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Gotabhaya spells out his national, foreign policies at his maiden press briefing

Gotabhaya

Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna presidential candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa has stated that he questioned the propriety of the UNHRC resolution co-sponsored by the Sri Lanka Government on ‘Promoting Reconciliation, Accountability and Human Rights in Sri Lanka’ and reiterated his public undertaking to release soldiers held in remand custody.

He assured that his government would however cooperate with the UNHRC to resolve any issues.

He made this observation addressing his maiden press conference. Opposition Leader former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) General Secretary Mahinda Amaraweera were also present.

During his news briefing, Gotabhaya said:

“I cannot recognize what this Government has signed. My personal view is that this is not a legal document but we will always work with the UN Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) to solve any issues. We have already publicly rejected that agreement (Resolution).

We found the number of people missing, be they LTTE terrorists or any others. We produced a document based on our findings but foreign investigators, without even listening to us, produced their own reports and numbers. These are very ambiguous documents. We are an independent country and we will follow our own methods without foreign-appointed persons who produce documents without even coming here.

I reiterate my undertaking to release soldiers held on remand custody. These soldiers and some others are politically victimized. Two very senior officials from the Attorney General’s Department have spoken publicly on the procedures they adopted. Such a decision was made at the headquarters of political parties and at Temple Trees.

As regards disappearances of persons who surrendered to the Sri Lanka Army during the end of the war in May 2009, I was not the Commander of the Army when this took place. All 13,784 who surrendered were rehabilitated and reintegrated into society. Some were recruited into the Civil Defence Force and the military. It was a very successful program. No other country has such a well-planned rehabilitation program. Even foreign observers commended our program.

The issue of missing persons and those who surrendered were two different things. More than 3,000 officers and soldiers are missing in the military too. There were certain instances on the battlefield where we couldn’t even recover our own bodies. In the Jaffna Fort there were bodies we couldn’t recover because the intensity of fighting was too high.

The people in the north and east had more important issues. They want jobs, education, roads, etc. We can’t hang on to old things and carry on. We have to move forward. We have to forget about hanging on to old allegations. There is a lot to be done for the betterment of those people. My government’s philosophy on reconciliation is to build a society where people can live in dignity. We will give every person aspiring for a good living, a good education, access to affordable housing and we will develop each area irrespective of the region or ethnicities.

The Mahinda Rajapaksa Government should not only be credited with ending the war but also post-war development. We pumped a lot of money into the region. The road network, the two railway lines, electricity for every village, drinking water and the rehabilitation of irrigation canals were done. When we took over the Jaffna peninsula, it was like a camp with bunkers all around. Both the LTTE and the military were occupying the land. In 2014, when we handed over the land, more than 90% of the land was released.

We deny any involvement by the former regime in any alleged activities such as safety of journalists and the white van culture. People have forgotten how people were abducted not just in white vans but white lorries in the ’89-’90 period. I have not had any white vans, nor started any white van cultures. The people who did this are on that side now. I can certify not once but twice that no journalists will be harmed.

My government would maintain a non-aligned policy. We have to be a neutral country. We can’t get into the power struggles going on between various countries in this region.”

 

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