Transcript- Gotabaya Rajapaksa

Posted on August 17, 2010


Date: 17 August 2010

Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa

                                                                                                                         

Rajapaksa: I want to start by reminding you about that most of the people have forgotten that the government and the security forces have defeated the most ruthless terrorist organization in the world and the horrendous atrocities that they have committed over the years. I think briefly I want to.

 C.R. de Silva: Mr. Rajapaksa are you making a video presentation also because normally you do that.

Rajapaksa: I have the videos.

C.R. de Silva: The choice is yours.  

Rajapaksa: That’s the history of the atrocities committed but specially I want to talk to is about the magnitude of the military strength that have acquired over the years and that is the most important thing that we have to keep in mind In 2005, when I took over as Secretary Defence especially the whole of the Wanni area and also most part of the Eastern Province was under their complete control and this was controlled by them. They have established military bases and also they had almost 30,000 regular cadres and remember including child soldiers. 

They have acquired over the years almost all the equivalent weapons as the Sri Lankan Army. They had ground forces, equivalent of the army, equivalent of the Navy, the sea tigers; they had the air force, then the equipment and also the Special Forces like the Sea tigers, Black tigers that type of groups and also the suicide cadres.

The LTTE conducted a great number of suicide attacks conducted by the LTTE even when compared to the extreme Muslim groups that are currently carrying out such attacks. The weapons used for this attacks as well as claymore mines for ambushes they had collected over the years. These weapons were not manufactured in Sri Lanka these were almost the same weapons used by our military including artillery, heavy weapons,152mm guns, 130mm guns,120mm mortars we are recovering the guns they had.

After the defeat of the LTTE, after the 18th of May, we have recovered brand new weapons, missiles, the machine guns and all these equipment that they had and all over.  In addition to the military cadres and they had started training civilians, which they call ‘Makal Paday’ and like civil defence force they had recruited most of the civilians. This is the LTTE the Army had defeated and this is the most important thing we have to know. It was not just the group of rebels, it is a massive military force, and that is the magnitude of the military strength of the LTTE. Of course, I have collected some detailed report on the strengths, the equipment and the organisation of the LTTE. 

In 2005 they had a clear intention of going into a military operation even though the President had offered to start the stalled negotiations. It was very clear that there intention was to and in fact, as soon as HE The President was elected, I with the help of the intelligence agency and military commanders gave a detailed briefing of LTTE strengths, their capabilities and their future intentions, we correctly predicted that after six months LTTE will launch an offensive.

We had 40000 to 50000 troops located in Jaffna peninsular alone at that time, and the only line of communication was from the sea main from Trincomalee to Jaffna and for everything they were dependent on the sea, so if they had cut off this line of communication there would have been a debacle. If you can remember, a similar thing happened in 2003, and at that time the government had to seek the assistance of the Indian Navy they were planning to rescue these troops, therefore the LTTE knew that and they wanted to cut the communication lines to the forces there. The LTTE was concentrating to attack the Trincomalee Naval Base and the harbour and take over the control so that the ships cannot go out of Trincomalee. At same time have a simultaneous attack from Muhamalai and a simultaneous landing on the western coast and exactly, when LTTE started the offensive we were able to repel those attacks and that’s how the offensive started. So it was very clear at that time also the intention of the LTTE.

I want to just remind, but this is history, but to remind the Commission about the atrocities committed by the LTTE over the years so many Tamil political leaders were assassinated over the years, over 100 starting from Durayappah up to Mr.Kadiragamar our Foreign Minister and then the other political leaders, from President Premadasa downwards. Then the so many civilians, Tamils, Sinhalese, Muslims and also I want to remind the amount of killings they have done specially in the Northern and Eastern province Sinhalese and Muslim villages and also the Sinhalese villages bordering northern and Eastern provinces starting from early eighties.

These are the summary of the politicians killed by the LTTE. Tamil politicians killed by the LTTE, civilians killed by the LTTE, I think this background is known to everybody and this is true and I just want to remind the Commission about these things that happened.

But, I want to start the humanitarian operation; especially interested to present the facts to the Commission how we planned the military operation along with the humanitarian assistance operation. When we were planning the military campaign operation the first thing the President informed the security council about the practise of the military throughout the last thirty years to meet various operations, you all know we conducted Liberation 1, Liberation2, Liberation 3, Revirasa, Akunapahara various names of military operations which were identified by various names.  The President told that this is not a military campaign but this is a military operation conducting to liberate the people in that area, so he said, just call it humanitarian operation. The practise that we have followed for so many years, you know, somebody might think it is minor thing but it is a very important fact you know from the top to the bottom of the military that the message from the President himself that they have to remember that the liberation of the people in that area so that we named it the Humanitarian Operation.

Then a very important thing took place and that the President and the Security Council decided  that we have we have to include a major concept that the zero civilian casualties that it was introduced in all the operational orders the first heading of all operational orders going from the Army headquarters, Navy Headquarters Air force Headquarters or even lower level this was maintained the zero casualties  where all possible steps must be taken to avoid civilian casualties. One can argue that this is only a mentioning sentence in operations. No because that minute goes out from the Headquarters down to all battalion levels that so that they will know it is very important to plan to avoid civilian casualties.  From the very beginning the government took many steps because the government and the security council was aware that in a situation here civilians were living in and to get control of those areas from the LTTE we took a lot of necessary measures to address these issues starting at a very high level commencing from a Consultative Committee on Humanitarian Assistance (CCHA). The first CCHA meeting was held at the Ministry of Defence, always these meetings were held at the Ministry of Defence.

The first meeting was held on 14/10/2006 and it was chaired by Hon. Mahinda Samarasinghe, Minister of Disaster Management and Human Rights and in this Committee from the government side the Secretary Defence was present all the time. This particular meeting with Mr. Palitha Kohana, he was then SCOP Secretary General for coordinating the peace process, he was present and Mr. Divaratne, the Commissioner General of Essential Services. This is another important thing the President did, he appointed a Commissioner General for essential services and a team to look into the essential services. Representatives from the Foreign Affairs were present, all the heads of UN Agencies in Sri Lanka were present at this meeting, heads of UNHCR, ICRC, WFP, UNICEF, UNDSS, heads of all these organizations were present all the time and also the head of the delegation of the European Commission and the Ambassador for Germany and all the Ambassadors of the Co-chairs were present, the Ambassador for USA, Ambassador for UK, Japanese Ambassador, all were present at this meeting and the Chairman of the NGOs Committee were present  throughout, the government agents of the districts were present at this meeting, the Secretary to the Health Ministry was present throughout.

