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'Trust' is the only process we depend on after defeat of 'terrorism'- President Rajapaksa

May 28, 2010 9:04:54 AM- transcurrents.com

Following is the full text of the interview with Al Jazeera on 27 May.

Fauziah Ibrahim:
Welcome back to 101 East.

This week we are in Sri Lanka as the nation marks its first anniversary after the end of the near 30 year civil war.

Speaking exclusively to us, is President Mahinda Rajapaksa. One year on after declaring victory over the Tamil Tigers, how do you think your country is doing?

President Mahinda Rajapaksa:
Now people are moving freely, moving from north to south, south to north. So people are mixing, so they do their businesses. People are getting used to each other, they've started to trust each other, so this is the only process that we can depend on.

Fauziah Ibrahim:
But a year on, some people are saying that you have not addressed the grievances that started this war in the first place. The Tamil community still feels marginalized. How do you ....

President Mahinda Rajapaksa:
(interrupts)
I don't agree with that, because some politicians are making these issues. Or some NGO's. Now if you go to the camps and if you ask them what do you want first? They will say I want my house back, I want a job, I want to educate my children. They will not ask for anything else. So first what we must do is resettle these people. Give them the facilities, give them the things that are enjoyed by others in the south. Why not? Let them enjoy that first, then the people will... once they elect their own people, their representatives, into parliament, into provincial governments.... And then we can discuss with them, we can have a dialogue.

Fauziah Ibrahim:
What do you then say to the Tamil diaspora who are overseas who say you are not doing anything for the Tamil community?

President Mahinda Rajapaksa:
Unfortunately, this is the problem, because they don't want to come back to Sri Lanka. They are enjoying themselves. They have never visited Jaffna. They have never visited beyond Colombo to the north. They have not met the people. They have not discussed with them. Now I am meeting the common man, whether in Jaffna, or Trincomalee or Batticaloa. When I speak to them, I speak to the ordinary people. The masses. But find out from these people whether they have been to Jaffna, whether they have been to Kilinochchi.

Fauziah Ibrahim:
You now have Tamil groups who say they want representation. You have Tamil politicians who say they want a bigger representation of the community. How can you trust these people?

President Mahinda Rajapaksa:
I trust them. They have to trust us also. I trust them, so that's why I called them to have a dialogue with me. Otherwise I wouldn't have, because I know that they, most of these politicians who supported the Tiger movement, the terrorists, they represented them in parliament. So now it's up to us. So we have called them. They have to come with us. They must understand our difficulties also....the difficulties of Government. They must compromise, we are ready to compromise. Because for me whether they are Tamil, Muslim or Sinhalese, it's immaterial.

Fauziah Ibrahim:
You inherited this long drawn out war. You ended this war. Do you think, in your mind, was it inevitable to lose that many civilian lives, especially towards the end of the war?

President Mahinda Rajapaksa:
I deny it, because we never killed any civilians.

Fauziah Ibrahim:
You can categorically, confidently say that the Sri Lankan army never targeted civilians?

President Mahinda Rajapaksa:
No.

Fauziah Ibrahim:
How sure are you? How can you be so sure? It's a war.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa:
It's a war, you're right. By the way the people came to this side, to the government-controlled areas, you can see. If Sri Lankan army acted in a different way, against the civilians, they would never have trusted us. They wouldn't have walked into our camps. 300,000 people. So that shows our army, they trusted our army. Otherwise they wouldn't have walked in. This is why I'm saying this.

Fauziah Ibrahim:
If you are so confident that the Sri Lankan army did not commit any crimes, or war crimes during the conflict, why not allow for an independent body to come in and make their own independent investigation?

President Mahinda Rajapaksa:
This is an internal matter. I don't want my internal matters to be inquired by any other country or any other NGO's. So we will look after that. That's why we appointed a commission so if there is any violations, we will see.

Fauziah Ibrahim:
So you're saying that this commission that you've appointed will investigate alleged war crimes?

President Mahinda Rajapaksa:
If there is anything like that, they will come and complain to us and we will enquire into it.

Fauziah Ibrahim:
Will you take action against those who have committed these crimes?

