Former President Maithripala Sirisena the Muslims must be given the right to bury their relatives who fall victim to Covid-19 virus.
In an interview with The Hindu, Mr Sirisena noted that, as former Minister of Health, he stands by the opinion of the World Health Organization.
“You cannot develop the country when the sentiments of minority communities are hurt. We have to ensure that democracy and economic development are shared equally by all ethnic groups in this country,” he pointed out.
Speaking further, the former President said it is the responsibility of the majority ethnic group to “seriously think about the minorities who form part of this country all the time.”
“It is a fact that in Sri Lanka the Sinhalese are the majority. Bearing that in mind, we must ensure Tamils, Muslims and Burghers have equal rights as minorities,” he added.
Meanwhile, in response to a question on his remarks regarding the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) facing injustice in the parliamentary elections, Mr Sirisena said they were treated unfairly when the candidates were picked ahead of the general elections in August this year.
The SLFP looks forward to contesting provincial council elections as a coalition, however, the party will go solo, if there is no fair treatment, the former President stressed.
Speaking on Provincial Councils, Mr Sirisena said a set up at the district-level, like a District Development Board, would work better than the provincial councils, given the fact that Sri Lanka is a small country.
There are differences within the government, and it is up to the government to decide on the right course of action, Mr Sirisena in response to a question regarding his view on the contradictory positions within the government pertaining to Provincial Councils.
He noted that the Provincial Councils Act is a product of the 13th Amendment, which came about as a result of Indo-Lanka Accord of 1987. “India could get a little upset with us if we completely do away with the 13th Amendment.”
Highlighting that the friendship with India is of utmost importance to Sri Lanka, the former President said the bilateral ties must be strengthened by all governments. “Abolishing provincial councils is like playing with fire.”
Excerpts of the full interview are produced below:
You recently remarked that the SLFP faced a “huge injustice” in the parliamentary elections and have hinted at possibly contesting the provincial council elections separately. Would you do that?
We were treated unfairly when the candidates were picked ahead of the general elections in August 2020. Our party didn’t get a slot in either Kalutara or Nuwara Eliya districts. In Gampaha, we were given only one. In Kurunegala, we were given only two slots. In the districts we are strong, we weren’t given a fair number of slots. We had asked for 30 candidates. Had we been given 30 slots in the last general election, we would have got at least 25 in Parliament. They [ruling party] organised political attacks on our candidates who had been nominated. So, while we still look forward to contesting provincial council elections as a coalition, we insist on the fair share of seats due to us. If we get that, we will have no problem going to polls together with the government. If there is no fair treatment, our party will decide on a solo journey. We are ready for both options.
We are bound to a platform of democracy and we want to strengthen it. Whenever we come into a coalition, we insist that democracy and human rights be respected. The Buddhist doctrine offers ample guidance on how to run a State.