At the first meeting Hon. Mahinda Samarasinghe provided an overview of the Consultative Committee Meeting. He said that the decision to establish  such a Committee was taken by HE the President, Mahinda Rakapakse following a meeting with the co-chairs and said that the Committee would meet once a fortnight with key representatives of UN Agencies, ICRC, European Commission to discuss matters pertaining to humanitarian assistance, access and the mandate of the representative agencies . I have the minutes of these meetings and at various stages one can see how the Committee went into details whether it was providing essential food items, or the medicine or whether there was any problem with access into those areas where fighting was going on, the evacuation and even at the very beginning the supply of building materials were discussed at this meeting. So in fact Mr. Ameen the WFP Acting Director appreciated the opportunity of that meeting and for the clearance granted to WFP and ICRC convoys and commented on the access given to all these convoys. If you go through all these minutes it shows at various instances how and we have to understand that it was difficult period, it was not just a hitchhiking exercise or a walk, it was fighting with the LTTE and of course these were difficult situations, where we had to stop military operations in order to provide safe passage for these convoys, taking the risk of an LTTE counter attack at that moment.  We had many occasions like that specially starting from Wakarai the first operation in Wakarai where we had to send food convoys into Wakarai and we arranged 100 lorries loads of food items and medical items to go to Wakarai and by the time about 40 vehicles entered Wakarai the LTTE started attacking those vehicles and we had to stop. Similarly we had many occasions we had many occasions where when we allowed these convoys to go they started attacking and we knew that most of these items went into LTTE controlled areas, and we knew through these UN agencies, ICRC representative in these areas, even the local government offices, but we knew that they had no control over this.

 Once the vehicles went into the LTTE took control of all of these items. We knew that some of the items will go to their fighting cadres, medicine or the food but still because we had to look after the civilians trapped inside we sent these items, whatever the items they requested we sent. In fact WFP did a good service and at the same time all these items we from the government. So throughout until the last minute we sent these food items when at the latter stages, the last 2 weeks when there was no land access to the area Udamadam and the area because of the lagoon we took all the measures to send these items by ship and the unloading of these items from the ship and carrying these items to the show were done by the LTTE. We knew that but still we thought that some of those items will go to the civilians so we sent those items and also we throughout the years we also evacuated casualties, and when we evacuated casualties, we also knew it can be LTTE cadres because is also another important point, the identification of combatants from civilians is not an easy thing because as we all know again I will produce video tapes, LTTE web sites had videoed that, what we had captured from the LTTE so that how the LTTE combatants were fighting in civilian clothes. They were not wearing LTTE uniforms so they were in civil and also once they got injured they changed their uniform into civilian clothing so you don’t know whether they were or civilians or an LTTE cadre.

We evacuated them and treated them in hospitals irrespective of any body who was injured in those areas, we had sick and injured people who were evacuated even at the last minute, most of the time the difficulty was, the harassment by the LTTE preventing from coming in or going out, so in spite of all these we ensured that the food items and medicine and water were sent and at the same time to evacuate the sick and wounded. I want to point out that at that over this period when we started the humanitarian operation, the Army and the three Services suffered nearly 6000 killed in action and nearly 30,000 were injured to various extents. But you can see that the Army and the services suffered nearly 6000, you can imagine the intensity of the fighting which was going on because of the lethal weapons system they had used and also the obstacles they have used during this time, you can see the intensity of the fighting which was going on, and the other fact is that some of the people have forgotten and couldn’t realise and I want to bring out this factor because some people talk about civilian casualties. It is very difficult to identify civilian casualties and if the military had suffered 6000 killed in action and nearly 30,000 injured at various degrees you can imagine how much of LTTE casualties would have occurred but nobody talks about the LTTE deaths and injured. They put all these figures into civilian casualty figures. Nobody talks about the LTTE cadre casualties. Obviously there must be a similar number of casualties because of the fighting on the LTTE side. I am sure it is much more because the fire power of the government forces is much more than the LTTE fire power, so obviously there must be more casualties but nobody knows how much and nobody talks about and that is why it is dangerous. You must understand that is why you put casualties how can you identify a civilian and a combatant. In this case also I have very clear evidence how the LTTE used the civilians at the latter stages for military work even guard some of the trenches and we have clear videos of them taking civilians for digging trenches and using them, this video is not from ourselves but from the LTTE team who had videoed it and we have captured it.

Another important factor about the CCHA, the first that we have taken all the minutes the Commission can go through, very importantly you can see how extensively we have discussed these things and attended to them from the very beginning, its not only two weeks but starting from 2006 throughout the end we regularly met and discussed and action has been taken to whatever issues that came up during these meetings. At the latter stages we declared no fire zones which was another important  factor. Actually all these steps were taken by the Sri Lankan government, you can say this is a Sri Lankan model, people talk about the Sri Lankan model where they can adopt in other places where they have terrorist problems only for the military side of it, for the military strategy we have used but more importantly to use that Sri Lankan Model in humanitarian assistance that we did, the measures the government took and the plan to minimise the civilian casualties, prevent civilian casualties and also to look after the civilians affected by the conflict which was very important. Nowhere in the world have I thought they adopt no fire zones.

We realised at one stage that the LTTE was not allowing the civilians to come out of the conflict areas, gradually they were taking the civilians with them throughout . We realised at one stage that they are going to use them as human shields. So, in Kilinochchi they have taken all the civilians with them. The Security Council discussed the matter with His Excellency the President who decided to earmark certain areas as no fire zones for the civilians to come into these areas so that the military can restrict their operations to those areas, even here I have attached the copies of the messages which went from the Army Headquarters to others informing about the no fire zones and we dropped leaflets from the air about the no fire zones area and requesting all civilians to assemble at these no fire zones.  So in that fairly large area which we earmarked first as a no fire zone and all the civilians were there but unfortunately we have cases that the LTTE fired Artillery from the no fire zone but we did not react to it but at one stage when we came closer to the borders of the no fire zone but initially nearly 20,000 people escaped from the no fire zone and we had adopted a method, we had briefed the front line troops that we have earmarked a corridor for the IDPs to come out from the place, then we had arrangements to receive them and bring  them back to Kilinochchi feed them, register them and sent them down to Vavuniya.

