war, but consensus for peace
Rejecting claims that he has alienated
the minority voter, UPFA Presidential candidate and Prime Minister
Mahinda Rajapakse says that so far solutions to the ethnic conflict
have failed and he believes a fresh approach is necessary through
wider consensus. Excerpts from the interview
By Anthony David
Your alliance has a number of parties with different views
and there are instances where they do not turn up on the same stage.
Therefore some believe you will find it difficult to work together
with these parties. In the past, the JVP has been known to pull
out of alliances suddenly. Any comment?
is no reason that this alliance will breakdown as we have agreed
on the policies. We have been working together all along. All these
parties support me because we have reached an agreement on the policies.
The Mahinda Chinthana is the policy we will be working by. I have
been able to bring these parties together.
There is a belief that you have alienated yourself from minority
voters, particularly after obtaining the support of the JHU in your
campaign. How do you hope to win their confidence?
are many minority representatives like Mrs. Ashroff and Mr. Athaullah.
Douglas Devananda is also part of our alliance. So, nobody can say
that I don’t have the support of the minorities. From the
reception I got from the people in Jaffna, it was obvious that I
have not alienated myself from the minorities.
But, some of the main minority parties are supporting Mr. Wickremesinghe?
Mr. Thondaman does not have the same support base that he once had
in the upcountry. There is division among his supporters. Even Mr.
Chandrasekaran’s support base has been reduced. The estate
sector people think differently now. Even the Muslims think differently
and I am confident that I will have the support of the minorities
in all parts of the country.
There is a genuine fear that should you win, the LTTE would
start its military campaign and we will possibly see another period
of the occasional bombs exploding to worsen a retarded economy.
That fear is baseless. This allegation has been brought up before
this. Our aim is not a return to war , but to reach consensus with
all parties. We should not be tied down to words arguing about unitary
or united. Currently we have a unitary status. We should find a
solution among ourselves. This may not be in the books. We should
reach wide consensus. So far efforts to resolve the conflict have
not helped. I am looking for a new approach to reach a fresh consensus.
have said that you want to reach a consensus with all parties to
resolve the ethnic conflict and the first phase of it is to be completed
in three months. How realistic is your first step towards peace?
I have said that we can arrive at some decision in three months.
That is the maximum I can give. What I will do is to try and reach
some consensus from the people in the south within three months.
And after that we should try to reach a consensus with all the parties.
realistic is it when you say you will talk with Prabhakaran to solve
the ethnic problem?
We know that Prabhakaran has a problem, But I am ready to meet him.
That itself shows that I have not alienated the LTTE or Prabhakaran.
You have no experience in handling the 20-year old insurgency either
politically or militarily. You have kept aloof from the problem.
I must tell you that I have 37 years of political experience. I
have in fact faced the insurgency in 1971. Even in 1989 I faced
a similar situation. I do not believe in killing people. Killing
people is not the solution. Killing people , shooting people or
putting people in the Vadakagaraya (torture chamber) like Batalanda
is not the solution. I am a person who fought for human rights.
Whether it is Eelam or war our priority should be to settle the
problems of the common man. I have experience in that. I will start
from that point.
the LTTE does not agree will you choose war as a solution?
The LTTE wanted a separate state. It is because they cannot get
it easily and it cannot be easily given that the war broke out.
Therefore we have to settle for a solution short of Eelam. When
you look for alternatives the LTTE will have to change. Not only
the LTTE, but we too will have to change to find a solution. The
conflict must be resolved and there isn’t only just one alternative.
Just because one alternative fails war should not be the solution.
All of us are tired of the war, the damage is much more than the
damage caused by the tsunami.
about Norway’s role, will it be reviewed?
We will not depend only on Norway. While accepting the services
of Norway we should get the help of India as well.
would be your policy on obtaining foreign aid ?
It is common for governments to get foreign loans. Like other third
world countries we are caught in a trap. They put various conditions.
But there are several countries which are willing to help us without
tough conditions. Remember during the tsunami disaster how many
countries supported us. But we will not betray the country to gain
of the points made by the opposition is that you lack international
Just because a person travels abroad many times that is not a qualification
for international experience. We should see for what he has gained
recognition. He should represent the interests of the country. Foreign
Policy is actually an expansion of the country’s policies.
is the corner-stone of your foreign policy, “Friendship with
all countries, is it” ?
While improving relations with neighbouring countries like India
and China we will not distance ourselves from the West. But I will
not bow down to any country. My foreign policy will be based on
the country’s historic achievements.
What about relations with Israel. Can you comment?
My friendship with Palestine has not changed. Israel and Palestine
are holding discussions now, therefore there should be no problem
The misuse of tsunami funds is one of the allegations made by the
Opposition against you. Why did you stop the probe through a court
I believe that the allegations against me about misusing tsunami
funds was a false one. I think it was aimed at discrediting me at
the Presidential election. Since this was being used against me
as a conspiracy I decided that I will resort to legal action. But
I have nothing against any investigation. The reason I stopped it
was because the allegation was being made with an ulterior motive.
Do you think there was a conspiracy to defeat you?
To my knowledge there is no conspiracy. My aim is to create
a new Sri Lanka. The people opposing it may join hands. I have understood
this. During my 37 years of politics I have faced many challenges.
I will never quit. My aim is to restore peace and develop the country.
What is your message to voters?
Have confidence in me and vote for me. I am only requesting
one thing from the voters. That is not to harm any of the opponents
after the elections. We need to co-operate and work with them after
the election to build the nation.