12.03.2019/11.34- 12.02
(மாண் புமிகுபிரதிச்சபாநாயகர்அவரக் ள்) (The Hon. Deputy Speaker)
The next speaker is the Hon. Rajavarothiam Sampanthan. You have 25 minutes.
ගරුනිය ෝජ්‍යකථානා කතුමා
ගරුරාජ්‍වයරෝදි ම්සම්පන්දන්මහතා
(மாண் புமிகு ராஜவரராதயம் சம்பந்தன்) (The Hon. Rajavarothiam Sampanthan)
Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I thought I had 30 minutes. Let us see how we go along, Sir.


I want to commence my speech by congratulating the Hon. Minister of Finance who has presented his Budget in a very unfavourable economic environment. He has made substantial allocations for the North-East of the country considering the fact this area had been much affected by a war for a very long period of time, in the matter of housing particularly, and also other development activities including the direction of a Special Fund into which contributions could be made from time to time to enable essential development activities in the North-East to be commenced and executed.
We are told that the country is neck-deep in debt – both domestic and foreign. Debt servicing and Defence Expenditure almost ten years after the war came to an end continue to be our biggest items of expenditure.
The two sides, the Government and the Opposition, the former Government, blame each other. But, we all know that they are both to blame. The civil war was a big drain on our economy. If the two sides agreed on a political solution, the war could have been avoided. This was well within the realm of the possible. Moderate Tamil political leadership were ready to cooperate and were deeply committed to a fair political solution.
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A Prabhakaran would never have emerged. The Tamil people are not a belligerent people. We have deep, cultural and religious values. The country was devastated on account of this great folly. It took more than 25 years to end the war. The entire world, the international community supported you to defeat the LTTE. The LTTE was banned in Sri Lanka and it was banned all over the world. You made commitments that you will evolve on an acceptable political solution once the war came to an end, but that has not yet happened. Despite Tamil moderates once again giving you the fullest support to achieve that, Tamil people are committed to a just reasonable political solution and we will do all that we can to achieve that objective. We are committed to ensuring that if the process of finding a political solution ends in failure, the failure is not attributed to us. We will remain committed to a political solution within the framework of an undivided, indivisible country. Meanwhile there has been corruption, profligacy, waste and egocentric projects at the country’s expense. Both sides keep blaming each other; that is all that you do.
All of this has a very bad impact on the country’s economy. You do not know how to overcome your difficulties. You have to somehow operate and manage. You are unable to attract foreign or even domestic investment in a big way. Who will want to invest in a country that does not keep its domestic or international commitments even after more than 25 years of civil war? The war had been brought to an end but the causes that led to the origin of the war have not yet been addressed. Everyone in the country and in the whole world acknowledges that.
Many underdeveloped countries in the world have made progress. We often talk about Singapore which in the early 1950s, wanted to model its development on Sri Lanka. Singapore’s success was on account of its discipline and its commitment to excellence, to quality, to honesty and to equality. You are judged in Singapore only on your merits, nothing else. I do not know whether
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Sri Lankans can emulate Singapore. You cannot do it by word of mouth. You need to achieve it in action. Take other countries in our region, in South Asia and Southeast Asia, which are making progress. If I might pick one, Bangladesh in the South Asian Region. Many factories that were closed down in Sri Lanka, when we lost international economic concessions on account of our poor conduct and when we breached international commitments, moved to Bangladesh. Today the international community is yet hopeful that it can be helpful to us because they feel that as a democratic country, we may still turn around. Sustaining democracy has been our only achievement. There have been efforts to subvert democracy, but they have not been successful and those efforts have been thwarted. I think, Sir, we should praise our ordinary people for that. What do we need to do to change the situation? We do not have true peace. Can we call ourselves a country in which all people irrespective of who they are, the Sinhalese, the Tamils or the Muslims, are treated alike? It has been 70 years since we achieved Independence. This situation cannot continue indefinitely.