On the first day itself we received about 20,000 IDP’s, civilians coming  out of the first no fire zone, then the LTTE immediately realised the danger, they knew if they allow all the civilians will come to the government controlled areas., so then they started to take action to prevent that, and on the 2nd day they sent a suicide cadre with the civilians coming out to the no fire zone and you can remember he exploded himself which killed many civilians and also the unarmed security personnel who were assisting the civilians and also a lot of civilians tried to escape from this area to the government controlled  we have many occasions that were reported that the LTTE was firing and preventing their escape. Once they realised that this will endanger their motives that they will no longer be able to use them as human shields but they took all the civilians from the no fire zone and took them to Puthumathalan  a very thin area and once when we realised that the LTTE had taken all the civilians from the no fire zone out to another place, we shifted the no fire zone to that area in order that we could have ignored that this is the no fire zone and to remain there and we knew that cannot resist the LTTE because by force they took all the civilians to another place. Then the government decided to shift the no fire zone to the other area and when the troops got closer to the 2nd no fire zone they shifted further down and so we also shifted the no fire so thrice we had to shift the no fire zone.

The next important thing I think  is the restriction of the use of heavy weapons. During the latter stages because of the civilians and the restrictions of the area which was very small area the  President decided that we restrict the use of indirect fire, artillery, mortar and air strikes and troops had to identify the target and shoot, also to use personal weapons only. By doing that I would say we suffered more casualties. We took that risk by restricting indirect fire because obviously you are restricting some of your fire power used to suppress your enemy. We had to use only the personal weapons, soldiers had to move in identify and then shoot. So that was a bold step we took to prevent civilian casualties. I think that nowhere in the world that is done.

Then the IDPs that we received as people were coming throughout and we had seen how the LTTE was preventing them from coming out of these areas and even firing at them. We had a very sad occasion, when we had the opportunity of seeing that from the pictures of the UAV we were taking on real time as to how the LTTE was firing at the civilians who were trying to come out of these areas to the government controlled areas. There was a mechanism to receive all the IDPs coming, then of course food water and medical assistance were given, bringing them to Omanthai where they were received by the Receiving Center and not only the military, but the ICRC, Red Cross and the civilian officials were present and registered the name etc in the presence of ICRC before they were handed over to the authorities for sending them into different camps. During this process also it is important to make a note that from the very beginning we realised that one day we had to face this IDP situation, and I want to mention here that His Excellency the President when he visited China, he visited camps for the displaced people from the earthquake and I can remember after he came back at the Security Council  meeting he was telling us about these camps and how it was done and he wanted us to establish a similar type of camp. These are sort of semi-permanent type of buildings with cement based with proper walls, so we started building these in Menik Farm, those are the ones we started, but unfortunately some of the international community was suspicious about the whole thing. They thought that we making permanent camps for the IDPs so that we will not resettle them for a longer period. So that was a very unfortunate thing that happened and they objecting to building this type of semi permanent buildings. We expected assistance from UN Agencies and various International Organizations but they did not give any assistance for this type of semi permanent buildings, they preferred the normal tent instead. That caused a lot of problems in the end, if they had given assistance for us to continue with the semi permanent type building, it would have been much better for the IDPs but unfortunately there was a misconception of the whole thing and the good intentions the government had in providing good accommodation to IDPs. It is the military who looked after the whole process, of course the other government officials, agencies, but the majority of the work was done by the military and good comments were made by various organizations.

I have documented the whole process, the Army in relation to the IDPs in the last 2 weeks specially the efforts of the forces in providing essential services for the civilians in this area and this is the document specially the instructions sent, photo copies of the original messages sent from the Army headquarters down to the lowest level regarding the using of heavy weapons to avoid civilian casualties and the Army orders I have made copies of all that.

In fact, I have told the services to send copies. I want to read this document sent to Admiral Wasantha Karanangoda, Navy Commander at that time by Paul Castella, head of delegation ICRC on 14th February 2009.

“ Dear Sir,

 Following the successful medical evacuation by sea that took place on 10th and 12th February 2009 on behalf of the International Committee of the Red Cross, I wish to express my sincere thanks to you and the Navy for your valuable and effective collaboration which helped save many peoples lives. I know that it was a complex operation which proved to be extremely demanding for your men either at sea or land, succeeded in an exemplary manner to carry out their essential task to protect the state and its citizens and simultaneously to take care of the sick and wounded. They displaced a strict discipline and respect of rules of engagement and at the same time a very respectful and kind attitude to help those in need. In that regard in addition to all others who contributed to this medical evacuation, we wish to express our special thanks to the Director General of Operations at the Navy Headquarters, the officiating Navy Commander Eastern Naval Command, Trincomalee and to the Deputy Area Commander North in Jaffna. They spent many sleepless hours coordinating the operation and played a crucial role to make it a success. They demonstrated that soldiering is a noble profession.

 Yours sincerely,

Paul Castella- Head  of Delegation ICRC

I want to bring out another very important point about the education of our troops on humanitarian rights in international humanitarian law and the mechanism adopted by the Army, Navy and Airforce. We started this program in 2003 with the assistance if the Red Cross and ICRC. The Army has a separate Directorate at the Army Headquarters level; it is called the Directorate of Human Rights and Humanitarian law. They have the responsibility of implementation of all the norms, principles and conventions on Human Rights and compliance with international humanitarian law and carry out related task such as the training, monitoring of soldiers, recording and reporting within the Sri Lankan Army that Directorate. It was established in 2003 on Army Orders 16/2003 and they have established human rights cells and international humanitarian law cells at each level from security headquarters, divisional headquarters, task forces, battalion headquarters and other headquarters level that had these cells. They conducted training and also the monitoring of soldiers so they entertained any complaints about violations and they have a special training school at Kukulaiganga and have conducted training throughout starting from 2003 throughout; they conducted these classes even whilst operations were going on and even during the height of the operation.

C.R. de Silva: I think this was started as a model.

Rajapaksa. We conducted this training with the help of the ICRC. They had their instructors come into schools and teaching them.

Now I also want to give a detailed report on the action taken by the three services, this includes, various instances where Army, Navy or Air force against the soldiers officers who have committed these offences, it was reported, investigated and proper legal action on various cases. This may include all the cases not only in that particular area but everywhere. It showed that we had a very clear process to take action for that type of offences committed by the troops. This is what I want to emphasise, how we have trained the soldiers from the very beginning on human rights and international humanitarian law and also when cases have been reported how they have taken action against that.

Also, we were blamed most of the time for bombing by the Air Force and for air strikes. We had a very clear process that any air strikes were undertaken only after the approval of the Air Force Commander. When the request comes it’s comes all the way up to the Air Force Commander and when we were planning the target we had a very clear procedure. Not only the normal digital maps but using aerial photographs and also at this time a thorough survey of the area was done by using the UAVs and the beach craft of the target area to see that civilians are not present and to avoid places like hospitals and Kovils and churches etc. We did not depend only on the information and normal maps. We had the ability of doing a thorough search and surveillance on the target. So all these targets were taken on after a thorough surveillance of the area.

