10 June, 2010

Dr Mahathir :" Human Rights Probe should be internal first "

Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, former Prime Minister of Malaysia, widely acknowledged as the architect of Malaysia’s modernization, who was in Sri Lana to deliver the keynote address at the International Business Forum, granted the Daily Mirror an exclusive print media interview.

Q: I understand your first visit to Sri Lankan was in 1962, do you have a count of the number of visits you have had to Sri Lanka? And what did you find as most significant in Sri Lanka, in terms of progress each time you visited?

I think I have visited Sri Lanka four times. Well, since independence you have made progress but I see that the progress has been slow because you were having problems. Now that the problems have been resolved, I can see it is peaceful and stable. I am quite sure I am going to see a big difference, the next time I come here.

Q: Sri Lanka has just overcome a three decade war, although the people in the country are relieved about this, we have had to put up with a lot of Western criticism of how Sri Lanka handled the war, particularly the last phase. What would be your advice in this situation?

Well when you are fighting a war there are certain things which happen which are really unavoidable. War means killing people that is why we are very much against war but sometimes of course people consider that you have used, much more force than is necessary. But over time I think it is the way you treat the defeated people which is going to be important. If they are integrated with the society, and if they also benefit from the kind of development you are going to carry out, I am quite sure that world opinion will change

Q:Currently there are allegations against Sri Lanka on Human Rights violations, this has also been cited as a reason for the withdrawal of the GSP plus, also the UN has requested for a probe on alleged war crimes by Sri Lanka- Your comments Sir?

I think the probe should be done internally first, using judges and other highly respected people. But if there is anything amiss in that, then it requires international involvement, maybe you should allow then to do a probe. But I think this is an internal problem of Sri Lanka.

Q:You had once condemned the UDHR, calling it an ‘oppressive instrument by which the US and other countries try to impose their values on Asians’. Could you elaborate more on your stand on human rights?

We should be open and explain why you have done certain things. Instead of hiding. Not being able to defend your position versus accusations against you. Yes-we do arrest people, we do not torture people. In Malaysia we do detain people without trial but we do under the laws of the country. We have the ISE, it is a law that permits us, that allows us to detain people. We do not torture people as it has happened in Britain and America. They torture the people arrested by them. We don’t do that kind of thing. We are open. Anyone can say we are wrong. We have our own people’s well being in mind all the time.

Q: Although having been a critic of the USA, your relationship with the USA was strong- How was that possible?

When we have been critical of the USA, it is because something is wrong. Relationships should be based on what is right. Just because someone is your friend you can’t do what you want. Americans themselves are critical of their governments when they do something wrong. We were able to attract the business people in making investments. They are not interested in the politics of the country. We were being nasty, but were very cooperative in getting what we want.

Well, I think one of the most important things that we did in Malaysia was to choose models and to learn from the models how to carry out development. Now is the time for you to determine who your models should be. It is not necessary to be just one model, maybe a whole range of models and I think you can learn a lot about developments from these models.

Q:There are some who call our President, an extremist, a Sinhala extremist. What is your impression of this?

I was also called an extremist, a dictator, if you work for your people eventually you will be exonerated.

(more)

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