NEW DELHI, March 2:
Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa has claimed that the island’s army did not kill LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran’s 12-year-old son Balachandran at the end of the socalled Eelam IV War. His reason for thinking so: if the army did it, he would have known. Since he does not know, it could not have happened!
In an interview to The Hindu’s Colombo Correspondent RK Radhakrishnan published in the newspaper today, Rajapaksa proclaimed: "Had it happened, I would have known (it). It is obvious that if somebody (from the armed forces) had done that, I must take responsibility. We completely deny it. It can’t be."
The photographs of Balachandran munching a snack in an army camp and his bullet-ridden body that were broadcast by Britain’s Channel 4 television and shown and printed in the media worldwide last fortnight has caused a global uproar and condemnation of the brutality allegedly perpetrated by Sri Lankan security forces.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayaram Jayalalithaa has demanded that economic sanctions be imposed on Sri Lanka for killing an innocent child just because he happened to be Prabhakaran’s son. All political parties in the southern state unitedly denounced the child’s brutal murder.
Curiously enough, Rajapaksa did not explain who could have killed that hapless child possibly on the last day of that fateful war in May 2009.
On the new evidence of wrongdoing in the final stages of the war in 2009, collated by international organisations and media outlets, the President said that putting out such reports and videos was their "job."
"We must not merely look at one side. They must not merely listen to one group and the Opposition [in Sri Lanka]. So they [the Opposition] are trying to get the support of other countries to create an ‘Arab Spring’ here. That won’t happen in Sri Lanka."
Asked if he will hold the Northern provincial elections in September, Rajapaksa said: "Yes, we will hold [the poll] in September. That’s why we have postponed the other [provincial] elections too. I did not want to face the criticism that I was doing it only because I had no intention of holding the Northern provincial elections."
The North will have powers which are "not more, not less" than those enjoyed by the eight other provinces.
On the coming United States-sponsored resolution at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva later this month, Rajapaksa said Jaffna has been provided with all infrastructure just three years after the war ended. "Who did this within three years? Anybody who has come and seen it has talked about it positively and has commended us."
Even India was "harassed" by the UNHRC over Kashmir. "Sri Lanka is like a volley ball. Everyone is taking turns punching it to cover up their sins."
The President said he has not discussed with India its support to Sri Lanka at the UNHRC. "India must know its duty, as a neighbour, as a friend of Sri Lanka. I can’t dictate to India."
Replying to a query on Indian External Affairs Minister Salman Kurshid’s comments in Parliament on accountability for alleged human rights violations in Sri Lanka, he insisted that Sri Lanka had held people accountable for excesses.
"We have filed cases… We have handed down punishments. But this can be done only as per the laws of this country…I have released 14,000 [LTTE] prisoners, who had serious charges against them like murder, after a process of rehabilitation. Had I filed cases against the 14,000 people, what would have happened?"
He declared: "I am a Buddhist. We have tolerance and compassion. There are still some more people [of the LTTE] in prison. We are examining ways…to release them."
Rajapaksa claimed that Sri Lanka’s relations with India have been fine after the 2012 vote in Geneva. "There are many incidents to show that the relationship is good. We don’t hold… Indian fishermen who routinely fish in our waters…Thousands of fishermen are crossing and fishing…We sent so many Indian prisoners back home.
"Despite incidents in Tamil Nadu [where Sri Lankan pilgrims were sent back], there has not been any incident [involving] Indians in Sri Lanka. I understand that there are people who want India to have some confrontation with Sri Lanka… It is all politically motivated," he said.
On the issue of a political solution for the island’s minority Tamil people, he said that unless the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), an umbrella group of Tamil parties, joins the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC), there can be no way forward. "Without TNA [on the committee], I will not be able to do anything… Earlier, all the leaders gave their solutions from the top. It has failed. The 13th Amendment has failed. Everything has failed," he said.
Rajapaksa sought to allay apprehensions that MPs of the majority Sinhala community in the Sri Lankan Parliament will hijack the agenda, by pointing out that some individuals and parties in his government will not allow it to happen.
~ www.island.lk~ Special Correspondenty S Venkat Narayan