“We stand by our position that they can not be kept as facilitators anymore,” says JVP’s Propaganda Secretary Wimal Weerawansa.
In an interview to Daily Mirror published on April 5th, Mr. Weewansa is lashing out at Norway and questions statements made by Norwegian special envoy Erik Solheim to Indian news web portal “Tehelka“: “What is the moral right that Solheim and Norway have to be facilitators to a process, where they speak against one party to the process?”. Mr. Weerawansa was referring to Mr. Solheim as quoted saying in the Tehelka interview, “Tamil people are harassed by the army into fleeing to India, by the army.”
JVP’s Propaganda Secretary said they will continue to support President Rajapakse, as long as the President sticks to the agreement reached between the UPFA and the JVP during the Presidential elections.
[JVP’s Propaganda Secretary, Wimal Weerawansa (right) and Tilvin Silva, JVP general Secretary – photo TamilNet]
Q: What went wrong at the local government polls?
A: The decision to go alone was certainly a challenge. The reason is that the polls took place at a time when we were enjoying the political honeymoon after being part of the victory of the President. And anyway a local government poll is not what shows the real strength of the JVP. What always showed the increase in our numbers was the Parliamentary elections. So the decision to go it alone this time was taken mindful of both these challenges. But relative to these challenges, we believe we had a victory.
In 26 local government bodies we have polled over 20% of the votes. You can’t treat this lightly, for a party that is the third force in the country. And in 5 bodies we have pushed the UNP to the third level, making us the main opposition.
Q: Your real target is to become the second force in this country. How long will it take now?
A: I’m no astrologer. But taking all in to consideration it is definite that we will become that. I just don’t know if that will take 3, 5 or 7 years.
Q: But surely you have some target in mind?
A: There is a general election in 3 years, let’s weigh the possibilities then.
Q: The government on Sunday denied contemplating a general election but how ready would you be if that were the case today?
A: We haven’t planned for it yet, but we won’t have any reluctance to face one.
Q: So why didn’t the people ‘give you the village’ as you asked this time?
A: Your argument is valid if you weigh the results on numbers of LG bodies won. But that’s not the only way to look at this result. The important thing is that we didn’t lose anything we had. That would’ve been the real defeat. Maybe the anticipated shine is not there in this victory, I agree.
Q: Did you over-estimate your strength? Is that what happened?
A: Nothing of the sort. Every election makes us look at something bigger than what we have. There is no other way to go.
Q: How do you see the attempt to isolate the JVP from the SLFP by terming it an SLFP victory over the JVP, as a mandate for peace?
A: That is a baseless conclusion of the NGOs and I saw that former President Kumaratunga had also tried to arrive at the same conclusion. There is an understanding between the government and the JVP on the peace process, despite differences of opinion in some areas. That understanding revolves around the mandate that was supported for a united Sri Lanka, at the Presidential election. It is silly to compare the outcome of this election with the mandate of a different election.
Only the JVP went solo. And all except the UPFA and the JVP have lost something. The UNP has lost much of the LG bodies they had control over, and a considerable amount of votes. The Jathika Hela Urumaya has also lost what they had. You can’t analyse this vote as one for or against peace at all. All the votes that were polled by the UPFA, the JVP and the JHU were those that supported the Mahinda Chintanaya. No one went to the stages against this. So the peace mandate argument would’ve been fair if we went against the Chintanaya. And if these three forces joined at the LG polls then the UNP would not have got anything.
Q: So will you continue your support for the government given this scenario?
A: As long as President Rajapaksa does not go against the agreement reached between the UPFA and the JVP we will support the government. It is totally irrelevant if we will contest elections together or separately at different elections. It is wrong to interpret going solo at an election as having problems.
Q: Doesn’t the very decision by the President to continue with the CFA or the Norwegians as facilitators, go against the agreement reached, where it was stipulated the exact opposite would happen?
A: The agreement said that the CFA would be amended where it was going against the interests of the country and the participation of the Norwegian facilitators be strongly reviewed.
We will propose that the President takes up amendments to the CFA on April 19 with the LTTE at the next round of peace talks. The failure to move into this at the first round is acceptable to us because of the violence that was taking place on the ground. But not the 2nd round. Concerning the Norwegians, we made a huge sacrifice at the first round, despite the conflict of interest. But as usual the Norwegians have violated the opportunity given. They did try to give the LTTE legitimacy by treating them as would a state delegation. According to our information, they have even taken the delegation to weapons manufacturing plants in Norway. The brochures of the military equipment that were with the LTTE when they returned were those of a Norwegian kind.
So we stand by our position that they can not be kept as facilitators anymore. They confirmed at the Geneva talks that they were really LTTE facilitators. Solheim tells the Indian media that the Tamil people are harassed by the army into fleeing to India, by the army. Where did this happen? What is the moral right that Solheim and Norway have to be facilitators to a process, where they speak against one party to the process?
