|President to meet Tamil parties|
|Tuesday, 17 February 2009|
COLOMBO: In a surprise move, President Mahinda Rajapaksa, disarming his critics in India, has decided to call a meeting of TNA, TULF , EPDP, CWC and other Tamil political parties of Sri Lanka on 'democracy' road map for the 'liberated areas'. The meeting will take place in about a week and may coincide with the army virtually liquidating the Tigers in their very Wanni stronghold.
"We needed a military solution to evict the terrorists from the country. The government took up the challenge to liberate our country from the Prabhakaran menace. Our heroic soldiers have almost liberated Wanni and already 95 percent is free. In a few days, our security forces will free the entire Wanni. So, it is time we address the problem politically", the President told the Asian Tribune in an exclusive interview.
He made it clear that leaders of all Tamil parties would be invited 'without any discrimination’ unmindful of their previous political links in the past.
"There will be no discrimination. Leaders of all Tamil parties will be invited. Yes, despite their previous leaning towards LTTE. Where is LTTE now? I want to hear them on how to go about restoring the political process in Wanni. This is very urgent. We cannot delay (the process),” the President stated candidly.
Leaders of Tamil National Alliance (TNA), Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF), Thamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal (TMVP), Tamizh Democratic National Alliance (TDNA), Pathmanabha Eelam Revolutionary Liberation Front (PERLF), Up-Country People's Front (UPF), Eelam People's Democratic Party (EPDF), Tamil Eelam Liberation Organization, (TELO), Ceylon Workers' Congress (CWC), will be invited besides Deputy Ministers Suresh Vadivel, Parliamentarian Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan, Vadivel Puttirasigamani and others. Shortly after coming to power, President Rajapaksa had set up an All Party Representative Committee (APRC) to examine issues related to devolution of power and 13th Amendment to the Constitution. Though it has done some work, APRC has not made much headway in the absence of consensus. However it is expected to deliver soon.
Asked about the rationale for his new initiative, Rajapaksa said, “I am of the opinion that we have to urgently consider ways and means of brining the people of Wanni into the democratic mainstream.”
Elaborating, the President said, 'Unless we take some steps quickly to give voice to the people and rehabilitate the displaced families, the sacrifices of the army will have no meaning. Our victories will be wasted'.
He added that the political process and rehabilitation should go hand in hand for 'stability' in the country.
Answering a question, President Rajapaksa said, “It is time we come up with plans for development of the North and share the dividends of the war (to end LTTE terrorism) with the people particularly in the North.”
Referring to the progress of the War against terrorists, Rajapaksa said it (the war) has reached the final stages and that was the reason why the government has started focusing attention on people's needs. 'Remember they lived with fear without basic facilities under the Tigers since 1996. LTTE held them as hostages'.
Housing, the President said, would receive ‘top priority' as a part of resettlement and rehabilitation of people displaced due to the war. Infrastructure will be created expeditiously and drinking water, medical cover, and schools and other basic amenities will be provided.
Already the Cabinet has approved a memorandum to construct 8000 semi-permanent houses for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPS) entering the Government controlled area. Five welfare villages have been identified to settle people coming out of Kilinochchi, the President told the Asian Tribune when asked for details of the plans underway. Asked whether the government would make an appeal to the diaspora for contribution, Rajapaksa replied: "Why only diaspora? Our people in Western countries? Every one of us in Sri Lanka should consider our paramount duty is to help in whatever way possible our Tamil brethren who are being liberated. It is our bounden duty".
Answering a question about Prabhakaran, the President said, “Our invitation to Prabhakaran and his men is still there. If there is going to be change of heart, Government will welcome them.”
He regretted that the LTTE leader did not respond to his appeals to lay down arms and come to talks. "We have already appealed to Prabhakaran and his men to lay downs their arms. We invited them to join the mainstream and come forward for talks. Unfortunately our appeals fell on their deaf ears and the Government was forced to take military action (against them)".
|Last Updated ( Friday, 09 October 2009 )|
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