All the attacks were filmed by these aircraft and we have reviewed all these attacks even at the Security Council each and every air strike that is why even our Pilots were very well trained and they were capable of taking pin point targets and that is why they were able to target Tamil Chelvam. If you can go even today to that location you will see how precise that attack was because without damaging any of the surrounding places they were able to pin point that house purely because of the thorough knowledge of the target. Surveillance through videos available and UAVs and proper briefing and taking the target so this process took place throughout and the targets, when the request came whether it was from the intelligence agencies or the ground troops, it came all the way up to the Air Force Commander, they had a process of studying the target purely to prevent civilian casualties or attacking the wrong place. This is a very, important aspect, we used UAVs to a great extent for this purpose and we were able to prevent civilian casualties because of that.

So you can see from the very beginning there was a very clear military planning parallel to the military plan we had a plan for humanitarian assistance  whether it is for the no fire zone, the policy level, the zero civilian casualties, restrictions on use of heavy weapons, the training of soldiers, all these were done to prevent civilian casualties. Of course in a situation like a military campaign like this and with an equally strong terrorist group fighting and when they were using civilians as human shields to protect them there could be cases of civilian casualties. But from the government side we have taken serious note of this and taken action to prevent and address the other issues  that can come up such as supplying food and looking after the IDPs. The majority of the work was done by the services and for this purpose we had appointed a Civil Liaison Officers in all these areas to work with the civilian counterparts and the GA’s had to see that when issues come up from and then to address these issues at each and every level, supply of food or essential services, medicine. At the latter stages we have accepted anybody who was willing to provide medical assistance.  For that matter, the Indian Medical team came before the whole thing was over and we positioned them at Weli Oya, where they were evacuating from the sea, when they came they were brought to Kokilai, there itself we had the Indian medical team and medical doctors and they are the people who received them ( the IDP’s).We wanted to be transparent  on the whole issue and they(Indian medical team)  are the people who received them, treated them and sent to other places and similarly they were from various medical organizations, international organizations, they readily accepted them and sent them to IDP camps wherever the requirement was so that they had the opportunity of talking to them, the casualties, discussing with the IDPs that came out from these places.

I want to show that there was nothing in these areas we were hiding and we wanted to be transparent the whole time. The IDPs after they came out of the LTTE controlled areas, the Army, the ICRC and other civil organizations, and international organizations  had access to them so that they had the opportunity to treat them or feed them accommodate them and there was no issue or problem from our side. In that way we have taken a lot of measures to minimise the humanitarian situation that could have come upon by this. I briefly discussed these things but I think it would be useful to get the views of the Essential Services Commissioner in detail as to how many ships we sent to Jaffna and the Wanni.

It started from the very beginning. Actually there were three areas, first the Eastern province, the Jaffna peninsular and the Wanni area. So throughout the 3 ½ years the Essential Service Commissioner sent all these food items and other material to these areas, the Jaffna peninsular was a very difficult one because the only access was through the ships and finding ships was a problem but the government took all measures to provide ships on hire to send these items which included fertilizer, building materials, all those this to Jaffna peninsular throughout.  Once the conflict started though the WFP and ICRC we sent these convoys to the LTTE controlled areas and that whole process was in charge of the Essential Services Commissioner. He could give details as to how many items were sent and the convoys sent in there.

C.R. de Silva:: Mr. Rajapaksa last weekend when some of the LTTE cadres who testified before us they said that when they were crossing to the cleared areas they were guided by the army so as to avoid land mines. Now  have you given instructions to the army, I want to know whether you’ll had given instructions to the army to help these people or help the persons who were crossing over to be guided by the army personnel in order to avoid land mines.

Rajapaksa: Actually the order given in that document was also to provide a safe passage and to see that they are not shot at by mistake and see that lanes were clear. It was for everybody, civilians or whoever came across to this side whether they were combatants or civilians they were all provided with a safe passage, it was done by the military.

C.R. de Silva: I asked that question because former LTTE cadres who testified before us said this. So that why I wanted to know whether you’ll had given specific instructions on this aspect.

Rajapaksa: We have given specific instructions on this aspect to provide a safe passage and assistance for them to come out of the LTTE control and that is why actually by providing that we had to suffer casualties. A good example is Kilinochchi one where when we allowed these people to come and remember this is the front line, we knew that a suicide cadre can come out of that place and a suicide cadre came and exploded himself and killed the civilians as well as the service personnel.

Paranagama: It was revealed that the army has set up new camps in the area. Have you taken over some lands belonging to the people there to set up these new army security centres.

Rajapaksa: New camps in the sense that we had to clear the whole area in the Wanni and the strategy was to position military contingents everywhere in the Wanni and after the war was over we started the re-settlement of the people and clearance of the area, the land mines clearance and then we gradually re-located the security forces to different places but we ensured that when we re-located people they are not in private lands owned by the people. When we bring the settlers to the area and re-settle in the area we ensured that they go back to their own houses and even the government buildings we had to occupy. Obviously we had to occupy certain government buildings at the very beginning, schools like things, but we released all these to the authorities and we established security centres. Actually we did not want to take the army into camps because those were security centres on government land and not on any private land and even government buildings that we had to use whether it was a school or Pradesha Sabha building or whatever, we have released. May be there are some because of the delay in building our own accommodation but the majority of these have been released and we have given an order to the military to release as soon as possible even the government and other buildings. The military will be located only on government lands and the buildings constructed by the army, not private lands

Paranagama: You have not initiated the housing scheme for army personnel in those areas.

Rajapaksa: No, army personnel’s housing in the sense  private distribution of houses.

 Paranagama: What they say is you are taking large acres of land to build houses and for settlement of army personnel on these lands.

Rajapaksa: These are government military camps, military accommodation, not houses or anything for the army personnel. We have not done or we have no intention of doing that. These are military camps to house the barracks, accommodation for the soldiers and officers, not settlements, even not doing anything leave alone the soldiers we have not done any settlements for the civilians and all the people who have gone back to some areas were the people who were the original settlers, we have not sponsored any settlements in these areas.

C.R. de Silva: Have you at any stage decided to construct army barracks on lands which were owned by private individuals.

Rajapaksa:  No, we have not but there is a issue in the Jaffna Peninsular alone but not a single in Wanni, because we have enough government land but in the Jaffna peninsular that is an issue and we are addressing that which is the high security zone in Palalay and KKS and it’s a long standing problem. Because in 2000 or so we have taken a lot of land owned by private people surrounding Palalay, because obviously they had to do that for security reasons but that also we are taking steps to identify exactly what we want and we are now in the process of surveying the land and there are private properties in that area definitely we will buy that and pay compensation to them. Also we will give alternative land for them and give them house. That is in Jaffna.  Now in Mullativu area we have acquired some lands like Prabakaran’s bunkers, the LTTE headquarters, those have been acquired.

