“Issue of power sharing with the Centre is very much on the table”
Reaffirming his commitment to the “13-plus” (13th amendment with additional powers) formula to bring about an amicable political solution to the Tamil question, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa insisted that “the plus” be a product of the hope and aspirations of the people of Sri Lanka.
Asked if police powers would be part of the formula, he categorically said, “No… It's not practical.” Pointing to an incident where the aircraft of a top politician was not allowed to land in an Indian State, he said: “We do not want such problems.”
The solution will be arrived at in consensus with all political parties depending on the proposals they make. Power sharing with the Centre “is very much on the table.” He said that once the Tamil parties and the government discussed the issues threadbare, the solution would also be discussed with the country, after which it could be fine-tuned for implementation. He reiterated what he had told The Hindu in an interview earlier: that he had a solution in mind, but was not in a position to reveal it.
Mr. Rajapaksa said the rehabilitation process was continuing in the north and this was independent of demining activity. Asked for a time frame for demining to be completed, he said that it would take at least another six months. But this would not stand in the way of rehabilitation, he said. Only 7000 persons were left in the camps for the internally displaced. “We want to send them out also. But they have nowhere to go,” he said.
Asked if most of the 50,000 houses being built would be new, he said that for now, the pilot project of building 1,000 houses had commenced. The work was on schedule.
Asked if the recent observation of the Canada Immigration and Refugee Board — that merely because one is a Tamil, his or her life is not in danger — meant that the West was warming to Sri Lanka, President Rajapaksa said that there was a “big change” (in attitude) in the West. He referred to the arrest of elements of The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in Switzerland and Germany to substantiate his view.
On the rehabilitation of ex-LTTE cadres, he said over 5,000 had already been released. “After 30 years of fighting terrorism, we were able to release them in as short a period as six months, which is not an easy feat. No other country has been able to achieve such success,” he said.
On the fate of the hardcore LTTE elements, he said that they would be charged on the basis of evidence.
On the question of pardon to the former Army Commander, Sarath Fonseka, he said that everything had to follow due process.