on current issues
In a candid interview on National Television on Tuesday 24th November President Chandrika Kumaratunga answered several questions on a range of current issues.
Asked if her efforts to resume the peace talks were to secure the foreign aid pledged in Tokyo, Kumaratunga dismissed such notions and said it was the innate need within her to bring peace to the country.
The President said that even when the LTTE unilaterally broke the then ceasefire and declared war [April 1995] during her government’s first attempt at peace she was constantly appealing to the LTTE to come to the negotiating table.
“Obviously we had to respond when they declared war against a sovereign state. But all the time I was sending messages to Mr. Prabhakaran - saying stop, come to talks– we have a solution to propose…”
President Kumaratunga said in her quest for peace she and her government were able to convince the people of the South that a negotiated settlement was the one way to achieve a lasting peace.
Asked if the delay in restarting the peace talks was due to the LTTE wanting an Interim Authority while she wanted a permanent solution the President said, “We suggested … at the beginning let us talk about an interim authority…we are not against setting up an interim authority … So, now we have told them because we have to unblock the process and we have to talk – not just talking for the sake of talking and pretending to the world that we’re talking, but to arrive at a solution. I am very, very keen on resolving this problem and so is my government and we think the present conjuncture is very propitious.”
Responding to the observation that different members of her Government had conflicting views regarding the resumption of peace talks the President said that everyone in the Alliance agreed to power sharing, that is devolution or decentralization both different levels of power sharing.
“Every single member of my Government has accepted publicly and in writing that the solution to the ethnic problem is not war. All the different parties have agreed that the only solution has to be a negotiated settlement unless LTTE goes back to war madly and we are forced into it, we will not do it of our own volition”, she said.
President Kumaratunga stressed that she never changed her policy about peace, even at a time when her party was out of office, saying that one should never change one’s principles at any time. She further pledged to always abide by the wishes of the people, “if I don’t agree with the people’s views – then I would have resigned from politics and gone away.”
The President observed that for the first time in two years, the LTTE have accepted that development should happen in the North and East, “previously they said until we have Eelam we don’t want development – They didn’t allow development to happen, we had to sort of forcibly do it to wherever we had control…But now they are very keen on it and they are helping, they are co-operating with government agencies that are doing the work, very much with the NGO’s that are doing development work.”
Regarding the allegations of corruption in the Judiciary and the Police the President said that when ever she has evidence of corruption she takes immediate remedial action and that she has always told the Police never to take unjust orders from anyone, however important that person maybe.
Questioned on the reactivation of capital punishment President Kumaratunga said “I have always been against the death penalty, I do not believe anyone has the right to take the life another even that of murderer”. Kumaratunga said a vast majority in the country wanted capital punishment reintroduced because of the rising crime rate and the nature of the crimes, in the belief that it would deter grave crime. A very diffident President said ‘Signing a death warrant will be the most difficult thing'.
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