C.R. de Silva: This part of state land.

C.R. de Silva: We do not know whether they6 have built on state land or private land, those are the headquarters when Prabakaran had built his bunker. I don’t think anybody will claim these lands.

Paliahakkara:  Your last comment clarifies some of the things that were raised during our visit to Vavuniya. That is a very clear position. I just want to ask you because you have given a very good description of the humanitarian action. We had a visit to the detainees Omanthai School and some of the hardcore cadres who are undergoing investigation and some rehabilitation in the adjoining camp, they said how the security forces helped them through a surrendering process avoiding pit falls and land mines areas and so forth. Since then has been a lot of speculation, for the benefit of the Commission could you give a description of that surrendering process because the detainees themselves gave very detailed description of how they were asked to say for themselves and then underwent a very methodical process and so during this procedure have you or your field commanders encountered any difficulties in that area.

Rajapaksa: Actually immediately after the defeat of the LTTE close to 11,000 combatants surrendered and these people included various categories, some according to their statements and some had only one month’s involvement, some six months, some one year, some long term involvement with the LTTE. We immediately appointed a Rehabilitation Commissioner General in charge of rehabilitation and we decided to rehabilitate these ex combatants. We had a program drawn up and in fact IOM wanted to assist us in that. The Ministry of Defence signed an MOU with them to give assistance and in that process they wanted their officials to be present with them and also their officers to categorize these combatants to various levels to the intensity of their involvement and they arranged some of their officers to visit Colombia where they are conducting a rehabilitation program but halfway unfortunately because of the pressure  I think there was an issue between ICRC and the IOM they had to give up this whole assistance program to us.

We continued with government funds and it was very successful in that we took about 500 child soldiers and brought to Colombo Hindu College. We assisted them with the assistance of the Hindu Congress. They volunteered to assist in the rehabilitation program and all of them have now gone after 1 year of rehabilitation. We handed them over to their parents and I have come to know that nearly 80 children have come back to continue their education at the Hindu College. Then the others were categorized into different categories depending on their involvement, but all these were on their own account what they have said. We have made four rehabilitation centres we are maintaining in Vavuniya, Polonnaruwa area depending on involvement they go through a process of rehabilitation for six months, maybe one year, some may be two years. They are trained in various skills because we want to send them back to society, so that they can earn a living. We are training them on various skills, including heavy machinery operations, carpentry, and masonry.  It was very successful but we had to come across a lot of difficulties because of the funding and various problems but still we managed to do that and it was very successful.

And at the same time we had identified with various times. It is true that initially they surrendered to us but we did not know their involvement but from intelligence agencies and also from the interrogation of other cadres so that when we came to know about certain involvement of certain people. In rehabilitation camps its true that there have been certain occasions when we had to separate them and take them into custody, taking them out of the rehabilitation process so there are about close to 1000 people taken out that we have to investigate and go through the normal prosecution process that we think that they are involved in much killings and various activities that we can’t immediately put them into society. But the majority of them we have released after six months, one year after the rehabilitation process that we have released them and have re-settled them in these areas and they are with the other civilians, with their families in the villages but I think it was a very successful program. I have met many of them sometimes in various places and I think it is a successful process.

Chanmugam: The restoration of civilians is a critical challenge particularly in those areas where the LTTE themselves controlled the administration. How do you see the progress in transferring civilian administration as time goes by?

Rajapaksa: Actually in all these areas the civilian administration is functioning, even during under the LTTE administration, all these government officials were there though they had the influence of the LTTE. But the District Secretary and all those in any other district, all the government were there and in that way they are functioning and in that way the District Secretaries have worked even during the conflict time; but still I think without the assistance of service personnel they are unable to handle most of these duties due to various difficulties but gradually and that’s why I think the President wanted to have a cabinet meeting in Kilinochchi to encourage the civilian machinery and officers to work. Here also I want to mention that gradually take the military out of civilian contact but that does not mean the complete control; of because I have placed military camps all over the country, whether it is in Hambantota or even Matara.

Also knowing the development of the LTTE for the last 30 years and also knowing the suffering we underwent we do not want to see a terrorist group coming up again so that I have to take certain security measures and for that I have to keep a security presence in these areas, not only the army, the navy especially. As you see the amount of arms and ammunition, the weaponry, the armoury they have collected over the years, these things are not built in Sri Lanka they have come from all over the world and they have come from the sea, so you could see that there is a possibility that still the international network is in fact there to a certain extent, the fund raising is going on, the other networks is there up to a certain extent so we should not allow for somebody to procure arms and weapons in some other place and bring them to Sri Lanka. We have to see that it is prevented; therefore we have to position certain troops to prevent that, security of the coastal areas, security of the sea.

We also have to gradually transfer the normal maintenance of the law and order in these areas to the Police. Thus, I am opening up new Police stations and at the same time I want to see that Police Officers could speak Tamil so I have taken measures to establish a Tamil Training School and conducting training for Police Officers. At the same time, I want to recruit Police Officers from that and I have already initiated and the first batch is under training of 500 officers from Jaffna peninsular, 500 youths, We openly advertised for that and about 6000 applicants were there for the interview and 500 were selected. The first batch is at Kalutara Police Training School undergoing training and after the training they will go to Police stations in these areas. So that Tamil speaking Police Officers will be available in those areas. I have relaxed and taken out all those military check points and all those check points in Jaffna, especially in Jaffna town have been handed over to the Police.

Of course there will be certain duties given to the military like the domination of the jungle in that area which is very important thing as we know how the LTTE started their training in bases in Mullatibvi and Pooneryn jungles so we have to protect those areas, survey and domination of the jungle and sea. Those important military duties will be carried out to prevent any terrorist movement coming up again out other than that the normal law and order will be transferred to the Police and also at the same time we are assisting the government agents and the government servants, the military is giving all the assistance for them to function for whatever assistance they need we are helping them

Paranagama: Before the conflict Muslim families and Sinhala families lived in the North and various other areas and during the troubled time they fled away from those areas.  How much of those Muslim and Sinhalese families have returned.

Rajapaksa: Jaffna peninsular and the Northern Province is very few, little by little some of them are coming because I know when I was a young officer in Jaffna there were over 20,000 at that time, in Jaffna town alone there was the Sinhalese Maha Vidyalaya and there were 20,000 people, Sinhalese were living in Jaffna, and over and above there were the bakeries, Chunnakam and various places, all the bakeries were run by Sinhalese and in Mulativu there were a lot of Sinhalese families, the farmers were coming from Padaviya side but these people have still not come, very few families had come near that Madu church area there are some settlers but very few have still come but in the Eastern province in  some of the villages they have come back.

