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Home > Tamil National ForumSelected Writings by Sachi Sri Kantha > On that Narasimhan Ram interview with Mahinda Rajapaksa

Selected Writings by Sachi Sri Kantha

On that Narasimhan Ram interview with Mahinda Rajapaksa

12 July 2009

[see also Sri Lanka President Rajapaksa's Theory of Reconciliation: Intermarriage �.. my theory is: there are no minorities in Sri Lanka, there are only those who love the country and those who don�t... No way for federalism in this country. For reconciliation to happen, there must be a mix [of ethnicities]. Here the Sinhalese, the Tamils, and Muslims inter-marry. In my own family, there have been mixed marriages: Sinhalese with Tamils, Sinhalese with Muslims. This is Sri Lankan society..."  and  It is Just a Few Animals that Run the Farm - S. Jayahanthan - "The Sri Lankan state is not run by President Mahinda Rajapakse and the parliament but instead by President Mahinda Rajapakse and his two brothers, Gothabaya and Basil. It is like a farm having been taken over by the animals from human beings with the humans left ejected and now standing in the periphery. It reminds one of George Orwell's classic, Animal Farm written in 1945..."]

Guess what! Narasimhan Ram went to Colombo (again!) in search of a treasure hunt � to pry open President Mahinda Rajapaksa�s village bumpkin brain, aka Mahinda Chintana. But the outcome turned out to be depressingly evasive.

Now that I have digested the �extended interview� of N. Ram with President Mahinda Rajapaksa (published in the Chennai Hindu of July 6, July 7 and July 8), lets check on what was revealed and what is missing. In a nutshell, my overall inference was that despite Ram�s pompous grandstanding as an investigative journalist, he cannot hold a candle to either Mike Wallace (b. 1918) or Oriana Fallaci (1929-2006) as a hard-hitting interviewer. In cricket metaphor, if Ram is a bowler he could only lob full tosses to batsmen. [In reality, his biography notes that he was a wicket keeper, and had represented Tamil Nadu state; as it is against the convention for a wicket keeper to function as a bowler, Ram�s �bowling performance� can never be expected as match winners.] Futhermore, Ram may also be accused for tossing loaded (or leading) questions to his interviewees. [See Q14 below for this example.]

What was revealed?

To comprehend what was revealed, let me provide below the list of 23 questions (and interjections) posed by N. Ram. For convenience, I have identified interjections as questions (Q) below. The dots, when they appear, are as in the original.

Q1: Mr. President, are you satisfied with conditions in the Vavuniya IDP camps where close to 300,000 Tamils are housed?

Q2: Why can�t more Tamil IDPs be sent back to the places they hail from, provided of course their security and wellbeing can be assured? Why not a grand gesture of sending tens of thousands of people to safe places where they can be looked after � at this stage, in the Eastern Province, the Jaffna Peninsula, and the Indian Tamil areas?

Q3: Another issue is three doctors under detention: one may be an LTTE man; the other two are government doctors. Why can�t they be released now?

Q4: How do you see the post-Prabakaran situation evolving politically?

Q5: That was in your speech of May 19.

Q6: There was this famous and prophetic statement in the 1950s [in 1956, when Sinhala was made the official language]: �Two languages, one country. One language, two countries.�

Q7: Now about your political solution. You talked about the 13th Amendment plus.

Q8: You have this idea of a Second Chamber.

Q9: Mr. President, when you were elected in 2005 what was your expectation of this conflict? This is what you said in your 2005 presidential election manifesto, Mahinda Chintana: �The freedom of our country is supreme. I will not permit any separatism. I will also not permit anyone to destroy democracy in our country�I will respect all ethnic and religious identities, refrain from using force against anyone, and build a new society that protects individuals and social freedoms.� In that policy statement, you also projected the �fundamental platform� of your initiatives as �an undivided country, a national consensus, and an honourable peace.� So what was your real expectation when you assumed the office of President? You had no plan, it appears, to go on an offensive.

Q10: To see the weaknesses?

Q11: Then came the Mavil Aru incident.

Q12: But you were well prepared by then, August 2006?

Q13: When did you first get an idea that the Tigers were vulnerable, that they were hollow in some sense, that you could hit deep?

Q14: So you say they were the most ruthless and most powerful terrorist organization in the world.