What needs to be done? Powers of governance need to be shared within an undivided, indivisible Sri Lanka so as to ensure that all people feel equal, that they have the sense of belonging to Sri Lanka and that Sri Lanka belongs to them. This is how multicultural, multiethnic and pluralistic societies are governed in several parts of the world; in Asia, Europe, Africa, America and Australia. All these countries prosper because they have peace, stability and harmony domestically amongst their own people.
Why are we reluctant to do the right thing? Are the people of this country being misled and frightened by some who have their own political agendas to capture power politically?
We have been actively engaged in the process of constitutional reform from the time of the ethnic holocaust in 1983. The 13th Amendment to the Constitution constitutionally embodying
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initial proposals for the sharing of powers of governance was enacted in 1987/1988. The 13th Amendment was not a solution. It was the beginning of a solution, thirty years ago. Since then, the process has been a continuing process. During President R. Premadasa’s time – the Mangala Moonesinghe Select Committee Proposals. During President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga’s time, the 2000 August Proposals brought by her to Parliament. During President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s time, the Multi Ethnic Experts Committee Report, the APRC process – the Tissa Vitarana Report as the Chairman of the APRC and during President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s time, the Resolution converting Parliament into a Constitutional Assembly, the setting up of a Steering Committee, Sub Committees and their reports submitted to the Constitutional Assembly and debated in that Assembly. Much work has been done and there has been built through these several processes a great deal of consensus moving constitutional reform much beyond the 13th Amendment to the Constitution giving us the opportunity to derive the benefit of all the work that has been done so far.
Are we going to throw all this away and take the risk of the conflict being resumed, or are we going to do our duty and arrive at a just and reasonable conclusion. Do we not have a duty to study all the proposals that have been framed so far and in the interests of the country and its people make some wise decision. We must remember that all parties have been involved in these processes. Some have been under UNP governance and some have been under SLFP governance. Both President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe are committed to bringing this constitutional reform process to an acceptable and satisfactory conclusion. This has been their publicly stated position. The two of them, President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe represent the SLFP and the UNF respectively. There is a general view that former President, Mahinda Rajapaksa should also be a
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part of the process. Several Hon. Members in the Opposition have conveyed that view to us. We are in complete agreement with that view and we would appeal to former President, Mahinda Rajapaksa to be supportive of the process. That could infuse the process with greater confidence.
What former President Mahinda Rajapaksa said and done so far, particularly, when he was in power has in several instances being strongly supportive of the process. I would draw the attention of Hon. Members to such instances. I do this only for the reason that it will be helpful to all of us. You will observe that there is no difference between what the former President said and did and what is happening now.
I refer, Sir, to some of these matters because they are important. I refer to the speech that President Mahinda Rajapaksa made at the inaugural Meeting of the All Party Representative Committee called the “APRC” and the Multi-Ethnic Experts Committee on 11th July, 2006.
I quote from what he said, Sir. He said, I quote:
“Our objective must be to develop a just settlement within an undivided Sri Lanka.”
He went on to say, Sir, I quote:
“People in their own localities must take charge of their destiny and control their politico- economic environment. Central decision-making that allocates disproportionate resources has been an issue for a considerable time.”
He went on to say, I quote:
“Any solution must be seen as one that stretches to the maximum possible devolution-“
He further went on saying, I quote:
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“Given the ground situation, given the background to the conflict, it therefore behoves on particularly the majority community to be proactive in striving for peace and there must be a demonstration of a well-stretched hand of accommodation.”
That is what he wanted to majority community to do. These are President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s words.
Then, Sir, I want to refer to a joint statement made by the President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the Secretary-General of the UN when he came to Sri Lanka at the end of the war on 23rd May, 2009.
This is what the statement say, I quote:
“President Rajapaksa and the Secretary-General agreed that addressing the aspirations and grievances of all communities and working towards a lasting political solution was fundamental to ensuring long-term socio-economic development.”
It further states, I quote:
“President Rajapaksa expressed his firm resolve to proceed with the implementation of the 13th Amendment, as well as to begin a broader dialogue with all parties, including the Tamil parties in the new circumstances, to further enhance this process and to bring about lasting peace and development in Sri Lanka.”
