22nd August, 2012
ගරු ආර්. සම්පන්දන් මහතා
(மாண்புமிகு ஆர். சம்பந்தன்)
(The Hon. R. Sampanthan)
Thank you Mr. Deputy Chairman of Committees. I move,
“Whereas more than three years have lapsed since the conclusion of the war on 19th May 2009 during the course of which grave violations of international human rights laws and international humanitarian laws occurred. And whereas since the conclusion of the war the following significant events have occurred:-
(1) The joint statement issued by his Excellency the President on behalf of the Government of Sri Lanka and the Secretary General on behalf of the United Nations, on the conclusion of the Secretary General’s visit to Sri Lanka on 23rd May 2009 which inter-alia stated as follows:
(i) “Sri Lanka reiterated its strongest commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights, in keeping with international human rights standards and Sri Lanka’s international obligations. The Secretary General underlined the importance of an accountability process for addressing violations of international humanitarian and human rights law. The Government will take measures to address those grievances”.
(ii) President Rajapakse and the Secretary General agreed that addressing the aspirations and grievances of all communities and working towards a lasting political solution was fundamental to ensuring long term socio-economic development. President Rajapakse expressed his firm resolve to proceed with the implementation of the 13th Amendment as well as to begin a broader dialogue with all parties, including the Tamil parties, in the new circumstances, to further enhance this process to bring about lasting peace and development in Sri Lanka.
(II) The appointment by the Secretary General of a Panel of Experts on 22 June 2010 to advise him on the implementation of the joint commitment included in the statement issued by the President of Sri Lanka and the Secretary General at the conclusion of the Secretary General’s visit to Sri Lanka on 23rd March 2009. In the joint statement the Secretary General ‘underlined the importance of an accountability process’ and the Government of Sri Lanka agreed that it ‘will take measures to address those grievances’. The Panel of Experts in their Report released on 31st March 2011, stated inter-alia in their conclusions ‘The final stages and aftermath of the war in Sri Lanka were characterized by a wide range of violations by both the Government of Sri Lanka and the L.T.T.E. of international humanitarian law and international human rights law, some even amounting to war crimes and crimes against humanity. More than 300,000 people became the victims of the reckless disregard for international norms by the warring parties. Indeed, the conduct of the war by them represented a grave assault on the entire regime of international law designed to protect individual dignity during both war and peace. The victory of one side has emboldened some to believe that these rules may now be disregarded in the cause of fighting terrorism’ (para 258).
(III) The appointment by the President of Sri Lanka of the Commission of Inquiry on Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation (L.L.R.C.) on 15th May 2010 which submitted its report on 15th November 2011.
The recommendations contained in the said report inter-alia included the need to credibly investigate widespread allegations of extra judicial killings and enforced disappearances,demilitarize the north of Sri Lanka, implement impartial land dispute resolution mechanisms, reevaluate detention policies, strengthen formerly independent civil institutions, reach a political settlement involving devolution of power to the provinces, promote and protect the right of freedom of expression for all, and enact rule of law reforms.
(IV) The adoption of a resolution by the United Nations Human Rights Council at its 19th session on 22nd March 2012, which inter alia noted (i) that the LLRC report does not adequately address serious allegations of violations of international law (ii) called on the Government of Sri Lanka to implement the constructive recommendations in the LLRC report and take all necessary additional steps to fulfil its relevant legal obligations and commitment to initiate credible and independent actions to ensure justice, equality, accountability and reconciliation for all Sri Lankans. (iii) Requests that the Government of Sri Lanka present a comprehensive action plan as expeditiously as possible detailing the steps the Government has taken and will take to implement the LLRC recommendations and also to address alleged violations of international law and also requests the High Commissioner for Human Rights to present a report to the Council at its twenty second session due to be held in March 2013.
(V) The release by the Government of Sri Lanka of a National Plan of Action to implement the recommendations of the LLRC. This Action Plan has not been formulated after due consultation with Parliament or the democratically elected representatives of the affected people.
It is in this background that this whole issue in its totality which is directly linked to genuine reconciliation, goodwill and harmony amongst the different peoples that constitute the Sri Lankan polity becomes an issue of urgent national importance that needs to be kept under the close and continuous scrutiny of the country’s democratically elected supreme legislature.”
That, Mr. Deputy Chairman of Committees, is my Adjournment Motion and I might now, Sir, deal with some aspects of this Motion with your permission.
In the first instance, I would like to state that I would first deal with some actions of this Action Plan which has been released to the public. It is not my intention to discourage those who are tasked with the implementation of this Plan or to say or do anything that would result in the Plan not being implemented. But, if there are deficiencies in the Plan, I think we owe a duty to point out those deficiencies and if we think that there are corrections that need to be made in regard to the manner of its implementation, I think it is the correct thing for us to bring that to the notice of the Government, particularly to the notice of Parliament, to ensure that the objective of the Resolution passed by the United Nations at its Human Rights Council is fulfilled. In order to ensure harmony, certain things need to be done; in order to ensure reconciliation, certain things need to be done and those things need to be incorporated in an Action Plan and implemented. Sir, I will deal with some aspects of this Action Plan – not with all of them, but with some aspects. One of them talks of appointing a special Commission of Investigation to investigate alleged disappearances and provide materials to the Attorney-General on that question.
Very unfortunately the action contemplated does not seem to indicate that a Special Commissioner would be appointed. The Action Plan contemplates some other action which is not the same as a Special Commissioner being appointed with special powers and with special investigators to deal with this question.
The second matter relates to appointing an independent committee to monitor and examine detention and arrest of persons taken into custody. Here again, an Advisory Committee is not being appointed and what is being contemplated is a totally different type of action, which would not be the same as the appointment of an Advisory Committee, as recommended by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission.
Then, we come to the very grave question of the implementation of the recommendations of past Commissions of Inquiry, particularly in regard to the assassination of five students in Trincomalee and 17 aid-workers in Mutur. Here again, I am sorry to state in regard to these horrendous crimes where five innocent students were massacred on the seafront in Trincomalee while they were just standing and talking to each other and 17 aid-workers who were trapped in Muttur were massacred; they were all young people from middle-class Tamil families in Trincomalee. There was a Commission of Inquiry appointed; the Commission of Inquiry sat and recorded evidence. The International Independent Group of Eminent Persons who were appointed to oversee the work of the Commission of Inquiry withdrew from the country stating that the Sri Lankan Government did not have the will or the commitment to investigate grave human rights violations in keeping with international standards because they were not happy with the way in which inquires were being conducted in regard to these two horrendous crimes. As a matter of fact, when the investigations were proceeding, – I think at one stage evidence were being recorded through videoconferencing and suddenly as a result of some action taken by two gentlemen who appeared on behalf of the suspects before the Commission of Inquiry – directions were issued to the Commission of Inquiry which resulted in the Commission of Inquiry not proceeding with the recording of evidence through videoconferencing and consequently I think the proceedings stalled and eventually it came to an end. Reports of some sort were supposed to have been submitted to the President but they have not been made public and we do not know what the reports contain and crimes of this nature cannot go away. Then truth needs to be ascertained and this has now become an international issue.