Q15: What do you think was their final strategy? Prabakaran holed out with all the LTTE leaders and their families in that small space, that sliver of coastal land. It shocked the world. But what were they expecting? D.B.S. Jeyaraj, who writes for us, has a theory that they wanted to do a daring counterattack.

Q16: Are you not worried by what is seen outside Sri Lanka as triumphalism following the military victory? That has to be checked, does it not, in the South?

Q17: There is a perception that the presidency has become too powerful. If so, what is the safeguard? What would be your answer to this criticism?

Q18: You are a man of Parliament, are you not?

Q19: They say you value friendships a lot. You have friends in India.

Q20: You are happy overall with India�s response to the recent developments?

Q21: There has been international concern over the assaults and pressures on journalists in Sri Lanka. Some of these journalists were your personal friends, especially Lasantha Wickrematunge [Editor of The Sunday Leader] who was gunned down in January 2009. Then, in June, a Tamil woman journalist [Krishni Ifhan nee Kandasamy of Internews] was abducted in Colombo by unidentified persons [who questioned her for several hours before releasing her in Kandy.]

Q22: His last call was to you? [i.e., relating to Lasantha Wickrematunge]

Q23: And the parents also supported this? [i.e., relating to one 19 year-old Tamil girl who had seven children each year, �because then the LTTE would not take her away to fight�.]

Of all the answers provided by President Rajapaksa, my choice for the dumb answer was to that of Q17.

- "There is a perception that the presidency has become too powerful. If so, what is the safeguard? What would be your answer to this criticism?"

El Presidente had answered with a straight face:

�My answer is that it is not too powerful. That is my three years� experience. I can�t take any decision on money matters. My money is controlled by parliament. My powers have been taken over by Commissions. I can�t dismiss any Provincial Council � unlike your central government, which has the constitutional power to dismiss a State government and dissolve a State Assembly. So how can I say I am powerful? I can�t transfer a provincial teacher, I can�t make a school a national school�The Cabinet has all the power. I can request.�

What was missing?

Despite his denials, President Rajapaksa do has powers to expand his Cabinet into a circus team! Despite his 2005 soundbite in presidential manifesto for safeguarding democracy, Rajapaksa also had powers to nominate to parliament his brother Basil Rajapaksa as an MP, and also to nominate Vinayagamoorthy Muralidharan (a Tamil turncoat, convicted in another country for diplomatic passport fraud) as a MP and also to make him a minister. If President Rajapaksa was facing either Mike Wallace or Oriana Fallaci, he would have been found sweating in his armpits and nostrils for the follow-up questions. But, he was lucky to have Ram in front of him.

In the above-presented 23 questions and interjections by N. Ram and also in the responses provided by President Rajapaksa, I found the following items wanting:

(1) No mention about the current Tamil composition (either in numbers or in percentage) in the racist Sri Lankan military, and how it will be revised in the future definitively.

(2) No mention about the other Tamil collaborators (Douglas Devananda and V. Anandasangaree) and the Tamil turncoat Vinayagamoorthy Muralidharan and whether what they had professed to achieve for indigenous Tamils will be supported by President Rajapaksa.

Make a note that in answering Q2, President Rajapaksa had stated, �Now I am recruiting Tamils to the army and the police. I was always for that. I said: �Have a Muslim regiment and a Tamil regiment�. All these people started opposing it for political reasons: �No Muslim regiment, no Tamil regiment�. Not by the Sinhalese who welcomed that, but by the Tamils, by the Muslims.� This is a clear case of Rajapaksa playing a neat political trick of passing the blame on Tamils and Muslims, projecting the Sinhalese image as �do-gooders� and eventually evading responsibility.

To persecuted ethnics (not only Tamils, but also Palestinians, Chechens in Russia, Basques in Spain) collaborators and turncoats are the scum of the populace. But, even scums serve one solid purpose as negative controls. Will it be possible for the scums to deliver what they had been professing openly? Why the purported roles of Tamil scums in the �post-Prabakaran situation� (Q4) had been omitted diligently by President Rajapaksa may be of some interest to mind readers. To be fair by N. Ram, one may assume the possibility that he might have talked about these two particular items with President Rajapaksa, off the record. But, for political reasons, both Ram and Rajapaksa would have opted not to publish it openly. So, we have to wait for the next opportunity for Ram and Rajapaksa to get together again.


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