Will the TNA fall in line with the government stance on war crime probe?:

Tamil tilt to the inquiry scale

Will the TNA fall in line with the government stance on war crime probe?:

With less than two weeks to go for the Geneva sessions of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and the relase of its report on war crimes purportedly committed by former government forces and the LTTE during the final phase of the war, the government has intensified lobbying for a domestic inquiry as a follow-up action of the report. However, many Tamil political parties and political groups, including three constituents of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), have strongly reiterated their demand for an international inquiry. Incidentally, the international inquiry mandated by the UNHRC is over and it is the report that is now awaited.

 Troops walk among debris in the war zone
Pic: Ministry of Defence

US Assistant Secretary of State Nisha Biswal, during her visit to Sri Lanka last month said the US will support the Sri Lankan Government’s position for a credible domestic accountability mechanism She also said a different opportunity and a different landscape for reconciliation have lately emerged in Sri Lanka, implying that the new UNF Government is dependable to conduct a genuine domestic inquiry.

The most arduous and difficult task now before the government is to achieve the delicate task of obtaining the consensus of all stakeholders to a domestic inquiry as follow-up action of the UNHRC report.

The government has given due importance to the leaders of the minority political parties in the new Cabinet and the Leader of Tamil National Alliance (TNA) R.Sampanthan has been appointed as the Leader of the Opposition while its Mannar parliamentarian Selavam Adaickalanathan has been appointed Deputy Leader of Committees, as a gesture of goodwill.

The TNA, consisting of four Tamil political parties – the Ilankai Thamil Arasu Kadchy (ITAK), the Eelam People’s Revolutionary Liberation Front (ERPRLF), the People’s Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE) and the Tamil Eelam Liberation Organisation (TELO) -have been insisting on an international inquiry from the inception seems to be divided on the issue.

Domestic mechanism

When asked for the TNA stance on the issue, TNA spokesman M A Sumanthiran, representing the Jaffna district said he cannot say anything until the UNHRC report is released mid this month. Sumanthiran was also quoted in other media reports as having said “We have a government that is willing to constructively and meaningfully engage with the TNA – as well as the international community – with regard to issues concerning the Tamil national question, accountability and genuine reconciliation”.

Reports also quoted other party men as having said that the party could accept a domestic mechanism, provided there was some form of international participation.

Three constituents of the TNA, the EPRLF led by former Jaffna MP Suresh Premachandren, TELO led by Mannar MP Selvam Adaickalanathan with Northern PC member M K Sivajilingam as one of the leaders and the PLOTE led by D.Sitharthan have made a joint representation to the Geneva UNHRC rejecting attempts to hold a domestic inquiry and insisting on an international inquiry. The three parties took the decision after lengthy discussions in Colombo on two occasions.

War Crime sri lanka-EPRLF leader and former Jaffna parliamentarian Suresh Premachandren had told media conference in Jaffna that they have insisted on the international inquiry in the context that the mass killings of innocent civilians during the final stages of the war was a ‘deliberate genocide of the Tamils’ and, therefore, they want an international inquiry to mete out justice to the affected Tamil community and they are certain that justice will not be done to the community through a domestic inquiry. Meanwhile the Northern Provincial Council (NPC) has passed a resolution, proposed by Chief Minister (CM) C V Wigneswaran and unanimously supported by the councillors and the chairman of the council demanding an international investigation on allegations of war crimes and an international tribunal to try the accused.

International tribunal

It has been stated in the resolution that : “The Council calls upon the International community to set up an international tribunal to try those alleged to have committed international crimes against the Tamil People in Sri Lanka. We urge the new leaders of the Sri Lankan government to be courageous enough to work with the International community to set up a credible international mechanism which will deliver justice and put this nation on a path of meaningful reconciliation”. An NPC minister speaking on conditions of anonymity admitted that there were acute contentions within the TNA constituents and also within the main party, the ITAK, on the question of a local inquiry. Agriculture Minister of the NPC Ponnuthurai Ainkaranesan said they abide by the decision of the CM and they have no views of their own on the issue.

Asked what would be his position as a TNA Councilor if the TNA leadership decided to support a domestic investigation, he said he will only abide by the decision of CM Wigneswaran.

Answsering a similar question, several TNA parliamentarians who rigidly stood by the decision to reject the local investigation mechanism pointed out that party leader Sampanthan was the leader of the TNA parliamentary group and not the leader of the ITAK and that it is Jaffna parliamentarian Mavai Senadhirajah who is the official leader of the ITAK.

Mavai Senadhirajah MP told the Sunday Observer that the TNA has been insisting on an international inquiry since 2011 and there is no change in their stance on that. Asked what would be their reaction if the US and the UNHRC officially requested them to support a domestic investigation, he said he had personally apprised their position to US Assistant Secretary of State Nisha Biswal and it was unlikely that either the US or the UNHRC will make such a request to them.

Former TNA Batticaloa parliamentarian P. Ariyanendran said he was among the TNA members who have been constantly speaking in and out of Parliament on the need for an international inquiry because he knew that justice will not be done to the affected people through a domestic inquiry. If the international community requested them to consider supporting and assisting a domestic inquiry, a decision on such a request will have to be taken by the 54-member politbureau of the TNA, and not by any individuals, Ariyanendran said. NPC Chairman C.V.K.Sivagnanam said that they are insisting on an international inquiry because they want the truth to be brought out although they are not particular about punishing the offenders. EPRLF Leader Suresh Premachandren told a media briefing last week he had reasons to suspect that the TNA has changed its policy on the issue of an international inquiry and, in that case, the party leadership should apprise its stance to the constituent parties.

Close rapport

TNA Parliamentarian Selvam Adaickalanathan has been appointed Deputy Chairman of the Committees, his name having been proposed by TNA MP Sumanthiran, indicating a clos rapport with the government, he said.

Party Leader Sampanthan is accepting the post of Opposition Leader which means that he will abandon the cause of the Tamils of the North and the East similarly to what TULF Leader A. Amirthalingam did in 1977, when he became Opposition Leader. If there was a change in the policy of the TNA, it should be intimated to the constituent parties and the Tamils, he said.

Meanwhile, the leader of the Tamil National People’s Front (TNPF), Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam who suffered a humiliating defeat in the August 17 parliament polls has announced that he would lead a delegation to the UNHRC in Geneva to register their protest against the shift in the stance of the US and the UNHRC on an international inquiry on war crimes. Several organisations and academics in the Northern peninsula are also on an intensive signature campaign among the public to be sent to the UNHRC as a protest against possible proposals to hold a domestic inquiry. Informed sources said that these have been sponsored by sections of the Tamil Diaspora community.