Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa said here on Thursday, that India is silent over the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government’s unmistakable tilt towards China probably because it has been promised control over Trincomalee and Kankesanthurai harbors and the Palaly airport in the Tamil-speaking Northern and Eastern provinces to balance China’s control over Hambantota harbor.
At a meeting with resident foreign correspondents, he wondered why India, which made such a fuss over the visit of an Chinese nuclear submarine and helped the US oust him from power, is silent over the present government’s pronounced tilt towards China.
However, he said that the primary agent of regime change in Sri Lanka was not India but the US and the Tamil Diaspora. India only played a subsidiary role, influenced by the US. The US government had itself admitted that it had spent US$ 648 million on bringing about regime change in Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Nigeria he charged. Even now, the US is spending LKR 1 billion on the development of parliamentarians in Sri Lanka.
Asked what kind of relations he would have with India if he wins the next parliamentary elections and becomes Prime Minister, Rajapaksa said that he would have friendly relations and would welcome Indian investments, but he would not compromise Sri Lanka’s sovereignty in matters of decision making in national and international affairs.
He totally rejected the proposed Economic and Technical Cooperation Agreement (ETCA) with India, saying that it would open the floodgates to Indian labor. He wanted India to remove the Non-Trade Barriers adversely affecting the existing Free Trade Agreement before ETCA is negotiated.
Asked about the impact of his opposition to China gaining control over Hambantota habor on Sri Lanka’s relations with China, he said that his principled opposition was conveyed to the Chinese during his last visit to China and the Chinese appreciated it. The Chinese company which built the Hambantota harbor told him that it believed that social stability is necessary for any project to succeed.
Asked about his attitude to the government’s efforts to draw up a new constitution, he said that it is not necessary to change the constitution wholesale.
“Just two amendments will do. Introduce a new electoral system and set up a Second Chamber (Senate) in parliament to give the various provinces and ethnicities a share of power in the Centre,” he said.
Since the government has two thirds majority in parliament, it may be able to get a new constitution through.
The former President totally opposed the dilution of the powers of the Provincial Governors as that would weaken the Center and the country. He cited the Indian constitution and said that there too, the Governor enjoys over-riding powers.
The Tamil National Alliance’s demand to make the Governor a handmaiden of the provincial Chief Minister is totally unacceptable, he said.