by Waruni Karunarathne
Speaking to The Sunday Leader, JVP General Secretary Tilvin Silva said that the JVP holds the Rajapaksa regime mainly responsible for letting the internal matter get into the international level because of its failure to address the human rights concerns within the country.
Following are excerpts of the interview:
Q: What is the JVP’s opinion about the UN resolution passed in Geneva recently?
A: The government attempts to show off as if the resolution has given us a great relief. But, there is no such relief provided to Sri Lanka. Apart from the UN resolution, the US has presented a proposal. Some content of the US proposal seems harmful to the country. There are proposals such as getting the assistance of the judges of the Commonwealth and experts of the other foreign countries for the local mechanism.
We believe that we do not want the international community to interfere in our judiciary. Such interferences will be harmful to the country. What the Sri Lanka should do now is to protect the human rights within the country and conduct a credible inquiry into the incidents occurred in the past and take legal actions. What the Sri Lankan government should have done was not to co-sponsor a proposal brought forth by the US but to present a proposal of our own listing the content of the mechanism that we are ready to establish in the country. It would have been much better as it would not have let other countries to influence us. Thus, we could have addressed the issue internally without the influence of the other countries.
Q: Several commissions were established in the past. They include the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), Udalagama Commission, Darushman Commission, Desmond De Silva Commission, and Maxwell Paranagama Commission. But those were seen as failures. So, how do you expect an internal mechanism to be successful?
A: The Rajapaksa administration should take the entire responsibility of letting this issue rise up to this level. During the Rajapaksa regime, on one hand, they tried to deceive people by appointing various commissions, and on the other hand, they tried to deceive the international community and the UNHRC. When the issue was reaching its climax, they appointed various commissions to do away with the issues raised. However, the government at the time did not work according to the recommendations of those commissions. The government appointed the LLRC to do away with the Darushman Commission. The government also did not pay much attention on the recommendation of the LLRC.
Meantime, they appointed several other commissions, but the public has not yet seen any report of those commissions to date. Time to time, the government signed various agreements and appointed commissions but without actually addressing the issue. They led this issue up to the level where the international community started interfering.
The country started facing the issue of international investigation into the country only in 2013. Before, 2013, their request was to conduct a credible investigation within the country. The failure to conduct a credible domestic investigation in the country led the international community to propose an international inquiry.
Even present government is trying to bypass this issue without actually looking into the matter. Even though we might be able to slip away this time in Geneva, we will have to face the next session. We will have to submit the reports of the inquiry by 2017. In order to have a credible mechanism in the country, they need to have proper strategies – on the other hand, there need to be an independent judiciary and Attorney General’s Department should act efficiently etc. If these internal institutions do not act properly, then the international community can once again reject the internal mechanism.
Q: How would the JVP advise the government to tackle the human rights concerns, especially issues related to missing persons and Tamil ‘political’ prisoners?
A: Soon after the war ended, the JVP presented a proposal to the previous government on May 22, 2009, listing 14 main areas to be looked into. One proposal was to bring together all the parties that represent the parliament to create a task force to rebuild the North and East – but the government did not do that. If we addressed the basic issues faced by the people in the North and East at that point, those issues would not have been piled up. Even after that, we kept bringing forth many proposals to tackle this issue.
We even proposed to establish a Truth Commission. But they did not pay much attention to our proposals. Now, we insist the new government on looking into these issues. There are only a few solutions to address this issue. Firstly, they have to ensure human rights within the country. Secondly they have to conduct investigations into the incidents where the human rights have been breached in the past and take legal actions against those who had involved – and then give relief to the victims and all those who were oppressed.
Then we need to identify the specific issues in the North and East such as missing persons issue and the issue of Tamil political prisoners. We have a State administration that has not even come forward to take a statement from former LTTE leader KP whereas ordinary young Tamils are held in prisons. What is the meaning of that attitude?
The government should take measures to release the Tamil political prisoners and address the missing persons and land issues in the North meaningfully. More than anything, there is a need for a Truth Commission for the people in the North and the East to find some consolation. If the government acts without a proper plan and a strategy, once again we will face issues at the Human Rights Council sessions.
Q: They seem to have agreed upon a domestic mechanism with the support of the Commonwealth and experts from other countries. Would the JVP support this mechanism?
A: Why do we need the assistance of the Commonwealth or other countries? Don’t we have a competent judiciary system? Don’t we have enough judges? We do not need the assistance of the other countries. We have expressed our opinion on this matter. The government has not yet set the mechanism. If the government acts disregarding our views, we can consider what actions we should take in the future.
Q: UPFA MP Udaya Gammanpila has sought an explanation for the appointment of JVP MP Vijitha Herath to the Constitutional Council. He says minor parties have not agreed to appoint Herath to the Constitutional Council. How does the JVP respond to this development?
A: Udaya Gammanpila does not seem to know about parliament or the parliament regulations or laws. He is just screaming for nothing because of his lack of knowledge. He should ask somebody about the laws and regulations of parliament and educate himself.
According to the 19th Amendment, five members to the Constitutional Council are appointed by the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader. Among those five, three persons have to be representatives of the civil society. The other two people are proposed by the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader. Vijitha Herath was appointed by the Constitutional Council on the proposal made by the Opposition Leader – but not by any other group in the government or in the main opposition. There is no need to ask anyone else about that appointment. There is no issue about it. It is better if Gammanpila does not talk about things he does not know without displaying his ignorance.
Q: Even though the Constitutional Council has been appointed, there seems to be a delay in starting its work. What is the reason?
A: Yes, there is a delay. The main members of the Council are the Speaker, the Prime Minster, and the Opposition Leader. They have to summon the council. Then only can we make our contribution. We have inquired about the delay. We are waiting for them to call for a meeting.