I think the international community is very concerned that the truth in regard to these two horrendous crimes, where innocent young boys were massacred for no reason must be ascertained and must be known to the world. I do not think the action contemplated as per the Action Plan reveals any commitment on the part of those entrusted with this responsibility of asserting the truth as required.
Then, of course, there are other matters that I would like to mention. I would not be too long, Sir, in regard to these matters because I do not have much time. The recommendations in the Action Plan contemplate restoration of independent civil institutions: there is the reference to the Police Commission; there is the reference to the Public Service Commission. All that the Action Plan says is that such independent institutions have already been installed. We know that that cannot be so because the Constitutional Council, which was responsible for establishing those institutions or recommending the appointments that must be made to those institutions, on which recommendations the President was obliged to act, does not exist any longer and that has been replaced by a totally different procedure. So, I do not think it can be claimed by anyone that these independent civil institutions had been established. As far as the Police Commission and the Public Service Commission are concerned, it actually does not prevail. As a matter of fact, one of the concerns we have at the present Provincial Council Elections we are facing is that we have no independent Elections Commission, which was appointed by the Constitutional Council sometime ago. We have to depend upon an Election Commission, in the independence of which I do not think it can be said that everyone has confidence. So, these are some of the matters I wish to raise. I can deal with more such issues but that will result in my taking a lot of time.
So, Sir, as far as this Action Plan is concerned, all that I can say is that, on a reading of the Plan, on studying the Plan, one finds that it is highly generalized, tentative and not result-oriented. The Executive President, the Government and its own various departments and agencies are the primary cause for the situation that constitutes the foundation for the partiality, the inequality and the injustice that the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission sought to address. It is gravely questionable whether these same agencies could provide adequate redress on the basis of the truth being ascertained. These various agencies, in my respectful submission, have a vested interest in ensuring that the truth is not ascertained because they have to exculpate themselves from blame. Arrangements lack transparency, impartiality and independence. The arrangements are indicative of a desire to continue to perpetuate the past rather than initiate innovative action to provide effective change and redress and bring about goodwill and reconciliation. The Action Plan has not been formulated after due consultation with Parliament and the democratically-elected Representatives of the affected people. The Action Plan is more focused on cover-up and concealment rather than transparency and exposure and hence lacks credibility and legitimacy.
These are my observations, Sir. I think it is our duty to make these observations before it is too late because I think if something that is being done is of a highly questionable nature, we have a duty to bring that to light.
The Action Plan also talks about reversal of lands in Sampur in Trincomalee and Valikamam in Jaffna in the North to the people to whom those lands belonged. But, very unfortunately, that has not been done in regard to lands both in Valikaamam and Sampur. The parties went to the Supreme Court by way of Fundamental Rights applications. The Attorney-General who appeared on behalf of the Government gave an assurance to the court that these people will be resettled. Those assurances are now being violated; they are not being complied with.
I raised the matter in Parliament on a number of occasions, particularly in regard to Sampur and the Hon. Basil Rajapaksa, replying on behalf of the Government on the 21st October, 2011, said that apart from the land required for the coal power plant, all other persons could return to their lands. But, they are not being permitted to do so. As a matter of fact, in recent times army personnel have been going to these camps, threatening the people and telling them that they must leave the camps and go to the lands which are pointed out to them as being the lands that will be given to them in lieu of the lands in Sampur. In fact, this morning I got information that a very senior military official was to go to the camps and repeat this threat, which has been uttered to the people in the course of the last few days by more junior officials in that area. So, it is an extremely serious situation. As far as Sampur is concerned, 1,486 families are affected. Shall we put the number at 1,500? They owned in this area 2,795 acres of land. I was given the particulars. Some of them owned lands on deeds which are more than 100 years old; some of them owned lands on permits given to them several decades ago, several years ago. Now, in place of these 2,795 acres of land, which these people owned on their own, they are to be given 20 perches each and if each family is given 20 perches, the total extent of land given to these people will be not more than 180 acres. You are taking away 2,795 acres of land and giving these people in return only 180 acres. Is this fair? How can you do this? I mean, this is criminal!
Now, what is happening? I was told that there was a proposal to convert this area into a heavy industrial zone. An Australian company by the name of Mitchell Consortium was supposed to be investing in this area. I have it on good authority that Mitchell Consortium is no longer interested in coming here, that they will not come here, that they have taken a very firm decision that they will not come and invest in this land because they know under what circumstances this land is being taken. They have come to know and they have abandoned the proposal. There was a Cabinet Memorandum which approved the land being given to Mitchell Consortium.
Now, I am told that a private company in Sri Lanka – I am sorry to state with very high connections – is trying to take this land over and commence a large industrial estate on this land, depriving these poor people who have lived there for generations and centuries, of this land. They cultivate there; they live there; they derive their livelihood from these lands and these people are to be given 20 perches each in areas which are not habitable, in areas where they cannot carry on their occupation. What do they do for a living? Nobody seems to be concerned. Why are you treating us so callously? You are talking of reconciliation. The LLRC has given its recommendation with regard to the lands in Sampur and Valikamam. I went to Valikamam. The Hon. Mavai S. Senathirajah comes from that area. I saw the fence, a huge fence, being erected dividing the land into two and taking over a substantial part of the land and annexing it to the Palaly Airport and people have been told, “You can come and live on the other land”.
When I drove up there, a woman came running up to me. She saw me; she probably recognized me. She said, “Sir, they want me to live here and they are going to be there. Can I live here? How can I live here? Will I be safe? I will not be safe. Something might happen to me. How can I live here?” This is the trauma to which our people are being subjected. This is the suffering, the agony that we have to go through.
You are talking in terms of reconciliation. Now, I am told that houses are being constructed for these people in Sampur on the lands that have been given to them, 20 perches each. Rupees 500,000 is being spent on constructing a house. The houses are substandard houses, not worth even Rs. 200,000. They are being constructed by some military personnel or persons linked to military personnel. That is becoming an exercise to make money. People are making money, people are enriching themselves and these poor people are suffering. The agony of these people is being exploited by these forces to make money. How can you do this type of thing? I mean, this is cruel, this is wicked. This is not merely illegal, this is utterly immoral and I would earnestly request the Government, if you want reconciliation, if you want harmony, if you want peace in this country, start by returning the land in Valikamam to the people to whom those lands belong and by returning the land in Sampur to the people to whom those lands belong. The Hon. Basil Rajapaksa gave me an assurance in this House on the 21st of October, 2011. It is recorded in Hansard. He said that people can go back to their lands except the land required for the coal power plant and only seven families will be affected by that project, nobody else. But, then that has not been implemented. What is more? The people have been deprived of food because they are not going to the lands to which they were asked to go. For the last six months, food supplied under the World Food Programme has not been made available to these people and they are compelled to starve because they are not carrying out your directions. Sir, if this is the way you are thinking to bring about reconciliation, harmony and goodwill amongst the people, I think you are sadly mistaken; you are not going to succeed in this effort. If you want to really make a start by implementing a programme for genuine reconciliation, the first thing you must do is to restore the land in Valikamam to the people in Valikamam and restore the land in Sampur to the people in Sampur. Until that happens, I am afraid you will not succeed.
