|Road-map to democracy and liberty through counter terrorism: Hon. Minister Bogollagama|
|Tuesday, 13 January 2009|
Given below is a transcript of the 'Al-Jazeera' 13G live interview with Hon. Minister of Foreign Affairs. This interview was aired on 11th January at 4.00 p.m. 13 GMT
Introduction: back ground picture on the humanitarian mission and the military operation against the LTTE in the North are shown.
Murali Reddy in Sri Lanka reporting:
“It is very difficult to say how long this particular campaign is going to take. One must remember that just to reach Kilinochchi, the Government campaign took twenty months. Mullaitivu, of course, is not going to take that much time but it is going to be a very, very hard effort on the part of Sri Lankan Army to be able to penetrate and eject the leaders out of their hide outs. The military claims to have captured more than, almost, 2500 km areas in the last 20 months of its campaign, but very little has been spoken about the civilians. The civilians have inhabited in these areas and have not come over to the government controlled areas and nobody has precisely estimated about the number of civilians that have actually got stranded or displaced in these areas.”
Commentator: We can get the very latest on the government offensive from the Sri Lankan Minister of Foreign Affairs, Rohitha Bogollagama, joining me now.
Thank you very much for joining us. You have taken over Kilinochhci almost all of Mulliativu region, the Elephant Pass. How strategically important is this for you?
It is obviously taking over Elephant pass which was our most recent acquisition. Taking Elephant pass is an important landmark in our counter terrorism effort. Kilinochchi and Elephant Pass virtually form the A9 route connecting Jaffna with rest of the country and all these years, Jaffna remained isolated, separated because of the lack of access, and Kilinochchi and Elephant Pass were held by the LTTE. And our connecting Elephant Pass with the Jaffna peninsula and the rest of the country has opened the way for the Tamil community to connect up with their own families and also to enhance our humanitarian efforts which our government is totally committed to develop. That is how I look at it, beyond the Military success it is the humanitarian success that we have been able to get.
Q: Tigers would totally disagree, you may say that however much land you want, you will never defeat the idea. Most of their support comes from the diaspora; money comes from foreign countries and Tamils in other lands; the idea will wonder how much land you will get.
This is not the question of land. After all, Sri Lanka remains one country and LTTE was only a terrorist movement and the Tamil diaspora was quiet innocent of the LTTE and they are separated from the LTTE in every respect and no one wants to be part of a terrorist organization. And today, the Tamil diaspora has realized the need for the LTTE to denounce, to give up violence, and be part of her political process, which they have not done in spite of their defeat right written on the wall.
Q : Well, you were engaged personally with them in 2006 peace talks in Geneva and have spoken to them before. Why can’t you speak to them now?
We will speak to them provided they renounce violence and it is something our President has repeatedly said. We did speak to them believing in them, thinking that they would be reasonable and just enough to understand the need for them to renounce violence and enter the main stream. For two years, we tolerated that and today we proscribed the LTTE on the 4th of this month. We have proscribed the LTTE as a terrorist organization in Sri Lanka.
Q: You would agree that many would say that it is the government’s violence. That has only led the movement to grow.
I don’t think that there is violence on the part of the government. Governments are there in order to maintain law and order. We have a commitment and responsibility in order to ensure that, in the whole of Sri Lanka there is law and order, and we protect sovereignty and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka as a government and national security comes first to us. And what is hindrance to national security and territorial integrity of a country, it is terrorism and today we are much better off than most countries. And today we are in the last leg of eliminating terrorism totally from Sri Lanka and ushering an era of democracy, liberty and freedom for our people and it is the Tamil community that has been subjugated by the LTTE. That will endow the first winds of liberty and freedom as a result of these efforts.
Q: Sir, it is not only the Tamils that are blaming you for not blaming ….. . Amnesty International report for 2008 for Sri Lanka, this is my copy, I have made some notes there. You can have a look at it.
I have gone through all these.
Reporter: I have highlighted a few points, please bear with me and it makes quite sordid reading it. “Indiscriminate raids, forced abductions by your forces, eviction of civilians and displacements of 200,000 thousand Tamils internally displaced in your country”.
In October, the Special Rapporteur on Torture concluded that torture was widespread through out Sri Lanka in this war. That is a serious report you have got; the report in front of you.
I have read their reports; I have read all these reports; lot of reports are one sided. It is the most unfortunate thing; when it comes to some of these international organizations, they do not report with great responsibility that is called on them, because they must account for everything they report. Why do they say that there are only 200,000 IDPs? There are hundred thousands internally displaced persons from Jaffna still living in the refugee camps in Puttalam district in Sri Lanka. They were ousted. Virtually, the LTTE was practicing ethnic cleansing in the Jaffna peninsula in 1990 and still those people are living in refugee camps, living as refugees in their own country. And these are the reports that have to come up, and it is against this tyranny, that the Government of Sri Lanka, for the last three years, has been trying to engage with the LTTE both from the peaceful processes as much as militarily.
When we fail to negotiate with them towards the recent, no conclusion in Geneva, on two rounds, I myself was part of, we had to again go in terms of the military action to counter them.
Surely for the limited purpose for countering. My own predecessor in the office the Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar was killed by the LTTE at the height of ceasefire agreement but we still tolerated the ceasefire agreement in 2008, and these are the atrocities that have been committed by the LTTE, and they have virtually wiped out the entirety of the Tamil leadership in Sri Lanka, who is responsible. Why aren’t the Tamil people today having a respectable leadership coming to them? That is what we are trying to create.
Q: Your President Mahinda Rajapaksa says, I quote, “2009 will be the year of heroic victory”. My question is at what cost; and how many people have to be internally displaced and how many people have to die?
Lot of people thought this is something that we are not going to realize. But today, Sri Lanka has shown the way forward in counter terrorism action programme. To lot of countries, Sri Lanka will become a model with zero tolerance of casualties. There wasn’t a single civilian killed in our efforts in countering terrorism in the north or even in the east. Today our records stand well for Sri Lanka’s efforts in countering terrorism and confining our military actions only to the LTTE. And today you said, at the beginning of the interview, that we have successfully limited the LTTE to a very small area in the North. And very soon, you will realize and this small area is not there for the LTTE, and the whole country will be part of the democratic pluralistic agenda, that the people will decide in terms of their pursuits, liberties and their freedom, and that is the democratic agenda that the Government of Mahinda Rajapaksa as President is trying to pursue in Sri Lanka which we couldn’t do for the last 25 years. That is our success in our government and we are there to be part of that democratic agenda. We are there to clear the areas, in order to have, to clean the areas in order to have the humanitarian assistance being extended to every household in the North that were denied of those by the LTTE in these areas.
Report: OK you got the message across. Thank you very much Minister. (Ends)
Courtesy: Ministry of Foreign Affairs
|Last Updated ( Friday, 14 August 2009 )|
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