Reconciliation, a two-way street - Rtd. Admiral Sarath Weerasekera | Sunday Observer

Reconciliation, a two-way street - Rtd. Admiral Sarath Weerasekera

Reconciliation is a two-way street and becomes fruitful when the minority community respects the majority and vice versa, said Rtd. Admiral Sarath Weerasekera in an interview with the Sunday Observer.

Excerpts:

Q. The governments that came into power after the end of the war against terrorism have taken measures to promote reconciliation. What is your view on reconciliation?

A. Reconciliation is a two-way street. Reconciliation becomes fruitful when the minority community respects the majority and vice versa.

Tamils particularly those living in the Jaffna peninsula should make a bigger contribution towards reconciliation.

The Sinhalese are always ready to reconcile with other communities in the country. I noticed a pre-school child at a remote village in Ampara dancing to the tune of a Tamil song. That is part of the reconciliation process. But I have never noticed children in Jaffna dancing to the tune of a Sinhala song

Q. You are the only lawmaker who voted against the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. The Government led by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has said that the 19th Amendment to the Constitution will be abolished. How are you going to abolish the Amendment?

A. The 19th Amendment weakened the Executive Presidency. It also aimed at weakening the country’s unitary state. The 19th Amendment has done irreparable damage to the country. The next Government should have a two-thirds majority to abolish the Amendment. The 19th Amendment also targeted the Rajapaksa family. They wanted to prevent Rajapaksas from coming to power. This is the first time that a Constitutional Amendment was brought in the country targeting a family.

A number of independent Commissions, including the Election Commission were set up under the 19th Amendment. The question has been raised whether these institutions are impartial and independent.

Q. Sri Lanka cosponsored UNHRC resolution 30/1 in October, 2015. Are we legally bound to implement the resolution?

A. UNHRC resolutions are not binding. There are many resolutions against Governments. But as the Yahapalana Government co-sponsored the resolution 30, we are bound to implement it.

It is a historic betrayal committed by the Yahapalana Government. Because of this, other countries have started naming our military officers as human rights violators.

The Government has said that it will withdraw the resolution, but that is a long process. In 2014, the UN Human Rights Chief gave an approval for an investigation into the alleged human rights violations in Sri Lanka based on the resolution 25/1 of 2014. Twenty-three countries voted for the resolution demanding an OHCHR investigation while 12 countries voted against.

We co-sponsored the UNHRC resolution 30 brought by the USA based on the OISL investigation report. Cosponsoring the resolution is a great betrayal. Before we co-sponsored the resolution, we were never subjected to any debate in the UNHRC.

Co-sponsoring the UNHRC resolution 30 gives an indication that the Government of Sri Lanka has accepted that human rights violations and war crimes had occurred in the country during the last stage of the war against terrorism

Q. What should the Government do to prevent the revival of LTTTE terrorism in the country?

A. We must ensure that the LTTE does not raise its head again. The country should have a strong intelligence service. Intelligence services were weakened and the members of the intelligence services were arrested without any evidence under the Yahapalana Government.

The previous Government should hold the responsibility for downgrading the morale of service personnel.

Q. Why are some western governments targeting the military officials who eradicated one of the most ruthless terrorist outfits in the world, alleging that they were involved in human rights violations?

A. The Security Forces defeated the LTTE terrorists though NATO Forces could not defeat Taliban terrorists. Sri Lanka is the only country that has eradicated terrorism. Western powers are jealous about our achievement.

We eradicated terrorism disregarding the demands by western powers to suspend operations against the terrorists. That is why they have targeted our military officials. Now, this attitude is changing.

Q. Don’t you think that the 1983 July riots were the beginning of three decades of terrorism?

A. No. The 1983 riots were triggered by the hooligans sponsored by the then UNP Government. Those who were involved in these acts of violence should be brought to book.

Q. How are you going to address the key issues faced by the people in Colombo city?

A. I will be committed to bring overall development to the Colombo district. Many people are living with minimum facilities in the Colombo city. Over 24 persons are living in two rooms in some areas in the city.

This situation has led to the increase in anti-social activities. Low lying areas in Colombo are inundated by even a small shower. Many canals and drainage systems have not been cleaned or dredged for years.

We can prevent this situation by implementing a well-planned program. Gotabaya Rajapaksa, when he was the Secretary of Defence launched a program to beautify the Colombo city while addressing the housing issue of unauthorised dwellers.

Q. How are you going to promote agriculture in a densely populated district?

A. We can use abandoned lands for agriculture. The Yahapalana Government had plans to fill paddy fields in the district and use the lands for other purposes. We would have to face many problems, such as flash floods if these plans were implemented.

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