Now, Sir, we are talking about the past. While these things are still being perpetuated, new things are happening in our areas. We have the famous Kanniya Hot Wells in Trincomalee. I have a letter with me but I will not read it out because it is a long letter. I gave this to the Hon. Basil Rajapaksa on the 20th of July, 2009. I will table* this letter, Sir, and I would be grateful if it is included in Hansard, at the end of my speech.
* කථාව අවසානයේ පළ කර ඇත.
* உரையினிறுதியில் தரப்பட்டுள்ளது.
* Produced at end of speech.
This pertains to seven hot wells in Trincomalee. It has a history behind it and it is linked to the Koneswaram Temple. Ravana dug seven places in Kanniya with his dagger to perform the 31st Day rites of his mother and hot water of different temperatures spouted from the seven different springs and ever since then, over the past several centuries, the Hindus have been performing their 31st Day rites at this particular site. I have gone there from the time I was a child. Suddenly, a monk has descended to the place and has taken over the property because he wants to carry out a commercial venture. A large number of people outside Trincomalee come there to bathe. They have heard about this place. I remember when the late J.R. Jayewardene was the President, some years ago in the late ’70s, early ’80s, a similar thing happened in Kanniya.
He was holidaying in Nuwara Eliya. I heard about it and telephoned him. I told him, “Sir, such a thing is happening. You must not permit this. This is wrong”. He asked me, “Sampanthan, where are you?” I said, “I am in Trincomalee”. He said, “Tomorrow morning the SP of Trincomalee will report to you”. The SP of Trincomalee came, saw me and told me, “We have asked that monk to go away. He is no longer there. Do not worry”. The monk was sent away. They want to convert that place into a place of commercial activity and make money and our people are being prevented from going there and performing their 31st Day rites. If I die tomorrow, my family will not be able to perform my rites at that place which we have been doing for centuries; and, you want reconciliation. Please do not think I am confronting you. We do not want confrontation. But, can you ever justify these things? I have had no reply to this letter. Unfortunately, the Hon. Basil Rajapaksa has not been able to attend to it. I do not know whether it is beyond his power, because after all the assurance he gave me in Parliament, he is unable to ensure its compliance.
Then, there is a famous temple called, the Agasthyar Sthapanam, a Sivan Temple of Lord Shiva in Kanguvelli, south of Trincomalee. That temple was damaged. The Sivalingam was destroyed, the Pillaiyar was destroyed. I met the President at that time; I spoke to him personally. I sent him a letter in regard to the matter on the 29th of May, 2010. I have had no response. People cannot go there to that temple. People go there and perform several rites. It is a famous Sivan Temple over 2,500 years old. Agasthiyar was a Munivar. He was a Saint. The belief is that he was ordained by Lord Shiva to go and establish a Shiva Temple in that area and that over 2,500 years ago, he came there and established that temple. People cannot go there to worship. The Sivalingam has been destroyed.
Eight hundred acres of paddy land in close proximity to the temple, in a place called Paddukadu owned by Tamil farmers from Kanguvelli, Pulliaddicholai, Mallikaitheevu, Paddithidal, Menkamam, Bharathipuram, Kiliveddy, Manalchenai, Periyavelli and the Muslim farmers of Mutur and 20 acres of land owned by the Temple Agasthiyar Sthapanam has been taken over by some young persons from the majority community and they are cultivating that land by force. We have complained to the police. We have complained to the Provincial Land Commissioner. No action is being taken; nothing is being done.
The Kanguvelli Tank bed is being cultivated by force by some young persons from the majority community. There is no law and order in this country. Is this the way you want to bring about reconciliation? Is this the way you want to bring about goodwill and harmony? I table* this second letter, Sir, which I have sent to the President on the 29th of May, 2010 and I request that it be included at the end of my speech in the Hansard.
* කථාව අවසානයේ පළ කර ඇත.
* உரையினிறுதியில் தரப்பட்டுள்ளது.
* Produced at end of speech.
I will not refer to everything that is happening because I will have to probably speak till midnight if I do that. But, maybe some of my other Friends who will speak after me will make reference to some of the matters. But, I would refer to just one other matter.
There are several villages in Mullaitivu, Pudumathalan, Mullivaikal West, Mullivaikal East, Ampalavanpokkanai, Valaignarmadam, Anandapuram and Keppapulavu, – all these are coastal areas – where people have been living for generations fishing and carrying on their living. Some people there have different ideas about that territory. They have been asked to go to a place called Kompavil, seven to eight kilometres away from the sea. How can a fisherman live seven to eight kilometres away from the sea, Sir? Can he carry on his occupation by living seven to eight kilometres away from the sea? They are being compelled to go. They have been told, “You will have to go. You cannot say, no. You have no choice in the matter. We have chosen a place for you” and their land is being taken over and they have been sent there. I am told that steps are being taken to settle fisherfolk from the majority community in this area.
How can you permit this type of thing? Are you going to bring about harmony in this country by doing this type of thing? These are the questions we want to ask you. And, if you think by formulating some Action Plan and trying to show the world that you are doing something,- while you are not doing anything proper in regard to what has happened, new things are happening which are creating further disharmony and further room for conflict and further ill will amongst people – then I am sorry, we are not getting about things the right way. All this indicates that there are deliberate efforts by some people to change the demographic composition of some areas in the North and the East; change the linguistic religious and cultural identity of areas in the North and the East and these activities are being pursued with a vigour that is suggestive of a determination to make these things a fait accompli before too long. Before you think in terms of any political solution or arrive at any political solution, the demographic composition of the North and the East would have been so altered and the linguistic, cultural and religious identity of certain areas would have been so altered then, there will be no conflict and no need for a political solution. Is that the agenda you are pursuing? We want to know. Either you must stop these things or you must say that these things are not happening. You can come with us and we will show you these that things are happening. So, you must reverse that and put it right or you must accept that you are having an agenda which should be implemented. I am not saying that everyone of you, but certainly we are inclined to the view that there are at least some within the Government with whose blessings these things are being done and that these things cannot be done in this way if there are no blessings whatever from at least someone within the Government.
