'We now want only a final solution'
President Mahinda Rajapaksa outlines Govt's plans for
curbing terrorism and restoring peace in India Today interview:
India's approach vis-a-vis Sri Lanka has been very positive and
encouraging and the relationship is now probably at the best of levels,
President Mahinda Rajapaksa told Raj Chengappa in the exclusive
"India is a power in this region. It is very strong and can do a lot
to develop the neighbouring countries. Not just Sri Lanka, but also
President Mahinda Rajapaksa
India is with us and they have shown us their support," President
Rajapaksa said. The interview was published in the February 18 issue of
The President said Prabhakaran needs to be tried for his crimes and
"I would like to send him to India too for he killed a leader who would
have changed the face of not just India but the whole region".
He said the LTTE violated the Ceasefire so often that it had become a
farce. "So I decided to end it." "Either the LTTE accept a political
solution by giving up arms and terrorist activities or we will have to
curtail their moves.
The Government can't kneel down to terrorists. They are now
restricted to just one-and-a-half districts. From top to bottom the
Government is committed. There is greater coordination between the
Government and the Defence Forces which helps our cause."
Excerpts from the interview:
Q: Do you want to get Prabhakaran dead or alive?
A: Alive. For the crimes he has done, he needs to be tried and
I would like to send him to India too for he killed a leader who would
have changed the face of not just India but the whole region.
Q: Why did you decide finally to end the five-year-old
Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) between the Government and the LTTE?
A: When the CFA was introduced in 2002, I was leader of the
Opposition and the first one to speak out against it.
When I became the President, I said I will try to negotiate with the
LTTE, talk to them and achieve peace to settle the issue. But it did not
mean that I approved of the CFA.
But they went on a killing spree, not only attacking our Army
Commander, the Defence Secretary, who is my brother, but also began
targeting civilians and children. I wanted the killing to stop. They had
violated the CFA so often that it had become a farce. So I decided to
Q: What makes you so confident of taking on the LTTE in an all
out war now?
A: Either the LTTE accept a political solution by giving up
arms and terrorist activities or we will have to curtail their moves.
The Government can't kneel down to terrorists. Since I came to power
we have cleared the Eastern and Western provinces of LTTE control.
They are now restricted to just one-and-a-half districts. From top to
bottom the Government is committed. There is greater coordination
between the Government and the Defence Forces which helps our cause.
Q: If the LTTE comes back to the negotiating table, will you
A: Yes, only if they give up their weapons. They can't have
their cake and eat it too. Ceasefire will give them time again. We don't
want them to strengthen themselves and attack us. We want a final
Q: If the LTTE doesn't come around, how long will it take to
wipe them out?
A: We would have cleared them out of the remaining areas long
ago but we also had to ensure no civilians were killed. I would say, in
a year and a half, we might be able to do it.
Q: The LTTE's counter strategy seems to be to attack
A: It is a desperate move in the hope that the international
community will put pressure on the Government. They can't achieve
Q: Inflation is running high. Do you think people are willing
to pay the price of war?
A: People will understand. A recent survey done by a rival
paper did show that they supported me on the development work that I am
Q: So will there be no cut in the defence budget?
A: The money we are spending on defence is not high. It is 3.5
per cent of the GDP. I believe no country can afford to compromise on
Q: When you took over as President in 2005 you said that you
expected India to do a lot. Has India lived up to your expectations?
A: India's approach has been very positive and encouraging.
Our relationship is now probably at the best of levels.
Q: But India is not willing to sell your Government offensive
arms to fight the LTTE.
A: We can buy arms from anywhere, but we can't buy a good
friend. And that is what we need. India is a power in this region. It is
very strong and can do a lot to develop the neighbouring countries. Not
just Sri Lanka, but also others. India is with us and they have showed
us their support.
Q: The EU and other countries have alleged human rights
violations by your Government during the conduct of war.
A: There are a few allegations in the East. We enquired into
all such allegations but no one was even willing to file a complaint to
begin action. We have appointed a commission of eminent persons to look
into all the allegations but we need a complaint, evidence and witnesses
to do justice in such cases. We will take action.
Q: Coming to a political solution, the All Party
Representative Committee (APRC) to go into a package to solve Tamil
grievances has recommended the implementation of the 13th Amendment of
the Constitution done in 1987 that wanted power to be devolved to the
provinces. Why should the Tamils accept something that was offered to
them 20 years earlier?
A: Why shouldn't they? It was never implemented because the
parties that agreed to it-the LTTE and the then government-fell out soon
after that. I believe it is a good way to begin. We should first start
something we can implement. I don't need twothirds majority in
Parliament to do it. So it's a beginning.
The APRC can then give me some new proposals and we can consider them
But I don't want to waste my time on solutions that are not practical
just to satisfy the international community. They may look good on paper
but will be burnt in Parliament. There will be riots.
Q: How quickly do you see the package implemented?
A: I have already appointed an Advisory Cabinet Committee. I
am waiting for their report. As soon as I get the report, I will
Q: You had also said that you would give the Tamils more than
just the 13th Amendment.
A: I am waiting for the proposals to be given to me by the
committee to decide. Meanwhile, let us implement something that had the
blessings of all-the then government, the LTTE and all other Tamil
parties. Something that Rajiv Gandhi had helped get under the Indo-Sri
Lanka Accord of 1987.
In addition I have already started taking steps to ensure the
implementation of the official language policy by promoting the learning
and usage of Tamil in administration. I am also recruiting Tamils in the
police. Don't think we are only fighting the terrorists.
Q: Do you have consensus among the Sinhala parties to
A: How can the UNP oppose this when its own Government had
passed the 13th Amendment. Only the JVP (Janata Vimukthi Peramuna) is
the problem. But let's not forgot that the JVP has asked for more powers
for the provinces and even participated in Provincial Councils.
Q: Why don't you hold a referendum in the liberated Eastern
districts to decide whether they should join the North as envisaged in
A: Why should I? If you go now to places like Batticaloa you
would find they oppose it. I will not have this country divided.
Q: Why not have a federal system like India?
A: Federalism is out-just don't talk about it. Historically
the word is suspect and is linked with separatism. Maximum devolution
under a unitary government is the mandate that I have got and I am going
to implement that.
Q: Your party doesn't have a two thirds majority in
Parliament. Will you go for elections to implement it?
A: I don't need two-thirds majority in Parliament for what has
been proposed. When the need arises I certainly will.