Paranagama: Do you think that the environment is now good for them to come back?

Rajapaksa: Definitely, I think they should come back and not only that I think I have asked even the UGC to send students into these areas. I know the Jaffna University Medical College is a National University and not a university for one particular community. When the students were sent to Jaffna Medical College for example they did not go, the degree they get from the Jaffna Medical College but they are attached to Colombo and various places. In fact I met three people when I went to Senapura Rehabilitation camp, the officer introduced me to three people who said they were LTTE doctors. I spoke to them and asked them what do you mean by LTTE doctors, they said they are trained at the Jaffna Medical College, they are paid because they had vacancies , because the other Sinhalese and Muslim students did not go who were posted to that university, so  these vacancies were there and they said we bought those vacancies by paying the medical college, of course I don’t think they will get the MBBS but they had trained there so we should send because otherwise the integration will not take place.

Paranagama:  So in other words employment must be mixed otherwise you cannot bring about reconciliation?

Rajapaksa: Yes, but it did not happen. If you allow only one community, I do not think it is healthy to do that.

C.R. de Silva: You participated at this meeting of the Consultative Committee for Humanitarian Assistance.

Rajapaksa: Every meeting because it was held at the Ministry of Defence although it is headed by the Minister, I was there because most of the issues concerned with the Ministry of Defence  whether it was allowing people to go or allowing essential items to go, evacuation etc.

C.R. de Silva: There were representatives from the European Commission, the Ambassador of Japan, Germany, then there were a number of UN organizations present at these meetings. At any of these minutes, now you have the minutes here, was there any complaint about human rights excesses by the armed forces.

Rajapaksa:  No, there were no complaints but of course there were the issues, but those are not the problems they have either to go into these areas.

C.R. de Silva: Were there any complaints of human rights abuses by the state personnel serving the armed services.

Rajapaksa: No not at all. In fact if you go through you will see that at one meeting they will come out with all these requirements they have but if you see at the next meeting they are commenting on because allowing these things to go or commenting on those issues. There were no complaints as such.

Paliahakkara: Mr. Secretary another issue that there has been so much discussion about the last part of the conflict, I think the human shield the LTTE created was perhaps unprecedented, I don’t think in any other internal conflict a government security forces would have had to deal with such a huge massive hostage situation basically and at the Security Council and UN these were brought up and the government declared three  no fire zones and various international entities appealed to the LTTE to let these people to go, they didn’t, and they in fact the government s contention, I recall at that time those no fire zones allowed LTTE to hold people further because some of the detainees and IDPs at the Menik Farm described to us how they escaped this situation and how the forces helped.  What was the forces experience because you have given a statement that you were not using heavy weapons nor air power was being used? Please describe to the Commission how was this handled and what the experience were because it is relevant to our Mandate because that is also a part of the post conflict consolidation and reconciliation process.

Rajapaksa: Our intention was to get close and closer to the civilians so that they could come into the government controlled areas so that was the intention and every time that what when we declared the first no fire zone and we gradually came to the borders of that no fire zone that allowed the civilians to come out of that place to the government controlled area. The very first day about 20 to 25 thousand people came in, then only the LTTE realised it and started firing at the people who were trying to cross over to the government controlled area.

We have used loudspeakers and announced to come out and we indicated safe areas for them to come and we dropped leaflets into these areas giving even the maps indicating where they could come. At the very first time but when they moved into the second area it was a very small area where the LTTE could guard them and also it is surrounded by water so that’s a difficulty we had and the difficulty the civilians had, because they had to cross the lagoon and come to the controlled areas.  Again our strategy was gradually come closer to the area so that they can cross. This was very difficult and we scarified a lot of our soldiers because of that, it was a very difficult period and that’s why we took such a long  time, even the public was agitated as to why we are taking so long time to clear the rest. In order to prevent deaths and casualties we took a very long time to clear a very small area compared to the other areas the speed in which we cleared other areas and of course when we gradually squeezed them and reduced the area they could not hold any longer. That’s why they allowed the civilians to come out because they did not have the control any longer of the civilians because it’s too small for them. It was a very difficult operation in the sense because we have restricted as you said the use of indirect fire and at the same time we were moving very slowly, taking care of the whole situation by that we suffered casualties of our soldiers.

C.R de Silva: On the last issue of the human shields as you said it was an unprecedented situation where the civilian is used deliberately by a non state actor in armed conflict. Given the unprecedented nature of that exercise do you think that it received the international attention? True, I think it was condemned by the Security Council but beyond that given the very nature of that act of deliberate use of civilians in armed conflict did it receive the attention or the condemnation of the international community at large and if not what was, in your view would be the failure to condemn?

Rajapaksa:  In think it got the attention of the international community but they could have done much more the international community and the UN to force the LTTE at least to release these people. But what happened was the other way, they have put a lot of pressure on the President and the government to cease the operation and they said to allow the civilians to come out. Of course you know what would have happened if we had ceased the operation then still Prabakaran and all the LTTE leadership would be living and they would have started the whole thing again. This is what happened throughout the last 30 years and this is why from the very beginning I said we have to understand the magnitude of the whole issue and the strength of the LTTE.  There may be some international officials and the politicians might not understand and may not know, they might be  thinking we have quenched a small growth of people and it was very unfortunate that when they put pressure on the government rather than the LTTE to cease the operations. If we had completely ceased the operation it would have been a different story and because of that I think they had the communication with the outside world and also they had communication with their people, for example KP who was in Malaysia they were communicating and KP was in turn communicating with the international community and probably they thought that the international community might save them so that delayed the whole process and these people used that for their advantage.

Hangawatte: When we visited one of the LTTE camps where they keep young LTTE combatants, probably between the ages of 20 to 50 may be around that, there we found that they undergo therapeutic programs, rehabilitation and we also learnt that about 30% have already being released. The detainees that we talked with quite alarmingly, I did not expect that, were very appreciate of the military apparently, they told us how they came, some of them showed us they were injured they were disabled, how they were treated in hospitals etc. how some military carried them although they were combatants and of course they always keep on saying what we want right now is freedom, you can monitor us but we like to be free so that we can do something and earn a living. When I talked to the Officer in charge of that detention camp he told me that there is a Presidential order to have all of them released within 2 years from the date of detention so already one year is gone and he will have zero detainees is that correct?

Rajapaksa: Yes, that is what I said we categorized them into various groups and some were released after six months, some were released after one year and some will be released after completion of two years because we want to give them some skills and train them. At the same time you know these people were indoctrinated with this LTTE ideology and also the Ealam concept and the separatism, so we want to see that see that we conduct to show them that there is no need to take weapons.