President Mahinda Rajapaksa:
Yes. Certainly, certainly.

Fauziah Ibrahim:
Even if they're on your side? Even if they are connected to you?

President Mahinda Rajapaksa:
If it is a crime, whether it is my relation, or my army commander or anybody. It is immaterial. It's a crime, crime is a crime, so we have to punish them. We can't punish a person for defeating terrorism. So if the international community wants to punish Sri Lanka for defeating terrorism, I'm not for that.

Fauziah Ibrahim:
You can understand the international community's concern though. If you have an internal investigation, a government that is investigating itself. Where is the transparency? How can we be sure there will be .....

(interrupts)
President Mahinda Rajapaksa:
You don't ask that from the Americans! You don't go and ask that of the British about Iraq, or Afghanistan or what is happening in Pakistan? Be fair with us...be fair with us... don't treat Sri Lanka like this because we defeated terrorism. Unfortunately, other countries couldn't defeat terrorism yet, although we have done that.

Fauziah Ibrahim:
Earlier this year, you had an overwhelming electoral victory. And so did some of your family members as well. Now some of your family members are in very high positions in your cabinet. You have brothers in the Economic Development posts, in the Defense sec post and speaker of Parliament. .....there are some 300 other relations who occupy important government positions.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa:
Who gave those figures? 300 relations ... I will tell you, the whole country is related to me. The whole country.

Fauziah Ibrahim:
It's a huge family?

President Mahinda Rajapaksa:
Huge family.

Fauziah Ibrahim:
But you can see how, there is this accusation of nepotism ....

President Mahinda Rajapaksa:
How can you say that?

Fauziah Ibrahim:
Because your family members are in very high positions ...

President Mahinda Rajapaksa:
No, no they have been elected by the people....

Fauziah Ibrahim:
.... Very important positions .....

President Mahinda Rajapaksa:
No, only one! Now he is a minister, I have appointed Gothabaya as the Defense Secretary, yes.

Fauziah Ibrahim:
That's a very important position..

President Mahinda Rajapaksa:
Yes, why not? I have to trust my Defense Secretary.

Fauziah Ibrahim:
And the only person you can trust is those in your family?

President Mahinda Rajapaksa:
No, No ... He is capable, and he has shown that he is capable and I can trust him. So why not?

Fauziah Ibrahim:
What do you then say to critics who say that you are now building the Rajapaksa political dynasty?

President Mahinda Rajapaksa:
I won't. Why should I? It's up to the people. People are electing them, what can I do about it? When they don't want them, they will kick them out. All Rajapaksas will be kicked out. So they have to deliver. If Rajapaksas are delivering, what else do they want?

Fauziah Ibrahim:
Will you be changing the constitution to get rid of the president's term limit?

President Mahinda Rajapaksa:
It's up to the parliament.

Fauziah Ibrahim:
Are you in favour of it?

President Mahinda Rajapaksa:
Yes, I don't mind if it's the Presidential system, or the Prime Minister system. I have no problem, because I'm going to win again.

Fauziah Ibrahim:
You're confident of this? Why do you say that?

President Mahinda Rajapaksa:
People will trust me. I know that people will trust me. When I asked for two thirds majority, they gave me.

Fauziah Ibrahim:
It has been said that you have no tolerance towards any form of opposition, any form of political opposition.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa:
I completely reject that. This is all propaganda.

Fauziah Ibrahim:
By whom?

President Mahinda Rajapaksa:
By the opposition. By the opposition and the NGO's who are being paid by some of these other organizations.

Fauziah Ibrahim:
Going forward and as Sri Lanka tries to rebuild itself after a near 30 year war, and reconciliation as you say is trying to take place. What do you think is the biggest obstacle that faces your people?

President Mahinda Rajapaksa:
We have to build that trust as soon as possible and it's building up. This is the challenge we are ready to take. So, after 30 years we took the challenge to defeat terrorism, so we took that challenge and won. Now it is the economic development, so we do that. Within one year, we resettle the people. 90% have been resettled. By December, everyone will be resettled in this country.

Fauziah Ibrahim:
Mr President, thanks for speaking with us.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa:
Thank you.