Sri Lanka’s newly-appointed prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa claimed that his government had done a “great deal” for the Tamil people during his previous tenure, as he spoke of livelihoods and irrigation for the Northern Province but not of devolution.
"A great deal was done under difficult circumstances [in the Northern Province] during the tenure of my last government,” claimed Rajapaksa in an interview to Frontline magazine. “This work, which was unfortunately disrupted in the last few years, will be resumed and expedited.”
"Our government will cater to the needs of all our citizens, irrespective of race or cultural background. There are urgent priorities in the Northern Province, with regard to livelihoods, irrigation for agriculture, the upgrading of exports and the improvement of facilities in health and education.”
However, the magazine noted that Rajapaksa "did not mention the question of a political solution for the Tamil people, based on the 13th Amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution, a demand that India had steadfastly stood behind till now”.
As Rajapaksa campaigned ahead of the polls, he repeatedly told crowds that there “is no possibility at all to divide the country” and even claimed that the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) “will not be allowed to achieve through the election what the LTTE and its leader Prabhakaran failed to achieve with a gun”. The regime has also sought to push through constitutional amendments that would weaken Tamil and Muslim representation in parliament.
Speaking on India, which has repeatedly called for the implementation of the 13th Amendment and devolving power to provincial councils across the island, Rajapaksa said "as I always say, India is our friend and relation”.
“I am thankful to Prime Minister Modi for his warm wishes. He was the first world leader to call me. Our cooperation extends to a number of areas. We’re hoping to take those forward for the mutual benefit of both countries.”
See more from Frontline magazine here.