M. Sumanthiran press statement in Geneva, February 20, 2013
Govt Not Committed To Resolve Conflict – Sampanthan
by Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema, ‘The Sunday Leader,’ Colombo, March 16, 2013
A: The international community’s focus on Sri Lanka is based upon not really what happened during the war and not merely on the assurances the Sri Lankan government gave the international community both before and after the conclusion of the war, particularly when some sections of the international community were of great help to the Sri Lankan government in successfully ending the war, but also on Sri Lanka’s performance and delivery on both its international obligations and other commitments made to the international community during the nearly four year period since the conclusion of the war. The international community’s appraisal of Sri Lanka is based upon its assessment of how Sri Lanka has performed also with regard to the implementation of the recommendations by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission appointed by the Sri Lankan government itself and also the implementation of the resolution adopted by the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in March 2012. It will be futile to suggest that the international community is acting on anything but definite material that is available for its decision to be based upon.
A: Since the adoption of the resolution in March 2012, although the Sri Lankan government has made no unequivocal commitment to the implementation of the recommendations of the LLRC or the resolution adopted by the UNHRC in 2012, the Sri Lankan government claims to have set in motion certain processes to fulfill its obligations. Apart from some physical infrastructure such as roads and bridges which do not make a great impact on the lives of people who have been rendered homeless and destitute as a result of the manner in which the war was prosecuted, and apart from the rehabilitation of a section of former LTTE cadres, many thousands of whom together with civilians are yet missing and unaccounted for, the Sri Lankan government has little else to indicate that it has fulfilled its commitments. The Sri Lankan government’s performance has been under observation by relevant UN agencies and others who have presented resolutions and the conclusions arrived at are as a result of studies and observations. The Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights whose technical team visited Sri Lanka has also made its own report in regard to the situation and the present resolution is based upon material thus obtained.
A: It is not for me to dictate to the international community as to what action should be taken. These resolutions have been moved with certain objectives in mind and my view is that it is in the interest of this country and genuine reconciliation and goodwill amongst all the people who inhabit this country. These objectives must be achieved and the international community having outlined its objectives must in my view take whatever action that needs to be taken to achieve the said objective because the fulfillment of the objective as said before will be in the interest of all peoples.
A: That would be a matter largely for the Sri Lanka government to decide. If the Sri Lankan government were to fulfill its obligations and commitments, the implications would be most desirable for Sri Lanka. One can only hope that instead of issuing bald denials and acting with a sense of continuing impunity, the Sri Lankan government would in the interest of the country and all peoples take meaningful action to ensure that at least now it fulfills its commitments and obligations.
A: The government’s response in my respectful view has neither been genuine nor honest and the government most regrettably seems to think that by persistently engaging in denials and adopting tactics of delay and evasion it could avoid the fulfillment of its commitments and obligations. Most regrettably also, the time and space that the government seeks is not to fulfill its commitments and obligations but rather to fulfill its own agenda, which is to change the demographic composition of the North and East Provinces further and dilute and alter the cultural and linguistic identity of those areas. This in my view seems to be the primary objective of the government in seeking more time and space.
A: Pathetic. The government seems determined to imprint upon them the status of an inferior people. The military seems to think that the Tamil people can be subjugated. The government seems to think that through some development work the Tamil people can be appeased and induced to abandon their legitimate political, economic, social and cultural aspirations as a distinct people who have inhabited this country since time immemorial and traditionally occupied along with their Tamil speaking Muslim brethren in the Northern and Eastern provinces. The government should realize that a policy of integration would certainly be welcome and that a policy of either subjugation or forced assimilation must inevitably fail. The Tamil people through their democratic verdicts have clearly expressed their aspirations. If the Tamil people are to be treated as equals in the country their democratic verdict must be respected. The Tamil people must be able to live in equality with dignity and self-respect – that is the only way to genuine peace and reconciliation.
A: Most disappointing. An opportunity that presented itself after the conclusion of the armed conflict has been frittered away. Military triumphalism, majoritarianism and political expediency have taken precedence over a genuine effort to bring about reconciliation based upon justice and equality amongst the different peoples who inhabit Sri Lanka. The government also seems determined to continue to portray the existence of yet another military threat in order to justify its approach to governance. It’s a fiction, which the government seems determined to sustain because it can provide some justification to its approach to governance. The Tamil people on the other hand, by and large the vast majority of them, whether they live in this country or abroad, do not want to return to violence and are committed to reaching an acceptable, reasonable, workable, and durable political solution that would enable them to live as equals in the country. The government should abandon its fictitious perceptions and move towards arriving at such a political solution. The government should also understand that for several decades Tamil political agitations were democratic, non-violent and peaceful. It was the failure to implement commitments made and the unleashing of persistent racial pogroms against the Tamil people that resulted in an armed conflict.
