President tells Forbes magazine:
No peace without development
‘I’ll win economic war, too’:
Without development, there won’t be peace; we must develop the
economy, I don’t want to just be the liberator, I want to be the leader
who brings permanent peace and development to this country and
reconciliation with Tamil communities in the North and the East, said
President Mahinda Rajapaksa in an interview with the Forbes Magazine.
“The war is over,” he said. “Now we have no excuses. We have to start
working and develop this country.”
“I am a President for the whole nation. I divide people not as
Sinhalese or Tamils or Muslims or Burghers. I divide them into people
who love the country and people who do not,” the President said. He said
he speaks Tamil when he wants to, as he can approach them more closely
by speaking to them in their own language.
President Rajapaksa spoke of the country’s current economic trends
and said even during the war, the economy grew by at least six percent
each year. Inflation is now down to 1.1 percent, from 11 percent four
years ago, according to Central Bank figures. He noted that per capita
income has risen from $1,200 to $2,000.
He spoke of his Government’s commitment to economic development and
said: “We must have a Sri Lankan model...... I prefer to be
agriculturally based. If you can be self-sufficient in food, then the
industries will come,” he said.
On the question on inquiries into alleged violations of Human Rights
during the war, especially its final stages, President Rajapaksa said:
“We must not follow what happened in Africa or in Europe. I don’t think
it is healthy to start digging into the history, these problems. We must
forget about the past and start a new life, new thinking.” Asked whether
Sri Lanka does 70 percent of its business with the West, he said
“Whoever wants to help me, I will welcome them without strings,” and
said “I have invited Americans. New bridges and dams are being done by
the British and Canada.” He said he is instituting a Singapore-style
“one-stop shop” to limit paperwork and smooth official contacts.
“Every Ministry and Department wants to be the king,” the President
said. He said he has “zero tolerance on corruption”.
“If you give me the evidence, certainly I will take action against
anyone,” he said.
“I am the man who is closer to the people and who would risk my life
for the country. That’s why I won the war, and that’s why I’ll win the
economic war, too,” the President said.