Kadirgamar shaken up, down under

[TamilNet, Friday, 29 January 1999, 12:23 GMT]
Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Laxshman Kadirgamar faced some tough questions during an interview with Peter Mares of Australia's Radio National. Rattled by Mare's probing about the Chemmani mass graves, peace talks and the government's peace package, Mr. Kadirgamar lost his temper, became defensive and accused the former of being an apologist for the LTTE.

The interview was recorded in the week preceding the North West Council Provincial elections was broadcast on polls night. Radio National is broadcast Australia-wide.

kadirgamar_lakshman_2-p.jpgPeter Mares said the Foreign Minister had admitted the government's package was stalled and asked him to comment further.

"Yes, it is stalled - but not completely" said Kardigarmar "Because we are not getting the two-thirds majority we need to amend the constitution" he added.

"It doesn't appear of the likelihood of that happening" said Mares citing the UNP's opposition to the proposals.

"We'll have to wait and see" said Kadirgamar. "The main thing to concentrate on is that our government is absolutely determined to see that those proposals that we have been discussing for a year and a half or more will finally be adopted," he said.

Mares asked Kadirgamar why the Sri Lankan government had not accepted the LTTE's offer of talks.

"Those talks are not bone fide," said the Foreign Minister. "Those are cosmetic gestures."

"How can you know they'll come to nothing until you try them" asked Mares.

"We know that" said Kadirgamar firmly.

"How do you know that?" asked Mares again.

"I'm telling you we know that," snapped Kadirgamar.

Somewhat puzzled, Mares changed tack. The LTTE have suggested third part mediation said Mares, adding that both British and South African parliamentarians have offered their help.

"Why is the government so reluctant to take that up?" he asked the Foreign Minister.

"We have made it clear we are not interested in mediation," replied Kadirgamar.

"This is entirely an internal matter and there is no role at all in the part of mediation of anybody outside" he added quickly.

But clearly the peace process is not progressing the war has cost some 57000 lives its chewing up some 37% of Sri Lanka's government revenues, protested Mare. "Surely now is the time to help the peace process move along?" he asked.

"Yes, but the people who can help the peace process move along is the LTTE - and they are not doing that," replied Kadirgamar.

Mares asked if the government itself had any new initiatives to help the peace process move forward.

"A new initiative?" queried the Foreign Minister.

"Given you say yourself the process is stalled," said Mares helpfully.

"Yes, the process may be stalled, but it maybe restarted at any moment" countered the Foreign Minister.

"Does the government have any new initiatives to restart it?" Mares asked again, wearily.

"There is no new initiative" admitted Kadirgamar "We are constantly on alert for that" he added, curiously.

"The main point is that the LTTE must be bona fide," Kadirgamar said further. "They must show and stop murdering democratic politicians" he added, seizing the opportunity.

"So what does the LTTE have to do - in your view to - show bona fide" asked Mares.

"They have to satisfy us" replied Mr. Kadirgamar vaguely. "and there are ways and means of doing it" he added.

"And they are not doing it" Kadirgamar said further. "That they are bona fide in their proclaimed intentions to bring about a peaceful prospect of the matter" he added.

"They released a number of Sri Lankan armed forces personnel as a gesture" suggested Mares.

"What? 9 people," sneered Kadirgamar. "when they are holding hundreds?" he asked.

"So what further gestures do you need from the LTTE?" asked Mares, exasperated. "Can you give us some examples?"

"No I think they must make an effort" said Kadirgamar evasively. "I am not going to give you examples I am sorry" he added somewhat defensively.

Kadirgamar's irritation began to show.

"Anything else?" he abruptly demanded.

"Yes, minister," said Mares. "there have been reports from a Sri Lankan serviceman that he knows of mass graves in [Chemmani] in the north of Sri Lanka. Why haven't those graves been investigated?"

"An intervention order has been issued by the magistrate of the area. It is a judicial proceeding , it has started" replied Kadirgamar anxiously, realising the probable direction of the questions.

"When will there be a exhumation of those graves?" probed Mares.

"Whenever the authorities are ready" said Kadirgamar warily. "The magistrate is in control of it now" he added.

"We have a judicial system which is as good as yours" Kadirgamar snapped at a startled Mares.

"[But] It has taken 6 months now" said Mares, ignoring Kadirgamar's defensive statement.

"Well, there are various steps that have to be taken" fumed Kadirgamar, fighting to control his temper.

"So there is no reluctance to investigate this from your part of the government?" asked Mares.

Kadirgamar flew into a rage.

"No certainly not!" he bellowed.

"Anything more? Any apologies for the LTTE?" the Foreign Minister then demanded, his anger conspicuous.

"I beg your pardon?" asked Mares, suprised.

"Any apologies for the LTTE?" growled Kadirgamar.

"Minister I'm not making apologies for the LTTE" protested Mares.

"Sounds like it" accused Kadirgamar.

"I'm [merely] asking questions" said Mares.

"Yes but there are certain ways of asking questions. All the questions are highly loaded" grumbled Kadirgamar.

"Anything else?" he demanded again, suddenly.

"Yes, What do you think is going to happen in the provisional elections for the north west provisional council?" asked Mares.

"We will win - obviously" declared Kadirgamar.

"You are very confident of that?" asked Mares.

"Of course" said Kadirgamar.


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