And the SLMM chief informs the Defence Secretary that the LTTE, who tops the global list of banned terrorist organisations, are freedom fighters. The role of Norwegians in this aspect, have been exposed.
This is why we propose that the Norwegians should leave the role of facilitator, whatever price we have to pay for it. The time has come to strongly review their role.
Q: But Anton Balasingham has warned that they will leave the negotiating table if there is a change in the facilitators or even a discussion about amending the CFA?
A: If the concentration is to be on what pleases him then let him discuss alone, with Solheim! The government too has issues they want to resolve and are important to them. So too the LTTE.But the fact is that both these aspects need to be discussed. Surely the government delegation is not going to discuss what is important to the LTTE!
Q: But can we afford to lose them at the negotiating table?
A: The LTTE benefited immensely from the CFA that they will not move out of it. Their gains from the CFA surpass anything that they have got in the history of this country. Even if they leave it will be after securing an agreement that would give them even more benefits. They will make sure they complete at least five years under the CFA, thereby showing the world that they have had their own governance for so long and pressure the international community in legitimacy.
This is why they decided to come to negotiate with President Rajapaksa, whom they labelled as an extremist. The LTTE that discontinued talks with Ranil Wickremesinghe who said devolution was necessary and President Kumaratunga who said power should be devolved to a maximum, is coming for talks with President Rajapaksa to spend time, and nothing else. There is a large disparity between their pressures and what they really want. Even Norway is trying to push the government by saying the LTTE will move out.
Q: What about the threat of war?
A: There are two threats and the biggest threat is the LTTE obtaining legitimacy. And Norway will be the first country that will accept them. Is that threat not a concern for us? To avoid that threat we may have to face other threats along the way, like that of war if that happens. A country can’t live in fear. And the threat you mention is valid for the LTTE as well.
Q: How valid are the LTTE concerns of the other militant groups when it’s being questioned if the Karuna faction even falls in to the armed groups stipulated in the CFA signed in 2002 since they broke away in 2004?
A: The LTTE has no moral right to discuss the Karuna issue with the government. It initially maintained it was an internal issue and will settle it themselves. Because they couldn’t settle it they try to palm it off to the government. The government did disarm armed groups within the two years since signing the CFA and the breakaway of Karuna in 2004. It is a very valid question if the Karuna faction even falls in to the armed groups stipulated in the CFA signed in 2002. These pleas merely show the pathetic plight of the LTTE today, begging the government to disarm Karuna. And the government never agreed to anything of the sort in Geneva.
Q: Can the country go on with the uncertainty of war and talks in this manner?
A: The LTTE has stayed without the talks for over three years. Let them move out of the talks if they want. We need not make that such a big headache for us. And if they want to go out, even if we give everything they will go. Ranil Wickremesinghe gave them all they asked for but still they left the table.
Q: And what action will you take if your ‘strong’ proposal to take up the amendments at the next round of talks is not heeded by the government?
A: At the moment all we have decided is to make this proposal at this point.
Q: And a failure to remove the Norwegians as facilitators?
A: The political decision we may have to take when that happens has not been contemplated yet. But I can say that we will have to take a decision if that happens.
Q: Balasingham had recently claimed that ‘extremist’ parties like the JVP and JHU were a threat to peace in the country. How fair is this statement?
A: Who killed a large percentage of Tamils in this country? It was the LTTE. If Balasingham- who lives in the lap of luxury in London, representing a terrorist group that carried out ethnic cleansing in this country and killed their own people – is today calling us extremists, that would be like calling those who opposed Hitler as extremists. The only threat to peace is the LTTE.
Q: Who really is the third force in the country? The TNA says they are and claims that they should be getting the vacant post in the Constitutional Council (CC) over the JVP.
A: Has the TNA even got more votes than us? They are not even a national political force, but are winning a few electorates with the help of the LTTE. They have no right to the CC. We have 5 seats in the front row in Parliament and they have only 3. Under the 17th amendment it is the Party that is second in the Opposition that has the right and that is us.
Q: It is claimed that the President may by-pass the 17th amendment and appoint the independent body. How do you see this situation?
A: There is no official intimation to the effect. If they accept our nominee this problem will easily be solved.
Q: But there is such an acute need for these commissions to be appointed, and all the haggling is denying the country the services of such commissions. How long can the country go on without them in place?
A: The TNA says one thing and we say another.The Premier and the Opposition Leader will have to get together and decide. Privately we have our own reservations and criticisms against these commissions. We did take a lead in creating them, but some became elders’ homes. So we don’t accept the myth that the mere appointment creates way for justice. But we don’t say that they are not necessary, but that measures need to be taken to remove the undesirable elements.
Related: New Norwegian Peace Envoy Hanssen – Bauer takes over – by D.B.S. Jeyaraj
Related: Solheim interview to Tehelka