Claims no need to say sorry as Tamils left of their own free will
Just a day after Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa justified the eviction of Tamil lodgers from Colombo Minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle yesterday added more controversy to the issue by countering the statement made by Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake over the weekend on the eviction.
On Sunday Mr. Wickremanayake expressed regrets to the hundreds of Tamils for their eviction from the City, saying it was a `big mistake` by the Government but adding the police had sought the consent of the dwellers after they were taken to Vavuniya and not in Colombo.
However addressing the media at the Government Information Department yesterday Minister Fernandopulle said there was no need to express regret over the move and insisted that all 300 Tamils were sent to Vavuniya after getting their `verbal consent` in Colombo and subsequently written consent in Vavuniya.
?The Prime Minister may not have known that the consent of the Tamils was taken here. He may have known only the part about their consent being taken in Vavuniya,? Minister Fernandopulle said.
When questioned why of the 300 Tamils who were taken to Vavuniya some 186 returned to Colombo following the Supreme Court ruling, the minister said ?you will have to ask them (the Tamils) that question. I don`t know why they returned but some of them did stay back in Vavuniya.?
The minister said the dislodging of Tamils could not be considered a regrettable move nor should the security forces be condemned for taking such action as the LTTE was known to have used such lodges to carry out terrorist activities in the City.
When the media began to question if what he was saying was the stand of the Government on the issue Minister Fernandopulle said his comments were purely his personal views and not the Government position
adding that as a minister he had every right to express his own opinion. ?He (the Prime Minister) expressed his views. I am expressing my views,? he said.
?There is no problem in the Government because of this issue,? the minister said when asked if there was a dispute in the Government over the dislodging of the Tamils as various opinions were now surfacing from the Government ranks on the move.
The minister claimed the alleged threat posed by lodgers was discussed by the consultative committee prior to the eviction being implemented and it was agreed that such a move may be the best option to curtail the terrorist threat to the City.?I don`t know if the Prime Minister attended the meeting because I also did not attend it but the matter was discussed and Tamil MPs and UNP MPs were all there although a date was not set on when the move would be implemented,? Mr. Fernandopulle said.
While saying the eviction was not a move to be regretted Minister Fernandopulle however said if there was no war in the country then such a move would not have been necessary and would be wrong if it were implemented under such an environment.
The minister said there were no kidney patients or any other sick civilians among those who were evicted from Colombo and said that such reports were baseless.
However, over the weekend, the media published photographs and interviews conducted with such people who had returned from Vavuniya to Colombo.
?Now you are also trying to make a false claim,? the minister told the media which reported there were sick people among the evictees.
Minister Rajitha Senaratne who also addressed the media briefing, said similar measures were implemented by the United States following the 2001 World Trade Center attack and as such the US Government had no right to be critical of the Sri Lankan Government.
?The US arrested several Muslims?they killed Saddam Hussein`s two sons?now they are coming to point at human rights violations in our country,? the minister said.
On Sunday Premier Wickremanayake told the media the Government was investigating as to who was behind the decision to evict the Tamils and assured it would never happen again.
?It should have never happened,? the Prime Minister said in the presence of Minister Keheliya Rambukwella and defence officials.