India’s best friend will be Mahinda Rajapaksa
Posted on August 10th, 2019

R BHAGWAN SINGH Courtesy DECCAN CHRONICLE.

Gotabaya is not a bad man as they (opposition) project, he is a man of action and he is not of many words, operates quietly.

Mahinda Rajapaksa (Photo: AP)

 Mahinda Rajapaksa (Photo: AP)

In an exclusive interview to R. Bhagwan Singh just an hour before his scheduled meeting with the leaders of Opposition alliance late Saturday evening at his residence in Colombo, where he was expected to break his silence on the Presidential candidate for his Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP)-means Sri Lanka Peoples’ Front-former President of Sri Lanka Mahinda Rajapaksa insists the fears in India about him being pro-China are unfounded” and he is the best friend India can ever have in Sri Lanka”. Asked to comment on the Kashmir developments, he said the two nuclear powers should sit down and talk, aided by a third party both would trust, such as the Secretary General of the United Nations. Excerpts from the interview:

Q Everyone seems to know who your candidate is; they are saying it will be your brother and former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa taking on SLFP’s nominee in the Presidential election in November? And you have gone on record saying you would be the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka when PM election are held next year?

Mahinda Rajapaksa: (laughs) Yes and No. We have not decided yet (on Gotabaya being the candidate), but the people have decided I think (that it should be Gotabaya).

Q There were allegations from the Opposition side even last time that you are heading a dynastic rule with you as the President and your brothers in powerful positions in the government. And people appeared to have agreed with that when the results came and you lost. Won’t that happen again now?

MR: Those charges are political and not real. The talk of dynastic rule is not relevant anymore since the people want it for their own sake. They want safety, security. They want development, they want jobs. We will deliver that. Gotabaya is not a bad man as they (opposition) project, he is a man of action and he is not of many words, operates quietly. With him as the President and I, being the elder political leader with vast experience as the Prime Minister, we can together deliver to the people what they badly need now. And people are aware of that. Now there is no law & order, no democracy, no elections to provincial councils despite the 13th Amendment. The present government had been only busy indulging in persecution and prosecution, and taking revenge of people associated with my government. Delhi knows that we will deliver security and development to Sri Lanka and also ensure good relations with India.

Q And that attack on Muslims that they attributed to Gotabaya?

MR: That was a lie spread by them. They would go and attack Muslim villages and say loudly, ‘Vote for Rajapaksa’, so the blame would be on us. It was an organised planned campaign against us. But now the Muslim people know who was really responsible, they are intelligent and educated.

Q That there have been war crime charges against Mr Gotabaya..

MR: They were all political (charges). If the TNA could back Fonseka who actually led the war and Tamil people then accepted the TNA, why will they not support us now, seeing the manner in which the TNA failed them.

Q So you are confident the minorities will vote for you?

MR: Yes. Even the Tamil people are seeing what happened. At least the Muslim ministers in the Cabinet are doing something but the TNA MPs are doing nothing for people; they are only taking care of themselves. The Chief Minister in the Northern Province (former Supreme Court judge CV Vigneswaran) at least opposes the government whereas the TNA MPs and leaders like Sampanthan and Sumanthiran, are supporting the government but they are not getting anything for the people. They are getting for themselves. When we come to power, I will ensure the Tamils have a settlement acceptable to all within two years.

Q How are your equations with the Narendra Modi Government, because I remember in 2015 you were very unhappy and even blamed Indian RAW for causing your defeat in the Presidential election?

MR: Past is past. We have forgotten it. Now we understand each other better than ever before. India understands that only we can deliver security and development in Sri Lanka whereas the present dispensation is ridden with conflict between President Maithripala and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe which was one of the reasons why the Easter blasts happened. I went to meet him (Modi) in May. In the past (2015), they were worried because two (Chinese) submarines came here (Colombo port) and went back. But now what has happened? They have come and they have stayed. They are very much here all the time since Hambantotta port has been sold to the Chinese, who have been given many other assets and projects, such as 200-year-lease for the Colombo Port City, and so on. They (Chinese) are permanently here now.

Q Will you be able to change this situation if you come to power, to change the ratio of Chinese presence compared to Indian projects here?

MR: We have to negotiate these things; when you sign agreement with another country we are bound by that. But India can step up (involvement, investment), such as the airports at Palaly and Mattala, and the petroleum tanks in Trincomallee. Our policy is that we are against privatisation.

Q Do you concede that India is a critically important ally to you, particularly after the Easter bombings? India had sent your government alerts but they went ignored?

MR: For Sri Lanka, India is the closest neighbour and their influence is very much felt here. And as far as I am concerned, India’s best friend will be Mahinda Rajapaksa. And yes, India alerted us about the bombing danger but
that went unheeded because they (President Maithripala and PM Ranil) were fighting among themselves. A country cannot be run effectively by two power-centres.

Q How do you look at the situation in Kashmir, and the action taken by the Modi government?

MR: What was done there was an internal matter of India, no? But still, I would say that being nuclear powers and neighbours, they (India and Pakistan) could sit together and talk. Perhaps a third party trusted by both could bring them both to the table, someone like the UN Secretary General.

One Response to “India’s best friend will be Mahinda Rajapaksa”

  1. Ananda-USA Says:

    REPEAL the 13A and 19A, get RID of Provincials Councils, just as India REPEALED Articles 370 and 35A by Presidential Decree and made itself MORE IMMUNE to SEPARATISM!