Reconciliation is dependent not merely on implementation of Recommendations of the LLRC but also on terminating and reversing actions which have been disapproved and censured by the LLRC. Repetition of similar actions would be tantamount to making a mockery of the LLRC Recommendations. LLRC is recommending some remedial action in regard to what happened in the past. But, you are going on with vigour repeating the same actions, multiplying your past actions with a purpose of taking control. I mean, can you permit this to happen? That will only revive the causes of disaffection and the conflict and will not bring about any goodwill and harmony amongst the people. Of course, you are now trying to implement the LLRC Recommendations. We also know that the interim recommendations of the LLRC were not implemented at the time the LLRC came up with their Final Report and that in their final Report, the LLRC commented about the fact that their interim recommendations were not implemented.
I would like to say few words on the question of a political solution because that has also been referred to by the LLRC in its Report and we hear much talk about a home-grown solution. Undoubtedly, a home-grown solution would be the best thing. But, at the same time, a talk of a home-grown solution should not become an excuse for not finding a solution.
I shall demonstrate that efforts at evolving a home-grown solution have been numerous in the past. The Bandaranaike-Chelvanayakam Pact was not grown in Norway or India. It was grown in Sri Lanka. The Dudley Senanayake-Chelvanayakam Pact was very much a home-grown product. The Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution is entirely home-grown and home-made. Extensive discussions took place between the Sri Lankan Government and the TULF representing the Tamil people in July and August in 1986. We talked for at least 15 days each month. On the Government side, there was the President J.R. Jayewardene, Minister Ronnie de Mel, Minister Lalith Athulath Mudali, Minister Gamini Dissanayake, Hon. Ranil Wickremasinghe, Hon.A.C.S. Hameed, Hon. K.W. Devanayagam. On the TULF side, there was A. Amirthalingam, M. Sivasithamparam, Neelan Thiruchelvam, V. Anandasangaree, V. Yogeswaran, Joseph Pararajasingham and myself. We discussed nine drafts in July and August 1986. Mr. Felix Dias Abeysinghe, retired Commissioner of Elections, was the Secretary of that Committee. The papers must be available in the Presidential Secretariat or in some office. That was also a home-grown solution. It had the approval of the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka; it had the approval of the legislature of this country; it was passed by a two-thirds majority. How can you say that it was not home-grown? It was home-grown. It was very much a product of this country; an effort by people in this country.
Of course, in the post-July 1983 period, after the riots, Sri Lanka accepted India’s good offices to resolve the conflict amicably. India’s good offices were continued. India is our closest neighbour not merely geographically but culturally also. The Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement of 29th July, 1987 was a part of that process. Of course, our discussions with regard to the Thirteenth Amendment preceded the Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement. The Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement being signed does not make the Thirteenth Amendment any less a home-grown solution. The Thirteenth Amendment was the outcome of discussions that took place between the Government of Sri Lanka and the TULF, the Party that represented the Tamil people. The TULF had strong reservations about the Thirteenth Amendment. After all, the Thirteenth Amendment was eventually formulated by the Sri Lankan Government, not by both sides and our reservations continue. We have been clamouring for improvements to the Thirteenth Amendment. We want the Thirteenth Amendment formulated so as to make the solution more acceptable. The international community has played a role; India has played a role to bring about some finality to make the solution reasonably acceptable to all sides and inevitably India being our closest neighbour and whose good offices Sri Lanka accepted, has played the most prominent and important role in regard to the matter. The rest of the international community too has played a role. This role played by the international community and by India have been accepted by the Sri Lankan Government. I do not think that can be a cause for complaint. I propose, Sir, to deal with the role played by India and the international community in regard to the evolution of an acceptable political solution and I think I can best do it by referring to some of the statements that were made in the course of this long process, which will throw much light on this whole question. It must be remembered that both India and the rest of the international community played a role for the simple reason that we were not able to solve this problem ourselves.
I will particularly deal with, Sir, the period commencing 2006 when President Rajapaksa assumed office.
In November, 2006, Foreign Secretary, Shivshankar Menon, arrived in Sri Lanka and met with President Rajapaksa. He told President Mahinda Rajapaksa, that “India looks forward to an early ‘comprehensive political settlement’ of the ethnic issue. It must take into account the aspirations of all sections, including Tamils”. At his meeting with Menon, President Rajapaksa gave details of the work being done by the All-Party Conference and the Multi-ethnic Committee of Experts to provide a framework for the resolution of the ethnic problem. President Mahinda Rajapaksa gave Mr. Menon a report in regard to the work of the APRC and the Multi-Ethnic Committee of Experts.
Then, again in October 2008, Minister Basil Rajapaksa went across to India, consequent to some issues being raised pertaining to the war, and this is what the statement issued on that occasion states, I quote:
“Both sides discussed the need to move towards a peacefully negotiated political settlement in the island including the North. Both sides agreed that terrorism should be countered with resolve. The Indian side called for implementation of the Thirteenth Amendment and greater devolution of powers to the provinces. Mr. Basil Rajapaksa emphasized that the President of Sri Lanka and his Government were firmly committed to a political process that would lead to a sustainable solution”.
That was the position in November, 2008. And, Sir, in July, 2009, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met with President Mahinda Rajapaksha at Shram-el-Sheikh in Egypt in the course of a conference. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told the Rajya Sabha that the bulk of the meeting was focussed on the plight of Sri Lankan Tamils. “We are deeply concerned. I explained to him (Rajapaksa) that we have legitimate concern about the welfare of Sri Lankan Tamils. It has a bearing on Sri Lanka’s relations with India”.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh also informed President Rajapaksha that Colombo has to create conditions for meeting “legitimate political aspirations” of the Tamils under the devolution package. That was in July, 2009.
Then, we had the occasion when our Minister of External Affairs, (Prof.) G.L. Peiris, went to India and that was in May, 2011. He visited India from 15th to 17th of May, 2011. The press release issued stated, I quote:
“Both sides agreed that the end of armed conflict in Sri Lanka created a historic opportunity to address all outstanding issues in a spirit of understanding and mutual accommodation imbued with political vision to work towards genuine national reconciliation.
In this context, the External Affairs Minister of Sri Lanka affirmed his Government’s commitment to ensuring expeditious and concrete progress in the ongoing dialogue between the Government of Sri Lanka and representatives of Tami parties.
A devolution package building upon the 13th Amendment would contribute towards creating the necessary conditions for such reconciliation.”
That was your own statement made on the occasion of your visit to India.
