Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa has told a visiting Indian parliamentary delegation that a separate system of governance for the Northern and Eastern Provinces would never be a reality.The Defence Secretary was responding to a Tamil National Alliance (TNA) suggestion, made through the six-member Indian delegation, during a meeting at the Defence Ministry last Thursday afternoon. The war veteran alleged that the TNA had been repeating the LTTE demands since the conclusion of the conflict in May 2009.
Sources described the discussions as cordial.
Having met the TNA leadership in Colombo as well as in Jaffna, the Indian delegation told the Defence Secretary that the political grouping was no longer interested in either 13th Amendment to the Constitution or 13 plus. Instead, the TNA and some civil society representatives, according to the Indian delegation, preferred a separate system of governance for the two provinces.The delegation also met External Affairs Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris, Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa, UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe et al.The Indian delegation told Defence Secretary Rajapaksa that the TNA was perturbed over post-war Sinhala settlements coming up in the Northern region as well as new security forces cantonments. The Defence Secretary emphasized that there hadn’t been a single such settlement, while inquiring whether the Indian delegation was aware of any.Responding to a query regarding new security forces cantonments that were being established in the Northern region, Defence Secretary Rajapaksa pointed out that unlike in India, families of security forces personnel hadn’t been accommodated in any of the bases in the Northern Province. He invited the Indian delegates to visit the Northern bases to see the situation for themselves.Having explained the measures taken by the government to provide relief to the people of the Northern and Eastern Provinces, since the conclusion of the conflict, the Defence Secretary stressed that India, Tamil Nadu and the rest of the international community should appreciate what the government had done. He asserted that external pressure was inimical to the post-war recovery process.The Indian delegation assured the Defence Secretary that India was a friend of Sri Lanka and the delegation wasn’t here to question the government or engage in a fact-finding mission.The Defence Secretary alleged that the TNA had done nothing for the Tamils since the end of the conflict. He said that de-mining had been prerequisite for resettlement of the internally displaced persons and the government gave priority to reconstruction and rehabilitation. He said that the government’s obligation was to the people.Commenting on accountability issues, the Defence Secretary said that the government had rehabilitated not only those who surrendered to the army but detainees as well. He pointed out how the US, which had been raising accountability issues here, treated those arrested in worldwide operations and held in prisons, including secret detention centres.The Defence Secretary referred to abductions carried out by the US in its war against terror. The Sri Lankan government, too, had been accused of arresting an al Qaeda operative and handing him over to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).The Defence Secretary recalled the US reaction to 9/11. It had not only targeted Muslims but anyone else who fitted that profile. He explained the difficulties experienced by his son who was studying in the US in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 attacks.Pointing out that minorities would feel uncomfortable not only in Sri Lanka but in other countries as well, the Defence Secretary said that all communities were equal. Admissions to universities were strictly on merit, though some propagated the lie that it was based on ethnicity, the Defence Secretary said, adding that the government wouldn’t discriminate against any community.