Karuna: “Digging up past will only bring about hatred” in Q and A Session with Arthur Wamanan

Arthur Wanamanan, in The Nation, 5 June 2011, and http://salasalappu.com/?p=32436

Former LTTE strongman now turned SLFP Vice President and Deputy Minister of Resettlement, Vinayagamurthi Muralitharan says that digging up the past would only bring about hatred among the people. In an interview with The Nation, the deputy minister pointed out that those who called for international investigations on alleged war crimes wanted another war in the country. He added that Sri Lanka should talk to the current Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, Jayalalithaa Jayaram and maintain a cordial relationship with the state.

Following are excerpts:

Q. How do you look at the current political situation in the country?
The country is heading in the right direction with the end of the war. The government is conscious of the needs of the people and are going ahead with its plans with the consent of the people. The government will not do anything against the will of the people. Several development activities are going on especially in the north and east. We cannot develop these areas within a short period of time. The agriculture and fisheries sectors have seen a considerable improvement. We are also looking to develop the tourism sector in these areas. We have opened a tourist hotel in Pasikuda and hope to employ local people as a measure of providing them with job opportunities.

Q. The Dharusman/UN Panel report has created mixed responses from around the world, with some countries calling for an international investigation into the allegations. You have been part of the military struggle before coming into active politics. How do you view this situation?
I look at it from a different point of view. This country has gone through a lot of problems due to the war. There is no point talking about that now. These things are aggravated by the parties who want this country in turmoil once again. Digging into the past will only bring up hatred among the people once again. Do these people want another war in Sri Lanka? Even I have lost a family member due to the war. There is no point in digging into the past. It will only bring out bitterness and hatred.
There were certain instances in Egypt and Libya where the people rose against the rulers. They were not democratically elected leaders. This is not the case in Sri Lanka. Our President is a democratically elected President. He has come to power with the support of the people. Therefore, he has a duty to protect every one of them. This is why he went ahead with the humanitarian operation in the north to liberate the people from the clutches of the LTTE.There is no point in having investigations, because if they were to have one, they would have to arrest people like Rudrakumaran who is the head of the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (TNGTE). There are no LTTE leaders or cadres remaining in the country.

Q. How do you look at the role of India, especially after the Panel report and the change of governance in Tamil Nadu?
The role of India in Sri Lankan politics has been very important. It helped us to defeat terrorism. However, I do not think that India’s foreign policies would change in the current context. It would continue to maintain a healthy relationship with the country. India is also one of the countries that took part at the Defence Conference that was held in Colombo last week. Therefore, it is clear that India is maintaining a good relationship with the country. However, I also do not think that India would have direct involvement in the country’s political situation. There could be pressure on the central government from Tamil Nadu. But I do not think that it would have an impact on the relationship of both the countries.
In addition, it should also be mentioned that the current Chief Minister, Ms. Jayalalithaa Jayaram never endorsed or supported the LTTE or its views. The government is ready to talk to her and iron out the differences, if there are any. Tamil Nadu has the responsibility to help our people as it has done in the past.

Q. How is the resettlement process going on?
It is going on smoothly. There are around 16,000 people remaining in the welfare centres and we hope to complete the resettlement process very soon. At the same time, we are also continuing to provide assistance to those who have already been resettled.

Q. There were a few incidents in the Batticaloa District, where one of the SLFP organisers was shot dead a few weeks ago. What exactly happened and how is the situation right now?
Yes. He was the SLFP organiser for Batticaloa and was also a Temple Trustee. I condemned the killing. It was very unfortunate. He had been paralysed below the waist and was confined to a wheelchair. This was done by the people of Eastern Province Chief Minister Sivenesathurai Chandrakanthan. One of his supporters, Pradeep Master has been arrested in connection with the incident. This indicates that the Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal (TMVP) has a hand in this. We have to wait and see whether the Chief Minister is directly behind such incidents, as investigations are going on. These people will be thrown out of power at the next elections.

Q. There was tension and tight security in the area soon after the incident. What is the prevailing situation there? Are there chances that the situation could go out of control once again?
No. We will never allow the situation to go out of control. I was there in the area soon after the two incidents and met with the security force personnel and the police. We discussed on the steps that needed to be taken to ensure that this situation does not arise.

Q. But the Eastern Province consists of people belonging to all the communities. The region is more sensitive than the north. How do the people react to such situations?
The people have ensured that the situation doesn’t go out of control. They have been living in a peaceful environment after the east was liberated from the LTTE. The people have been living in unity and had no problems whatsoever. Even now, there is perfect understanding among the communities.

Q. What do you have to say about the law and order situation in the east after these incidents?
As I said, I met with the security officials and the police. They have taken all possible steps to ensure that law and order is maintained. The people have faith in the law now, especially after the steps taken by the police to arrest Pradeep Master. This is what we need now.
The gun culture is dead and gone. There are certain factions that want to resurrect the gun culture and create tension. We should not allow that to happen. At the same time, I wish to state that I have no problems with the Chief Minister. We have differences of opinions. What I say is that we cannot resort to violence and guns and make the country go through bloodshed again. The security force personnel will take drastic action against those who try to bring in the gun culture and encourage violence.

Q. The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) has been holding talks with the government on addressing the immediate needs of the people affected by war and on finding a permanent solution to the ethnic problem. How do you look at this progress? Do you think that this would be successful in finding a solution to the longstanding ethnic issue?
It is indeed a very good move by both parties to have discussions. Problems need to be addressed through discussions and dialogues. It does not matter whether a permanent solution is reached through these dialogues. The main issue is that the TNA has come forward to talk to the government. As a Tamil speaking politician, I welcome this. The government would get to know what the TNA actually wants. At the same time, this could be used as a platform for the TNA to express their concerns.

Q. You have been advocating for unity among Tamil politicians in order to solve the problems faced by the Tamil people. The Tamil parties go together and formed a forum in order to address the issues faced by the Tamils. How do you see the progress made by the parties on that front?
Yes. Unity among the Tamil political parties is a very important factor in solving the problems. There is no point in the parties working independently. The establishment of the Tamil Political Parties Forum (TPPF) was a very good and sensible move. However, the progress has slowed down a bit due to the non-participation of the TNA and other issues. I hope that these issues will be rectified soon and they would have their meetings smoothly.
I, as a responsible Tamil politician of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) will provide my support for this move to progress further.

Q. There has been a lot of debate on the implementation of the 13th Amendment. There are certain parties demanding for police powers to be given to the provincial councils. How do you see this?
Well, India is a very big country. Therefore, each state has its own government, which have their own powers. That same system might not work in Sri Lanka, simply because, we are a very small country. When you talk specifically about police powers, there are certain practical difficulties in implementing that. For example, if the Eastern Provincial Council had police powers, it would not be possible to conduct impartial inquiries in the present context. Everything will be manipulated. Therefore, it is not practical to do that.

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