Then, in June 2011, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had this to say in the course of a question and answer session. He was asked a question about India’s neighbourhood. His answer was, I quote:
“You have a situation in Sri Lanka. The decimation of the LTTE was something which is good. But the Tamil problem does not disappear, with the defeat of the LTTE. The Tamil population has legitimate grievances. They feel they are reduced to second-class citizens. And our emphasis has been to persuade the Sri Lankan Government that we must move towards a new system of institutional reforms, where the Tamil people will have a feeling that they are equal citizens of Sri Lanka, and theycan lead a life of dignity and self-respect. It is not easy. Within Sri Lanka’s population, there are hotheads. The Sinahala-chauvinism is a reality. But we have to find a difficult balance because what happens in Sri Lanka has a domestic dimension also. The Tamil Nadu Government and assembly have often shown great worry about what is happening. Our challenge is to keep the Tamil Nadu Government on our side. I have good cooperation with Jayalalithaa-ji. I raised this matter with her the very first time. What she asked of me was moderate. Whatever the resolutions that were passed in the assembly, I found her fully conscious of the complexities and the realities of managing this relationship”.
India is concerned. Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna made a Suo Motu Statement in the Lok Sabha on the 4th of August, 2011 and this is what he had to say, I quote:
“The Government has also articulated its position that the end of the armed conflict in Sri Lanka created a historic opportunity to address all outstanding issues relating to minority communities in Sri Lanka including Tamils. The Joint Press Release of May 17, 2011 states that all such outstanding issues had to be settled in a spirit of understanding and mutual accommodation imbued with political vision to work towards genuine national reconciliation. The External Affairs Minister of Sri Lanka affirmed his Government’s commitment to ensuring expeditious and concrete progress in the ongoing dialogue between the Government of Sri Lanka and representatives of Tamil parties and that a devolution package, building upon the 13th Amendment,would contribute towards creating the necessary conditions for such reconciliation.
The Prime Minister observed recently that ‘the Tamil population in Sri Lanka had legitimate grievances and our emphasis had been to persuade the Sri Lankan Government that we must move towards a new system of institutional reforms where the Tamil people will have a feeling that they are equal citizens of Sri Lanka and they can lead a life of dignity and self-respect. That is our outlook towards this issue’.”
When the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission issued their Report, an official spokesman on behalf of the Government of India made a statement in regard to that Report. And, this is what he said in that Statement that was made on December 25th, 2011. I quote:
” In this context, we have been assured by the Government of Sri Lanka on several occasions in the past, of its commitment towards pursuit of a political process, through a broader dialogue with all parties, including the Tamil National Alliance leading to the full implementation of the 13th Amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution, and to go beyond so as to achieve meaningful devolution of powers and genuine national reconciliation. We hope that the Government of Sri Lanka recognizing the critical importance of this issue acts decisively and with vision in this regard.
We will remain engaged with them through this process and offer our support in the spirit of partnership.
We have also noted the Government of Sri Lanka’s intention to set up a mechanism to carry out further investigations relating to instances of alleged human rights violations and incidents involving loss of civilian life. It is important to ensure that an independent and credible mechanism is put in place to investigate allegations of human rights violations, as brought out by the LLRC, in a time-bound manner”.
Recently, the Foreign Minister of India was here. There was a statement made by him in the presence of the Minister of External Affairs of Sri Lanka. The Foreign Minister was here from the 16th to 19th January, 2012. This is what was contained in the statement.
“India is committed to the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka. It is our hope that the vision and leadership that resulted in an end to armed conflict will now be employed in the quest for a genuine political reconciliation. We look forward to progress in the ongoing dialogue process in order to address this issue in a timely manner. We will continue to work with the Government of Sri Lanka and help in whatever way we can to take the process forward in a spirit of partnership and cooperation. We have noted the many constructive recommendations contained in the recently released report of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, LLRC. These recommendations when implemented would mark a major step forward in the process of genuine national reconciliation to which the Sri Lankan Government is committed. Sri Lanka must seize the opportunity. The Government of Sri Lanka has on many occasions conveyed to us its commitment to move towards a political settlement based upon the full implementation of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution and building on it so as to achieve meaningful devolution of powers. We look forward to an expeditious and constructive approach to the dialogue process. We believe the continuation of the dialogue between the Government and the TNA would pave the way for a political settlement including under the rubric of the Parliamentary Select Committee. I discussed this matter with His Excellency the President this morning. The President assured me that he stands by his commitment to pursuing the Thirteenth Amendment Plus approach.”
This is what the Indian Government has always been saying. Even when India had to make a decision in regard to what it would do at Geneva, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made a statement in regard to that matter in the Lok Sabha and it was reported in “The Hindu” of 20th March, 2012. It states, I quote:
“Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced on Monday that India was “inclined to vote in favour” of a resolution on promoting reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka at the ongoing 19th session of the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva.”
He went on to say and this is important:
“That, we hope, will advance our objective, namely the achievement of the future for the Tamil community in Sri Lanka that is marked by equality, dignity, justice and self-respect.”
So, the achievement of the objective was one of the factors that influenced India to take the decision to vote in favour of the Resolution at the Human Rights Council.
It further states:
“India had emphasized to the Sri Lankan Government that there should be a “genuine process” of reconciliation to address the grievances of the ethnic Tamils and implement the recommendations of a high-level committee, whose report was tabled in that Nation’s Parliament.
For lasting peace, India has asked the Sri Lankan Government to stand by its commitment to broaden the dialogue with political parties including the Tamil National Alliance, to achieve a forward looking and meaningful devolution of power and genuine national reconciliation, Dr. Singh said.”
I think on the next day, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh wrote to President Rajapaksa to explain his position in regard to the decision taken to vote for the Resolution.
This is what he said. I quote:
“India, he said, ‘spared no effort and [was] successful in introducing an element of balance in the language of the resolution.’”
It further went on to state:
“The Prime Minister’s letter reiterates India’s conviction that ‘a meaningful devolution package, building upon the 13th Amendment would lead towards a lasting political settlement [of ]….all outstanding issues, in particular the grievances of the Tamil community in Sri Lanka….and create [a] condition in which all citizens of Sri Lanka, irrespective of their ethnicity, can find justice, dignity, equality and self-respect.’ ”
So, India has been very persistent in this matter and I think there was a statement made more recently, in June 2012, where again this matter had been raised, where the Prime Minister met with the President of Sri Lanka, President Mahinda Rajapaksa on the sidelines of the Conference of the UN.
An article appeared in “The New Sunday Express” of 24th June, 2012 which states, I quote:
“ ‘The Prime Minister once again underlined the great importance we attach in India to the ability of the Tamil people to lead a life of dignity and as equal citizens of that country, ’ Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai told reporters at Rio de Janeiro…..”
It is not the sidelines of the UN Conference but the Conference held by the UN at Rio de Janeiro in regard to certain issues.
So, this is the position. I would read Sir, finally in regard to the Indian position, the interview given by Shivshankar Menon, the National Security Adviser when he came to Sri Lanka in June this year. I quote from an article that appeared in “The Hindu” of 30th June, 2012:
“The hopes of Tamils could only be accommodated through a political process. This was an ‘internal political process. We have to also look at that. It is a process that has ramifications for all of us. And it is not something that started today or yesterday’ or a few years ago.”