Hangawatte: I noticed they were very appreciate because they thought they would be killed or taken before Courts and imprisoned for a long period of time.

Rajapaksa: The government always tries to convert these people into the right path from the top even the top people who had agreed, who have understood to work with the normal democratic system, that is why I think the success of the military of converting KP. Some have various issues but I think a lot of analyst that I have spoken to think that it is a great thing that we have done converting him understanding the necessity and the danger of carrying arms and the necessity that we have to work as one nation with the government. That is a very important thing

Hangawatte: The older detainees in other camps it seems their main concern was that they wanted to be reunited with the families and because some of them were fathers etc. so that seem to be their main concern.

Rajapaksa:  We have provide a lot of facilities, say for example there were recently we conducted that mass marriage ceremony where about 50 couples, we are allowing their families to get together, we released the elderly people, children we have released and people who we think that had little involvement we have gradually trained and released so the process is going on.

Hangawatte: Another question I have is, not going into detail but based on some observations at least I made or may be the others made talking to the civilian population, IDPs etc, there was, Mr. Rajapaksa I am mentioning this because you are in charge of the Police and law enforcement situation some of them complained about the law enforcement situation a problem which is happening there seems to be a very serious situation of concern I would say;  what is happening apparently is that there is a resurgence of things that were happening while they were under LTTE control such as extortion, kidnapping etc. kidnapping for ransom and they blamed their own leader and political leaders and then again I was surprised to hear them praising the President and they think the President is the only one who could help them but they are very angry with their own leaders and they think they are gangs or something or whatever their supporters are engaged in but he did not have any evidenced as such so I wonder whether that situation can be rectified.

Rajapaksa: Actually when you normalise a situation normal crimes also start happening ,a good example is when I removed the military check points in Jaffna peninsular in Jaffna town the normal petty crimes increased and in fact they requested me to put the military back so when the situation normalises. Those things happen it is not up to a magnitude of that although somebody might  and that also we have taken action more than in other areas to prevent these things but this is another important thing that I think I missed is the taking arms out of these various groups they were complaining. For example immediately after the war was over, the next day I gave instructions to take all the weapons out of these group, for example they had some people called the Karuna group then the Pillaiyan group all these ex LTTE cadres even EPDP, PLOTE EPRLF, all these people supported the government for a long period, they were supporting the government against the LTTE but of course at that time they had to carry weapons otherwise they can’t survive for their own security but now I have taken all the weapons and disarmed all these groups, everybody I have disarmed given instructions to search them. Those there were situations that they carry weapons and go in Vavuniya and now only the Army, Navy, Air Force and Police can carry weapons not these groups. So we taken and we have disarmed these groups which I see as a bold step because immediately after the war ended we did that, we told them we could provide, the Police would provide security for them and there was no necessity for them to any longer carry weapons because that could lead to these types of problems and also I have taken the Police and arrested many cases. These are cases that have been reported which we have inquired, investigated and taken measures to arrest them in these areas. Though they blame, those are normal criminals and may be at one stage they belonged to one of these groups but the majority of the abductions and extortions were done by the LTTE  actually and  now of course they blame various groups but are actually not supported by their leaders but on their own these criminal groups

Hangawatte:  But they seem to think, of them told us secretly that some of these are former LTTE members who are now with their political leaders functioning as officials etc and they think that they are behind and they afraid to even talk about them, they were so afraid that if somebody gets to know they would be killed so they didn’t even want to talk about it.

Rajapaksa: Yes actually there was no killing like that for the past one year but there are lots of people giving information and that’s how we have taken action to arrest this; but at the same time there are normal theft and robberies that sort of thing is also going on and that is why even in the re-settled areas we had a case of killing a person just to take the gold bangle and all those things, they cut the hand and that’s the normal incident that took place.

Hangawatte: Some traders were talking about extortion “Kappan they call”.

Rajapaksa: That has been there in others areas too but we are taking lot of action to control that it’s not only in Vavuniya it also happens in other areas as well even in Colombo.

Hangawatte: Apparently, they have to pay a percentage of their paddy income, they said that it was worse before but these things are now appearing. I wonder if law enforcement can be instructed to take action.

Rajapaksa: We have given very clear instructions and we are taking a lot of action specially in the Eastern province we have been very successful in controlling that and I think even in Vavuniya to a certain extent we have been successful controlling this but if we get all information  it would be very helpful to arrest this situation.

C.R de Silva: Some of these persons in IDP camps have expressed concern that the re-settlement process was being delayed because of the de-mining operations which were not concluded or which were also being delayed. Is there any prospect of these de-mining operations being concluded without delay because their concern is they want to get back especially to the Kilinochchi area.

Rajapaksa: Yes 90% of the IDPs have been re-settled, it’s actually the Pudukkudirupu area that’s the area that you will find a lot of lands mine’s because the last stages of the war fought there and lots of IEDS, booby traps and mines. Now here also it is rather unfortunate where you have double standards with certain agencies as well. I can remember now, this re-settling process once you have cleared the area of land mine’s and then UNHCR has to give a clearance certificate to re-settle the people. For them to issue that they have to ensure that there is absolute security without land mines and also basic requirements like water and basic needs must be there so that they could be resettled so after that they will issue the clearance certificate to resettle these people. I can remember in the Eastern province when we had to resettle, UNHCR was taking a long time to give these clearance certificates. I don’t know why and at one stage they had complained to the government regarding the resettlement of people too fast but when it came to Wanni at the first stages they had a misconception they thought completely that the government wants to keep these people longer period without resettling so when they realised that when we put our full effort and you see 75% of the land mine clearance is done by the military all the other INGOs and NGOs can’t work like that, do you know they work the normal eight hours but the army works 24 hours so 75% of the cleared areas are done by the Army engineers.  Now in fact UNHCR is complaining that we are resettling them too fast that we are taking risk by resettling them too fast. We don’t want to keep them as it is very easy for us once they go because maintaining these camps is a difficult thing but we are doing everything possible, we are training our troops and engineers in land mine clearance and daily increasing the number and we have purchased more equipment also to clear these areas.

Paranagama: Can you give your comments on the failure of the Ceasefire Agreement.

Rajapaksa: That was a complete failure. When I took over there were 3000 violations of the ceasefire agreement by the LTTE at that time. It was an agreement which even the monitoring committee which they had, they did not have a jurisdiction of implementing anything they were just reporting that violation 1, violation 2, that all they could do and its sounds very ineffective and of course the whole issue depends on Prabakaran’s mentality he was not a person who was willing to go for a peace process his main aim was to achieve whatever he could and buy time.  His tactics was always, regroup, re-organise and collect arms, ammunition for that purpose and his man aim was to attain this whole thing by military means even to the last minute he thought he could counter attack and restart the whole thing, he tried several times to come back to the jungle area and restart the whole thing. I am sure the military part you are interested we can produce a separate presentation on the military aspect of it. I think it would be better if we could do a combined one from various levels, the strategically and the at a tactical level and various things we can do a combined presentation.

