continue this work so that the people are
safe; the society is safe.
Today, we have achieved that. In the media we find various reports of
crimes, but what we are trying to control is organised crime. That is
We need the assistance of the people. They have to believe in us.
There was one time, when a large underworld network was taking over
peoples’ houses and land, where people have sold land that does not
belong to them under a false name, using a forged identity. The public
has to be made aware and be extremely careful.
We can arrest the culprit but what can you do if he says he doesn’t
have the money? You are nowhere. Therefore, the public has to assist us.
There were also kidnappings and ransom collection, most times the people
are too scared to inform the Police. They just give the money. At times
they feel that the Police might not be able to help them, but we have
solved many issues such as this and we have arrested many culprits who
were trying to take ransom from people. We can do this only if the
people help. They must not be frightened and should inform the
authorities immediately. We should not give them the opportunity to
engage in such illegal activities.
It is very challenging, but our aim is to completely eradicate this
menace of underworld and drug networks. Of course, we need the
assistance of the public. They must support, they must believe in us.
Together, we can achieve this. It is very important so that we can
become a developed country where anyone can be safe. Tourists, investors
and businesses must be confident. Whatever certain people say, we have
achieved this security.
Unfortunately, individuals who are not thinking of the country and
the future are engaged in creating instability. Everyone must understand
this situation and must not be a pawn in their game.
Q: Why is it that certain people do not appreciate this
A: The majority of the people appreciate what we have
achieved. It is a very few who are opportunists, who want to criticise
and show an inaccurate picture because they want to come into power.
They want to create fear among the people. They just think of
themselves. That’s all. They are the people who do not appreciate these
things, but the public do. It is the poor people who are at a
Q: If you look at society there is discipline as a whole. Is
A: The people want discipline and they want to see development
happening and order maintained. A very good example is that when we
removed all the garbage from Colombo, people too stopped throwing waste
in public places. Under how many administrations did they try to solve
this issue? The people are also proud to maintain this clean
Many people who have come from abroad have commented on this because
they see the difference. Even Heads of State have commented on this.
Lord Naseby who has been visiting Sri Lanka over the past 50 years said
to me that he has never seen Colombo so clean and he had mentioned this
to the President as well.
Tourists do not want to see garbage, they like to be in a clean city.
It is not only the tourists, imagine the people living in the city
itself, everyone likes to live in a clean city. There are many
advantages including the prevention of diseases.
Similarly, you cannot ask people to walk on the pavement if there are
no pavements. If the pavements are full of hawkers and potholes, how can
you ask the people to walk on the pavement? They have no choice, but to
walk on the road. Today we have cleaned the pavements as well as built
new ones. We must make our cities people friendly, not only for the
motorists, as a majority of the people walk. That is how discipline
Take the Galle Road, from Bambalapitiya to Colpetty. We laid new
pavements and introduced pedestrian crossings. Today you don’t see
people crossing the Galle Road from everywhere. They wait for the green
light and cross. This is discipline. Give the people the opportunity to
be disciplined. If there are no proper places to cross the road, people
will cross from any point. Once they are used to that, once order is
brought, people will obey. The majority of the people want that.
Q: If we take Colombo we can say that it is most probably the
cleanest city in South Asia. Why aren’t we promoting that?
A: It is very important to promote this because it is one way
that we can attract tourists to our country. This should be done, not
through promotions or advertising, but by word of mouth. Anyone who
visits Sri Lanka today talks about the cleanliness and discipline,
therefore we have to maintain this. We can improve and we must improve
and the officials must keep this in mind. Especially, if you take
Colombo, the majority of the responsibility falls on the Municipal
Council, though we are doing all this work through the Urban Development
We are starting a project with World Bank funding mainly for Colombo
and its suburbs such as Kotte, Kolonnawa, Dehiwela and Mount Lavinia. It
is a huge project to improve the infrastructure facilities such as the
roads and pavements. We have also developed the Beira Lake and the
surrounding areas. I have developed many walking spaces and these are
full of people, whether it is Vihara Maha Devi Park, Independence
Square, Parliament Grounds or the new Battaramulla Japanese-Friendship
road. All these places are crowded because people want to spend time
outside with their families. We have to create more public spaces and we
are doing that.
Floods was another issue. Today we have been able to solve this
problem to a great extent. If we take the Parliament area, Water’s Edge,
Rajagiriya and further down, these places would have been under water
during the rains. But today we are not experiencing any floods because
we created more lakes and dredged tanks to increase the water retention
capacity. We have cleaned all the canals and maintain them, therefore to
a great extent we have been able to control flooding.
We have started a program to remove unauthorised constructions such
as slums and relocate them into proper housing. We cannot allow these
people to live under such low standards. We are building apartments for
this purpose. We must give them the opportunity to live well. With that,
discipline will also come to them. It is not that they don’t like to
live like that.
