(BY Mirudhula Thambiah)
Former Chief Minister of the merged North-East A. Varatharaja Perumal said, there is much to investigated on LTTE atrocities and disappearances committed by them, they also have to be inquired into. But these issues are not on the agenda in any place. Only the last part of the war is on the agenda of the UNHRC in Geneva.
“Geneva has nothing to do with the political solution. It is in relation to the past and not with the future. Therefore, the section that is interested in the past, only wants to involve the latter part of the war. If it is considered from the beginning, there is so much to inquire about the LTTE as well,” he added.
Following are excerpts of the interview:
?: The Sri Lankan Government had requested a two year term extension to implement the UNHCR Resolution. How do you assess the ongoing Geneva Sessions?
A: It is a continuation of the former, a matter related to the speeding and not the principles or the process. It debates at which speed the processes are going on.
As far as the government is concerned they wanted time, they are not denying implementation. The other side including the TNA had agreed for a time frame. There isn’t much difference between the two – the time and time frame. Both parties are talking about the same topic from two different viewpoints.
I hope there is no conflict with regard to the implementation process. I don’t think too much of debates or arguments or that they will have any impact on the implementation process.
There are two groups of Tamil parties involved in the process of implementing the Resolution. One group of Tamil parties do not show any trust in the Geneva process, in the sense, according to this group, the process will not have any positive or concrete benefit for anyone in the country. If these groups continue to have the same belief, conflicts and contradictions will increase between nationalities. Therefore, the group in the party who believe that the Geneva Sessions have no meaning are expressing vague opinions and it will not benefit any community of this country. However, the other group is very interested in the process.
Geneva has nothing to do with the political solution. It is related to the past and not to the future. Therefore, the section that is interested in the past, only wants involvement in the latter part of the war and is not considering from the beginning of the war, there is so much to inquire about the LTTE as well. LTTE atrocities and disappearances committed by the LTTE also should be investigated. But these issues are not on the agenda anywhere. Only the last part of the war is on the agenda in Geneva.
The government had agreed to the resolution in Geneva, they had to give an assurance that it will not repeat and the truth will be found. The process had been already started and therefore it is an ongoing process. Government wanted time in relation to the process. The Tamil parties, the partners of the TNA or any other party that has similar policies in this process like Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam, they say the government should not be provided the time, but are agreeable to a time frame. I think this is a comedy between the time and time frame. At the same time the government also does not want time to postpone the tasks but they want time to complete the process.
There is no difference! The TNA and similar parties are politicking the Tamils and similarly the government and the Opposition parties are also politicking the Sinhala people. They use political rhetoric and jargons to gimmick the Sinhala people in the South and Tamil people in the North.
?: TNA being a prime Tamil Political Party, do you think it plays a credible role at the 34th UNHRC sessions in Geneva?
A: We have to go back to basics. What is credibility? There is no proper definition or anything to be tested in relation to credibility. There is only a difference in the format in the engagement between the TNA and the government. There is no difference in the content.
?: There is a huge outcry in the North and East to immediately solve the issue of missing persons or enforced disappearances. Despite promises given by the government in Parliament and other public forums, the affected continue to protest. As a former Chief Minister how do you assess this issue in context of the UNHRC?
A: This is really a pity. Families of the disappeared want their relatives back and have a different story and the government has another. No one is sure whether they are reliable. In case if the stories are not reliable, how can the disappeared persons be traced. How can they be brought back? All these are quite uncertain. When the current government came to power they gave various promises and the TNA also gave similar promises. At the same time relatives of the disappeared still believe they are alive. This issue is proceeding in a vague manner and format. However, the reality is those who lost their relatives will continue to look for them.
?: How do you assess on the UNHRC Resolution of 2015 sponsored by the Sri Lankan Government?
A: I’m really not interested in this matter. I don’t see anything fruitful that can benefit the people of this country. There are political agendas involved in the process. Political agendas of local parties and the international community have influenced the Resolution. There is a lot of manipulation. It is a mixed situation and the end result would be that the people will not reap anything out of the process.
?: Being the Chief Minister of the merged North-East, tell us your current stand on a re-merger, which is mainly opposed by the Muslim Community in the East?
A: There is no single particular definition or format for federalism in the world. It is applied in different formats in countries around the world. Even in India it is formally not federalism but practically it is federalism.
It is up to the Tamil parties to stick to the definition of federalism or practically adopt the concept. One thing is sure, in a multi ethnic country and where a 30-year-war had occurred they should try to resolve ideally through federalism.
The beginning of devolution may be different. The day devolution began, federalism also started. With the formation of Provincial Councils in the country, federalism began in Sri Lanka in 1987 itself. The process of devolution, its implementation and the success of it, is the question.
Therefore, the debate is not relevant to federalism, but it is a matter of devolution. Rather than talking about the ideal degree of devolution, the government had agreed that devolution should be implemented. Whatever the government is able to do they must do it clearly and in order for the demands of the Tamils and Muslims to be met.
In the context of a re-merger of both the Northern and Easten Provinces, in 1987 it was a different situation, but in the current situation East is separate from the North. Therefore the majority of the Eastern Province people, even if you take ethnically, Muslim community is not in favour of the merger and there is a small proportion of Tamils, they too don’t want the merger. It seems only the majority of the Tamils want a merger.
People living within the particular province must be considered. All political alliances beginning with the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress to the All Ceylon Muslim Congress of the Muslim community, are of the stand that there cannot be a blunt North-East merger, but that it can be reached with conditions. The aspirations of the Muslim Community should be identified and resolved then the merger can be a reality.
Tamil leaders should understand that the situation in 1987 is completely different from that of 2009 to now.
?: The UNHRC Recommendations suggest a Hybrid Court through which the war crimes investigations should be investigated, however, the government had clearly mentioned that they will not allow any foreign interference and a fully domestic mechanism will be implemented. How do you assess this situation?
A: The matter related to reliability is debatable and is based on speculations. According to international law, justice should be meted, first with a domestic mechanism. After testing the domestic mechanism it can be decided if that can be relied on or not, or whether further investigations are needed.
It is at a premature stage and it is quite unsuitable to say whether an international mechanism is necessary in addition to the judicial mechanism of the country.
First the domestic judicial mechanism should be practiced. Therefore at a stage where the domestic mechanism is not practiced, how can we say that the domestic mechanism cannot be relied on?
?: Do you think the Government of Good Governance has achieved their promises on the reconciliation process?
A: The government is attempting in many fronts. How much they have succeeded and failed is debateable. But in the current context, they have attempted in many different ways, from politics to development. They have initiated political and development programmes.
If you see the TNA is almost in alliance with the government. Therefore we must accept that the process of reconciliation is proceeding. Any Opposition party among the Sinhala community, or the Tamils will oppose, that is part of democracy. Nobody can expect that every party in a democratic process will support the ruling party’s programme.
Of course there are certain sections of the society who are frustrated; the government should consider satisfying their needs. However, the Opposition cannot expect to be satisfied and they are deliberately on agendas to oppose the government. I’m not supporting the government and I’m explaining how politics work. I’m not part of anyone!