C. R. de Silva: I think if you can arrange some of your senior officers to make a military presentation especially we can see it on video the entire operation so that it would be very helpful for us in evaluating what really took place especially towards the last stages of the war.

Rajapaksa: I think that would be valuable to give a briefing.  I have given some briefing but that’s a presentation.

C.R. de Silva: I understand that the Army has a video of the last stages of the operation that took place. The UAV pictures.  

Rajapaksa: Give me the dates and I will arrange that.  A combined presentation would be better. 

C.R. de Silva: What we want is the most effective presentation so that we can understand as to what really happened.

Rajapaksa: It is also important to understand the soldier’s point of view the difficulties they went through from the very beginning, the delaying tactics the LTTE has adopted, the ditches, the bunds and how they have strengthened these with land mines and the other obstacles. IEDs and to what extent they have used indirect fire and the amount of artillery and mortars the LTTE used against the soldiers at every stage and you could see the amount of artillery they have fired during this whole period it is almost equivalent to the amount the forces had fired so that shows over the years and so it shows the complete failure of the cease fire agreement, how during that period they bought all these equipment to the level of having a small air force bringing air craft and so all this happened during the ceasefire agreement period they brought all this sophisticated equipment into the area.

Hangawatte: Another thing that we observed especially when we spoke with the civilians, mothers, fathers etc. injured and so and a so forth there seem to be at least, this is an observation not a conclusion, we still have to speak to them and more, but still as an observation that’s of course tremendous suffering which is quite normal after a post conflict war situation that does not mean it is good but it is.  But what they are asking for is, basically they are not asking for too much and just a plot of land, may be a cow, some chickens a little bit of money, they say they are hardworking people we can get this going and we will o it and of course they say they don’t want these mega projects of course the mega projects will have benefits later of course I can understand from their point of view they don’t see it right now but they say they don’t need these mega projects but nobody seem to come to help us, the government gives us this and that and thereafter that it and you know the government also has limitations in finance I think  but there seems to be a disconnect between the media, the international community , political leaders, Tamil political leaders as especially and the victims who are suffering. They do not seem to appreciate what they are asking for it’s not what we hear.

Rajapaksa: That is not true. There are lots of action taken by the government organizations and the GA’s at various levels, but the lethargy of the government servants may be one reason and I don’t blame these people because they have been under the LTTE for a long period we do not know most of these people who are responsible. All what you have said we have attended to in most of the areas where the people have resettled in those villages but of course the needs are so.  

Hangawatte: we actually saw on the last day of our visit this one military unit must really commend what we saw and may be all of us were impressed with this young Brigadier very different as he understood exactly what the ordinary level need at that level at the lowest level his soldiers were working side by side with the civilians helping them to put up their homes not standing and watching and ordering they were carrying timber. They did not show us but is something we saw whilst driving around it is not something they showed us.

Rajapaksa: he has restored one tank and almost finished restoring the other tank and both would be ready for the maha season. He has restored a nice school and now there are 3700 children attending that school and so on and so forth. The best thing I saw was how his officers were helping in putting up these houses, they are not just brick and water houses obviously and he told us because they get these tin roofs from the government and some from the UN etc. and since there is no labour cost they work together with these people who need homes and they only have to buy a few items likes nails whatever and each homes cost Rs.600 to 700 and that about 6 to 7 dollars and I was wondering where are all this from and God help them  with this and people were very happy with that and there is a Buddhist Priest from United States who is building something like 150 homes the cost of each one is Rs.375,000 so there are examples that can be followed. In all these areas it is the military who is helping them, regularly they have the medical camps, helping them to build houses which is the main thing in these areas, on other issues such as transportation, all these things they are helping but of course the issues are such big that for so many years the whole area has been neglected for 30 years, the canals are neglected, the tanks are neglected so all these things will have to be rebuilt but life has started in these areas.  

C.R de Silva: Actually the Army is very pro-active, but I cannot same the same about the government.  

Rajapaksa: This is one issue actually.

C. R de Silva: You can see a tremendous difference between the Public Servants and the Army, the Army is trying to do something. I must say there is a sense of apathy on the part of the public servants in that area 

Hangawatte: This is not just one person or two persons, we are talking of a large group of persons individually as well as groups, they just need right now these basic needs, they say we would right to have political freedom, we would like to have devolution of power, we would like to live as one community, one nation, we don’t want a separate state anymore but all those objectives can come later but give us what we need now to relieve the suffering, they need hope, they say right now that they have no hope when their children have no schools, for example we talked to the GA, the GA says he needs more teachers particularly English and Maths so there is a shortage of those and they can’t find adequate number of teachers, they want education for their children and they say if I can educate my child I have hope, if I can get the basis needs I have hope I can build, this is what they are asking for, so it’s a very sad story its heart breaking really.

Rajapaksa: For the last 30 years, the whole system  was not functioning  and although we were paying for all these, school teachers and grama sevakas  and everybody the government was paying for them but still they were under the LTTE control and there is a another side of the whole thing, nearly 12,000 people surrendered, they go through a rehabilitation programme but we do not know how much the people who have not surrendered are not identified and they are still  and they are worst categories than that who may still be having the same LTTE ideology  and they have been brainwashed for so many years it could even include some of the government servants we don’t know but that’s the danger and they may not be fully with the government to support whatever the things that go to them, the money allocated to them for various work they must use that and we depend on the lower level government servants there, so this is another danger that we have seen, people who have not been trained or identified.

Paliahakkara: There is simply a lack of dialogue between the GAs and the people; like the issue of land, the Chairman was trying to resolve that issue with the GA and also they were very happy that someone came to talk to them.  

Rajapaksa: There are a lot of people attending to these things not that and everywhere there is a military officer and they are coordinating a lot of work with them and also the Presidential Task force go and have a lot of meetings with them and trying to help them and also the President is sending a lot of politicians into these areas. But you know if you talk to anybody they start with a complaint but of course there are a lot of things to do.

C. R de Silva: Mr.Rajapaksa on behalf of the Commission I must thank for that very clear presentation you made and we certainly had the benefit of the ideas you have expressed very clearly and it is certainly going to help us in formulating our recommendations, so thank you very much for coming over here and helping us in our deliberations so that we can dip into your experience on many matters in formulating our recommendations.

 

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