This is what, Sir, President Mahinda Rajapaksa himself in a statement he made with the Secretary-General of the UN. Hon. Mahinda Rajapaksa’s brother, Mr. Basil Rajapaksa, an important Minister, went to India in October, 2008. At the end of that visit there was a statement made and this is what he said, I quote:
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“Both sides discussed the need to move towards a peacefully negotiated political settlement in the island including the North. Both sides agreed that terrorism should be countered with resolve.
The Indian side called for implementation of the Thirteenth Amendment and greater devolution of powers to the provinces. Mr. Basil Rajapaksa emphasized that the President of Sri Lanka and his Government were firmly committed to a political process that would lead to a sustainable solution”.
This is Mr. Basil Rajapaksa’s statement and I have quoted that.
Prof. G.L. Peiris, the then Minister of External Affairs in the Mahinda Rajapaksa Government, between 15th and 17th of May, 2011, on his visit to India, said this in a joint statement. I quote:
“Both sides agreed that the end of armed conflict in Sri Lanka created a historic opportunity to address all outstanding issues in a spirit of understanding and mutual accommodation imbued with political vision to work towards genuine national reconciliation.
In this context, the External Affairs Minister of Sri Lanka affirmed his Government’s commitment to ensuring expeditious and concrete progress in the ongoing dialogue between the Government of Sri Lanka and representatives of Tamil parties.
A devolution package building upon the 13th Amendment would contribute towards creating the necessary conditions for such reconciliation.”
Again, Sir, the Foreign Minister of India came to Sri Lanka and this is what he said in the course of his statement made on the 19th of January, 2012. I quote:
“The Government of Sri Lanka has on many occasions conveyed to us its commitment to move towards a political settlement based upon the full implementation of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution and building on it so as to achieve meaningful devolution of powers.”
That is the commitment he made. He further said, I quote:
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“We look forward to an expeditious and constructive approach to the dialogue process. We believe that continuation of the dialogue between the Government and the TNA would pave the way for a political settlement including under the rubric of the Parliamentary Select Committee.”
The LLRC in their recommendations impressed the need for extensive devolution and wanted a solution based upon devolution, substantial devolution, maximum devolution. Those are the words used by the LLRC.
And your commitment at the United Nations Human Rights Council was – The Resolution adopted in October, 2015 states, I quote:
“Welcomes the commitment of the Government of Sri Lanka to a political settlement by taking the necessary constitutional measures, encourages the Government’s efforts to fulfil its commitments on the devolution of political authority, which is integral to reconciliation and the full enjoyment of human rights by all members of its population;..”
So, this is the position, Sir. If one looks at what President Mahinda Rajapaksa has said, President Mahinda Rajapaksa has all along been supportive of the process of a political solution based upon maximum possible devolution building upon the Thirteenth Amendment. That is what Mangala Moonesinghe Select Committee brought about. That is what Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga’s proposals brought about.
That is what the Prof. Tissa Vitharana Report brought about during the time the Hon. Mahinda Rajapaksa was the President. It was carried on with his blessings. So, all along Sir, the Mahinda Rajapaksa Government has been committed to a political solution based upon the maximum possible devolution, built upon the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution so as to ensure a meaningful devolution of power.
I would therefore, say Sir, that when the three leaders of the country, President Maithripala Sirisena, Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe and former President, Mahinda Rajapaksa have 8

all been taking the same view and they have all been supportive of maximum possible devolution of power being shared in such a way that all the people in this country will feel that they are Sri Lankans and that Sri Lanka is their country. Why are we delaying? Our economy will never improve. You can talk and talk till the cows come home. But our economy will never improve. If our economy is to improve, there must be substantial investment to this country – both domestic investment and foreign investment. Today people do not trust you. You make commitments domestically and internationally which you do not keep. People do not trust you. People must invest in this country. You must develop an export-oriented economy. You must create jobs for our youths. Our youths must be employed. Unless that is done, our economy will never improve and you will never achieve it unless there is a political solution in this country as everybody is equal.
I thank you Sir, for the time you have given me. Thank you.
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