If we take the Slave Island area, there are so many substandard and
old houses. Together with the private sector, we have created very good
programs. Currently there are two projects where the private sector will
develop the Slave Island area with accommodation and transfer these
people to their new houses. The vacant land will be used for commercial
purposes. In such a way it is a win-win situation for both the developer
and the people.
Even with this type of project, there are those who try to mislead
the public, which is very bad. This is for the benefit of the people. I
have found investors who are willing to take this land and build good
houses for them, according to their requirements. The balance area to be
developed is to cover the expenses. This is done by the private sector,
but the UDA is facilitating this project. Such projects will change the
face of Colombo and uplift the lives of the people.
Q: Development entails unpopular decisions.
A: Yes, but we are not throwing people out of their homes. We
always look after them, but they must understand that this is for their
benefit. We have to do such programs for the advancement of the people
and the country. When we remove shanties, we house them in temporary
shelters and once the shanties are demolished we build houses.
Unfortunately, there are people who, without understanding or thinking
of the country, its future and development, try to mislead. That is why
they protest. It is very important for the public to understand what we
are doing. We need to demolish unauthorised constructions and remove
pavement hawkers if we are to move forward and develop their lives and
standards. We must move fast because we were lagging behind due to
terrorism that lasted 30 years.
Q: How have you been able to achieve all this where others
A: It is not that others failed, it is that we have proven
that nothing is unachievable. For example, many people thought we could
not defeat the LTTE, but we did. Therefore, if you have the commitment
and the will, anything can be achieved. There are many people who have
achieved great things because they believe in themselves and they are
I am totally committed, I know what needs to be achieved and I work
towards those objectives. As such the people who work with me and my
subordinates also work towards achieving the set objectives. They will
follow your lead. If you are not committed others will follow suit.
The majority I know want to work and do their job well, but you need
to give them leadership. For example, the clearing of garbage, I do not
personally remove the garbage; but I supervise and guide the officials
to ensure that the work is done.
That commitment is the most important aspect; you have to be genuine.
I asked all the Government servants whether they are committed. When
there is an opportunity to do something it is wrong to place blame
elsewhere. If you want to do something there is ample opportunity for
that. The only thing you need is the commitment. And when you work to
achieve that goal, you must have a vision, you must have dreams and you
should work towards making those a reality. Many will support you and
follow you. Subordinates will work. That is how we have achieved
Q: Even the renovation of the Dutch Hospital and Race Course,
no one thought they were possible, isn’t it?
A: The two buildings at the race course were neglected for 40
years. It was an eyesore and there were various people living there.
Though it was ultimately condemned, the buildings were not demolished
because no one was interested.
My initial reaction was why not? We can utilise it and that is how we
started on its design and development. Work is ongoing now. You have to
give leadership. Truly, I am thinking of the country. I want my country
to come up to that level of a highly developed country. Therefore, I
always think of how I can contribute to achieve this aim.
The cleaning of garbage is not my responsibility; it is the
responsibility of the Municipal Council. Urban development or defence
have nothing to do with this. There have been instances where those in
the Opposition have asked what the Secretary of Defence has to do with
cleaning, but if no one is doing it, I thought how can we live that way?
We have ended terrorism, therefore we must move forward, develop this
city and the country. Therefore, I analysed the problem and looked at
the reasons as to why the clearing of garbage was not happening properly
and I provided a solution. I supervised it and gave leadership, that is
how everyone should work.
If you are bound to your duty to serve the people and the country,
you overcome whatever obstacles and move forward. We must not fall into
this trap where certain elements are trying to create disharmony in this
country. It is my earnest request from the public, please do not be
misled and fall into their trap. We are, after all, human beings and we
want to live our lives in peace.
Q: As you mentioned, is urban development progressing outside
Colombo as well?
A: We have selected about 18 cities including Jaffna and
around the country to develop, as we have done in Colombo.
Q: Could you also speak about the Eagles Golf Link in
Trincomalee, which is a novel concept?
A: There is a great demand for golf, in the whole world. I
felt that we can develop a golf course because such facilities are
essential for tourism. Beaches, heritage, wildlife and tea estates are
some of the assets we have for tourists, but that alone will not suffice
to encourage tourists to the country. Facilities such as golf courses
and hotels should be in these areas. Therefore, I thought it would be a
good idea to have a golf course in Trincomalee.
The Air Force was very keen, they selected this place in Clossenburg,
Trincomalee and the golf course has become very popular. There are many
people from abroad who have played at the golf course. Recently, the
Managing Director of Noritake and other Japanese officials played on the
course. Many people from Colombo go there over the weekend. It is a very
nice and peaceful environment. If we look at the Navy they are
conducting whale watching expeditions, so in that way the Armed Forces
are also doing their part to develop the tourism industry of the
Q: Everyone identifies you as a doer, a person who can do the
right thing, and we find people from various sectors, even the private
sector, saying that if they speak to the Defence Secretary he can get
the work done. Why is that?