A: Not in the way they are now performing. I am sorry to state that I do not think that the present government is genuinely committed to the resolution of the conflict based upon democracy, justice and equality. The government, I think, is committed to pursuing policies that are politically expedient based upon narrow sectarian agendas that would enable it to continue in power. The government attaches no importance whatsoever to value the principles clearly demonstrated by the purported impeachment of the Chief Justice and the scuttling of the independent commissions such as the Elections Commission, Human Rights Commission, Judicial Service Commission, Public Service Commission, National Police Commission, Bribery Commission and the appointments to the higher judiciary – all of which are clearly indicative of the government working on an agenda which is not in the best interests of the country.
A: If the Sri Lankan government does not deliver I think the international community can help all the people in this country towards resolving the national question. All the people in the country must realize that such a resolution would be in their best interest and would be in the larger interest of the country as a whole. We should work unitedly to achieve this objective.
M. Sumanthiran, MP speech in Sri Lanka’s Parliament, March 21, 2013
TNA thanks US and India
Geneva and Beyond: A call for urgent action
by M. Sumanthiran, MP, ‘The Island,’ Colombo, March 25, 2013
The recent passage of the second UN Human Rights Council resolution on reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka was a triumph for all its citizens. This is because it is now clear that Sri Lankans who desire ethnic reconciliation, democratic reform, positive peace, justice, and an end to the culture of impunity are not alone. The international community’s disapproval of the incumbent regime’s intransigence is a clear message to the government that it would do well to heed the voices of moderation within Sri Lanka.
The text of the Council’s resolution reveals major changes from last March. These include increased references to the issue of accountability for international human rights and humanitarian law violations; recognition of an explicit obligation on the government to conduct a credible and impartial investigation into those violations; acknowledgement of continuing violations of a whole gamut of fundamental rights in Sri Lanka; recognition of the report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights; and the ‘noting’ of a call by the High Commissioner for an international inquiry into alleged violations of international law. Thus, while the original text was finessed down in later versions, the resolution is a sign of real progress from March 2012.
More critically, the resolution received the support of almost the entirety of the European, Eastern European and Latin American blocs, along with a clear majority of African votes. Even in Asia, India was joined by South Korea in supporting the resolution, while Japan and Malaysia – loyal friends of the Sri Lankan government – abstained.
This resolution was not, therefore, western. Neither is respect for values of equality, democracy, liberty and justice. Instead, these are deeply cherished universal values, explaining the cross-continental support for the resolution. Indeed, some of the votes in favour of the recent resolution came from countries like Sierra Leone, whose Representative noted just prior to his affirmative vote that his country was “[a] country that witnessed a bloody and destructive ten year civil war; a country that has bounced back from that bloody and destructive civil war through genuine reconciliation and accountability. We are compelled to support this resolution.” India, which helped Sri Lanka receive a congratulatory resolution in 2009, has now reflected the views of its citizens in reflecting an appreciably more critical tone and position. The government must understand this trajectory clearly. Its strategy of alienating the democratic world and banking on a few perceived supporters is gradually eroding support worldwide. Put simply, the geopolitical argument for reform is strong.
Even stronger is the urgent need for Sri Lanka’s peoples to embark on a cathartic process of reconciliation. If we fail, the toxic mix of religious and racial intolerance, unremedied grievances and an absence of the rule of law will take its inevitable toll. Arresting the current trend is critical in the North and East – where Tamils live with a permanent military siege and fear – but also for members of other communities. The recent emergence of extremist ethno-fascism has rendered the Muslim people vulnerable, thus reflexively invoking memories of 1983. In the South, families of victims of State, LTTE, or armed rebel violence also deserve an acknowledgment of their grief and the truth relating to the loss of their loved ones. That is why the TNA supports calls for a genuine accountability process that delivers on all victims’ rights to truth, justice, reparations and guarantees of non-recurrence. In doing so, we are giving voice to the deep and anguished calls of our own people, not for revenge, but for a just peace. There are clear differences between revenge and justice. A call for revenge does not focus on crimes committed by both sides, while the call for justice does not take sides. A call for revenge is economical with the truth, while the call for justice is predicated on eliciting the truth. The call for revenge looks at the past to settle old scores, while a call for justice looks at the past to help shape the future.
The Human Rights Council has spoken clearly. Sri Lanka must now not only implement the constructive recommendations of the LLRC, but also conduct an independent and credible investigation into violations of international human rights and humanitarian laws. As we have noted many times previously, only an international investigation can satisfy the conditions of independence and credibility. The government of Sri Lanka has a choice: elect to do the right thing, or lose the choice to decide.
M. A. Sumanthiran
Member of Parliament
Tamil National Alliance