Reconciliation means 'opportunity to live in dignity': Gotabaya

Published : October 16, 2019 16:24 IST

Sri Lankan presidential candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa after addressing a news conference in Colombo on October 15. At right is his brother and former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Photo: Eranga Jayawardena/AP

The Sri Lanka Podujana Party (SLPP) candidate for President, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, thinks that giving citizens “the opportunity to live in dignity,” is the key to reconciliation of Tamils in the island nation.

When Frontline asked him what his philosophy of reconciliation was, he said his philosophy was that “everybody, every citizen in this country, [must be given] the opportunity to live in dignity. How can a person live with dignity? Give them education, give them the opportunity of peace and employment, and give them the opportunity where every person is aspiring to a good living, good education, and able to access affordable housing. These are the things we have to develop irrespective of the region, irrespective of the ethnicity, irrespective of where one comes from. This is where, unfortunately, because of the 30 years of war [with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam], certain areas were not developed like the other areas.”

He highlighted the development that the Mahinda Rajapaksa government undertook from the time the war ended in May 2009 to the time it lost the election in 2014, and asserted that no one had done more: “But, I want to mention here that immediately after the war, the Mahinda Rajapaksa government should get the credit not only for ending the war but also for the post war development that we did. We have pumped a lot of money into the region [Northern province], and if you take what is existing there—the road network, the two railway lines, electricity for every village, drinking water projects, the rehabilitation of irrigational canals—all these were done under the Mahinda Rajapaksa government.

“Lots of people talk about releasing the lands. Actually, we are the people who released 90 per cent of the land. In 2005, when we took over the government, just imagine the Jaffna peninsula. It was like a camp. Earlier, the LTTE was occupying this land, and then, in 1998, when the Military cleared, the Military was occupying the land…. If you take the peninsula, we have released more than 90 per cent of the land to the owners…. Even I have relocated the camps in government land…. I had discussions to give the owners even land surrounding the Palali Airport [the Jaffna Airport, which will see its first international flight on October 17].

His grouse was that nobody talks about the achievements of his brother’s government. “We are the people who settled people in those areas [three lakh people]. We are the people who developed the area. But, unfortunately, whether it is the NGOs, the local politicians or the international community, no one talks about these things,” he added.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa also insisted, in his first press conference on October 15, that it was possible to look at the future without considering what happened in the past.

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