A: I do not know whether I am a doer, but whatever
responsibilities fall upon me I take it very seriously and I want to
produce results. I look for results and I work very hard. I am committed
to whatever is assigned to me.
I always think of the country and the future. I will do whatever I
can do to make this country better. With dedication and devotion I will
do my duty and that automatically brings results. It is a very simple
thing. That is why we were able to finish the 30-year long battle within
three short years. We worked to achieve set objectives with commitment.
When I saw the Dutch Hospital I thought I must create a place such as
a mall. With that concept in mind we proceeded. We were able to achieve
our aim. Therefore, you have to visualise what you want to achieve. With
that you can move forward and accomplish your aim. We have to be
result-oriented, that is the most important thing.
Sometimes that is a weakness I have seen in Sri Lanka. Many people
have nice plans and they think that just by having a plan it will become
a reality. It is useless to just discuss plans unless you implement
them. The end result is the most important thing. Without the result,
making plans is a waste of time.
Q: A new identification system such as the social security
number is to be introduced to Sri Lanka. What are your thoughts on this
and when can we expect this to happen?
A: This has been something that has been talked about for the
past 30 years because we already have the ID card system which is not at
It has been a major obstacle during the terrorist period, because
many terrorists and suicide cadre came to Colombo with forged
identities. Most of the suicide cadre were able to obtain forged ID
cards claiming they are Muslims and disguised themselves. There is no
security in the current ID card. A person, a genuine citizen will not do
anything illegal, but a person who wants to do these things, can.
The plan is to have a proper ID card and it will be a very
sophisticated system. We will call for tenders from various interested
parties and evaluate and make it a reality. It is very important because
this will prevent crimes and will be a tool to maintain security.
If you have a forged ID card, you can take another passport.
Therefore, by forging they engage in many fraudulent activities. When
you have a proper ID system, you can stop such activities.
Q: Visa on arrival was stopped. What was the reason behind
this, and so far how has it affected the number of arrivals to Sri
A: No, the on arrival visa system was not stopped, but what we
introduced was a system where tourists can obtain their visas online. As
a matter of fact, the number of tourists to Sri Lanka has increased, it
has facilitated people because now, a lot of people are applying through
We do still issue visas on arrival, but for some reason if the visa
is rejected the tourist has to leave the country as soon as they arrive.
Therefore, we have made it easier by providing this facility for them to
obtain their visas online prior to their departure. You go online and
apply, within 48 hours you are given the visa. This has prevented long
lines assembling at the immigration counters.
Q: Now, with the end of the Military campaign and with the
work you are doing for urban development, are you planning to enter
Q: Now that we have peace and security, how do we maintain
A: That is up to the people. We have to move forward rather
than go back. The Government is very keen to bring normalcy and ensure
that all people live in freedom. Many restrictions have been removed
including the emergency. To move forward we need the support of the
It is very unfortunate that certain pressures are being exerted by
the international community. They must see what we have achieved during
this time. We have gone very far on ground.
That is the reality. Rather than get entangled in these unnecessary
problems, Sri Lankans need to move forward as one country and one
people. We should shed any petty differences in the name of the country.
The Armed Forces and the Police are committed to that.
Therefore, it is up to the public.
Politicians should understand that Sri Lanka is a democratic country.
After Independence, we had many parties and many governments. At one
time the JVP was part of the government and they had ministries under
their purview. The Marxists were also part of the government. The UNP
was in power and subsequently the SLFP was in power. People change, so
do presidents, governments and ministers. Why is that?
That is through the ballot. Ultimately, this is a democratic country.
The people appoint the Government and the President after they govern
their term. If the people are not happy, they can always change the
government because the ballot decides.
As a progressive country, you must allow the process to go on rather
than be an obstacle to it. Opposition is good, but it is not their duty
to use undemocratic means or create instability or to harm the country.
Sometimes, they use methods which will not change a particular
government or harm the President, but it will harm the whole country.
There are certain media institutions today that are spreading wrong
information. It is very detrimental to our country. It will bring
disharmony among the community and that will give a wrong impression to
the world. That will cause more and more foreign involvement, which will
bring instability. We are a peaceful country, but are we moving forward
like Vietnam, China, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia or Singapore? Or are
we going to follow the countries that have protests, fighting and
bombings with unnecessary foreign involvement? Are we going in that
direction or are we going in this direction? It is up to the public.
If you want to come to power, you have to use the correct method.
Don’t bring unnecessary instability into our country. If you are
thinking of governing, you must have a country to govern. Think of
moving forward. The President has solved the most difficult problem. Now
it is up to us to move forward.
A: We have this great opportunity which we have not had for a
long time. Now we must use this opportunity and develop our country and
develop our society. At the end what we want is for everybody in this
country, every citizen, to improve their living standards. Live in
dignity. Live as a Sri Lankan.
Courtesy: Business Today