People’s Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE) leader and Tamil National Alliance (TNA) Parliamentarian Dharmalingam Sidhadthan said all domestic inquiries on war crimes will not be impartial or satisfy the expectations of the Tamil people. “The international community has downplayed on us,” he said.
Q:TNA has continuously demanded an international inquiry on war crimes through the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Later it changed the stand to a mixed inquiry where both domestic and international mechanism will be adopted. Currently, your party’s demand has not been met as now suggestions for a complete domestic mechanism is on the way. How do you view this?
A: As far as TNA is concerned, we strongly demanded an international mechanism and international inquiry. However, the ICJ inquiries will not work as we have not signed the Treaty of Rome.
Currently the newly proposed resolution must go to the UN Security Council, judicial proceedings can be followed only on the approval of the Council.
Unfortunately, the new US resolution has highlighted an internal mechanism, with limited international supervision. I don’t believe this mechanism can help to bring about the truth, because the safety of the witnesses cannot be guaranteed. In Sri Lanka, the Southerners or the majority community will definitely oppose any kind of inquiry on war crimes. Whoever is in the panel of inquiry a domestic set up cannot act impartially or independently. Thus there is no way the truth can be found. TNA’s aim is not to destruct or take revenge from anyone.
Our main aim is to expose the truth, for which only an international inquiry can be supportive. The root cause must be addressed by finding the exact incidents that occurred during the war.
An independent inquiry should be held to find why there was a war in Sri Lanka and reasons for various incidents during such a period are very important. Thus the root cause of the war will be accurately identified. The nature of recurrence of crimes can be actually found. This will support the Tamil people to live peacefully without any fear. This is our primary reason to talk about an international inquiry. Also we will emphasize on permanent peace in the country thus an international inquiry is essential.
Q:The UNHCR Commissioner Zeid Al Hussein proposed an hybrid court inquiry. However, the US resolution claims for an inquiry in local courts with the supervision of Commonwealth judges. Therefore, is the TNA satisfied with such a mechanism as there is international participation?
A: I don’t think we can agree, as told you I don’t think these inquiries will take place impartially. The Commonwealth judges are individuals, they will not be UN appointees. They cannot have a balanced trial.
Q:Do you think all the latest suggestions kept forward at the current UNHCR sessions will satisfy the expectations of the Tamil people?
A: No, they cannot be satisfied. The commissioner’s report has come out with certain findings and of course both parties have been involved in war crimes.
However, the US resolution has downplayed the whole cause. If this resolution is passed, the whole cause will be downplayed, and it will not satisfy the expectations of Tamil people.
Q: So you claim the international community downplayed or betrayed the Tamils as they have been continuously expecting the international representatives to act firmly on this regard?
A: We cannot say the international community betrayed the Tamils, yet we can say they have downplayed. Let it be the US or any other country, they will first act on their own interest. It can be any matter, they will first look into their interest, it can be any matter. The US may act in such a way for their benefits. Therefore, I don’t think they have betrayed us. Let it be any country, they do not want Sri Lanka to go against them.
However, President Mahinda Rajapaksa did not listen to the western countries, thus they acted against him and that does not mean the international community was pro Tamils. Yes! The international community including the main country the US has downplayed in the current scenario.
Q:You said the Tamil people will not be satisfied with the suggestions. What would be the stand of the TNA coalition parties in future, including PLOTE?
A: It is very clear. We are not looking for revenge. We want the truth to be exposed to this world. The people in the world should know as to what exactly had happened in Sri Lanka.
A reasonable solution, it can only be a federal solution which can allow the Tamil people to look after their own affairs in their part of the country. I’m not talking about a separate state. The solution should be within a united Sri Lanka.
I’m not talking about foreign affairs or defence. But those issues that will directly affect the community must be on the hands of the Tamils.
Q:During President Rajapaksa’s time, a panel of judges headed by Desmond de Silva came to Sri Lanka to investigate into violation of human rights. They returned claiming they cannot function independently. Therefore, do you feel the Commonwealth judges can function independently?
A: Investigations will not be fair. So other impartial matters cannot be expected. Especially in the South it will be very difficult to function independently.
Q:It is learnt that Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera recently promised to release the report of this domestic inquiry within 18 months. Is it actually possible?
A: I don’t think it is possible. I have no doubts about Samaraweera. He is genuine. Forget about partial or impartial. The whole inquiry cannot be finished within 18 months. Even if it is finished I don’t think it will satisfy the Tamil community.
Q:Previously there was a suggestion made to include Northern judges to participate in the domestic mechanism. However, now the situation has changed. There had been a certain misunderstanding between Northern Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran and the Central Government. Even the people in the South are not satisfied.In such a situation, do you feel Northern judges will be requested to participate in such inquiries?
A: It is not a question of Tamils or Sinhalese. I totally agree even judges in the South are competing enough and they are independent. But I feel this process itself will not be impartial.
The issues between the Northern Provincial Council and the Central Government are basically political. It is development, political and finance oriented.
The Northern Chief Minister and the council had to reflect to the problems of the Tamil people in their area. Thus they urge to act fast.
Since it will not be impartial we cannot think further.
Q: It is learnt that if the inquiry takes place impartially and if even it is proved both parties are guilty, there can be agitation among the people in the South. How will TNA respond to it as the opposition?
A: Yes it is true, even we envisage such problems. The former President or the Former Defence Secretary is implicated, it can create lot of tension between the community.
This is why we continuously emphasize on a free and fair inquiry. It can be any party, truth must be found. However a proper inquiry cannot happen. We understand about the communal disturbances and thus we agreed for mixed pattern to avoid such incidents in future.
It won’t be a serious political issue as such if a mixed system is followed. Once the truth is recognized, punishment can be decided later.
Q:India had been continuously supporting the Tamil cause especially from 1987. However, they keep silent at the current stand in the UNHCR sessions until now?
A: India supported for a peaceful and dignified solution. However, India doesn’t like third party interference in the war crimes issue. They themselves will not like third party interference in their issue. Thus they always wanted the specific country to solve its issue. This must be the reason for their silence.
Q:The government appointed a special committee to solve the ethnic issue in this country by finding a suitable solution. Have you made any suggestions to the committee on behalf of the TNA?
A: No, we have not made any suggestions so far.