It started 60 years ago and India knows about it.
It states further, I quote:
“I have told you what we would like: a united Sri Lanka, within which all communities feel they are in control of their own destiny, and they are satisfied.”
So, you see, Sir, that is the position of India in regard to a political solution. India is a country which has been committed to the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka beyond question. As one who has interacted very closely, I can say for certain that India is a country which has absolutely no reservations, no second thoughts in regard to that matter they value at the most. But, at the same time, it is a country which feels that the Tamils in Sri Lanka must have their place as equal citizens in this country. Otherwise, it is not good for the Tamils; it is not good for the country.
Having said that Sir, I would like to read what the Co-Chairs had to say in 2006 when they were still functional in Sri Lanka. This is the statement made by the Co-Chairs on 30th of May 2006. I quote:
“‘It must show that it is ready to make the dramatic political changes to bring about a new system of governance which will enhance the rights of all Sri Lankans, including the Muslims. The international community will support such steps: failure to take such steps will diminish international support.’ ”
The Co-chairs went on to say, I quote:
“The Tamil and Muslim peoples of Sri Lanka have justified and substantial grievances that have not yet been adequately addressed.”
Who were the Co-chairs? Norway, the EU, America and Japan; the EU representing all the European countries, Japan, Norway and America and that is what the Co-chairs said.
Now, going further, Sir, I would like to read to you what the Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs at that point of time, Mr. Richard A. Boucher, said in the course of an interview he gave to the press in Sri Lanka on the 01st of June, 2006 during one of his visits, Mr. Boucher had said, I quote:
“We also think the government should provide a positive vision to Tamils and Muslims of a future Sri Lanka where their legitimate grievances are addressed and their security assured. President Rajapaksa has spoken of “maximum devolution.” Previous negotiations have agreed on “internal self-determination” within a federal framework. However the idea is expressed, it could offer hope to many in the North and East that they will have control over their own lives and destinies within a single nation of Sri Lanka.”
The Assistant Secretary of State, Mr. Boucher, went on to say in the course of the same interview, I quote:
“Although we reject the methods that the Tamil Tigers have used, there are legitimate issues that are raised by the Tamil community and they have a very legitimate desire, as anybody would, to be able to control their own lives, to rule their own destinies and to govern themselves in their homeland, in the areas they’ve traditionally inhabited.”
He was asked a question, Sir, in regard to Sri Lanka’s constitutional framework and a statement made by the Co-chairs. His answer was, I quote:
“I don’t know if I can elaborate much more than what was in the statement. When you look at the situation now and the forms of government and the way things are structured now and what it would take to involve the Tamil community politically in a new arrangement, that does require a great deal of change. A radical change in terms of movement. Now that’s a change that can be considered. A vision needs to be put out and needs to be elaborated by the parties themselves and then negotiated by the parties themselves.”
“But, whatever you call it, it is quite a different governing structure than what you have now and one that is designed to give an enhanced political role to all the people of Sri Lanka, particularly by taking into account the desires of the Tamils and the Muslims to have more control over their own destinies and their own areas”.
Sir, it is not merely the view of India and the Co-chairs but also the view of America. I mentioned these matters because I think these people tend to forget that all these things happened when they are not reminded of them.
I would now, Sir, look at what President Mahinda Rajapaksa himself had to say on 11th July 2006 when he addressed the inaugural Meeting of the APRC and the Multi-ethnic Experts’ Committee he appointed.
This is what he said. This is in perfect consonance with all that I have quoted as having been stated by the Prime Minister of India, as having been stated by our Ministers and Ministers in India, as having been stated by the Co-Chairs and as having been stated by the US Government, by its Assistant Secretary of State.
Addressing the gathering, under the caption “Unity, territorial Integrity and Sovereignty”, this is what President Rajapaksa said. I quote:
“The unity, territorial integrity and sovereignty of our country must be preserved. This cannot be open to bargain. Our approach has been widely endorsed by the international community, notably India and the Co-chairs have clearly stated and have clearly ruled out any form of division of this country. Our objective must be to develop a just settlement within an undivided Sri Lanka. Each party represented here has its own solutions to the national question. We will discuss and synthesize these different approaches and develop our own Sri Lankan model. We must explore past attempts from the Bandaranaike-Chelvanayakam Pact onwards. We must draw appropriate lessons from the experience of other countries. I will not impose a solution on the country. But, you will through your developments, through your deliberations provide a solution to the national question.”
Further, the President, in his speech under the heading “Devolution for the People by the People”, said, I quote:
“People in their own localities must take charge of their destiny and control their politico-economic environment. Central decision-making that allocates disproportionate resources has been an issue for a considerable time. In addition, it is axiomatic that devolution also needs to address issues relating to identity as well as security and socio-economic advancement without over-reliance on the Centre. In this regard, it is also important to address the question of regional minorities.”
Then, Sir, under the heading “Some Concluding Thoughts”, this is what His Excellency the President had to say. I quote:
“Any solution must be seen as one that stretches to the maximum possible devolution without sacrificing the sovereignty of the country. Given the ground situation, given the background to the conflict, it therefore behoves on particularly the majority community to be proactive in striving for peace and there must be a demonstration of a well-stretched hand of accommodation. Any solution must therefore address these expectations as well. The role of the All Party Representative Committee, as well as the Panel of Experts is to fashion creative options and satisfy the minimum expectations that I had enumerated earlier as well as provide a comprehensive approach to the resolution of the national question”.
This is what His Excellency the President said. What he had said is in perfect consonance with what had been said on behalf of the Indian Government, what had been said on behalf of the Co-Chairs and what had been said by the Assistant Secretary of State for the US.
The Panel of Experts has come up with its Report. There were 17 persons on that Panel of Experts. Twelve of them were Sinhalese, four of them were Tamils and there was one Muslim. Eleven of them, including six Sinhalese, the Tamils and the Muslim, have come up with a majority report. That is a home-grown solution recommended by the multi-ethnic Panel of Experts appointed by the President. So, what is your difficulty in adopting that Report in framing a solution?
( KU/ 3.29 p.m./ Before I conclude Sir, I must )
Before I conclude, Sir, I must also refer to the fact that bilateral talks have taken place between the Government of Sri Lanka and the TNA, which commenced in January 2011 and went on till January 2012. No talks have taken place thereafter. The Government has also talked about a Parliamentary Select Committee. There has been a Resolution adopted in Parliament in regard to the Parliamentary Select Committee. We have not yet submitted our names to the Parliamentary Select Committee. But we very earnestly took part in the discussion at the bilateral talks. I think, Sir, I need to make a statement to make our position clear in regard to what our stand is in respect of the bilateral talks and the Parliamentary Select Committee.
