NPC CM Wigneswaran Chennai Speech

Wigneswaran Kannabiran Memorial Lecture Nov 2014

Start watching at 1 hour 14 minutes.

In Sri Lanka too our courts have amply demonstrated their little practical wisdom. When nearly three hundred and fifty thousand Tamils were incarcerated in open prison camps immediately after the end of the War, a public interest petition was filed claiming that there was no legal basis for such detention and that detention without detention orders was illegal. The Supreme Court and the Attorney General are reported to have queried, with what must have been of great concern to them, whether the Petitioners in the case were seeking to imperil the detainees further by insisting that detention orders be issued on them. The Attorney General on behalf of the State explained the great threat to security that these people could pose if they were allowed to get back into society for there were sure to be terrorists in their midst. Surely the lives of 22 million were worth more than the discomfort of a few hundred thousand? The Court reserved order on whether leave should be granted. That was five years ago. It still needs to be pronounced!

In essence are we not dealing with that famous law school conundrum of a ticking time bomb? Should we torture a terrorist who has information on when a time bomb would explode and kill millions of innocent lives and thus save them or do we make a suicide pact with the bill of rights and die? Can any human rights’ advocate, who claims to have the interests of humans at heart, claim that innocents should be sacrificed at the altar of blind subservience to the law? Of what use is liberty without security? Is not security the essence of all rights – the foundation upon which all other rights rest? This brings us to our next question – who are those who seek to espouse these human rights’ values? Are not human rights essentially a Western concept? Why should we, who have histories and civilisations that date back to antiquity, subscribe to new-found notions of countries that enslaved and colonised most of the world? Is this not neo-colonialism supported by NGOs that are simply “human rights’ hit men”? What right do other countries and international organisations have to dictate terms to individual countries? Does it not infringe upon the sovereignty of States? Is not sovereignty the most sacred element of Public International Law – the foundation even? Are not slogans of R2P or Responsibility to Protect simply cloaks for imperialist interventions?

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