    What is GOOD for the Indian GOOSE that IMPOSED 13A on Sri Lanka, should be GOOD for the Sri Lankan GANDER to FREE ITSELF of the Indian Chain of the 13A!

    INSTEAD of PCs, introduce a District Administration under APPOINTED District Governors, and create a SENATE in Parliament!

    ELIMINATE the PM’s post in Parliament, and STRENGTHEN the EXECUTIVE PRESIDENCY FURTHER!

    NO NEED for REDUNDANT BUREAUCRACY of Provincial Councils! STREAMLINE Governance in Sri Lanka eliminating Centers of Separatism!
    ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

    Kashmir episode further dims chances of devolution of power to Sri Lankan Tamils

    Aug 12 (BDN) What is happening in India now in regard to federalism and devolution of power to Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir (J and K) region could further dims prospects of Sri Lankan Tamils’ getting power devolution beyond what they have been given de facto under the 13th Amendment of the Sri Lankan constitution.

    Through a Presidential Order on August 5, the Indian central government headed by strongman Narendra Modi, nullified Articles 370 and 35A of the Indian constitution which had given J and K State a large degree of autonomy. The Presidential Order also divided the State of J and K into two Union territories with very much less autonomy.

    This was done with three objectives in mind: to fight Pakistan-inspired terrorism and separatism in J and K; to integrate J and K with India fully, and to facilitate economic development, hitherto hampered by restrictions placed by Art 370 and Art 35A on the application of Indian laws to J and K, and on the influx of labour and capital from outside the State.

    RAJAPAKSA GIVES IT AWAY

    In a significant interview to the Tamil daily Virakesari last Saturday, former Sri Lankan president and head of the opposition Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) Mahinda Rajapaksa said that the devolution debate in the country will have to take into account the developments in J and K.

    Rajapaksa did not elaborate, but given his expressed concern about national security in the context of perceived threats from Islamic terrorism and Tamil separatism, it was clear that he approved the steps taken by the Narendra Modi regime in India.

    “There are two strands of opinion now. Some want a new constitution. Some want a federal arrangement. And some say that a political solution based on the 13th Amendment would suffice. But a solution should not be one that divides the country. Look at what has just happened in Kashmir. We need to take steps keeping all these in mind. We have to understand these factors while we pursue a political solution,” Rajapaksa said.

    Adding weight to this contention, Rajapaksa said that the SLPP’s candidate for the December 2019 Sri Lankan presidential election would be a person who would “strengthen national security”.

    By Saturday it was clear that the SLPP’s presidential candidate would be Mahinda’s brother and former defence secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, known for his no-nonsense approach to terrorism, separatism and devolution of power. He is also seen as a proponent of majoritarianism like Modi, a line favoured by Mahinda.

    Gotabaya’s chances of winning have been enhanced by three factors: the Apr 21 multiple bombings carried out by Islamic zealots; the disregard shown to timely intelligence inputs from India about the attacks; and the progressive and manifest weakening of the Lankan security apparatus under the United National Party (UNP)- led government.

    Given such a prospect, the UNP-led government’s bid to frame a new constitution to give greater power to the provinces in tune with the aspirations of the Tamil minority, is likely to be abandoned. In fact, it has been abandoned.

    The bid to draft a new constitution had reached a final stage, but the government chickened out at the last moment because of perceived opposition both within the UNP and the opposition.

    Speaking in parliament on July 26, Rajapaksa said: “After holding many discussions and releasing numerous reports over a period of more than two and a half years, on Jan 1, the prime minister tabled in Parliament a document which was described as the report of the panel of experts of the Steering Committee of the Constitutional Assembly.”

    “Even in presenting that document to parliament, the prime minister insisted that its contents are not the views of the government but only of the panel of experts that compiled the report. Ultimately the report that was tabled in Parliament had no owner. How can a constitutional reform process succeed when nobody takes responsibility for the drafts that are tabled in parliament?”

    “We are resolutely opposed to the draft constitution that was presented to parliament by the Prime Minister. It would have had the effect of dividing Sri Lanka into nine semi-independent states. It contained proposals to set up nine separate police forces, and provisions that would have made it impossible for the centre to take back any powers devolved to the provincial units.”

    “Some say that I too spoke of ’13 Plus’ – a system of government going beyond the provisions of the 13th Amendment. I once told the then Indian Foreign Secretary that I was thinking of establishing a second chamber of Parliament made up of representatives of the provincial councils so as to get provincial leaders to participate in national affairs. It was the Indian Foreign Secretary who described my idea as 13 Plus. So it should be understood that what I meant by 13 Plus was not dividing the country into nine semi-independent units as proposed in the draft constitution that was tabled by the prime minister.”

    “The draft constitution that was presented to Parliament was prepared by (Tamil National Alliance) parliamentarian Sumanthiran and some NGO activists. After presenting it to Parliament, the Prime Minister repeatedly denied ownership of the document. Ultimately it appears that this government had taken the Tamil National Alliance too for a ride. ”

    “Parliamentarian Sumanthiran always drafts constitutional amendments that will lead to a separate state without the name. They have stated their views very clearly on paper.”

    With Gotabaya likely to win the coming presidential election given the felt need among the majority Sinhalese for a strong and functioning government in contrast to the bumbling and directionless incumbent UNP-led regime, the chances of the minority Tamils getting power devolution beyond what is available de facto are slim indeed.

    Read More:: BDN (Source)

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