At the conclusion of the General Elections in April 2010, the TNA made a public request to the Government to engage with the TNA in respect of two matters: the first was the evolution of a political solution to the national question and the second was the immediate and urgent concerns of the Tamil people in the aftermath of the war. Although the President agreed with the leader of the TNA in early November 2010 to set up two separate committees for same and despite names being forwarded for that purpose, only one committee was appointed on 5th January, 2011 consisting of representatives of the Government and representatives of the TNA for long-term reconciliation.
Thus, the bilateral talks between the Government and the TNA commenced on 10th January, 2011. The TNA tabled a document at the first meeting itself indicating its position on a political solution, which was in line with the President’s own speech at the inaugural meeting of the APRC and the Experts’ Committee in July 2006. At the second meeting held on 3rd February 2011, the TNA submitted an outline of its proposed solution and at the third meeting held on 18th March 2011, at the invitation of the Government delegation, the TNA placed on the table a comprehensive set of proposals. The Government delegation requested for time to respond to the TNA’s proposals and at every meeting thereafter apologized for not being able to respond and asked for further time. This went on for five months during which time seven meetings were held. Apart from making suggestions with regard to the Senate and strengthening the Local Government bodies, no response was made to the TNA’s proposals, which were mainly on devolution of power to the provinces.
In this background, at the meeting held on 4th August 2011, the TNA refused to set a date for the next meeting until the Government fulfilled its obligation to respond to the TNA’s proposals. Thereafter, the President invited the TNA leader for a meeting on the 2nd of September 2011, and the following agreements were reached at that meeting:
One, in view of the inability of the Government to respond to the TNA’s proposals, it was agreed to bring to the table five previous proposals and the President’s Speech at the inaugural meeting of the APRC and the Experts’ Committee. The bilateral talks will recommence and continue on the basis of these documents.
Two, once a measure of consensus is reached on substantive issues at the bilateral talks, that agreement will be taken before the Parliamentary Select Committee either as the Government’s proposals or as the Government-TNA agreement. The TNA would join the Parliamentary Select Committee at that point of time.
Now, the five documents referred to are these. Since the Thirteenth Amendment was considered inadequate, Presidents after the enactment of the Thirteenth Amendment had taken various steps to improve on the Thirteenth Amendment. There was the Mangala Moonesinghe Select Committee during the time of President Premadasa. There were the other three Constitutional Proposals of 1995, 1997 and 2000 during the time of President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga. There was a speech made by the President at the inaugural meeting of the APRC and the Experts’ Committee and there was the majority Experts’ Committee Report, a Committee appointed by the President himself, President Mahinda Rajapaksa himself.
( SU – 3.34 pm These were)
These were the documents that we wanted brought into the process in view of the failure on the part of the Government to deliver its own response. The bilateral talks recommenced on 16th September, 2011 and the above agreement was minuted and later confirmed at a subsequent meeting on 20th October, 2011. The TNA also engaged in the formulation of the Terms of Reference for the PSC and the Motion for same appears on the Order Book of Parliament No. 4 of 10th October, 2011. The Committee also identified the substantive issues that needed discussion, prepared a timetable for same and met on three dates in December, 2011 at which the devolution of land powers to the provinces was discussed. Thereafter, three dates, 17th, 18th and 19th of January 2012 were fixed to continue with the dialogue.
The Government delegation failed to turn up for talks on 17th, 18th and 19th of January 2012, insisting that the TNA must first nominate its members to the PSC, contrary to the agreements previously reached. With this, the bilateral talks came to an end.
Thereafter two attempts were made to break the deadlock. The first was at a discussion held on the 27th January 2012 between the Leader of the TNA and three members of the Government delegation at which it was agreed that the TNA would nominate names to the PSC simultaneously with the recommencement of bilateral talks but that the PSC would be convened only after a consensus is reached at the bilateral talks. This agreement was reduced to writing and apparently given to the President for approval, which did not materialize.
Thereafter, another attempt was made by the Leader of the Opposition in May 2012. After several rounds of discussions with the Government as well as the TNA, an agreed text was prepared as the Agenda for the PSC and placed in Parliament by the Leader of the Opposition on 24th of May, 2012. Although the Government was supposed to endorse the said Agenda, the response of the Leader of the House did not address any of the fundamental issues suggested by the Leader of the Opposition. I make this Statement, Sir, because I want to make it perfectly clear that as far as we are concerned, we are committed to evolving a final solution to this question.
නියෝජ්ය කාරක සභාපතිතුමා
(குழுக்களின் பிரதித் தவிசாளர் அவர்கள்)
(Mr. Deputy Chairman of Committees)
Order, please! Will an Hon. Member propose the Hon. Alhaj A.H.M.Azwer to take the Chair?
ගරු මහින්ද යාපා අබේවර්ධන මහතා (කෘෂිකර්ම අමාත්යතුමා)
(மாண்புமிகு மஹிந்த யாப்பா அபேவர்தன – கமத்தொழில் அமைச்சர்)
(The Hon. Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena – Minister of Agriculture)
I propose that the Hon. Alhaj A.H.M. Azwer do now take the Chair.
ප්රශ්නය විමසන ලදින්, සභා සම්මත විය.
வினா விடுக்கப்பட்டு ஏற்றுக்கொள்ளப்பட்டது.
Question put, and agreed to.
අනතුරුව නියෝජ්ය කාරක සභාපතිතුමා මූලාසනයෙන් ඉවත් වුයෙන්, ගරු අල්හාජ් ඒ.එච්.එම්. අස්වර් මහතා මුලාසනාරූඪ විය.
அதன் பிறகு, குழுக்களின் பிரதித் தவிசாளர் அவர்கள் அக்கிராசனத்தினின்று அகலவே, மாண்புமிகு அல்ஹாஜ் ஏ.எச்.எம். அஸ்வர் அவர்கள் தலைமை வகித்தார்கள்.
Whereupon MR. DEPUTY CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES left the Chair, and THE HON. ALHAJ A.H.M. AZWER took the Chair.
ගරු ආර්. සම්පන්දන් මහතා
(மாண்புமிகு ஆர். சம்பந்தன்)
(The Hon. R. Sampanthan)
Sir, we are committed to finding a negotiated political solution within the framework of a united, undivided Sri Lanka. But, it must be an honourable solution; it must be a reasonable solution; it must be a workable solution; it must be a durable solution. I regret to state that despite our having made our position very clear at the bilateral talks both in this Parliament and outside, the Government has thus far not responded in a responsible way to what we have proposed. We have never said that we will not partake in the PSC. We have only stated that the PSC – Parliamentary Select Committee – must play a purposeful and meaningful role. It must be structured in such a way that it will achieve the desired objective. We cannot have the PSC merely to delay this process and to prolong this process nor can we have the PSC to enable some parties who will come before the PSC to scuttle the entire process. That we cannot cooperate with and that we cannot do. This is our position in regard to the matter and this is why we have not been able to partake in the PSC.
