MEDIA CENTER FOR NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT OF SRI LANKA
INDIA SHOULD TREAT US LIKE ITS LITTLE SISTER
He also reiterated his opposition to granting police powers to provinces in the interview.
Referring to Sri Lankaís relations with India, the President says: "We look up to India and India too, I feel, has a duty to look after us ó maybe not in a Big Brother sort of way, but perhaps like its little sister!"
The following are excerpts of the interview.
Q Itís been a year since the defeat of the LTTE. Why do you think the movement failed?
A Everyone knows what was going on in the movement and the reasons for its failure are evident. It was on a self-destruct path. Their demand for a separate Eelam was always out of the question. We couldnít have allowed that. But more importantly, the violence and bloodshed that had become their hallmark had to be stopped. I took a firm stand that this could not go on. We tried to negotiate with them but they refused. I had no other option but to take decisive action.
Q Is it a closed chapter now?
A I wonít say that. The LTTE sympathizers, their sleeping cadres are still there. They are being well looked after in various countries as well. No, the chapter isnít closed yet.
Q There were reports that over 20,000 civilians were killed in the final onslaught.
A I donít think this is correct. Sri Lankan forces are very disciplined and we were extremely careful not to have civilian casualties. Prabhakaranís father, mother and his entire jing-bang were in our camps. If they were not harmed, where is the question of civilians being targeted? Why should we kill civilians? They are our people, after all.
Q Did you get the support you expected from India in your fight against the LTTE?
A Yes. Indiaís support was there and we appreciate it a lot.
Q What kind of support was it ó moral or military?
A Both (laughs). We needed both.
Q Werenít the Chinese more forthcoming about selling you arms?
A Purchasing weapons is a military decision. We were fighting a war. We got whatever was possible from India. The rest was bought from China, Pakistan, European Union, Israel, even the US. Itís simple logic ó whoever could supply to us quickly, we bought from them.
Q There are concerns in India about Sri Lankaís growing closeness to China and the Chinese utilizing this relationship to gain a foothold in the Indian Ocean. What would this mean for India-Sri Lanka relations?
A There is no basis for such concerns. I have always maintained that India and Sri Lanka are not just friends. We are like relations and our relationship today is at the highest level. We look up to India and India too, I feel, has a duty to look after us ó maybe not in a Big Brother sort of way, but perhaps like its little sister!
Q Recently, you had invited a few Indian cricketers to take treatment from your personal physician, Dr White. Isnít this a case of India-Sri Lanka cooperation?
A Yes, it is. In fact, Sachin Tendulkar has benefited a lot from Dr Whiteís treatment and he has recommended it to others. If we can help them, why not?
Q You arrive in India on June 8. Will we finally see the revival of the India-Sri Lanka Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement, which has been hanging fire for two years?
A We hope to discuss a number of issues. Economic development will be high on the priority list.
Q You recently said that you learnt a lot from Indiaís mistake in handing police control to state governments. Is that an excuse for not implementing the 13th Amendment, which provides for devolution of power to Sri Lankaís provincial governments?
A India is a huge country ó you canít compare it with Sri Lanka. I always say that police powers canít be given to provinces. There are too many issues. Look what happened during the Mumbai attacks, when it took so much time to get the commandos, because all kinds of clearances were required. That is why I feel that police powers on the island should be centralized.
Q Your detractors claim too many members of your family are in your administration.
A What can I do if the people elect them? Recently, the people gave a landslide victory to one of my family members. So it is the peopleís decision. The day they donít want them, theyíll kick them out.
Q After a hard day at the office, how do you unwind? Do you like watching movies?
A Yes, I watch Hindi films in the evening, to relax.
Q Which movie did you watch most recently?
A Shahrukh Khanís film My Name Is Khan. It has captured the discrimination of Muslims in the West so well. I remember thinking after watching the film that people who are accusing us of human rights violations are themselves doing so in their own country.
(Times of India)