(English translation script of the Sinhala interview appeared in Ravaya weekly on 9th August, 2009)
How do you describe the current situation in the IDP camps ?
President Mahinda Rajapakse’s own advisor Vasudeva Nanayakara referred to the IDP camps as Hell. Former chief justice Sarath Silva called these camps as open prison camps. They commented in Sinhala language. I am looking for more suitable terms beyond these descriptions. It is a fact that these camps are being maintained contravening all accepted national and international laws. These camps symbols of disgrace to our national history, cultural traditions and people.
Do you propose actions beyond sending water bottles, clothing and food packets from the people of south to the refugees ?
Sure. These people are neither beggars nor homeless street people. They are proudful people who lived honorably in their traditional villages, the villages and land of our ancestors who lived and shaped our heritage for thousands of years. It is very true that Buddhism and Hinduism carry the messages of kindness and mercy. But these people do not require mercy. They need no to be at anybody’s mercy. This national problem cannot be restricted to water bottles, clothing, food packets and tents. Government is trying to cover it’s nakedness by using the media excessively to telecast the ‘merciful’ supplies of such goods to the IDPs.
I feel embarrassed as a member Sri Lankan state to note this shameless act of the government. This trend of portraying our people as poor beggars on the breadline should stop at once. Their legitimate rights to live freely in their own traditional villages should be treasured and respected. I am talking this from my heart. I address this to the hearts of my Sinhala Buddhist brethren. I wish to engage myself in efforts to win over the hearts and minds of our Sinhala brethren in view of ending this national humanitarian crisis. Government is trying to wrap this humanitarian problem under the carpet. I call upon the goodhearted Sinhalese people to unite and defeat this efforts of the government.
How do you look at government’s handling of the IDP issue?
The government had blundered from the very beginning. I am telling this because I believe that no lawfully elected government can perform similar to that of a terrorist group. All those human rights violations of LTTE are matched and even surpassed by this government. The violations continue to occur. I believe LTTE’s non state terrorism has come to an end. But this government’s state terrorism is existing widely. I cannot find any streak of humanism anywhere in the so called humanitarian operations of the government. At this very moment over three hundred thousands of our people are being detained behind barbed wires and their movements restricted against their free will. Is it not state terrorism? Governments initial statistics talked about seventy thousand people. But it is now over three hundred thousand. The numbers of people gathered today were not anticipated by the government. This government at that time air dropped leaflets calling the people to come into the government held territory. People accepted the invitation and came into government territory.
But the government had no ability of infra structure basis to house this large number of people. This government will never acquire that ability. Therefore our people are becoming mentally and physically sick patients on a daily basis. The physically sick die. The mentally sick commit suicide. Children, Women and Elders are becoming orphans. Especially the conditions of our women have become very vulnerable. Our people are forced to wait in long queues for toilets, baths, water, food and medicine from dawn to dusk. Our people are becoming members of a 24 hour line-up society. The government is behaving very indecently to cover these realities. Elected Parliamentarians and media personnel are not allowed to visit these sites independently. No such restrictions imposed in any such camps housing displaced people anywhere in the world. This is the reality. They are not welfare villages. I refer to these camps as open prison camps. This is the treatment meted out to our people by this government.
While some sections disapprove, certain others approve government’s handling of the displaced people. How should a responsible government act at such juncture?
Only politically cruel and communally insane persons approve such inhuman conditions. These are small numbers of persons. But through excessive media coverage they attempt to interpret this as the majority opinion. But I do not think that majority of our Sinhala Buddhist people approve this. This is not a private problem of the government. First of all this government should understand this. Therefore the ‘Northern Blossom’ (Uthurata Vasanthaya/Vadakkin Vasantham) program cannot be implemented according the plans drawn as per the government designs. At this hour of national crisis, the government should form an inter party commission powered to take independent decisions. This commission should be authorized to question and receive answers regarding the governmental executive decisions and acts. Need of the hour is transparency.
According to the reports received by us, over two hundred and fifty thousand people demand to go back to their villages independently. These people do not require any governmental assistance. This is the demand of the people who wish to continue living in their traditional village lands where their ancestors lived over thousands of years as an ethnic nationality. Neither this government nor any force on earth can deny this traditional and historical rights of our people. I wish to state this very categorically. We will never accept the efforts of the government to create new townships changing the demography. Government is magnifying this problem to undue proportions to suit it’s own political agenda. The less government we have the better said Emerson. But this government is administering everything from toileting to sleep bed and from birth to death of the displaced Tamil civilians.
This government has made everything government in every aspect of the displaced Tamil civilians by supervising and interfering in every stages of their personal lives. This is nothing but systematic insult and injury to the Tamil civil layers. Government by purposefully postponing the resettlements of the civilians. Government again and again talks about landmines. I will not buy this story. The mined territory is only about 10% of the total land. All knowledgeable civilians know this. Our security forces reached Vanni heartland from all directions well through the territory. Let our people go home. It should occur with immediate effect. It is the need of the hour. Under the circumstances, our priorities number one, number two and number three are letting our people going back to their homes.
Today rights to life and speech are under threat in the north and as well as in the south. What is your intervention in this regard?
I live in the south. But I never gave a round of applause when the rights to life and speech were violated in the north. I am for a undivided Sri Lanka. I always provide my highest most respect to our national flag. But when such rights were publicly violated in the north, I did not raise our national flag. I did not bring insults to our national flag by engaging in such activities. Do not wait until the arm of tyranny taps your door. Be on your alert. Get together. Join hands. This is my call.