(At this point… 3.39 to AN .)
At this point, Sir, I think I must refer to what the President said when he gave an interview to “The Hindu” newspaper. Mr. N. Ram, the Editor of “The Hindu” newspaper interviewed him on the 29th of October, 2008, and Mr. Ram asked the President, “You have repeatedly said your government is committed to a political solution of the Tamil question in Sri Lanka. What will be the contours of this political solution?” President Mahinda Rajapaksa in his answer stated, I quote:
“Let me reiterate that my government is firmly committed to a negotiated political solution based on devolution of power and ensuring the democratic, political, including linguistic, rights of all our Tamil brethren within an undivided Sri Lanka. I would like to see more devolution to the people. It must go to the grassroots level, because they must decide on their development work, what they need. We must allow them to participate in the whole process”.
He was asked a further question, “Mr. President, what is your vision of an ethnically harmonious Sri Lanka?” His answer was, I quote:
“I am absolutely clear that Sri Lanka belongs to all its citizens – Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims and others. The policy of my Government is to uphold the equality, liberty, fraternity, and development of people belonging to all ethnic, linguistic, and religious communities”.
What is your problem in coming up with a political solution? This is what President Mahinda Rajapaksa says. But, one of your Ministers, the Hon. Patali Champika Ranawaka has given an interview where he has clearly stated his position. He states,
“The Government’s path is based on three dimensional approach towards a solution – demilitarization, democratization and development. It is the old paradigms that believed in political solutions. The vocabulary even exists only within the NGOs and the INGOs and embassy officials of western nations. This will ensure that the dream of Tamil Eelam of the TNA or the dreams of the Muslim parties will not be realized when our approach works”.
We are not dreaming of a Tamil Eelam. We are not dreaming of anything. We are quite sensible in what we want. He further goes on to say: “The Sinhala nationalist movement has finally taken the reins; others will simply have to fall in line”.
Finally, he says “this Government is not under any pressure to sacrifice the rights of the Sinhala people,” which is the policy you are following. Is it the policy of President Rajapaksa or the policy of the Hon. Patali Champika Ranawaka? How can you reconcile this statement of the Hon. Patali Champika Ranawaka with your stated objective of bringing about peace through the PSC? This is the question we have to pose.
LLRC has also talked about a political solution. What has the LLRC said? I will read their Recommendations, but I will not read much of it because I do not have enough time. The LLRC Report states, I quote:
“All parties should recognize that the real issue of sharing power and participating in Government is the empowerment of the people and making the political leaders accountable to the people. This applies to Sri Lanka as a whole and includes the needs of citizens of all communities, Sinhala, Tamil. Muslim and others. The effective functioning of the democratic system which fulfils these needs, together with a consensual framework of devolution will, by virtue of attributes and institutions intrinsic to it, also provide the answer to the grievances of minorities.
(AN 3.44 (The commission wishes ….)
The Commission wishes to underline the critical importance of making visible progress on the devolution issue, in order to ensure the success of any process of lasting and sustainable reconciliation. The Commission therefore recommends that the present opportunity be utilized to launch a good-faith effort to develop a consensus on devolution, building on what exists – both, for maximum possible devolution to the periphery especially at the grassroots level, as well as power sharing at the centre.
To this end, the Government must take the initiative to have a serious and structured dialogue with all political parties, and those representing the minorities in particular, based on a proposal containing the Government’s own thinking on the form and content of the dialogue process envisaged. That dialogue must take place at a high political level and with adequate technical back-stopping.”
The LLRC wants you to come up with your position. The LLRC strongly urges the Government to take the initiative and to come up with its own proposal. You are refusing to even respond to the proposal that we have submitted. So, this, Hon. Presiding Member, is the position and what we find most disappointing is that while nothing is happening on the ground in regard to either a political solution or the implementation of the constructive Recommendations of the LLRC, day in and day out, in the North and the East, various things are happening on the ground which is weakening our position; strengthening the position of extremists. I do not think, Sir, that this can be allowed to go on.
Before I conclude, Hon. Presiding Member, I just want to say a few words on the accountability issue because that issue is one that will never go away. It will remain until there is honourable peace in Sri Lanka. We certainly do not want to confront anyone. I do not say this in a spirit of seeking revenge. No! Our people suffered immensely during the time of the war. Tens of thousands of Tamil civilians were killed. We know that. They were bombed aerially. Multi-barrel rocket launchers were used; heavy artillery fire was used even after commitments were made that they would not be used. As and when they happened, we raised all those issues in Parliament. We spoke about those matters in Parliament and they are all recorded in Hansard. There was no contradiction by the Government to any one of the statements that we made because the Government at that time realized that what we said was the truth, but we do not seek confrontation. At the same time, this cannot be swept under the carpet. You must not think that this can be swept under the carpet and can be forgotten about. It was a war fought without witnesses; the media was kept out; international media was kept out; NGOs were kept out; INGOs were kept out; the NGOs and the INGOs were asked to leave Vanni in September 2008; the ICRC was not given free access; the UN was not given free access; we, the Members of Parliament, could not go there; people died of starvation; people died due to lack of medicine; hospitals were attacked; relief centres were attacked; people lived under trees; they had no shelter. That was what happened.
(தலைமைதாங்கும் உறுப்பினர் அவர்கள்)
(The Presiding Member)
Hon. Member, I may remind you that you have taken almost 90 minutes or more. How many more minutes you would like to take? Your Party has only 100 minutes.
ගරු ආර්. සම්පන්දන් මහතා
(மாண்புமிகு ஆர். சம்பந்தன்)
(The Hon. R. Sampanthan)
I am finishing my speech, Sir. So, that was the position.
(DP 3.49But, at the same time,)
But, at the same time, there must be an honourable peace. If there is to be genuine reconciliation, genuine goodwill and harmony amongst the different ethnic groups, amongst the different peoples who inhabit this country, there must be an honourable peace. There must be peace which recognizes their equality in this country and their right to live as equal citizens, with a measure of self governance that will enable them to rule themselves in matters fundamental to them in the territories in which they live. Otherwise, there cannot be an honourable peace.
So, I would urge, Sir, that if the Government is prepared to address the question of accountability together with other issues in a collective way, in a responsible way, and looks forward to our co-operation, our co-operation will certainly be forthcoming. But, we want an honourable peace and without an honourable peace, you cannot sweep the question of accountability under the carpet. That cannot happen.
I thank you, Sir.
*සභාමේසය මත තබන ලද ලිපි:
சபாபீடத்தில் வைக்கப்பட்ட கடிதங்கள் :
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